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Bring the taste of Spain to your table with a festive paella, an aromatic Spanish rice dish that combines the best of land and sea.

Photo by Johnny Miller (Clarkson Potter, 2021)

Paella is a traditional Spanish dish made from rice, vegetables, meat, and seafood, and flavored with saffron. Pronounced “pie-AY-uh,” it takes its name from the paellera, the wide, shallow pan in which it is traditionally cooked. Paella is one of my family’s favorite dishes to share when we go out for Spanish food, and it’s fun to make for a festive occasion at home, too. I know it seems like a big to-do, and it certainly can be if you add a wide variety of meat and seafood—the original version from Valencia contains snails and rabbit—but I keep it relatively simple here by using only quick-cooking smoked chorizo, shrimp, and mussels. A paella pan is useful and pretty if you have one, but there is no need to go out and buy one—you can use any large skillet to make paella. This is a feast!

What You’ll Need To Make Paella

ingredients to make paella

A few notes on the ingredients:

  • Smoked chorizo is usually located near the hot dogs and bacon in the supermarket. It is already fully cooked, and it is not necessary to remove the casings.
  • Bomba or Spanish paella rice is a short-grain rice prized for its ability to absorb three times its volume in broth (rather than the normal two times) while still remaining firm. You can find it in many grocery stores or order it online.
  • Saffron is harvested by hand, making it the most expensive spice in the world. Usually, it is sold in small quantities, and you only need a pinch. Saffron threads should be crushed before they are added to recipes to release their flavor. Simply use your thumb and forefinger to crush the threads into fine pieces. Be sure to use only the amount that the recipe calls for; too much saffron can give food a medicinal taste. Store any leftover saffron for up to 6 months wrapped in foil and placed in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
  • When you purchase mussels, they’re still alive. After bringing them home from the store, they will stay fresh in the refrigerator for several days. Because they’re alive, avoid storing them in an airtight container. Instead, place them in a bowl covered with a wet paper towel.

Step-by-Step Instructions

In a 13-inch paella pan, large enameled cast-iron pan (like a Le Creuset), or a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Cook the sliced chorizo, turning once, until lightly browned and some of the fat has rendered, about 3 minutes.

chorizo in pan

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the browned chorizo to a plate and set aside. Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the tomato paste.

vegetables in panAdd the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until coated with the vegetable mixture, about 2 minutes.

rice and vegetable mixtureAdd the broth, clam juice, saffron, bay leaf, ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper; bring to a boil.

rice with broth, clam juice, and seasoningCover and simmer over low heat, without stirring, until the rice is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Fish out and discard the bay leaf. Stir in the peas, browned chorizo (along with any juices that accumulated on the plate) and thyme, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Remove the pan from the heat and cover to keep warm.

cooked rice with peas, chorizo, and thyme

In a separate large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper; cook, turning once, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes.

sautéing shrimpAdd the shrimp to the paella and cover to keep warm.

paella with shrimp addedIn the same skillet that you cooked the shrimp (no need to rinse it first), bring the wine to a boil over medium heat. Add the mussels and cover with a lid.

cooking musselsCook, shaking the skillet occasionally, until the mussels open, 2 to 4 minutes.

Pour the mussels and their cooking liquid over the paella.

Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over the paella and serve.

Video Tutorial

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Paella

Bring the taste of Spain to your table with a festive paella, an aromatic Spanish rice dish that combines the best of land and sea.

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 1 Hour
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 45 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces smoked chorizo, sliced ½-inch thick on the bias (see note)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1½ cups Bomba rice or other Spanish paella rice (see note)
  • 3½ cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup bottled clam juice
  • Generous pinch saffron threads, about ⅛ teaspoon crumbled (see note)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 pound large (31/35) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ⅓ cup white wine
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded (see note)

Instructions

  1. In a 13-inch paella pan, large enameled cast-iron pan (like a Le Creuset), or a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Cook the sliced chorizo, flipping once, until lightly browned and some of the fat has rendered, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the browned chorizo to a plate and set aside. Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the tomato paste.
  2. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until coated with the vegetable mixture, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, clam juice, saffron, bay leaf, ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat, without stirring, until the rice is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Stir in the peas, then the chorizo (along with any accumulated juices) and thyme; taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Remove the pan from the heat and cover.
  3. In a separate large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper; cook, turning once, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add the shrimp to the paella and cover to keep warm.
  4. In the same skillet that you cooked the shrimp (no need to rinse it first), bring the wine to a boil over medium heat. Add the mussels and cover with a lid; cook, shaking the skillet occasionally, until the mussels open, 2 to 4 minutes. Pour the mussels and their cooking liquid over the paella.
  5. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over the paella and serve.
  6. Note: Smoked chorizo is usually located near the hot dogs and bacon in the supermarket. It is already fully cooked, and it is not necessary to remove the casings.
  7. Note: Bomba or Spanish paella rice, a short-grain rice prized for its ability to absorb three times its volume in broth (rather than the normal two times) while still remaining firm, can be found in many grocery stores or you can order it online.
  8. Note: Saffron is harvested by hand, making it the most expensive spice in the world. Usually, it is sold in small quantities, and you only need a pinch. Saffron threads should be crushed before they are added to recipes to release their flavor. Simply use your thumb and forefinger to crush the threads into fine pieces. Be sure to use only the amount that the recipe calls for; too much saffron can give food a medicinal taste. Store any leftover saffron for up to 6 months wrapped in foil and placed in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
  9. Note: When you purchase mussels, they're still alive. After bringing them home from the store, they will stay fresh in the refrigerator for several days. Because they're alive, avoid storing them in an airtight container. Instead, place them in a bowl covered with a wet paper towel. To clean mussels prior to cooking, put them in a colander and run them under cold running water. Use your hands or a scrubbing brush to remove any sand or remaining debris. If beards (the little tuft of fibers the mussel uses to connect to rocks or pilings) are present, cut or scrape them off with a paring knife, or use your fingers to pull them sharply down toward the hinged point of the shells. The mussels should be tightly closed. If you see a mussel that is open, tap it gently against the counter; in a live mussel, this will trigger a reaction to close its shell. If the mussel doesn't slowly close, it has died and should be discarded. Discard any mussels with cracked shells as well.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 763
  • Fat: 37 g
  • Saturated fat: 11 g
  • Carbohydrates: 54 g
  • Sugar: 5 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 48 g
  • Sodium: 1494 mg
  • Cholesterol: 197 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • Hi Jenn,
    This looks amazing! Couple of questions if you don’t mind…
    1. What do you think about using beef sausage (soujouk) instead of chorizo?
    2. Can I use iron cast with a loose lid? If not, Dutch oven maybe?
    Thanks so much for your help!

