Want to make paella at home? Here’s an easy vegetarian paella (that’s a vegan paella too), perfect for date night and full of Spanish flavor!
Ahh, Valentine’s Day. Around the world, it is celebrated as a special day to celebrate your loved ones. Somehow along the way, it’s also become a tad cliché (candy hearts, red roses, etc etc), and a source of disappointment for many, significant other or not! We’ve never been big on the holiday itself, but we love any excuse to celebrate! So how about reinventing Valentine’s Day as a chance to make a celebratory meal with those you love in your life? Keep reading for this easy vegetarian paella recipe (that’s also a vegan paella!).
What is paella?
One of our favorite special meals is a traditional Spanish dish I discovered while studying in Madrid several years ago – paella. It’s a rice dish that’s combined with vegetables, seafood or meat. In Spain (and at our house!), special occasions call for a paella. It’s also one of those dishes where anything goes – throw in whatever might be on hand (like in Spain, amazing shellfish!).
How to make vegetarian paella at home
Many times a paella is made over an open fire like our Open Fire Seafood Paella, or you can grill them, like we did with this grilled paella. But we’ve been wanting to develop one that’s a little more accessible for everyday use – and one that can be made over the stovetop, without the use of a special paella pan. We were excited to find that not only did it work on the stovetop, it turned out beautifully – smoky, earthy, and delicious – with just the right taste of Spain! We didn’t even miss the seafood.
Making vegetarian paella at home on the stovetop is actually simple. Again, it’s not a fully authentic paella, but more of a “cheater’s” paella — our most authentic paella recipe is that Open Fire Seafood Paella. For the stovetop, you can simply use a cast iron skillet or heavy frying pan. In this recipe we omitted shellfish and went heavy on the veggies: mushrooms, chard, artichoke hearts, and chickpeas for protein. It makes for a super satisfying dish.
Special paella ingredients
What makes this vegetarian paella go over the top is the smoked paprika (called pimentón in Spanish); it lends a sultry, smoky flavor that’s instantly addicting. (Here’s more about smoked paprika and more recipes that use it!)
The other key spice for the dish is traditionally saffron. However, since it’s the world’s most expensive spice, we went with a common substitute: turmeric, which gives a bit of earthy flavor and a brilliant yellow color. Traditional paella also starts with a sofrito, a mix of onion, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes. Because this is a “weeknight” paella, we’ve taken some steps to deconstruct the sofrito but still have the same flavors.
Since this vegetarian paella recipe is meant for Valentine’s Day, our recipe instructions include some fun extras like picking out music to set the mood and drinking wine. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
Looking for more Spanish recipes?
Outside of this simple vegetarian paella, here are some of our favorites:
- Vegan Patatas Bravas
- Eggplant Involtini with Spanish Mojo Sauce
- Vegetables with Romesco Sauce
- Open Fire Seafood Paella
- Simple Shrimp and Artichoke Paella
- Simple Grilled Paella
This vegetarian paella recipe is…
Vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free.
Related: Try using our Homemade Vegetable Broth for this recipe!Print
Want to make paella at home but are intimidated? Here’s a supremely simple vegetable paella: it’s perfect for date night and full of Spanish flavor!
- A cast iron skillet or large heavy frying pan
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 yellow onion
- 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
- 1 bunch chard (enough for 2 cups chopped)
- 4 whole artichokes hearts (canned)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimentón)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 cup brown arborio rice
- 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup chickpeas (canned or cooked)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- Set the mood: Turn on some music. Pour yourself some wine, or your beverage of choice. If you’re hungry, grab something to munch on as you prepare your dish. And—relax! Forget about the days worries and get ready to have some fun in the kitchen.
- Show off your knife skills: Set up a chopping station with some cutting boards and knives. Then do the following, in no particular order: Peel 4 garlic cloves and mince them. Peel and chop the onion. Remove the stems from the shiitake mushrooms and slice the tops into 1/4 inch strips. Wash the chard and roughly chop it into bite-sized pieces. Drain the artichoke hearts, and cut them into quarters.
- Sauteing time: Bring all of your prepared ingredients to the stove, along with the remainder of the ingredients in the recipe. Then do the following: In a large cast-iron skillet or frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon turmeric, and 1 cup rice. Stir about 1 minute. Add 1 can diced tomatoes and their liquid, chard, 1 cup chickpeas. 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and lots of fresh ground black pepper. Stir to combine, and cook for a few minutes. Pour in about 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth, enough to fully cover the rice and vegetables, but not enough to overflow the pan. Place the artichoke quarters in an artistic manner over the top of the dish.
- Wait: The hard part is done – now you just wait for the liquid to cook out and cook the rice. The broth should be boiling at this point. Turn down the heat and let simmer without stirring until the liquid has evaporated, about 40 minutes or so. You can add a bit more liquid (broth or water) if necessary if you find that the rice is not done, but we found that this amount of liquid and time with brown arborio rice did the trick. While you wait, clean the kitchen, set the table, assemble a simple green salad or dessert.
- Serve: After the liquid is mostly cooked out, remove from the heat and let sit for a few minutes (a little more of the liquid will absorb as it sits). Make sure not to leave on the heat too long or the paella may burn. Serve immediately.
Make sure to use short grain rice in this dish. We developed the dish using brown Arborio rice; white arborio rice may need a bit less liquid to cook. Also make sure to use smoked paprika (Want to make paella at home but are intimidated? Here’s a supremely simple vegetable paella: it’s perfect for date night and full of Spanish flavor! pimentón!) if you can find it; regular paprika is not quite the same. You can use a pinch of saffron in place of the turmeric to be fully authentic, but we found using turmeric didn’t lose too much for the flavor (as long as pimentón is used!). We also developed the recipe using a cast iron skillet; a paella pan would likely work as well, but the amount of liquid or ingredients may need to be adapted.
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Spanish
Keywords: Paella, Vegetarian Paella, Veggie Paella, Paella Recipe, Spanish, Gluten Free
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.