Full-flavoured vegetable-packed paella is a classic from South Eastern Spain. This vibrant vegan paella recipe makes the perfect easy lunch for sharing. It’s suitable for just about everyone and naturally gluten free. It also takes very little effort!
Perfect for a midweek dinner or a lazy weekend lunch, paella is always a joy. This vegan paella recipe is full of sunshine flavours and is ideal to serve as part of a tapas meal. The smoky, savoury rice has just a hint of spicy heat.
Paella is so adaptable and you can just use what you have. I have added some chickpeas for protein.
I have a paella pan, but any wide, shallow pan will do.
Unlike a risotto, you add the rice to the hot stock, and leave it to cook with only occasional stirring. This is important to the texture of the dish.
Paella should have separate grains rather than the creaminess of risotto, so don’t stir too much. This is also important for creating the crust or socarrat.
Paella is one of the most iconic regional dishes of Spain. This dish has its roots firmly in the South East of the country, the traditional rice growing area, and is most associated with Valencia.
Paella is made with short grain rice. The most popular is bomba rice, which can absorb large amounts of water without breaking down and losing its shape. It is cooked in a shallow paella pan over a flame on the stove top, though it is sometimes then transferred to the oven.
Historically, paella is a lunchtime dish rather than an evening one. Visitors to Spain are most familiar with seafood paella, often cooked on the beach. However, there are sea and mountain versions and combinations of the two. These can include vegetables, chicken, rabbit and snails!
The rice is added to all the hot liquid, and the paella is stirred from time to time in the early stages. Then it is left alone. As the rice soaks up the stock, the bottom of the paella dries out. As this happens, it forms a delicious golden crust, called the socarrat.
Why make this vegetable paella
- A taste of summer and a feast for all the senses
- It’s full of vegetables – get those five a day!
- It’s easy and mostly hands-off.
- One basic recipe suits all diets.
- It is so adaptable – perfect for using up everything before you do your supermarket shop!
Vegetable paella ingredients
- Paella rice – Usually bomba rice from South Eastern Spain. It is widely available in British supermarkets.
- Onion & garlic
- Olive oil – full flavoured extra virgin
- Stock / broth – Use a good tasty vegetable broth.
- Roasted red peppers – I’ve used roast peppers from a jar for ease and speed.
- Smoked paprika & saffron – The smoked paprika adds some heat and smoke. Saffron is traditional, but expensive. If you use too much, it can also taste slightly medicinal. If you don’t have saffron, it’s OK to leave it out. Feel free to add a small pinch of turmeric for the colour and an earthy note.
- Olives – Your choices of pitted olives. Choose green or black as you prefer.
- Chickpeas – for extra protein.
- Lemon – adds more flavour and some acidity.
- Parsley – for a garnish. I grow it in my window box. A large bunch will keep in a jar of water in the fridge for a week.
Other optional ingredients
You can add seasonal vegetables, frozen mixed vegetables, or vegetables in oil from the deli. In fact, this recipe is perfect for clearing out the fridge! Why not try strips of aubergine or delicious artichoke hearts from Murcia?
How to make vegetable paella – step by step
Step by step instructions, with hints and tips for how to make this recipe perfectly every time.
Scroll down for the recipe card with quantities and more tips at the bottom of the page.
Step One – Chop the onion and garlic. Heat the oil in the pan and add the onion. Then, after a couple of minutes, add the garlic. Then fry gently until fragrant and turning golden. Remove from the pan and set to one side.
Step Two – Heat the broth in the pan until it is simmering. Then add the rice and stir. Return the onion and garlic to the pan, along with the spices. Stir and then turn the heat down.
Cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure the rice does not stick.
Step Three – Add the chopped red peppers, chickpeas, olives and lemon wedges. Add some more water (or a glug of wine or sherry) if the paella looks dry.
Cook for another 10 minutes, until the rice has absorbed all the stock and is soft and tender.
Step Four – Remove the pan from the heat, and cover with a clean tea towel. Allow it to stand for a few minutes. Then remove the towel and return to the stove on a high heat for another minute to form the socarrat. (Remove it if you start to smell burning.)
Finally, decorate with fresh lemon wedges and fresh parsley. Enjoy your vegetable paella while it’s hot!
The easiest way to chop parsley is to pop it into a mug or cup and then snip it up with a pair of kitchen scissors.
