How to Make Paella at Home

Don’t be intimidated: this Spanish classic can be conquered at home, even without a paella pan.

Lobster Paella in Pan with Snap Peas and Scallions

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.

The Pan

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.

Clam Paella on a bbq
Chicken Paella

Ingredients

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.

Essential Ingredients:

Saffron

Possibly the paramount ingredient in classic paella is saffron; the thin red threads transform the dish with their earthy and floral notes and color-changing properties.

Garlic and Onion

Used in the Aromatic Foundation of the dish, this classic combination of alliums builds a base of flavor.

Tomato

A variety of tomato products can be used to add acidity to the dish; if in season, freshly grated tomato is wonderful to create a bright, slightly acidic base, but in the off season canned crushed tomatoes or paste work as well.

Chorizo

This spicy spanish sausage is made of pork and seasoned with smoked paprika, garlic, and other spices depending on the variety! It brings a rich, smoky flavor to the dish.

Seafood

Paella often includes a variety of seafood, typically shrimp, mussels, and clams. We use the shells of the shrimp to create a deeply seasoned broth for cooking the rice.
Paella Chopping Step

Optional Ingredients:

Green Peas

Some variations of paella include peas for pop of color and earthy flavor.

Roasted Bell Pepper

Typically diced and sautéed with the garlic and onion before the rice is added to the pan, roasted bell peppers add a sweet and slightly smoky flavor to the dish while providing a pop of color. Thin slices of roasted bell pepper on top is a great way to show what’s in the dish.

Smoked Paprika

Seasoning meat and vegetables with smoked paprika before adding the rice to the pan is common when making paella; purchase Spanish pimentón (Spanish paprika) if you can.

Learn the keys to cooking like a Culinista.

Join our weekly newsletter for seasonal recipes, hosting tips, and more.

Serving Paella

Chef's tip

Blooming refers to giving the saffron threads time to release their flavor, aroma, and color into the dish; alternatively, this can be done by steeping the threads in a small amount of water before adding to the pan.
If using jarred bell peppers, add the liquid to your broth before cooking the rice.

Step By Step

  1. 1.

    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.

  2. 2.

    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.

  3. 3.

    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.

  4. 4.

    Add seafood

    Add clams and mussels, cover, and cook until they open. Add shrimp, cover, and cook until they turn plump and pink.

  5. 5.

    Serve in the pan

    Remove from heat and serve in the pan.

Get hands-on instruction:

paella

Cooking Class

Paella Night
You can absolutely conquer this extravagant-looking centerpiece in your home kitchen. Let a Culinista chef show you how.
Sign up for Recipes, Tips & Tricks