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Vegetable Vegan Paella

Full of color and simple flavors, this Spanish inspired Vegan Paella is loaded with veggies and an eye-catching centerpiece for the table! No need to have a paella pan, you can use a large pot or dutch oven too.

top down view of vegetable vegan paella in a paella pan with items surrounding.

Vegetable paella has been a part of our Christmas dinner for the last few years, and I thought it was time to share the recipe!

This amazing vegetable filled vegan paella is loaded with tender vegetables, Spanish rice and spices and is perfect for large and small gatherings!

Why We Love This Recipe!

  • No paella pan needed:  You can use a regular large skillet for this recipe.  See FAQs below.
  • One-pan meal: All in one pot meals makes for easy cooking and clean-up!
  • Adaptable: You can easily adapt this paella recipe with veggies and spices.

My hope is to ensure that no matter what the situation you can make this vegan paella with ease. It’s very flexible and a great meal to have on the rotation!

top down view of ingredients used to make vegan paella.

Vegetable Paella Ingredients

In this recipe, a mix of vegetables are sauteed then simmered with Spanish rice and spices in broth until the rice is just tender, creating an easy vegan paella that everyone will love.

Here are a few things to consider, plus ideas for substituting as needed:

The Vegetables. This recipe calls for bell peppers, artichokes, green beans, peas and tomatoes for a colorful and easily accessible mix of veggies. You can also easily change-up some of the vegetables using asparagus, olives, capers, ets. You could even add chickpeas or sliced vegan sausage for variation.

The Rice. Paella rice should cook up al dente, not mushy. For traditional paella use a short to medium grain, round rice such as Valencia or arborio.

Paella FAQs

Can I Use Saffron or Turmeric When Making Paella?

Saffron is what will give the rice its golden hue and unique aroma. I purchase my saffron from Trader Joe’s for a very reasonable price at $5.99 for a 0.02 ounce jar. It works well, 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.

What Type Of Pan To Use When Making Paella?

Traditionally paella consists of a thin layer of rice with ingredients of choice over top. A paella pan has a large, round surface area and shallow slanted sides which allows the rice to spread out. 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 and worked great on the burner with a little rotation.

Do I Need A Paella Pan?

No, if you don’t have a paella pan you can still make a delicious paella using a large skillet, dutch oven, or pot with a diameter of at least 12 inches would be ideal. That is how my mom makes it and its excellent none the less!

side by side photos of saffron in bottle and seeping in water.

How To Make Vegan Paella

Here’s a look at the steps with photos to use as reference. (Note – The full printable recipe is at the bottom of this post)

  • Steep the saffron: Start with soaking the saffron in a small bowl with a little warm water for about 10 minutes to steep. If using turmeric, skip this step and add turmeric with the other spices.
side by side photos of sauting veggies for paella.
  • Saute the veggies. 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 work). Saute the onions and bell peppers for 5 minutes. Add garlic, green beans, tomatoes, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and bay leaves, and cook another 3 minutes. For softer veggies, cook another 5 – 7 minutes.
top down view showing veg broth poured over rice and veggies in paella pan.
  • Add the rice + broth. Add in the rice, broth, saffron mixture/turmeric and salt.
side by side photos showing the process of making vegetable paella.
  • Ensure the rice sinks. Gently move the vegetables around so the rice falls to the bottom of the pan as much as possible, shown above.
side by side photos showing before and after adding peas and artichokes.
  • Boil + simmer. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer without disturbing the rice. If using a large paella pan (15 inches or so) you may want to rotate the pan over the burner every so often to help cook the rice evenly. If the liquids seem to boil off too quickly, add a little extra warm water/broth.
  • Add peas and artichokes. After 15 minutes of cooking, scatter the peas and artichoke hearts on top, cook for 5 minutes more.
top down view showing veg broth poured over rice and veggies in paella pan.
  • Cover to steam. 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. Once done, lightly fluff the rice and discard the bay leaves. Season with salt + pepper to taste.

And that’s about it, the hardest part is prepping the veggies, the rest is easy as can be.

Now you are ready to sit back, relax and dine on this easy Spanish rice dish!

Top Tips

  • Socarrat. For authentic paella, go for socarrat (soh-kah-raht) which is a caramelized layer of lightly toasted rice at the bottom of the pan. Simply turn the heat up at the end of cooking for a minute or two and you’re on your way to a wonderful treat. Trust me, it’s delicious!
  • Cook on an open flame with a shallow pan. Paella is traditionally cooked, uncovered, on an open flame such as a grill, gas burner, or fire pit with a paella pan. Although other methods are pretty good too, this is my go-to method.
  • Don’t stir the paella during cooking. When the rice is cooking, don’t stir, just let it cook and do it’s magic!
top down view of vegetable vegan paella in a paella pan with fork and items surrounding.

How To Store + Reheat

If you end up with leftover paella, there’s no reason to waste it by throwing it away. Instead, store it in the refrigerator or freezer for later, it reheats well too.

  • Refrigerator: Store leftover paella in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  • Freezer: Vegan paella can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 – 2 months. To freeze, let it cool completely and store in freezer safe containers (affiliate link). Let thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
  • Reheat: Warm paella, covered, in a preheated oven set to 350 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes, adding a few tablespoons of water for small servings. Alternatively, reheat in the microwave using 30 second intervals, with a little water added, stirring between each interval until warmed through.

What To Serve With Vegan Paella

You can eat your vegetable paella straight from the pan, as is typical, or serve alongside some leafy greens with a big squeeze of lemon over top. Here are a few more of my favorite options:

top down view of bowl with leafy greens topped with serving of veggie vegan paella.

