This vegetarian paella recipe is full of delicious, hearty flavor! A vegan spin on the classic Spanish recipe, it pleases everyone.

Vegetarian paella

Here’s a recipe that’s guaranteed to get ooo’s and ahh’s whenever you serve it: this classic Vegetarian Paella! Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that has loads of variations. Often it’s made with seafood, but we’ve tasted many delicious vegetable-based versions while traveling in Spain! The saffron-scented rice is loaded with a colorful assortment of vegetables, and it’s a true delight. We love serving it for dinner guests, but if you’re organized this one is easy enough to work for a weeknight. (It’s a vegan paella, too!)

Ingredients in this vegetarian paella recipe

Vegetarian paella is also called paella de verduras: a rice dish cooked in a shallow pan and loaded with vegetables. This recipe is based on loads of research from our recent trip to Spain. Alex and I wanted this recipe to reflect vegetables you might see in a Spanish paella, not just any old veggies! Here’s what you’ll need for an epic vegetarian paella:

  • Traditional paella pan: you can also use a large skillet (see below)
  • Bomba rice: you can also use Arborio rice
  • Tomato, onion and garlic to make a quick “sofrito”
  • Saffron and pimentón aka smoked paprika (see below)
  • Artichokes
  • Peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Roasted red peppers (jarred)
  • Lemon wedges: garnishing with lemon is the perfect bright finish
Vegetarian paella recipe

Use a large skillet or paella pan

There are some people who say it’s not paella if it’s not made in a paella pan! (Purists.) But not everyone has access to this special type of pan, or wants to store it. We highly recommend one if you plan to make paella regularly. Here’s what to know about finding one:

  1. A paella pan is a large round, shallow pan with handles used for cooking paella. The shallow shape lets rice cook consistently. This recipe is for a 15-inch paella pan that serves 4 people. If you’re looking for one, here’s a link to purchase a 4-person paella pan.
  2. Don’t have one? Use your largest skillet. The larger the better! You may need to adjust the cook time slightly if you are using a skillet. Keep an eye on it!

Note that paella pans are made of carbon steel and can rust. If you buy one, make sure to dry the pan completely after cleaning it. Rub it with a bit of vegetable oil to prevent rusting.

Vegetarian paella

Best rice: bomba or arborio

The best rice for this vegetarian and vegan paella recipe? Bomba rice! Bomba rice is a white short grain rice that’s used for making paella. It can be hard to find at some grocery stores, but it’s easy to order it online: Bomba rice.

Another option is Arborio rice! This is the type of short grain rice that’s used for risotto. Arborio rice can result in a gummier texture than bomba, but it still works. Bomba is most consistent, if you can find it!

Paella spices: saffron and pimentón

There are two classic spices in a Spanish paella that bring in the authentic flavor. You may have heard of saffron, but it’s the combination with smoked paprika that makes the best hearty flavor in this vegetarian paella. (Bonus: we use it in lots of vegan recipes to bring in a meaty flavor.)

  • Saffron brings an earthy flavor and a beautiful color to the dish. It’s expensive but worth the splurge. If you can’t find it or don’t want to splurge, a good substitute is ½ teaspoon turmeric.
  • Smoked paprika (aka pimentón): This bright red spice gives the dish more color and a smoky undertone. Use leftovers for more of our top smoked paprika recipes.
Vegetarian paella recipe

How to cook vegetarian paella: a few tips!

Once you’re ready to cook this vegetarian paella, it’s mostly set it and forget it. Mostly! Here are a few tips for the cooking process:

  • Don’t stir it! That’s right: no stirring allowed! The broth and spices boil through the rice, leaving everything perfectly cooked. Traditional paella gets a nice brown crust on the bottom of the rice. The Spanish call this socarrat. (Note that it’s a little harder to get it if you’re using a skillet.)
  • Keep an eye on it. You’ll want to make sure the heat isn’t so hot that the broth cooks too fast or it will burn on the bottom and the rice will be uncooked! Slow and steady. See the recipe below for more tips!
  • If you’re using a paella pan, rotate the pan over the burners. Our paella pan can fit over multiple burners, so we rotate it during cooking so it stays even.

Side dishes for vegetarian paella

Once you’re done cooking, bring it to the table and spritz with lemon wedges. Unveil your brilliantly vegetable-filled vegan paella and everyone will ooo and ahh (we promise!). It’s great for entertaining, but we sometimes make them for weeknights too. What to serve with it to make it a meal? Here are a few ideas:

Vegan paella

More types of paella

Want to make paella over an open fire? Or use the traditional seafood? Here are our top variations on paella recipes:

This vegetarian and vegan paella recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

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Vegetarian paella

Easy Vegetarian Paella


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This vegetarian paella recipe is full of delicious, hearty flavor! A vegan spin on the classic Spanish recipe, it pleases everyone.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 to 3 roma or plum tomatoes (1 ½ cups finely chopped)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 large pinch saffron
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 ½ cups short grain Bomba rice or arborio rice
  • ½ cup frozen peas, rinsed under warm water
  • 12 ounces artichoke hearts, quartered (marinated if desired)
  • 1 to 2 jarred roasted red peppers, sliced into strips
  • Lemon wedges from ½ lemon
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Prep the vegetables: Mince the onion. Mince the garlic. Finely chop the tomatoes, removing the cores but keeping the seeds with their juices. Slice the roasted red peppers into strips, and set aside.
  2. Measure out the ingredients: Measure out all the remaining ingredients before you start. The cooking process goes fast!
  3. Cook the paella: In your largest skillet or a 4-serving paella pan, heat olive oil on medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic until just translucent, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chopped tomatoes, the smoked paprika and red pepper flakes and ¼ teaspoon of the salt, and cook until the tomatoes have broken down and most of the liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock, chickpeas, saffron and the remaining 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Stir, then immediately sprinkle the rice evenly across the broth and tap the pan with a spoon to evenly spread the rice. Bring to a medium simmer and cook without stirring until liquid is absorbed, about 18 to 22 minutes (adjust the cook time as necessary if using a skillet). If your pan is large enough to span multiple burners on your stovetop, adjust the heat on each burner so you achieve a steady medium simmer. Rotate the pan every few minutes for an even cook.
  4. Add the artichokes and peas (10 minutes into cook time): When the top of the rice is beginning to show through the liquid, about 10 minutes into the cook time, press the artichokes, peas, and red pepper strips lightly into the rice.
  5. Assess whether the paella is done: In last few minutes, carefully watch the paella and rotate pan more frequently. As the paella finishes, you’ll see the steam start to slow down as the water cooks out. If desired, peek at the bottom of a pan by using a knife to scrape back the rice — you shouldn’t see any standing water. The sound will start to change from a simmer to a crackle. This indicates the crust is forming. Let the crackling continue for about 2 minutes before removing from the heat. If you smell any burning, remove immediately.
  6. Serve: When the paella is done, squeeze the lemon wedges onto the top of the pan. Sprinkle with a pinch or two of kosher salt and add the parsley, if using. Serve with additional lemon wedges.
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Spanish

Keywords: Vegetarian paella, vegetarian paella recipe, vegan paella

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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