This easy Spanish paella is packed with juicy chicken, chorizo sausage, plump mussels, calamari rings and prawns, and is simply bursting with flavour. It's the perfect meal for those times when you want to spoil the family with something a little different.
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Summer on a plate
There's something about paella that simply screams summer. Perhaps is memories of past Mediterranean holidays, or maybe it's the yellow saffron that brightens the dish up so much. It might even be the flavours and aroma of smoky paprika and pungent garlic. Whatever it is, this chicken and seafood paella chases away the winter blues and transports you to a far-away sunny land.
I think you'll love this dish as much as I do.
- Paella is so easy to make. Just brown the sausage, chicken and onions, then add the rest of the ingredients and leave it alone until it transforms into a delightful Mediterranean feast.
- It's all cooked and served in one pan, which means minimum washing up - always a bonus in my book.
- Paella is made entirely on the stovetop, so there's no need to turn on your oven.
- If you are in a hurry, then this easy paella is a godsend. There are only 10 minutes of prep and the rest of the time is practically hands-off while the dish cooks itself.
- Paella on its own makes a delicious family supper, but add a few slices of crusty garlic bread and a fresh green salad, and you have a dish that will impress the most discerning of dinner party guests.
What you will need
Traditionally, paella is cooked in a flat-bottomed paella pan over an open flame. This encourages the rice to form the distinctive crusty layer on the bottom (known as the socarrat). However, a paella pan isn't something that is commonly found in most kitchens (mine included) so you can get away with using a large flat-bottomed saute pan instead. Note - unlike most rice dishes which are cooked covered with a lid, paella is cooked uncovered, which is why a paella pan doesn't come with a lid.
This recipe is more than enough for 4 people.
**You can find the complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making this easy Spanish paella recipe on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
I've split the ingredients across 2 photos - one for the protein components and the other for the remaining ingredients.
Chicken - I used skinless, deboned thighs. Chicken thighs tend to stay juicier than breasts in this recipe. One thigh per person should be sufficient.
Prawns (called shrimp in the US) - These are raw headless prawns, still in their shells, and you can use fresh or frozen. You can use prawns that still have their heads attached if you prefer. Depending on the size, 4 prawns per person should be ample. If you are using frozen prawns, they should be defrosted before making this recipe.
Mussels - Raw fresh mussels in their shells. These should be rinsed in fresh cold water to remove any grit from the shells. If there is a 'beard' sticking out from the mussel shell, pull it away and discard it. Also, discard any mussels that are open or that have broken shells. You can tap any open mussels gently on a wooden board and leave them for a few minutes to see if they close. If they do close, they are fine to eat. You will need 4 to 6 mussels per person.
Chorizo sausage - traditional paella does not contain chorizo, but I find that a few slices of cured chorizo enhance the flavours of the dish. I like to fry it first so the paprika-flavoured oil in the sausage can be released. You can leave out the chorizo if you prefer. For 4 people I used 70 grams (2.5 ounces).
Calamari (also called squid) - this can be bought ready-sliced in rings, or you can buy larger squid tubes and cut them into rings yourself. Fresh or frozen is fine, but I would suggest buying a cleaned calamari so you don't have to clean it yourself. Just defrost frozen calamari before using it. I used 2 medium-sized squid tubes which I sliced into rings.
All the rest
Onions and red peppers - these should be chopped into approximately half-inch pieces.
Chopped tomatoes - chopped fresh tomatoes break down and disintegrate into the paella, leaving just their flavour. You can substitute fresh tomatoes with canned tomatoes you will only need half a can. Depending on the flavour of the tomatoes, you may like to enhance them with a tablespoon of tomato paste or tomato puree).
Frozen peas - these add pops of sweetness and colour to the dish.
Rice - paella is normally made with short-grain bomba rice or Arroz bomba. (Arroz is Spanish for rice). If you can't find this in your supermarket, look for rice labelled 'Paella rice'). This short-grained rice absorbs more water (and consequently more flavour) than long-grained rice. I've allowed for this in the recipe, so if you use long-grained rice you will have to reduce the volume of liquid in the recipe.
