It might seem complicated, but this Spanish classic is relatively easy to recreate at home.
Learn how to make paella the traditional way with our ultimate step-by-step guide. Hailing from Valencia on the east coast, paella is a rice-based dish infused with saffron, vegetables, and stock takes its name from the shallow frying pan it’s made in.
Paella is a versatile dish, and while variations may not be traditional to Spain you can add or remove ingredients to your taste so long as you have the base ingredients. These are rice, saffron, onion, garlic, and stock. The quintessential Spanish spice paprika is often added, too.
So, if you don’t eat duck or rabbit, you can use chicken. Or you can opt for an all-seafood dish made with fresh seafood, a frozen seafood mix, or a combination of both. Alternatively, leave out animal protein altogether and make a vegetable paella with a range of veg such as green beans, peas, red pepper, tomatoes, artichoke, leeks, or carrots.
If you’re making it at home, the dish takes between 50-60 minutes, though the enormous pans you see cooking in the streets and restaurants of Spain take longer. There are cheat recipes, too, that can be ready in as little as 15-20 minutes.
The best way to cook paella is in a traditional paella pan. A paella pan is a large, shallow frying pan with handles on each side, though it’s possible to use a large frying pan. We have suggested some of the best paella pans below.
What rice do you use for paella?
How to make paella
How to cook paella in a slow cooker
Cooking paella in the oven
Top tips for making paella
Can you keep lefotver paella?
Easy paella recipes
Best paella pans you can buy
The best type of paella rice is short grain rice such as bomba or senia, although often it’s just called paella rice. This is similar to risotto rice in that it has a high starch content, but it shouldn’t give a creamy coating and the grains shouldn’t stick together. Unlike a risotto, don’t over-stir as this can make it sticky.
Simply follow this step-by-step recipe below, which has been triple-tested in the Woman’s Weekly kitchen. Our delicious recipe should take about 45 mins to make in total and is ideal for sharing.
- Large pinch of saffron strands
- 2tbsps oil
- 4 chicken thighs, chopped
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 200g can tomatoes
- ½ x 225g chorizo ring, sliced
- 1tsp smoked paprika
- 900ml stock
- 350g paella rice: e.g., bomba
- 8-10 large raw tiger prawns in their shells
- 500g packet mussels in garlic butter sauce
- Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish
How to make paella: step 1
Heat a paella pan or large frying pan and very briefly cook the saffron to dry it, then crumble it into a small bowl and pour over 2tbsps boiling water. Leave to steep for a few minutes.
How to make paella: step 2
Heat the oil in the pan and add the chicken. Cook for about 10 minutes, until it’s cooked through. Remove it from the pan when it’s ready.
How to make paella: step 3
Add the onion, garlic and tomatoes to the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring well so that it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.
How to make paella: step 4
Return the chicken to the pan and add the chorizo and paprika. Cook until the oil starts to run out of the chorizo.
How to make paella: step 5
Pour in the stock and mix well. Bring it to a gentle simmer, then sprinkle over the rice as evenly as possible, ensuring that the rice is all covered by the stock. If necessary, add a little extra stock or boiling water.
How to make paella: step 6
Cook over a fairly high heat for 7-8 minutes, until you start to see the rice. Place the prawns on top and cook for a further 8-10 minutes. Turn the prawns occasionally until cooked.
How to make paella: step 7
Tip in the mussels and their sauce, stir lightly and heat through. Before you serve the dish, check the rice is cooked. If there’s too much liquid, increase the heat and boil off the surplus; if it goes too dry, add a little more hot stock or boiling water. Serve immediately garnished with chopped parsley.
It’s perfectly possible to cook this dish in a slow cooker. This method takes longer (around 2 hours) but allows you to do other things while it cooks.
This method depends on individual recipes, but as a general rule:
- Fry the onions, garlic, spices and meat protein first then add a little stock and simmer for a few minutes until it’s reduced.
- Put the rice and a tin of chopped tomatoes (if using) into the slow cooker then add the fried ingredients.
- Cook on low for 1.5 hours.
- Thirty minutes before the end, add any veg or seafood you’d like to include and cook for another 30-40 minutes.
You can use an oven, too. Recipes vary but one way is to:
- Heat the oven to gas 8/220C/200C fan.
- Toss the garlic and onion in oil and place in a baking tin.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes then add the rice, chicken and hot stock that you have combined with the spices and a tin of tomatoes. Stir and cook for around 20 minutes.