More Crowd-Pleasing Recipes!

If you try this vegetable paella recipe or have a question, please let me know! Leave a comment and rate it below. I love to hear what you think, or any changes you make.

Print

SPANISH VEGAN PAELLA

Full of color and simple flavors, this vegan Spanish paella recipe is loaded with veggies and makes an eye catching centerpiece for the table! No need to have a paella pan, you can use a large pot or dutch oven.

  • Author: Julie | The Simple Veganista
  • Prep Time: 20 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 – 6 1x
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: saute, simmer
  • Cuisine: Spanish
  • Diet: Vegan

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1/2 heaping teaspoon saffron or turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or 1/4 cup water/veggie broth
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 bell peppers (red, orange or yellow), cored and thinly sliced
  • 4 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 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
  • 23 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups short grain rice (Valencia or arborio)
  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/21 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

Instructions

Steep saffron: 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.

Saute: 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 rice + broth: Add in the rice, broth, saffron mixture/turmeric and salt. Gently move the vegetables around so the rice falls to the bottom of the pan as much as possible.

Boil + simmer: Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium or medium-low and cook at a continuous gentle boil, uncovered, for 15 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 too quickly, add a little extra warm water/broth.

Add peas and artichokes: After 15 minutes of cooking, scatter the peas and artichoke hearts on top, cook for 5 minutes more.

Cover to steam: 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. Season with salt, pepper or more paprika to taste.

Serve: Garnish 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 – 6

Notes

Add protein: 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.

Pan suggestions: 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.

Go for the socarrat: If you like to get the socarrat (a caramelized 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 4 1/2 cups broth/water. No need to add more vegetables (but you can if you want). Note that the paella pan I used will easily accommodate this larger amount.

Updated: Vegetable Vegan Paella was originally published in January 2016. It has been updated with new photos and helpful tips in May 2020.

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49 Comments

  1. I followed the recipe just as written only made it for a couple of hungry men so I used 2 cups aborio rice and 4 1/2 cups vegetable broth without increasing the vegetables very much and it was great! Everyone loved it. I had left overs to send home. The men were hungry and usually meat eaters, they work outside in construction and loved this recipe. Definitely will make it again.

  2. Oh my gosh this recipe is spot on and delicious!! I’m making it for the third time tonight for dinner and I wouldn’t hesitate to make it for guests, This paella is so flavorful and a lovely presentation too. I think the comment someone made about it having no flavor perhaps used regular paprika instead of smoked because I find it so tasty just as you noted. We did use saffron too. Thanks for sharing! :)

  3. Omg! Yum! I made this and roasted the veges before adding them to the pan and it was AMAZING! I will definitely be making this again and again!

  4. I thought this dish was bland an quite boring. I really wanted to like it, but my husband and I were sadly disappointed.

    1. I have to agree … just didn’t tast like much at all… beautiful dish though

      1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

        Sorry you didn’t care for it much. Paella is typically not heavy on the spices so the saffron can shine through. I suppose you could add more or add a bit of garlic powder or extra salt to ramp up the flavor. And use a good quality broth for the best flavor. Hope that helps and you have better luck with it if you try the recipe again!

  5. Alison Wright says:

    We live in Spain and have eaten many paella but this is just the best! I had never cooked a paella before however following the recipe and easy instructions it turned out perfect! Everyone thought it was really tasty! Looking forward to exploring / changing some often ingredients now I had found an excellent recipe that produces a delicious paella. Thank you 😎👍

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      Yay, so glad you all enjoyed it, makes my day! Thank you so much for sharing Alison! :)

  6. Wow! Wow! Wow! I normally go to a high end Spanish restaurant for paella, this measures up! It was so easy to make and so yummy! My husband and son loved it as well. Thank you so much for this recipe.

  7. Looks so yummy and I can’t wait to make it! I’m also curious too on whether you can sub with a short grain brown rice. Thanks!

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      Great question, Michele! You can sub with short grain brown rice, but the rice will take an additional 15 – 20 minutes to cook, so adjust accordingly. I’m about to update this recipe in the next day or two and would love any feedback of how it went for you so I can add it to the tips and notes section. The only new changes I’ll be making is to use 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika instead of 1. Enjoy, and be sure to let us know how it goes! :)

      1. Awesome! Thanks so much Julie! I’ll let everyone know how it goes once I brave the grocery store. Lol! Definitely looking forward to making this though since it looks like the perfect comfort dish! <3

  8. So good! Made with yellow rice; added capers, chickpeas and canned stewed tomatoes.

  9. Would this work with brown rice? Perhaps doubling the liquids? :)

  10. Dawn Caron says:

    My daughter is in medical school and turned to a vegetarian diet early last summer. When she returned this past weekend from her first overseas trip with a classmate to Barcelona, I wanted to celebrate and this was the perfect dish to remind her of her week and also stay true to her diet. It was a huge hit. I loved the flavors and though I didnt have a paella pan, My big lodge cast iron skillet worked well. Thankyou for sharing the link to the pan you have though, I have put it on my wish list in Amazon. I love your site and subscribed. Glad I found you. :) Bon Appetite. oh- (PS I really love all the alternate tips you include in your recipes. I used fresh asparagus and canned tomatoes in mine. First time I have cooked with saffron. My daughter was really wishing she had brought some home.)

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      Awe! Thanks for the kind words! So glad you enjoyed it, Dawn! xo

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