Spanish Seafood Paella

Spanish Seafood Paella is a vibrant and flavorful dish that combines the rich tastes of the sea with the comforting texture of rice. This traditional recipe hails from Spain and is celebrated worldwide for its delightful blend of chicken, shrimp, mussels, and clams, all cooked together with rice in a single pan. Infused with the exotic aroma of saffron and the smoky hint of paprika, this paella promises a culinary journey that’s both hearty and utterly satisfying. Here’s how to bring this classic dish to your table.


  • 2 cups rice
  • 1 lb chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
  • 1/2 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 lb mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 1/2 lb clams, scrubbed and cleaned
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tomato, grated
  • 1/2 cup green beans, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in warm water
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prep Work: Season the chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Soak the saffron threads in a small bowl of warm water. Prepare the seafood by cleaning and deveining the shrimp, and scrubbing the mussels and clams.
  2. Cook Chicken: In a large paella pan or wide, deep skillet, heat a generous drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken pieces until golden on all sides, then remove and set aside.
  3. Sauté Vegetables: In the same pan, add the onion, garlic, and red bell pepper, sautéing until softened. Stir in the rice, cooking for 2-3 minutes until it’s well-coated and slightly toasted.
  4. Add Liquids and Seasonings: Pour in the chicken broth, add the grated tomato, soaked saffron with its water, and smoked paprika. Stir to combine all the ingredients.
  5. Combine Ingredients: Return the chicken to the pan, nestling it into the rice. Arrange the shrimp, mussels, clams, and green beans evenly over the top.
  6. Cook: Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the paella simmer uncovered for about 20-25 minutes, or until the rice is tender, and the liquid has been absorbed. Avoid stirring during this time to allow a crust to form at the bottom.
  7. Rest: Once cooked, remove the pan from the heat, cover it with a clean kitchen towel, and let it rest for 5 minutes. This step helps the flavors to meld together.
  8. Serve: Garnish with lemon wedges and chopped parsley before serving. Enjoy the colorful and aromatic feast!

Pro Tips

  • Paella Pan: Using a traditional paella pan helps distribute heat evenly and achieve the characteristic socarrat (crust) on the bottom.
  • Seafood Timing: Add the seafood towards the end of cooking to ensure it’s perfectly cooked and tender.
  • Authentic Flavor: Invest in high-quality saffron for its unique flavor and color, which are essential to an authentic Spanish paella.

FAQ: Spanish Seafood Paella

Q: What type of rice is best for paella? A: The best type of rice for paella is short-grain varieties like Bomba or Calasparra. These absorb liquid well without becoming mushy, essential for achieving the perfect paella texture.

Q: Can I substitute saffron with something else for color and flavor? A: While saffron is preferred for its unique flavor and color, you can use a pinch of turmeric as a substitute for color. However, keep in mind that the flavor profile will change.

Q: Is it necessary to use a paella pan? A: While a traditional paella pan is recommended for even heat distribution and the authentic presentation, you can use a wide and shallow skillet as an alternative. The key is to ensure the pan allows the rice to spread thinly.

Q: How do I prevent seafood from overcooking? A: Add the seafood towards the end of the cooking process, and monitor closely. Shrimp, mussels, and clams require only a few minutes to cook through. Once the shells of mussels and clams open, they’re done.

Q: What can I do if my paella rice isn’t cooking evenly? A: Rotate the pan periodically to help distribute the heat evenly if you’re not using a paella pan. Avoid stirring the rice once it has started to cook to maintain the layer of toasted rice (socarrat) at the bottom.

Q: Can I make paella in advance? A: Paella is best enjoyed fresh, but you can prepare your ingredients ahead of time. Cooking rice and seafood too far in advance can affect the texture and flavor.

Q: How do I achieve the socarrat, or the crispy bottom layer of rice? A: After the liquid has mostly absorbed, increase the heat to high for a final 1-2 minutes of cooking. Listen for a crackling sound and smell a toasty aroma, but watch carefully to prevent burning.

Q: What are some common side dishes to serve with paella? A: Paella is often enjoyed as a standalone dish but can be paired with simple sides like a fresh green salad, crusty bread, or steamed vegetables for a balanced meal.

Q: Can I use frozen seafood instead of fresh? A: Yes, you can use frozen seafood. Thaw it properly and pat it dry before adding it to the paella to prevent excess moisture.

Q: How long does leftover paella last in the fridge? A: Leftover paella can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently, adding a little water or broth to moisten the rice.

This Spanish Seafood Paella is more than just a meal; it’s an experience. It brings together a variety of flavors and textures in a harmonious dish that’s perfect for gatherings, celebrations, or a special family dinner. Enjoy the process of cooking and the joy of sharing this beautiful, delicious paella with loved ones.