How to Make Paella

With crispy rice, warming spices, and tender meats and vegetables, paella is a mixture of comforting ingredients and captivating layers of flavors. Not only is it delicious, but it’s typically served hot off the pan it was cooked in for a stunning presentation.

While this savory dish originated in Valencia, Spain, it has now made its way to kitchens throughout the world. If you’d like to learn how to make this Spanish dish at home, you’re in luck! We’re going to dive into how to make paella as well as provide a few tips and tricks to help you along the way.

What Is Paella?

Often seen as one of Spain’s most iconic dishes, paella comes from the Valencia region on the Eastern side of the Iberian Peninsula. While there are various renditions of paella, all have a few characteristics in common. Traditionally, this dish is cooked in a large frying pan—known in Valencian as a paella—over an open fire that is infused with fragrant branches like orange, pine, and olive. Modern forms of paella may be cooked on a stovetop or grill rather than over a fire.

All versions contain rice, vegetables, and meat or fish bound by a fragrant and herbaceous stock. As these ingredients cook together, a crusty layer of rice known as socarrat forms on the bottom of the pan.

How to Make Paella

The type of paella you opt to make will impact the ingredients as well as some of the cooking steps. To get started on your paella journey, join Chef Fernando as he covers how to make one rendition of this dish.


  • Two tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Two tablespoons olive oil
  • Two boneless, skinless, diced chicken breast
  • Twelve shrimp, cleaned, tail on
  • Two oz red onion, diced
  • Two oz green bell peppers, diced
  • Two oz red bell peppers, diced
  • Twelve oz rice
  • One tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • One pinch of saffron
  • 26 oz chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat the chicken stock in a medium pot until it begins to boil. Turn the heat down so the liquid is simmering, and then add the saffron.

2. Add the butter and oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook just until each side is seared—about one minute per side. Remove the shrimp from the pan as soon as it is properly seared.

3. Add the chicken breast, peppers, onion, and garlic to the still-hot pan. Sauté over medium heat while stirring regularly. Cook until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the vegetables are tender.

4. Pour the rice over the chicken and vegetables, and stir well.

5. Cover the mixture with the hot chicken stock and stir to combine.

6. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook in a 375°F oven for about 15 minutes.

7. Remove the pan from the oven, add the shrimp, and cook for an additional three minutes.

Paella Tips and Tricks

No matter what type of paella you choose to make, these tips can help increase your chances of success.

Start With the Right Rice

Rice is a key component of paella, so it’s essential that you start with the right type of rice. While you may think jasmine, arborio, and sushi rice are all the same, each one has its own ideal uses.

Bombo rice from Valencia is the best type of rice for this dish. It’s a short-grain rice that can absorb lots of liquid, which means it’s perfect for soaking up the rich flavors of paella.

If you can’t find Bomba rice, opt for another absorbent type like arborio or Calasparra.

Consistent Heat Is Key

As you attempt to develop that delightfully crispy layer of rice on the bottom of the pan, you may be tempted to crank up the heat at the last minute. This may do the trick, but it’s not the best option.

By maintaining consistent heat throughout the cooking process, the rice can absorb the flavors of the stock and then crisp up. This even heat also limits the chances the rice will burn, which is a quick way to ruin an otherwise delightful paella.

Chicken, peas, and other vegetables in a silver pan
paella with chicken and peas

Let Each Component Shine

Paella sometimes seems like a hodgepodge of ingredients, but a proper version of this dish should include a thoughtful collection of ingredients rather than the whole refrigerator. All traditional paellas contain saffron, tomatoes, paprika, and olive oil, so be sure you can taste these ingredients in the finished dish.

When it comes time to add bigger components like meat and vegetables, don’t overdo it. Choose only one or two meats and the same amount of beans and veggies.

Choose the Correct Pan

A wide pan allows the ingredients to spread out in a thin, even layer, which allows for consistent cooking. It also allows for plenty of the delightful crispy socarrat.

When it comes to the pan’s material, thin steel is best. This material conducts heat well, yet cools off quickly. That means the rice can develop a crispy crust, but not become overcooked after you remove the pan from the heat.

Improve Your Cooking Skills

Whether you’re just getting started in the kitchen or have been preparing dishes for years, there’s always room to improve your culinary skills. Learning on your own with the help of videos is an option, but it’s not the only one.

Culinary school can allow you to explore new ingredients and cooking techniques, all under the guidance of professional Chef Instructors. These experts have spent years working in the culinary world, so they have the experience to provide you with helpful tips as well as thoughtful insights. They can help guide you as you explore how to perfect your paella, and so much more!

This article was originally published on January 15, 2014, and has since been updated.

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