- Check the rice after this time, then add peas and peeled prawns, stir and cook for another 10 minutes.
- See if the rice, meat and prawns are cooked through and piping hot before serving.
We spoke to The Cookaway Spanish chef and former MasterChef The Professionals winner, Claire Hutchings to find out everything you need to know about cooking paella. Claire has shared some of her tops tips with us too. She says; ‘There are around 10 different types depending on the region. For example, ‘arroz negro’ is a squid ink paella and very typical of the Catalonia region. However, you can add what you want to yours.”
Claire Hutchings’ top tips for cooking paella
- Take your time. Fry all the ingredients until they colour – this is essential to make the stock and flavour.
- To get the best ‘socorrat’ (crunchy rice that forms a crust at the bottom of the pan) blast the heat for the last minute until you hear the pan sizzle.
- If doing a seafood version I would say it’s essential to make a really good shellfish stock beforehand to get a strong, rich flavour.
- For a vegetarian option make sure you get a good colour to all the veggies you’re adding to get bags of flavour.
Save money, opt for veggies or use frozen meat or seafood, which tends to be cheaper than fresh. If you don’t have any paella rice you can use risotto rice (arborio) or Japanese sushi rice though the result may be claggier. You can also try basmati or jasmine rice.
If you don’t have saffron or choose not to buy it (it’s an expensive spice) substitute saffron for turmeric or calendula powder or marigold flowers, which will infuse the dish with the golden colour it’s famous for.
To keep the calorie content down, avoid fatty meat cuts or chorizo and use seafood or veg. Instead of butter make the dish with olive oil or a low-cal cooking spray.
This is a wholesome, filling one-pot dish that doesn’t need any accompaniments, although a fresh green salad, a tomato, and red onion salad (for acidity), or some crusty bread will never go amiss.
If you have any of this dish leftover, wait until it’s cooled then store in an airtight container in the fridge. If it contains seafood eat it within 24 hours. The meat will last for 3-5 days.
To reheat, your best bet is to warm it up in a frying pan. Take it out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the leftovers and stir regularly until it’s heated through. This should take 7-10 minutes. If it starts to stick, add some more oil or water.
Alternatively, reheat the dish in a microwave. Wipe a microwaveable dish with olive oil, add the leftovers, stir so there are no clumps, and heat on high for 1 minute. Stir, then microwave in 30-second blasts, stirring in-between, until the dish feels hot throughout.
You can freeze meat and veggie versions for up to a month. Don’t freeze seafood paella – either eat it immediately or within 24 hours.
Chicken and prawn paella
This vibrant recipe is packed with protein-rich meats and fish. This is a great option for a midweek dinner.
Get the recipe: Chicken and prawn paella
Slimming World’s mixed paella
Golden turmeric rice, saffron threads, and heaps of fresh seafood and chicken make Slimming World’s dish a fulfilling dinner.
Get the recipe: Slimming World’s mixed paella
Hairy Bikers’ paella
If you’re having a Spanish night in, but don’t want to go to too much trouble, try the Hairy Bikers’ easy-to-follow recipe.
Get the recipe: Hairy Bikers’ paella
KitchenCraft World of Flavours Paella Pan
Big enough to feed up to four people generously, this tough carbon steel pan won’t warp or buckle, and its non-stick coating allows for low-fat cooking and easy cleaning. It’s dishwasher-friendly, too.
Paella Cooking Set with Gas Burner
If you’re entertaining for a crowd, look no further than this fantastic paella set, which includes a 70cm quality polished steel paella pan, tripod stand, and gas burner ring, so you can make up to 24 servings at a time. Just add a gas canister. Perfect for a BBQ or garden party.
John Lewis Classic Speciality Non-Stick Paella Pan
Made from premium-grade stainless steel this pan heats quickly and evenly. It has a non-stick surface, a stay-cool handle design, and is suitable for use on all hobs. It’s also dishwasher safe and oven safe to 180°C.
Argos Home Non-stick Carbon Steel Paella Pan
Suitable for gas and electric hobs, and oven safe up to 230°C, this well-reviewed pan is a snip at £16.
This lightweight pan comes in two sizes (32cm and 36cm, which is £44.99) and is suitable for all hobs. It’s also oven safe up to 180°C and dishwasher safe. The lid is a handy addition.