Paella is one of those traditional meals that takes a bit of work but is so worth it when you finally sit down and enjoy. This Spanish delight is a hodgepodge of flavors that blend together harmoniously, creating one of our favorite dishes. When you blend together all the diverse ingredients, you’ve got nearly every major flavor covered!
The recipe has evolved from the Valencia original with chicken, rabbit, and snails to one of seafood, sausages, and vibrant saffron rice. Today, paella has come to mean a Spanish-style rice dish with any assortment of ingredients, from seafood to vegetarian options. For the sake of this article, we’re focusing on the commonly accepted paella dish with mussels, chorizo, chicken, and shrimp. Luckily, paella can also be pretty healthy when done right.
Lean and Flavorful Proteins
Of all the things that paella has in abundance, protein is perhaps the biggest. Between the shrimp, mussels, chicken, and chorizo, you’ve got many diverse proteins in one dish. When you consider you can also add fish, rabbit, pork, clams, octopus, or calamari, the amount of lean meats and seafoods becomes staggering. You can even make a vegetarian paella!
Luckily, most of the meat in paella is white meat or seafood, which tend to be lower in saturated fats and high in healthy, unsaturated fats.
Luckily, most of the meat in paella is white meat or seafood, which tend to be lower in saturated fats and high in healthy, unsaturated fats. Seafood tends to be a rich source of lean protein, minerals, and vitamins. Specifically, shrimp are low in calories while having many key nutrients like protein and vitamins. Mussels are rich in protein, selenium, and vitamin A. A lean cut of chicken can be low in saturated fat, high in protein, and rich in several vitamins. Finally, chorizo, though high in sodium and fat, is packed with flavor and high in several important vitamins and minerals.
Healthy, Fresh Ingredients
The health benefits don’t end with the proteins, though. Paella has many ingredients that shouldn’t be ignored. Tomato products are important to the flavor and consistency of paella and have many health benefits. They’re loaded with antioxidants, vitamins C and K, potassium, and folate, all while being low in calories and fat! Red bell peppers, another important ingredient, have long been used to help people lose weight. This is because they’re extremely low in calories, high in fiber, along with other vitamins and antioxidants.
Tomato products are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins C and K, potassium, and folate, all while being low in calories and fat!
Other honorable mentions found in a paella include onions, garlic, and olive oil. Another ingredient, saffron, is used in medicine to help with asthma, sleep problems, menstrual cramps, and infertility and has a number of benefits when used as a spice in food.
While there are a lot of good ingredients in paella, there are still plenty of calories. So, despite the many benefits, if you overindulge, it can become unhealthy. Luckily, due to all the good ingredients, paella tends to be really filling. One cup should be enough to fill you up.
Luckily, due to all the good ingredients, paella tends to be really filling.
While the rice base is high in carbohydrates, the majority of these are from fibers, not sugar. This means they are less fattening and more filling than other high carb foods, leaving you satisfied without overeating.
One Pot Paella Recipe
- 2 cups of paella/Spanish, Bomba, or short grain rice
- 4 cups of water or unsalted chicken stock
- 1 cup of dry white wine
- ½ tsp of saffron (you can also substitute this and the rice out for store-bought saffron-flavored rice)
- 2 chorizo sausages, sliced
- 10 large shrimp, peeled
- 12 mussels (clams can be a substitute)
- 2 lean chicken breasts, cubed
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ cup of peas, fresh or frozen
- 1 medium red bell pepper, seeds removed and sliced into strips
- 1½ cups of cherry tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tbsp of tomato paste
- 3 tbsp of olive oil
- ½ tbsp of smoked paprika
- 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for garnish
- In a large, deep pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat
- In a sauce pot, heat the stock or water. You want it hot, but not boiling
- Once the pan is hot, add the slices of chorizo and cook until the outside begins to brown
- Add the diced chicken and smoked paprika
- Cook the chicken until it starts browning, though not cooked the whole way
- Now, lower the heat to medium and throw in the onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook until they soften, roughly 1-2 minutes. The garlic should not brown because it can become bitter.
- Clear a spot in the center of the pan and pour the rice into the spot
- Stir the rice throughout the pan, allowing it to toast slightly and mix with the other ingredients
- Add the tomato paste and stir it until it coats the other ingredients
- Pour the white wine and allow it to cook for 5 minutes, stirring thoroughly
- Pour the stock or water into the pan and stir to ensure the stock is spread evenly through the pan
- Season with salt and saffron and bring to a boil, though you should taste as you go to determine if you need more seasoning
- Add the shrimp and mussels
- Return the stock to high temperature and bring to a gentle but steady boil
- Let sit for 10 minutes. Don’t stir during this time! The socarrat is very important for a good paella. You can occasionally use a spoon or fork to make sure nothing is burning, but try not to do it too often
- Drop the temperature to a low heat
- Add the peas and chopped tomatoes
- Add the rosemary sprigs and cover lightly with tin foil
- Let simmer for 5-7 more minutes
- Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes
- Remove the rosemary sprigs
- Serve with a lemon wedge