Spanish Vegan Paella

PAELLA is considered the national dish of Spain, and it has as many variations as there are cooks!

But most cooks agree that the dish Paella was developed in the Spanish city of Valencia. Valencia is where the Romans introduced irrigation and then the Arab conquerors that brought rice, perfected it. So many Spanish say ‘the best Paella and most authentic still comes from Valencia.’

Paella started out in the Spanish countryside, it was originally farmers’ and farm labourers’ food. The farm labourers would cook paella over a wood fire for the lunchtime meal. It would have been made with rice, and whatever was to hand around the rice fields and countryside: tomatoes, onions, snails, with a few beans added for flavour and texture. 

Paella is a symbol of belonging to a family and the dish carries the important Spanish value of family in the day to day life. The families would come together to eat paella that they would have made using ingredients that were easy to source. 

As a dish, it may have ancient roots. According to food historian Lourdes March, paella “symbolises the union and heritage of two important cultures, the Romans, which gave the utensil and the Arabs which brought the basic food.” 

Even though paella originated in Spain, in its modern form it can be traced back to the mid-19th century, in the rural area around the Albufera lagoon, which is adjacent to the city of Valencia, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Today, it is a dish that is enjoyed globally. 

Traditionally, paella is eaten directly from the pan with a wooden spoon, scraping to the bottom to get the best caramelised rice, which is called, the socarrat. 

To be able to get the socarrat, the rice must be cooked through. Then once it’s cooked you will want to keep heating the bottom of the pan without stirring at all, so the bottom becomes slightly caught. The tricky part about the cooking is that instinct tells you to stir the rice a lot, but you don’t want this. An ideal paella has a thin layer of toasted, slightly caramelised rice on the bottom of the pan. Some cooks chase it by boosting the heat for the final minute or two of cooking, but you have to be careful as this greatly increases the risk of scorching. Even heat and proper timing are much safer.

The key to a tasty paella is the spices! (saffron, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, fresh thyme, fresh-cut parsley, tomato, garlic and a mix of olive oil). 

When saffron is crumbled into a pot of hot stock, it adds an earthy, floral, and somewhat mysterious flavour to your paella. It causes  the rice to have a gorgeous golden colour. Saffron is a fairly expensive spice, but thankfully you only need a few threads to season a whole dish of paella.

The spices are responsible for the fantastic flavour. With the right spices you can’t go wrong, then it is just a matter of adding some tasty vegetables.  Just a little tip to help make your dish great, don’t overload with vegetables. By limiting your ingredients and letting each element of the dish shine, will bring out the magnificent taste, which makes paella a dish that will tantalise your palate. 

Time to make Spanish Vegan Paella. As always please let me know how it turned out and if it tantalise your taste buds!


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil , divided
  • 4 cups vegetable broth , low sodium
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 medium onion , diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper , cut into strips
  • 1 small green bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • ½ cup of freshly diced string beans
  • 5 cloves garlic , chopped, minced or crushed
  • 1 large tomato , diced (sub ½ cup canned)
  • 1 ½ cups Bomba Rice (sub arborio rice)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt , more to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper , to taste
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (sub 1 teaspoon dried)
  • ¾ cup frozen peas , thawed
  • Garnish (Optional)
  • Lemon wedges
  • Fresh-cut parsley


  1. Add vegetable broth in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Break up the saffron and add it to the broth. When it begins to simmer, give it 1 minute, and then lower the heat just to keep it warm. 
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Once heated, add the onions, peppers and string beans. Sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes.  
  1. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. 
  1. Now add the tomatoes, smoked paprika, and sweet paprika. Sauté for 1-2 minutes. (if using dried thyme, add it with this step)
  1. Add the rice and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan. Stir to coat well. Cook for 1 minute to lightly toast the rice and incorporate flavors. Move around occasionally to prevent sticking. 
  1. Add the fresh thyme and slowly pour in broth. Add salt and pepper. Do not stir after this point or it will release starches and cause creamier rice. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the broth to a heavy simmer for 1-2 minutes. 
  1. Now turn the heat down (between medium-low and medium heat) to a mild simmer. You want to see movement in the pan while the broth is cooking down (don’t boil though). Simmer for 15-20 minutes until rice is al dente. Rotate the pan on the burner 1-2 times during cooking for even heat distribution. 
  1. Once the broth is nearly cooked off, you will need to pay close attention to the socarrat forming on the bottom of the pan (the golden rice crust). You will start to hear a snap, crackle, and pop, along with smelling a nutty aroma.  This should take 1-2 minutes to form. Stick a fork or spoon straight to the bottom to test if it’s forming. (If it smells like it’s burning, remove from heat immediately) 

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the peas to the top of the rice (don’t mix in). Cover the pan with foil and let the paella rest for 5-8 minutes. Top with fresh-cut parsley, cracked pepper and side with lemon wedges to serve.  Enjoy! 

One Comment Add yours

  1. Kevin says:

    Looks and sounds delicious!


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