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How To Make Paella (Step by Step)

How to make paella – a classic Spanish one-pot rice meal – is easier than you think. Our thorough research and testing will help guide you to success for this impressive, versatile and delicious meal.

We bulk up the saffron-infused rice with shrimp, smoky chorizo and vibrant green beans in our version of paella. No special pan is required.

This paella recipe is a great dish for special occasions made with Bomba rice, veggies, sausage, shrimp and the perfect combination of spices. It can easily be customized to your personal preferences with whatever you have on hand!

Be sure you check out the shortcut tips if you need to save a little time.

What is paella?

Paella is essentially a one pot rice dish that originated in Valencia Spain. Rice and saffron are the heroes. There are many regional differences in Spain on how to cook paella. Some add seafood, chicken, sausage, beans and more. Our view is to add what you like best.

Ingredients – tailored to your taste

bomba rice, shrimp, chicken, chorizo, onion, green beans, oil, lemon, red pepper, wine tomatoes, broth, garlic, paprika.
Chicken, wine, oil, broth, shrimp, onion, chorizo, paprikas, beans, pepper, lemon, Bomba rice, canned tomatoes

These are the key ingredients and some variations and substitutes you can try.

Rice: Rice is the most important ingredient in paella. It’s traditional to use Spanish short to medium grain rice like Bomba rice, Paella or Valencia. You can also use Arborio rice, a type of short-grain rice that is more widely available in grocery stores. Just be sure to use the correct liquid-to-rice ratios (see recipe notes).

Saffron: If you can’t fine Spanish saffron or it’s too expensive, try to buy a saffron that is deep red or orange – a sign of higher quality. Avoid pale-colored strands if possible.

Vegetables: You start the Spanish paella with a sofrita which is sauteed onions, garlic and red bell pepper in olive oil. Other commonly used vegetables are peas, green beans, long beans and roasted red peppers. We are using green beans.

Flavors: We add a bit of smokiness with smoked paprika and the chorizo sausage. A good squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea or kosher salt are a must to brighten the flavors. You can add a bay leaf or other fresh herbs like parsley, thyme or basil.

Protein options: Buy medium to large shrimp. Or use mussels, lobster or squid instead. If you do not want seafood paella, add chicken breasts or chicken thighs and/or sausage, typically Chorizo or Andouille.

Broth: You can use vegetable stock or broth or chicken stock or broth – whatever you have on hand.

Step by step instructions

chopped pepper, onion, tomatoes, saffron in water, garlic, bomba rice soaking in water.
First thing is to chop the veggies and garlic, soak the rice, and soak the saffron.
small pieces of cooked chorizo and chicken in bowl, raw shrimp in another bowl.
Cook the sausage (or buy already cooked). Cook the chicken if using.
onions, seasonings and tomatoes cooking in pan.
Sauté onions, garlic, pepper, seasonings, and tomatoes.
cooked rice and veggies in pan.
Stir in paella rice, then add broth, wine, saffron in liquid and chorizo. Cook rice uncovered without stirring.
raw shrimp laying over cooked rice and veggies in skillet.
Lay shrimp on top of cooked rice.
cooked shrimp laying on top of paella rice and veggies in pan.
Cook uncovered for a few minutes, then cover and cook until shrimp are done.
finished paella with green beans in skillet.
Add beans, a squeeze of lemon, sea salt, and parsley garnish,

Tips and techniques


  • The more traditional paella recipes create a crispy thin layer of rice at the bottom called socorrat. They do this by not stirring the rice once you add the broth.


  • Ignore those who insist you need a special large paella pan to make authentic paella. For the casual home cook, a deep 14-16″ large skillet will work just fine for 6 people. A large wok could work too.


  • To release the saffron flavor, lightly crush it in your fingers and soak it in warm water for about 20 minutes. You will add the saffron and water to the rice.


  • Buy shrimp that is already peeled and deveined.
  • Instead of cooking the Chorizo sausage, buy dry traditional Spanish chorizo (already cooked).
  • We found the chicken didn’t add much so you can skip it if you like.

Make Ahead

See the recipe notes below for:

  • what can be prepped ahead of time
  • how to keep the paella warm after cooking it.

What to serve with paella

Since Paella is a full one-pot meal, it’s a great recipe to serve with a simple green salad, fig salad or Caesar salad. I like to add some crusty bread and perhaps a cup of fresh gazpacho.

You can also leave out the green beans in the paella and, instead, serve a side of microwaved green beans or baked cauliflower with parmesan.

finished paella with green beans in skillet.

More one pot meals

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4.75 from 16 votes

Simple Paella Recipe

How to make paella – a classic Spanish one-pot rice meal – is easier than you think. Our thorough research and testing will help guide you to success for this impressive, versatile and delicious meal.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Spanish
Servings: 6


  • large 14-16" (35-40 cm) deep skillet (or large wok)


  • 2 cups Spanish rice e.g. Bomba, Valencia, Paella, Calaspara rice, Arroz redonda, Note 1 (if can't find, use Arborio rice)
  • 2 pinches saffron threads Note 2 (less than 1/2 tsp, loosely packed)
  • 1/2 pound fresh Chorizo sausage, Note 3 for pre-cooked (about 2 sausages)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, finely chopped 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup red pepper, finely chopped 1 small pepper
  • 3 teaspoon minced garlic 3 medium cloves
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, drained (1 28-ounce can)
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined keep tails on if you like


  • 1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • salt and black pepper to taste


  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 1/4 cups chicken broth (plus 1/4 -1/2 cup more if needed)
  • you will also be adding 1/4 saffron-soaked water


