Back when I lived in New York, Socarrat and Barraca were two of my favorite places for some tapas, paella and a good glass of red wine. When you think of paella (a Spanish rice dish) it’s usually something to do with seafood and/or meat. These two spots had great vegetable paella options that were vegetarian, filling and made for a balanced meal.
I created this recipe for vegetable paella a very long time ago – in fact, it was the first thing I posted on this blog! The pictures weren’t great, the proportions were decent but not as detailed as what I do these days. In simple words – I’ve come a long way and it feels good. I retook the pictures, redid the ingredients and method so they’re easier to follow.
Other than a few key spices, this recipe doesn’t require much special stuff. Still, you’ll notice that this recipe for an easy vegetarian paella has one particularly prized Indian spice – saffron – that’s also used in Spanish cuisine. It adds a beautiful color and aroma that pairs perfectly with the other spices (paprika and chili) to create an incredible smoky warm flavor. For paprika, I use one from a brand called Keya that’s made in India and fairly easily available. I know that paella is made traditionally with a certain type of rice but I use brown or red rice and get great results. For this round, I used Conscious Food’s Red Rice. You can add whatever vegetables you have on hand (in addition to the ones listed in the ingredients) such as cauliflower, artichokes, asparagus, etc. Unfortunately none of these are currently in season here (forget artichokes altogether in India). Ideally, this vegetable paella dish is best made in a cast iron skillet or a wide pan that is not non-stick. The bottom gets crispy and well-done in a cast iron skillet, the way it is traditionally made and enjoyed.
Making a rice dish that isn’t flavored with Indian or Asian spices is a nice change from the usual. This works great for a weeknight dinner or even when you’re having guests over (it’s vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free so you’ve got everyone covered). Got any questions? Let me know if you’re stuck or need a suggestion – leave a comment below or write to me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
- 220g or 2 heaped cups cooked red/brown rice (approx 100g dry)
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 medium white onions, chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
- ½ red pepper, sliced (approx 60g)
- ½ yellow pepper, sliced (approx 60g)
- 2 tbsp black olives, sliced
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced round then cut into 4s (120g)
- 120g or ¾ cup cooked chickpeas (approx 50g or ⅓ cup dry)
- 125ml or ½ cup water or vegetable stock
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 10-12 strands of saffron + 3-4 tbsp hot water
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Heat the olive oil in the iron skillet. Add the garlic, onions and tomatoes and sauté until fragrant and lightly bubbling - at least 4-5 minutes on medium-low heat.
- Add the yellow and red peppers and zucchini. Add 125ml (1/2 cup) of water/vegetable stock and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes at least, until the vegetables are softened.
- While the vegetables are cooking, add the saffron to the hot water in a separate bowl.
- Add the saffron in water, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper to the vegetables. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the cooked chickpeas, olives and rice. Toss the rice into the skillet, mixing well with the vegetables.
- Taste and adjust the quantities of the spices and salt as per your preferences.
- If you want the traditional crusty bottom, leave everything to cook without stirring for 5-7 minutes.
- Serve in the pan - don't transfer it to another plate or dish.