Saffron - saffron provides the vibrant colour of this dish. You only need a small pinch which should be soaked in a tablespoon of water before being added. This is optional - you can leave it out if you prefer.
Paprika - adds the classic smoky taste to this to the paella. You can use either smoked paprika or unsmoked paprika - the choice is yours.
Garlic - I use crushed garlic from a jar so that I can control the amount of garlic that I add. Cloves of garlic differ in size so it is difficult to say how many to add. Use your own judgement on this.
Chicken stock - if you don't have fresh chicken stock, you can easily make your own by dissolving one chicken stock cup per cup of boiling water. For this recipe, you will need 2.5 to 3 cups of stock. I like to add 2.5 cups at the beginning of the cooking process and all the final half cup towards the end if it needs it. Whether you will need it or not depends on how much juice is in your tomatoes.
Olive oil - used for frying.
Seasoning - salt and pepper to taste.
What to do
I like to start with the preparation so that everything is on hand when I need it.
- Peel and clean the onions and red peppers (remove seeds and membranes) and cut them into half-inch pieces.
- Cut the tomatoes into half-inch dice (there's no need to remove the skins.
- Peel and mince the garlic (if you are using fresh
- Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces.
- Slice the chorizo sausage into thin rings.
- Defrost any frozen seafood and cut the calamari into rings (if you didn't manage to get ready-sliced).
- Wash the mussels, pull away any 'beards' and discard broken or open mussels.
Make the paella
Heat the olive oil in a saute pan (or paella pan) and fry it gently for 2 to 3 minutes until it starts to brown. Remove it from the pan onto a plate, and set it aside.
Add the calamari tubes to the same pan and fry them gently for 90 seconds. Calamari cooks very quickly so you don't want it to go tough.
Transfer the calamari to the plate with the chorizo.
The calamari will be added back to the paella at the end of the cooking time.
Now add the garlic, onions and red peppers to the same pan and fry for about 5 minutes, stirring all the time, until they start to soften. Keep the heat to medium - you don't want to burn the onions.
Push the onions to one side of the pan and add the chicken. Stir the chicken until it turns white on the outside. There's no need to cook the chicken fully - it will finish cooking with the rice.
Add the tomatoes and fry gently for another minute or so until the tomatoes start to break down.
Tip in the rice and stir well to coat each grain of rice with the flavours.
Stir in the stock, chorizo, paprika and saffron.
Adjust the heat to a medium simmer and leave uncovered for 15 minutes without stirring.
It is important not to stir the rice as stirring will cause starch to be released which will make the paella stodgy.
After 15 minutes, most of the liquid should have been absorbed.
If you think there is not sufficient liquid left, you can add another half a cup of stock or water. Don't stir it in - just drizzle it over the top.
Scatter the peas over the top of the paella, and push in the mussels and prawns. Do not stir. It's fine if the seafood isn't fully submerged.
Continue to cook for a further 8 to 10 minutes until the prawns have turned pink and the mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that do not open.
Depending on how deeply you pushed the prawns into the rice mixture, you may have to turn them over halfway through.
Scatter the calamari over the paella and leave the pan on the heat to allow the calamari to warm through. Serve hot.
For this photo, I turned over a spoonful of the rice so that you can see the colour of the socarrat. It's nicely browned, but not burned, and has a deliciously nutty flavour.
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Unfortunately not. The reason for this is twofold.
Firstly the seafood in the paella was previously frozen, and shouldn't be refrozen.
Secondly, the rice will turn stodgy once frozen and reheated.
Yes, you can make this paella up to 2 days in advance and once cooled, store covered, in the refrigerator.
To use, reheat in a saucepan, or in the microwave, until piping hot and serve immediately.
That said, this dish is best eaten freshly prepared.
Socarrat is the crispy toasted rice that forms on the underside of the paella while it is cooking. This is the reason we do not stir the paella. If you would like to read more about the socarrat, see this link.