  • 1 large lemon, halved
  • 3 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley


    °Soak rice in water and set aside for 15 minutes.
    °Soak saffron threads in 1/4 cup warm water and set aside.
    °Chop onions and red pepper finely (or use a processor).
    °Drain canned tomatoes and set aside.
    °Measure remaining seasonings and liquids.
    °Microwave green beans in covered dish for 4-5 minutes until tender. Rinse in ice cold water to shock them and maintain a bright green color.
    ° Have peeled, deveined shrimp ready to go.
  • COOK CHORIZO: (Skip this step if using dried chorizo already cooked.) Spray a small saucepan with oil. Pierce churizo sausages in a few places with a fork and place them in the bottom of the pan. Heat to medium-high heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes to brown. Add enough water to almost cover sausages, lower heat to medium and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from pan and slice into 1/4-1/2 inch rounds. They will finish cooking with the rice.
  • SAUTÉ VEGGIES THEN ADD RICE: Heat olive oil in large sided pan (14-18 inches). Add onions and pepper and saute for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, paprika, sugar, chili flakes (if using) and salt and pepper. Stir well for 2 minutes until mixture is pasty. Drain rice, then add it to tomato mixture. Stir until well coated, about 2 minutes.
  • ADD LIQUIDS, CHORIZO AND COOK: Add wine, broth and saffron-soaking liquid. Add chorizo. Stir to settle everything in pan evenly. Do not stir again. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to Low (about 3 or 4 out of 10). Cook rice, uncovered, for 18-20 minutes, moving pan around for even cooking, Rice will be almost but not quite cooked. If it appears to dry after liquids are absorbed, add 1/4 cup extra broth.
  • ADD SHRIMP: Lay shrimp on top of rice and partially press into rice. Cook for 5 minutes uncovered. Turn shrimp over. Add green beans. Cover with foil or a pan cover and cook another 5-7 minutes until beans are warmed through and shrimp are cooked (they will turn pink and be slightly translucent inside but mostly opaque).
  • FINISH AND SERVE: Bottom of rice will be crispy. This is called Socarrat. If you want it crispier, you can try increasing the heat for a minute or two, being careful not to burn the rice. Taste and adjust seasonings, squeezing on half a lemon and adding more salt and pepper if needed. Stir everything together. Sprinkle on parsley and serve with extra lemon wedges.

Recipe Notes

  1. Rice (important): For Spanish rice, follow measurements in the recipe. For Arborio rice, use 4 cups/946 ml liquid to 2 cups/320 grams of rice. This assumes you are rinsing the rice as per the recipe. Liquids include total of broth, wine and the saffron soaking liquid.
  2. Saffron: The best quality saffron has deep red or orange threads (not pale). 
  3. Chorizo sausage: instead of cooking the sausage, you can buy dried chorizo (already cooked). In this case, slice it into 1/4-1/2 inch rounds and add it toward the end when the rice is cooking as per the recipe. 
  4. Variations: If adding mussels, add them at the same time as the shrimp. If using chicken, cook it separately, cut into small pieces and toss it in at the end to warm through.
  5. Make Ahead: All the ingredients can be prepped ahead of time e.g. chopping, peeling shrimp, cooking the beans, draining the tomatoes, and stored in an airtight container. You can also cook the Chorizo (if you didn’t buy it cooked), then the onions, peppers, garlic and tomatoes (sofitto) ahead. The final paella dish can also be kept covered in a warm oven (about 160F/71C) for an hour or two.
Nutritional values are estimates that include shrimp and chorizo proteins. 


Calories: 545kcal | Carbohydrates: 67g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 312mg | Sodium: 1543mg | Potassium: 585mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1715IU | Vitamin C: 67mg | Calcium: 228mg | Iron: 7mg
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!

Recipes used for research and inspiration are from Epicurious, New York Times, Food & Wine, Simply Recipes and the Mediterranean Dish. 

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Recipe Rating


  1. I’m confused by the Aborio rice adjustments. It sounds like you should use less liquid (4 cups of liquid) but the recipe I believe the liquids already add up to 4 cups (3 1/4 cups broth, 1/2 cup wine, 1/4 cup saffron water = 4 cups). For Note 1 could you explicitly list out the specific amounts we should use for those 3 ingredients if we are using Aborio rice? Thank you!

    1. Hi Alex, You are right, the ratios are very close – arborio usually takes a little more liquid. I would start with 2 cups rice, 1/2 cup wine, 1/4 cup saffron water. If the rice appears too dry after the liquids are absorbed, add 1/4 cup extra broth (or more as needed). I hope that helps and sorry for the confusion.

  2. 3 stars
    Made the paella with Arborio rice (soaking in water beforehand) and found after cooking the whole thing, it was glutinous. I made it an hour before company arrived and so put it in a casserole dish with a bit more liguid in a low oven. It turned out like glue…Wouldn’t do that again. How do I get a better result?

    1. Hi Nancy, Sorry the recipe didn’t work well for you. It sounds like your liquid to rice ratio was off so the arborio rice turned creamy, more like a risotto. As I mentioned in the tips written in the post (which I will now add to the notes in the recipe as well), arborio rice requires a bit less liquid than Spanish rice. I will try to clarify that in the recipe. I hope that will give you a better result next time. Or maybe you will be able to get a more authentic paella rice for your next try.

      1. 3 stars
        Thank you Cheryl. I appreciate your advice, and comments. I will try the recipe again, hoping to obtain the more appropriate Spanish rice…