This could well be the best vegetarian paella recipe you’ll find on the net because, well, actually this isn’t just a recipe – it’s more of a guide to cooking perfect paella. You can add the ingredients that you have in your fridge or whatever you want to have in your paella.
Just follow this guide and you’ll get a perfect paella every time!
What’s So Special About Paella?
I used to wonder this so many times, and because paella’s usually made with fish or meat I would never order it or eat it at parties. And I never chose the vegetable paella in restaurants either because of the local custom of adding chicken stock to the rice during cooking.
So although I’d made similar dishes at home (and they’d never really grabbed my attention), I’d never actually had an authentic Spanish vegetarian paella. Oh, and by the way, by vegetarian I also mean vegan.
What’s special about vegetarian paella? Well firstly it’s delicious and easy to make. But also, it’s the perfect meal for a get-together instead of a BBQ – or as well as the BBQ.
From now on, all your meat-eating friends can enjoy their BBQ without worrying about the vegetarians or vegans going hungry (lol, as if they worried anyway, right?).
The essential ingredients for a Paella Party are: a bunch of good friends, an open space, like a terrace or garden where you can all hang out while the paella cooks, and a great big paella pan. On top of that you’ll need a gas paella ring (a ‘rosco’) to heat the paella pan on.
This paella tradition is huge where I live in Spain, and there’s always a great atmosphere on a paella day. It’s a cult get-together, a traditional food for enjoying on Sundays or at extended picnics.
A while ago a group of friends came round to our house and they made the vegetarian paella with me acting as chief helper. The resulting paella changed my mind about paella forever, from thinking of it as a boring dish, to really enjoying it and the whole tradition that goes with it.
Here I’m going to show you how to make vegetarian paella in your kitchen without any special pans or anything, but if you enjoy it, then I definitely recommend getting the paella pan and doing a vegetarian paella party.
The Easy Bit – How to Make a Vegetarian Paella
Get yourself a big pan or a paellera pan and heat a good amount of extra virgin olive oil (see pic) along with 1 chopped onion, 4 chopped cloves of garlic and a sprinkle of salt.
Fry for a few minutes until beginning to cook.
Next, add your harder vegetables (green peppers usually go in at this point).
After that, add all the medium hard vegetables (broccoli, green beans, artichokes, asparagus etc.) and some more salt.
You may also need to add a little more oil, depending on how many vegetables you’re cooking – the veggies should be ‘in’ the oil, not just ‘on top’ of the oil.
After a few moments add the mushrooms and ‘setas’ or wild mushrooms if you have them.
When the mushrooms have been in the oil for a little while, add the frozen peas. Stir the mix and leave to cook until the vegetables are almost cooked, then add the chopped tomatoes and leave until everything is thoroughly cooked through.
Stir in your fresh saffron or 1 tsp of turmeric to make your rice the traditional yellow colour.
Allow to fry for a moment and then add 1/3-1/2 bottle of dry white wine and leave to cook for another 5 minutes.
Next add 1 bay leaf to the sauce and 2 (closed) handfuls of rice per person.
Stir the rice into the sauce and cook for a couple of minutes before adding water. Remember to add more salt when you add the water.
If you want to measure the water, tradition says that you should use double the amount of water as the amount of rice you added, but I never measure mine.
I just pour on the water until it is properly covering the rice by a good centimetre and leave it to cook. Try not to keep stirring the rice as paella likes to be left in peace.
You can stir it every so often just to check you’ve got the right amount of water in it but otherwise try and leave it alone on a medium heat.
Paella takes quite a while to cook (approx 40 mins), depending on how much you’re cooking and what flame you use etc. So be patient, enjoy a glass of wine and sit back and relax until the paella’s cooked and ready to serve.
So, What Are the Essentials for a Perfect Paella?
The type of rice you use will have a big impact on the consistency and taste of your finished paella, so go for a good brand that doesn’t stick.
You can choose whatever vegetables you like but the standard base usually starts off with 1 onion, 4 cloves chopped garlic, 2 peppers & 4 tomatoes. In addition you can choose the extra veg for your flavour of choice. Some of the best ones are asparagus, artichokes, peas, green beans and broccoli.
I’m told that courgettes, aubergines, carrots and cauliflower aren’t generally considered good paella ingredients.
Extra Virgin Olive oil
You need a surprising amount of olive oil to slow fry the vegetables in before adding the rice. In the past when I made ‘my’ version of paella I used to put a tiny amount of oil in the pan. Now I’ve seen how it’s done traditionally I realise why the final dish is so different tasting!
It’s an important part of the dish, so don’t skimp on the olive oil!
Dry white wine
About a third or a half of one bottle for a paella for 4-6 people
You can add a bay leaf to the pan and remove it just before serving, though it won’t wreck your paella if you don’t have any.
The traditional use of fresh saffron to colour the rice yellow has generally been replaced with using artificial colourings but as I don’t believe in buying artificial colourings, I use either the fresh saffron or more often, a tsp of turmeric.
What Are the Pitfalls?
Too much water
Too much water will make your rice soggy. Play it by eye and be careful not to overdo it. If in doubt, measure out your rice and double the quantity of water. Check your paella early on and if it’s getting too dry, add a bit of extra water – but avoid doing this too late in the cooking process.
Poor Quality rice
Poor quality rice will break up, get sticky or lose it’s ‘bite’ so it’s better to choose a good paella rice.
Stirring too much.
Leave the paella alone once it’s cooking, only stirring occasionally if necessary.
Not enough salt
Salt gives the paella much of its flavour so be prepared to sacrifice the flavour if you’re cooking with low-salt.
Don’t use semi or sweet wine as it will probably spoil the flavour.
Chop the vegetables really small. I’ve left them a big bigger in these photos, but for a traditional paella they would be smaller. Use wild mushrooms for a chewy texture and added flavour. Asparagus and artichoke are also favourites.
Avoid courgettes, carrots, sweet corn, aubergine & cauliflower (if you want to conform lol).
For a Summary, Watch the Video:
Perfect Paella Every Time.
30 minPrep Time
1 hrCook Time
1 hr, 30 Total Time
5 based on 2 review(s)
- Paella rice - two closed handfuls per person
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion
- 4 cloves chopped garlic
- 2 green or red peppers or one of each
- 4-6 mushrooms
- 1 tray wild mushrooms
- 1 bunch asparagus
- handful green beans
- some broccoli heads
- 4-6 tomatoes
- Chop all the vegetables in advance to save hassle.
- Heat a large wok pan or paella pan if you have one, over a medium flame with about 1 cm of olive oil in the bottom.
- Add the chopped onion and garlic and a pinch of salt.
- Next add the peppers and other vegetables in order of hardness and add some more salt.
- When semi cooked, add the mushrooms to the pan.
- Pour in the frozen peas and finally add the chopped tomatoes.
- If using turmeric, add a teaspoon to the pan now and stir.
- Pour on 1/3-1/2 bottle of dry white wine, stir once and leave to cook on a low-medium heat.
- When the vegetables look cooked, add two handfuls of rice per person and stir.
- Pour on water until the rice is covered. The amount of water is said to be double the amount of rice, but I just pour it on by eye until there's about a cm over the rice.
If you love rice, don’t forget to check out our Italian influenced risotto recipe here!
So, there you have it! Easy to make, deliciously perfect vegetarian paella! Don’t forget to let us know how you get on in the comments below!