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If you enjoyed this Spanish paella, you may also enjoy these other easy meals:
- Easy Creole jambalaya with chicken, chorizo and shrimp
- Garlic chicken traybake with rice
- Pad Thai noodles with chicken and shrimp
- Homemade hamburger helper with tomatoes and mushrooms
- Salmon and broccoli pasta in a creamy dill sauce
- Octopus stew - Spanish style
Easy Spanish paella
(Click the stars to rate this recipe)
- 4 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 16 Headless prawns (in shell) fresh or frozen
- 16 - 20 mussels (in shell)
- 2½ ounces / 70 grams chorizo sausage sliced
- 2½ ounces / 70 grams calamari sliced
- 1 mediium onion diced
- 1 medium red pepper / capsicum seeds removed and sliced
- 2 medium tomatoes diced
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree/paste optional
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 1 cup paella rice
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 3 cups chicken stock you can make it with stock cubes
- 1 pinch saffron soaked in 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons olive oil for browning meat and onions
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 small lemon for garnish optional
- Peel and clean the onions and red peppers (remove seeds and membranes) and cut them into half-inch pieces.1 mediium onion, 1 medium red pepper / capsicum
- Cut the tomatoes into half-inch dice (there's no need to remove the skins.2 medium tomatoes
- If using fresh garlic, peel the cloves and mince finely.1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces.4 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Slice the chorizo sausage thinly.2½ ounces / 70 grams chorizo sausage
- Put the saffron in 1 tablespoon of water to soak.1 pinch saffron
- Defrost any frozen seafood and cut the calamari into rings (if you didn't manage to get ready-sliced).16 Headless prawns (in shell), 2½ ounces / 70 grams calamari
- Wash the mussels, pull away any 'beards' and discard broken or open mussels.16 - 20 mussels (in shell)
- Dissolve 3 chicken stock cubes in 3 cups of boiling water.3 cups chicken stock
Make the paella
- Heat the olive oil in a saute pan (or paella pan), add the sliced chorizo and fry it gently for 2 to 3 minutes until it starts to brown. Remove it from the pan onto a plate, and set it aside.2 tablespoons olive oil
- Add the calamari tubes to the same pan and fry them gently for 90 seconds. Calamari cooks very quickly so you don’t want it to go tough. Transfer the calamari to the plate with the chorizo.
- Now add the garlic, onions and red peppers to the same pan and fry for about 5 minutes, stirring all the time, until they start to soften. Keep the heat to medium – you don’t want to burn the onions.
- Push the onions to one side of the pan and add the chicken. Stir the chicken until it turns white on the outside. There’s no need to cook the chicken fully – it will finish cooking with the rice.
- Add the chopped tomatoes (and tomato paste if using) and fry gently for another minute or so until the tomatoes start to break down.1 tablespoon tomato puree/paste
- Add the rice, chorizo, paprika and saffron. Stir well to coat each grain of rice then pour in 2½ cups of the chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste.1 cup paella rice, 1 teaspoon paprika, Salt and pepper
- Adjust the heat to a medium simmer and leave uncovered for 15 minutes without stirring. It is important not to stir the rice as stirring will cause starch to be released which will make the paella stodgy.
- After 15 minutes, most of the liquid should have been absorbed. If you think there is not sufficient liquid left, you can add the remaining half cup of stock. Don’t stir it in – just drizzle it over the top.
- Scatter the peas over the top of the paella, and push in the mussels and prawns. Do not stir. It’s fine if the seafood isn’t fully submerged.½ cup frozen peas
- Continue to cook for a further 8 to 10 minutes until the prawns have turned pink and the mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that do not open. Depending on how deeply you pushed the prawns into the rice mixture, you may have to turn them over halfway through.
- Scatter the calamari over the paella and leave the pan on the heat to allow the calamari to warm through.
- Serve immediately with lemon wedges (optional) to squeeze over the top.1 small lemon for garnish
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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