Vegan Paella

I didn't have a paella pan, so I used my stainless steel Cuisinart skillet.
Traditional paella features meat and/seafood. This vegan version relies on hearty vegetables.
Traditional paella features meat and/seafood. This vegan version relies on hearty vegetables.

I found this gem while browsing for vegan recipes on Pinterest last week. The original comes from Hannah Kaminsky at BitterSweet. Check out her post for the story behind the paella and some seriously mouth-watering photos. I made a few adaptations to the recipe but more or less stuck to the original, so this is more of a review post!

Here’s a summary of the differences between my preparation and Hannah’s:

  • I cut the recipe amounts in half to make four servings.
  • I do not own a paella pan, so I used my stainless steel skillet.
  • I did not have smoked paprika, so I substituted regular paprika and a dash of cayenne pepper.
  • I used arborio rice (the kind you’d use to make risotto). After failing to find medium-grain rice in the grocery store, I learned through a quick Google search that it’s better to err on the “short” side for paella!
You're looking at 0.03 oz of saffron.
You’re looking at 0.03 oz of saffron.

The one thing you should have for paella is saffron. Now, I knew saffron was expensive…but I still got sticker shock when I saw the $13 price tag on this little bag stuffed inside a spice jar! I bit the bullet though because it really does help pull the dish together–and you only need a pinch, so I can make more paella later! And I definitely want to make more paella later.

I really enjoyed this dish because it was packed full of flavor, along with veggies. In each bite, you get the soft rice, savory vegetables and toothsome chickpeas with the slightest bit of heat from the spices, and maybe a little crunch from the “socarrat” (the toasted rice from the bottom of the pan). It’s a vegan meal that feels really feels like a treat. Paul didn’t even comment on the lack of meat! I call that a win.

So, here’s Hannah’s recipe with my notes and adaptations:

Vegan Paella

Adapted from recipe on the BitterSweet blog

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 16-oz bag Brussels sprouts, cut in half
  • 2 cups other vegetables such as asparagus, bell peppers, mushrooms or zucchini (I used 1 lb of asparagus cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry arborio rice (or medium-grain rice)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp smoked or regular paprika
  • dash cayenne pepper (omit if using smoked paprika)
  • pinch of saffron
  • salt
  • pepper
  • lemon wedges for serving

Steps

  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and saute until they turn bright green and begin to brown in places. Remove from the pan and set aside.
    Saute the Brussels sprouts until they begin to brown.
    Saute the Brussels sprouts until they begin to brown.
  2. Add additional oil to the pan if needed. Saute the asparagus or other vegetables for about 5 minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the pan.
    I used asparagus since it was on sale at the store, but you could certainly mix and match the veggies!
    I used asparagus since it was on sale at the store, but you could certainly mix and match the veggies!
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan. Saute the onion and garlic until they turn translucent. Add the paprika (and cayenne, if using) and saffron and stir well.
    Saute the onion and garlic until translucent, then add the seasonings.
    Saute the onion and garlic until translucent, then add the seasonings.
  4. Add the rice to the pan and saute for 1 minute, making sure to coat it in the oil and onion mixture.
    Saute the rice for a minute--just like you would for risotto.
    Saute the rice for a minute–just like you would for risotto.
  5. Return the vegetables to the pan and add the stock. Add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper, or to taste. Bring everything to a slow boil, then cover the pan and simmer on low for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid is almost completely absorbed.
    Add the vegetables back to the pan with the stock. Season with salt and pepper.
    Add the vegetables back to the pan with the stock. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir in the frozen peas and chickpeas (don’t try to scrape the bottom, though–that’s what forms the crust). Cover the pan again and cook for about 10 minutes, until the peas are heated through.
    I didn't have a paella pan, so I used my stainless steel Cuisinart skillet.
    I didn’t have a paella pan, so I used my stainless steel Cuisinart skillet.
  7. Serve garnished with lemon wedges. Make sure everyone gets some of the crunchy rice from the bottom of the pan!

Paul and I agreed that this paella is one of our new favorite meals. I highly recommend it!

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