Paella is one of those dishes that brings people together. Because of its large format and flexible ingredient list, the traditional Spanish dish is synonymous with communal celebration. And even though paella is an extravagant-looking dish, it is possible to conquer in your home kitchen with the right plan and ingredients. Here’s how to make paella your next reason to come together.
To learn the keys to homemade paella directly from a Culinista chef, book a cooking class.
A paella pan is large, shallow, and made of very thin metal, which allows rice to cook evenly and form a crust—known as socarrat—on the bottom. Paella pans function as both cooking and serving vessels, so the two handles on either side help it get to the table.
If you don’t have a paella pan, your largest stainless steel or cast iron skillet will work, but your socarrat will likely take longer to cook and may not be as crispy. Whichever pan you choose, it should be big enough to hold all of the ingredients and have enough surface area for them to spread across one layer.
Type of Rice
The most common rice for making paella is bomba rice. Bomba is the MVP of paella rice because it is a short grain with a high starch content, allowing it to absorb a significant amount of liquid while maintaining its structure. This characteristic helps the rice to cook evenly and release its starch, creating a creamy texture and forming a crispy and flavorful socarrat at the bottom of the pan. Socarrat is a delicacy, prized for its crispy texture and nutty flavor. It is formed by evenly cooking rice at a high heat and creating a layer of caramelized rice at the bottom of the pan. If Bomba rice is unavailable, you can use other short-grain rice such as Arborio or Calasparra, though the resulting texture may be slightly different.
There are many different types of paella. If you’re hosting a cooking class or gathering with The Culinistas, you can choose from our Classic Paella, Crispy Chicken & Olive Paella, Green Vegetarian Paella with kale, poblano and mushroom, or Lobster Paella with pancetta and snap peas. Here, we’ll cover how to make a classic paella.
Garlic and Onion
Roasted Bell Pepper
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Step By Step
Make a broth
Fry shrimp shells and any other scraps from your proteins and veggies in oil. Add roasted red pepper liquid if using, and cover with water. Simmer until aromatic and flavorful.
Start the rice
While the broth simmers, start the rice: Heat olive oil in a paella pan over medium heat and add chorizo; cook until crisp then remove it from the pan and reserve. Add onion and sweat until translucent; add garlic and cook until aromatic. Add rice and stir frequently until grains are golden; add saffron and gently cook to bloom. Return chorizo to the pan and add tomato.
Add broth to rice and cook
Add some of the broth and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and stir, making sure rice is in an even layer. Cook, untouched and uncovered, for about 15 minutes until rice is done.
Add clams and mussels, cover, and cook until they open. Add shrimp, cover, and cook until they turn plump and pink.
Serve in the pan
Remove from heat and serve in the pan.
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