- Paella is a peasant dish in the best sense, it uses what is around in season. You can add all sorts of vegetables to vary the dish. Mediterranean flavours work best. Try aubergine, green beans, butter beans (lima beans) or artichokes.
- If you have meat eaters to feed, you could use this vegan paella recipe as a base. You can then add some fried chicken pieces, chorizo or seafood.
- Use some fragrant Mediterranean herbs instead of the parsley.
- If you like a little more heat, why not use hot pimentón picante instead of the smoked paprika?
Storage and freezing
Paella is really at its best fresh from the pan. You can cool it and then keep leftovers in the fridge to reheat the next day.
To reheat – I find it is far better to reheat in a shallow pan (paella or frying) with some extra liquid (water, stock, wine or sherry all work well)
To freeze – allow to cook, pack into plastic boxes and freeze. Use within a month. Defrost and then reheat as above.
As paella is largely hands off it is very easy to make fresh for your guests – but you can cook beforehand to almost done, then return to the pan with some extra liquid to finish it off when you are ready to serve it.
Hints and Tips
- The final return to the stove is not essential but will help to form the tasty soccarat.
- Although traditional you do not need a paella pan. A shallow casserole, or a frying pan will do just as well.
- You may find that some rice burns on to the pan. The best way to remove this is to soak with some baking powder.
Where to buy Spanish ingredients
We like to serve paella as part of a tapas spread to create a fantastic Spanish feast, like the one above.
Murcia, on the East coast of Spain between Valencia and Andalusia, is one of the most abundant food producing areas of Spain. It was voted the country’s Capital of Gastronomy for 2020.
Sometimes called the ‘orchard of Europe,’ the area is famous for its vineyards, stone fruit orchards and citrus production, as well as vegetable and flower crops, meat and dairy farming.
As well as food the region boasts historic cities, and beautiful countryside and natural parks, perfect for a trip!
You can find a wide range of delicious Spanish foods at Products of Murcia, including many of the ingredients for this vegan paella recipe.
From bomba rice for paella and roast peppers, cheeses and wines, to oils and spices, there is so much to explore. Discover delicious date, fig and nut breads and tempting snacks. We love the drunken goats cheese with its red wine stained skin, and the tomato jam.
Murcia also produces some excellent wine, both red and white, all go with this dish.
In a risotto, the starch in the rice breaks down to form a creamy mass. In paella, the individual grains of rice should hold their shape and structure, and there is no creaminess.
Both dishes use very absorbent short grain rice. However, the best rice for paella absorbs more water and is lower in starch than the rice used for risotto. For paella, bomba and Calasparra rice are used, with bomba more widely available outside Spain.
Although paella rice will produce better results, you can use risotto rice instead. Rinse it well before cooking, to get rid of some of the starch. If the water is still turning white, carry on rinsing until it runs clear.
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- 1 onion (peeled and diced)
- 2 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 400 ml vegetable stock
- 100 g paella rice
- ½ tsp saffron (or turmeric )
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 100 g roasted peppers
- 50 g olives
- ½ 400 g can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
- 1 lemon
- 2 tbs chopped parsley
- Chop the onion and garlic. Heat the oil in the pan and add the onion. Then, after a couple of minutes, add the garlic. Then fry gently until fragrant and golden. Remove from the pan and set to one side.
- Heat the broth in the pan until it is simmering. Then add the rice and stir. Return the onion and garlic to the pan, along with the spices. Stir and then turn the heat down. Cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure the rice does not stick.
- Add the chopped red peppers, chickpeas, olives and lemon wedges. Add some more water (or a glug of wine or sherry) if the paella looks dry.
- Cook for another 10 minutes, until the rice has absorbed all the stock and is soft and tender.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and cover with a clean tea towel. Allow it to stand for a few minutes. Then remove the towel and return to the stove on a high heat for another minute. (Remove it if you start to smell burning.)
- Remove the pan from the heat, and cover with a clean tea towel. Allow it to stand for a few minutes.
- Then remove the towel and return to the stove on a high heat for another minute. (Remove it if you start to smell burning.)
- Finally,decorate with fresh lemon wedges and fresh parsley. Enjoy your vegetable paellawhile it's hot!
- This recipe is 6 Weight Watchers points per portion
Post sponsored by Visit Murcia, all opinions our own.