How to Make Paella

Feed an army with this bright and savory Spanish rice dish.

Paella (pronounced pie-yay-yuh) is a traditional Spanish rice dish that can be made with variations of seafood, meat and vegetables. This is a basic guide on a version of mixed paella which includes all 3! It's a super-simple home-style dish, and it's easy to customize so you will love it every time.
Before I first set out to make my own paella, I had this odd idea in my head that paella had to include mussels (which I do not eat). But as I tested recipes for this instructional guide, I realized that you could lay out your favorite components and make delicious paella easily in a zillion different ways.
A brief note to cooks: This recipe makes so. much. food. It’s intended for communal eating and you will have enough leftovers for an army. It’s really kind of wonderful. Let’s begin!

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One more thing before we get started! You will notice that many paella recipes actually call for a paella pan. You can find these at kitchen stores, but you may also opt for a nice big Dutch oven with a lid, or a very deep cast iron skillet (pictured). You will need to cover this to cook, so make sure your chosen cookware has a lid. If you can’t find a lit to fit your pan, cover it with aluminum foil.


I seasoned 3 pounds of drumsticks (you can also use bone-in thighs) with 1 tablespoon of paprika, 2 teaspoons of dried oregano, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper. I rubbed the seasoning all over the chicken, covered, and refrigerated it. You are looking to refrigerate for at least an hour, but you can also leave it overnight.



First, brown two links of chorizo (casings removed). You can either cut the sausage into thick slices or you can crumble (as shown). I opted to crumble the chorizo because later on, when you add the rice, you get plenty of spanish sausage flavor in every bite. After you transfer the cooked chorizo to a paper towel to drain any excess grease, add your seasoned chicken to the skillet and brown all sides. You don’t need to cook it through at this time; just give it some good color.


A sofrito?! What in the world is that?
Don’t panic. Sofrito is the Spanish word for the base of your dish (similar to the French mirepoix). This is where we lay down all the flavor. Transfer the chicken from the pan to a plate. If you feel like your skillet is too dry, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. To the skillet or paella pan you will also add 1 bunch of finely-chopped parsley, 1 medium diced white onion and 4 cloves of minced garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes. Then add one 15-ounce can of whole stewed tomatoes. Crush them with your hands and then stir them in.



Add 4 cups of short grain rice (Bomba rice is traditional and ideal for paella, but Arborio rice works just fine too). If you are able to find saffron threads, add a healthy pinch (about 1 teaspoon) of them now.
I couldn’t find saffron, so I opted to use a package of pre-seasoned Spanish rice, in addition to some plain Arborio rice (for a total of 4 cups). It was a great shortcut and alleviated that ingredient-buying stress.
Toast the rice for 3 – 4 minutes, and then start adding liquid. I used 3 cups of low-sodium chicken broth and 3 cups of water, and added it gradually. Stir it in and then place your chicken pieces on top. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low.


Cook the rice and chicken for about 15 minutes. You may want to stir halfway through. Add 1 pound of peeled, deveined, and thawed jumbo shrimp, and 1 cup of frozen (thawed) peas. Re-cover and cook for 8 more minutes, or until the shrimp is pink and the chicken is cooked through. The chicken should be very tender.
Serve with more fresh chopped parsley and slices of lemon.

About Heather T.

Heather, who runs, has been making messes in the kitchen since she was a little kid when her mom handed her a cook book and told her, “If you can read, you can cook.” Today she serves up fresh, healthy eats, easy weeknight meals and decadent sweet treats.