Paella for Vegetarians

Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that originated in the Valencia region. The dish is prepared with short-grain rice boiled with saffron, herbs, spices, beans, and vegetables in an open pan. The mildly flavored rice dish is very colorful and tasty with a crunchy bottom layer known as Socarrat. My recipe is customized for vegetarians and includes Short grain rice cooked with vegetables, beans, mild spices, herbs, and seasonings.  The word Paella means “Frying pan” in Valencia and represents a style of cooking rice on an open fire. The original recipe includes short-grain white rice, a mix of seafood, meats, vegetables, rosemary, paprika, saffron, garlic, salt, olive oil, and water. My recipe includes ingredients that are suitable for strict vegetarians. Today, Paella is popular across many Latin American, European, and Mediterranean countries. As the dish has gained popularity across regions, the recipes have also evolved. The ingredients and style of cooking vary widely across regions. You can experiment with different ingredients such as vegetables and spices that can alter the flavor significantly. I would keep the below factors in mind while cooking paella to get the right taste and texture :
  1. The saffron and spices bring out the nice flavors of Paella
  2. The type of rice - The best rice for paella is Bomba rice, also labeled as Valencia Rice. if you don't get this type of rice, you may substitute any short-grain rice. Short-grain rice doesn't break after boiling.
  3. Vegetables - that add texture, taste and make Paella healthier
  4. Style of cooking: Paella is best cooked in open frying pans (cast iron or steel). 
  5. The socarrat in paella is one of the most important factors for a great flavor. The socarrat is the crusty crispy bottom of the paella that becomes caramelized and toasted on the bottom of the pan when it is cooking. (read below instructions on how to get the soccarat)
  6. The ratio of water to rice
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Cooking Method ,
Cuisine ,
Courses ,
Difficulty Intermediate
Cook Time: 45 mins
Servings 4

Paella is a traditional dish from the Valencia region of Spain - short grain rice cooked on an open fire with Saffron, vegetables and seasonings.

    Main Ingredients
  • 1 cup Short grain rice ((Bomba, Valencia or other varieties ))
  • 4 cups Vegetable broth
  • 20 strands of saffron
  • Vegetables and beans
  • 2 Ripe Tomatoes
  • 1 Green bell pepper
  • 1 Red bell pepper
  • 1 Large white onion
  • 6 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 cup White beans (Soaked overnight / canned)
  • 1/2 cup Fresh green beans
  • Seasonings and herbs
  • 2 teaspoons Smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons Cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano powder
  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning mix (Optional)
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Parsley
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 1.5 teaspoon Salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black pepper powder
  1. Prepare the veggies and rice
    1. Dice the onion
    2. Mince the garlic
    3. Julienne the green and red peppers (about 2 inch long pieces)
    4. Chop the green beans to the desired length
    5. Chop the Parsley
    6. Grate the tomatoes 

    Wash the rice with cold water a couple of times to remove any dirt or powder.

  2. Heat the broth

    Keep a pan on medium heat and add the vegetable broth. Add the Saffron strands and bring the broth to a boil.

    While the broth comes to boil, prepare the Paella base (Sofrito) in parallel.

  3. Prepare the Paella base ( Sofrito)

    Sofrito is a Spanish word and means to ‘Lightly fry”. Sofrito forms the base for many dishes including Paella. 

    1. Heat a medium-size frying pan ( cast iron or thick bottom steel at least 4 inches deep)
    2. Keep the flame on medium heat. Add Olive oil
    3. Once the oil is hot, add onions, green beans, garlic, and bay leaves. Stir for about 3 minutes until the onions turn translucent
    4. Add red and green bell peppers, peas, canned white beans ( or soaked overnight), and tomatoes
    5. Keep stirring for 5-7 minutes until the veggies have softened and the grated tomatoes have mixed well
    6. Add all the spices, salt, and pepper
    7. Mix well.
  4. Cooking the Paella
    1. Add the washed rice to the frying pan that contains the Sofrito
    2. Mix well
    3. Slowly add the boiled vegetable broth with saffron to the frying pan
    4. Keep the heat on medium level. Stir well to mix all the spices with the broth. Check and adjust for the taste of salt and paprika.
    5. Let the mixture come to a boil. Keep the heat on medium level and boil for 10 minutes.
    6. Give a gentle stir once and Let the mixture continue to boil. 
    7. Do Not stir after this!
    8. After about another 7-8 minutes, the broth should have evaporated. If not, wait until you don't see any more bubbles. You can insert a teaspoon on the edges to check if any broth is remaining at the bottom. When no more broth is remaining, the rice is almost cooked. 
    9. To get the Soccarat: Continue heating the pan for another 6-8 minutes on low heat, until you start hearing crackle sounds. The sizzling sounds indicate that the Paella is ready. The taste of the crusted brown layer at the bottom adds to the flavor of Paella and is considered a key to good Paella.
  5. Serving
    • Sprinkle some chopped parsley before serving.
    • Serve Paella while it is still hot.
Keywords: Spain, Valencia, rice, paella, saffron, bomba
Vinay Mummigatti

I love traveling, cooking, and reading. This blog is a reflection of my passion for cooking. Food is a representation of culture and I have tried to assimilate foods from different cultures across the world. I am an Indian by birth who moved to the USA 20 years back. I hope my recipes and articles bring new experiences and joy to the readers. Please share your comments and feedback.