    • — Oleda on January 18, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Oleda, I think you could use the beef sausage but from what I read, it’s uncooked, so you’ll need to cook it first (chorizo is already cooked). And either of your pans will work. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 24, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! I enjoy your recipes and website. I am considering making your paella (minus the mussels) for a dinner party and would like to make the dish ahead of time. Do you have any suggestions for doing this? Thank you!

    • — Christine on January 9, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Christine, I’ve never done it, but I think you could get away with preparing the paella up to the point right before you cook the shrimp. Hope everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on January 10, 2023
      • Reply
  • This is paella within reach—and it’s fantastic. My husband, 20-year-old son, and teenage daughter all raved. I wanted to make it right away, so I used Arborio rice instead of Bomba (but will order Bomba), and beef smoked sausage in place of chorizo because we don’t eat pork. Both worked perfectly. It is totally weeknight-dinner possible, and would be great for a small dinner party.

    • — Lisa on January 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • What can i substitute for clam juice? Thanks

    • — Rochelle on December 29, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Rochelle, You can use chicken broth.

      • — Jenn on December 29, 2022
      • Reply
  • If I wanted to add chicken to this recipe, how would you suggest I prepare it and when should it be added?

    • — Lizrosie on December 28, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Lizrosie, I would roast 4 chicken drumsticks in the oven and then add them at the end. You can keep the seasoning simple with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika, and roast at 400°F for about 40 min. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on December 29, 2022
      • Reply
  • I am absolutely going to make this. But, I’ve got a couple questions first.

    Why not cook the shrimp in with the rice, broth, vegetables, clam juice and garlic. Wouldn’t that add to the flavor of the Paella? Or could you cook the shrimp and mussels in the broth and then add the rice and veggies? Just a little curious. You may have very good reasons to do it this way.

    I do make a lot of your recipes and think you have a great website!!!

    • — janet from Bloomington IN on December 28, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Janet, I prefer to cook the shrimp and mussels separately as it gives me more control over the cooking time and prevents overcooking. Since the cooking liquid from the mussels is added to the paella, you still get all that wonderful flavor. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on December 29, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, what can I use instead of chorizo?

    • — Carol J Winkelman on December 28, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Carol, are you looking to avoid pork?

      • — Jenn on December 28, 2022
      • Reply
      • Hi Jenn! I did not ask the original question about the chorizo but I am also looking to avoid pork so if you have any similarly flavorful suggestions, I would appreciate it!

        • — Heathet on December 29, 2022
        • Reply
        • I would look for smoked chicken sausage, which you can find in the same section of the supermarket as the chorizo. Paella is very flexible, so it should work very well. Please LMK how it turns out!

          • — Jenn on December 30, 2022
          • Reply
        • Instead of chorizo I prefer hot italian sausages boiled for about 10 minutes then cut into slices before browning. I have bought Spanish chorizo but prefer these. I got the idea from an old cookbook (Table for 8 by Judith Huxley). She ran a column in WAPO in the 70s.

          • — Barbara T on January 10, 2023
          • Reply
  • A flat bottom wok with a lid is what we use,it works well for this.Thx for the inspiration this looks delicious,quite sure it will be.

    • — lowandslow on December 28, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this as a recipe tester for Jenn’s 2nd cookbook and have made it twice again. It was a hit every time I made it and my son loved it. His approval was well received as he spent 2 1/2 years in Valencia and learned to make paella from a paella restaurant owner in exchange for English lessons.

    • — GrandBob on December 28, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Jenn,

      What, if anything, can be substituted for Mussels? I imagine this is delicious as your other recipes but I’m not a fan of them. Thank you!

      • — Cindi Keller on December 28, 2022
      • Reply
      • Hi Cindy, You can replace with more shrimp or chorizo or add chicken.

        • — Jenn on December 29, 2022
        • Reply
        • Hi Jenn…if I skip the mussels do I need to replace the liquid with something else? Thank you! Ellyn

          • — Ellyn Dratch on January 10, 2023
          • Reply
          • Hi Ellyn, the wine that the mussels cook in adds nice flavor, but if you’re not cooking them, you don’t need to replace it with any other liquid. Hope you enjoy!

            • — Jenn on January 10, 2023

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