Vegetable paella has been a part of our Christmas dinner for the last 2 years. I’ve finally got around to bringing my version of this easy Spanish rice dish to the recipe collection. It’s loaded with tender vegetables and makes for an eye-catching presentation on the table!
After cooking paella a few different ways at home, I’ve come to prefer my veggies on the firmer side. I don’t mind them cooked thoroughly but keeping them al dente makes for added texture and color. If you prefer your veggies on the softer side, you can cook them a little longer before adding the rice. You can also easily change-up some of the vegetables used like subbing in asparagus for the green beans. Or using frozen or canned produce in place of fresh. It is my hope to ensure that no matter what the situation you can make this vegetable paella with ease. It’s very flexible and is a great meal to have on the rotation!
What Type Of Pan To Use When Making Paella?
Traditionally paella consists of a thin layer of rice with ingredients of choice over top. To achieve this I wanted to try out a paella pan which is a large, round and shallow with slanted sides. After searching a few options I decided on this carbon steel paella pan from Lodge on Amazon. Carbon steel heats up quickly and cools down fast. It’s a pretty large pan with a 15 inch diameter but it worked great on the burner with a little rotating. I’m very happy with it and will be using it for a variety of tasks in my kitchen. But not to worry, if you don’t have a paella pan you can still make a delicious paella using a large dutch oven or pot. That is how my mom makes it and its excellent none the less!
More Tips For Making Traditional Paella
- The rice should cook up al dente, not mushy. Stick with short grain rice, such as Valencia or arborio.
- If you turn the heat up at the end of cooking for a minute or two you’re on your way to a wonderful treat, socarrat (soh-kah-raht), a caramalized layer of lightly toasted rice at the bottom of the pan. It’s delicious, trust me!
- Paella is traditionally cooked, uncovered, on an open flame. It is my preferred method. I’ve tried cooking it in the oven with a paella pan and covered on the stove top in a large pot, but my favorite method is the one I share with you here, using the paella pan on the stove top. The other methods were still good but this is my go-to method.
Saffron Or Turmeric
Saffron is what will give the rice its golden hue. I purchase my saffron from Trader Joe’s for a very reasonable priced at $5.99 for a 0.02 ounce jar. It works well for our purpose but if you can’t find saffron for a reasonable price I suggest using turmeric in its place. Turmeric is traditionally known as ‘Indian Saffron’ and will lend a subtle peppery, warm flavor and yellow hue. It’s a great substitute for saffron when making paella.
Once done, get ready to feed a crowd or just a few. You can eat it straight from the pan, as is typical, or serve alongside some leafy greens with a big squeeze of lemon over top.
It’s simple, colorful and delicious!
For More Crowd Pleasing Recipes
- Teriyaki Tofu-Tempeh Casserole
- Baked Vegan Mac and Cheese (+Stovetop)
- One-Pot Penne Pasta w/ Mushrooms + Sausage
Colorful and flavorful, this veggie paella is an eye catching center piece for the table! No need to have a paella pan, you can use a large pot or dutch oven.
- Prep Time: 20 min
- Cook Time: 30 min
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4 - 6
- Category: Entree
- Cuisine: Vegan, Spanish
- 1/2 heaping teaspoon saffron or turmeric
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or 1/4 cup water/veggie broth (for water saute)
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cups green beans or asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 lb. (16 oz) tomatoes, seeded and diced or 1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes + juice
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
- 2 – 3 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 cups short grain rice (Valencia or arborio)
- 3 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 can/jar (14 oz) artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered
- 1 cup green peas (fresh or frozen, thawed)
- chopped parsley leaves, to garnish
- lemon wedges, to serve
In a small bowl, add the saffron threads to 3 tablespoons warm water, let set 10 minutes to steep. If using turmeric, skip this step and add turmeric with the other spices.
Heat olive oil/broth over medium heat in a large wide flat-bottomed pan or paella pan (a dutch oven or large pot would also suffice). Add onions and bell peppers, cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, green beans, tomatoes, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and bay leaves, cook another 3 minutes stirring frequently. For softer veggies, cook another 7 minutes or so, totaling 10 minutes after adding the latter ingredients.
Add in the rice, broth/water, saffron mixture/turmeric and salt. Gently move the vegetables around so the rice falls to the bottom of the pan as much as possible. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium or medium-low and cook at a continuous gentle boil, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Do not stir the rice. If using a large paella pan (15 inches or so) you’ll want to rotate the pan over the burner every so often to help cook the rice evenly. Stay in the kitchen and clean up so you’re right there to adjust the pan when needed. If liquids seem to boil off to quickly, add a little extra warm water/broth.
After 15 minutes of cooking, scatter the peas and artichoke hearts on top. Once 20 minutes is up, turn off heat and cover for 10 minutes with a kitchen towel or other cover of choice. This will allow the rice to absorb any remaining liquid as well as steam the peas and warm the artichoke hearts and any other optional ingredients added as noted below. Once done, lightly fluff the rice and serve. Discard bay leaves before eating.
Serve garnished with chopped parsley. Pairs perfectly with a side of leafy greens and a big squeeze of lemon over top. Enjoy straight from the pan or serve in individual bowls.
Serves 4 generously.
For added protein, add 1 can (15 oz.), drained and rinsed, or 1 1/2 cups cooked cannellini or great northern beans. You may also consider adding 2 sliced vegan sausages, Tofurky or Field Roast. Add the beans/sausage when adding the peas and artichoke hearts.
No need to use a paella pan, you can use a dutch oven or other large pot to cook your paella. The reason for using a paella pan is to have a thin layer of rice, that hopefully crisps up a bit, with the vegetables over top. You can still achieve this with the other vessels mentioned above. I used this paella pan and found this cover to be helpful with the large-sized pan.
If you like to get the socarrat (a caramalized layer of toasted rice at the bottom of the pan), at the end of cooking, turn the heat up for 1 -2 minutes listening for the sizzle or smell of toasted (not burnt) rice. The rice at the bottom of the pan will crispen up making for a crispy texture. It’s quite a treat!
Use canned/jarred ‘grilled’ artichoke hearts if you like. If using frozen, be sure to thaw first.
If you don’t have smoked paprika, use sweet/regular paprika.
To serve 6 – 8, use 2 cups (16 oz.) rice and 5 1/2 cups broth/water. No need to add more vegetables. Note that the paella pan I used will easily accommodate this larger amount.