Authentic vegetable paella

Warning, this is not an easy, quick or cheap recipe. This is a real authentic recipe that requires at least intermediate cooking skills, good sense of heat control and a decent amount of effort to achieve. If you are looking for a simple and quick paella recipe, please be patient, I will publish one soon.

This is the most painful recipe I have even developed. If you visited my website regularly, you might already know my King is from Spain, and he is a meat eater. He is also a stubborn eater and very proud of his national dishes, so if I cook Spanish food I’ve got to do it right!

One day, I told him I wanted to cook a vegan paella and hoped he could give me some tips or get some advice from his mama. AND…. he gave me THAT look and replied, “paella without meat is not a real paella.”

WHAT!!!!!! If you’re vegan or veggie and have a meat eating, you may well be familiar with this scene.

SO… A WAR BEGIN!

I was determined to make a vegan paella that would still appeal to Spanish tastebuds! In the following 3-4 months, I read travel blogs, did lots of research and watched Spanish cooking videos religiously. The idea of paella seem simple, but if you want to get it right, it can be tricky!

Endless failed experiments ensued…
Paella shouldn’t have onion, NEXT!
It shouldn’t be spicy, smoked paprika only, NEXT!
This is not paella rice, NEXT!
You can stir the rice, NEXT!
Rice is overcooked, NEXT!
The bottom is not burned and crispy, NEXT!
The saffron is bad quality, NEXT!
Only use a fresh ripe tomato, don’t cheat with tomato passata, NEXT!

Finally, I created a vegan paella with al-dente rice and a slightly burned crispy bottom packed with authentic Spanish flavours – tomato, white beans, artichoke, smoked paprika and saffron (good saffron is not cheap at all). King gave it a pass and I was full of tears.

Because I have spent so much time and effort on this recipe, I wanted the photo look as authentic as possible. I went as far as to go to a kitchen props warehouse to rent a proper paella pan for the shoot!

The shoot went pretty well, and I proudly sent the first proofs to the King, but within seconds he noticed the white beans were  missing… WHAT?! They were in the recipe but………I forgot!!! Arrrrrrrrrh…..

I was procrastinated and optimistically thought maybe none of my readers would spot that there were no white beans in the picture. As I am not a full-time blogger the amount of time I can spend on this blog is very limited. To redo the shoot is going to be another level of pain!

However, King insisted that after I had gone to so much effort I should redo the shot and get things done properly.

The paella we’re making today comes from Valencia and it includes white beans because, back when locals first started cooking it, not everyone could afford meat and white beans are a great source of protein.

As a vegan version, it is essential to get a balanced diet with a good level of protein(surprisingly this paella contains 17g protein per serve)… so next day, I got up at 6am(!) and did a re-shoot.

After a long journey… here it is! My very proud authentic vegetable paella.

K33 Kitchen – vegan vegetable paella

Add a pinch of good quality saffron, salt and bouillon powder to 450ml hot water, stir well. Let it infuse for at least 5-10 minutes

K33 Kitchen – vegan vegetable paella

Traditionally paella is cooked with peppers, artichoke and green beans. They look so pretty and colourful, right?

K33 Kitchen – vegan vegetable paella

It has peas, white beans and mushrooms.

K33 Kitchen – vegan vegetable paella

A large, ripe, juicy tomato is a must…

K33 Kitchen – vegan vegetable paella

Cut the tomato in half and then grate with the largest holes on a grater and discard the skin, set aside.

K33 Kitchen – vegan vegetable paella

One of the secrets to making the very best paella is to cook the rice in layer thin. The thickness of rice should be no thicker than 1 finger(1.5-2cm) after it’s cooked. Therefore, you need a big flat pan to give enough space for the rice to spread. For example, if making paella for two, it’s best to cook in a 28-30cm diameter pan.

Heat the oil in a large flat pan, add the minced garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes until the garlic turns slightly golden in colour.

Add all the vegetables, peas and white beans and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes until soft.

Season the vegetables with smoked paprika, black pepper and pour in the grated tomato, stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes until they are in a slightly brown colour.

K33 Kitchen – vegan vegetable paella

Pour over the saffron broth and bring it to a boil.

Add in the rice, stir very gently and spread it evenly around the pan. You may also want to move around the vegetables to get an even distribution.

K33 Kitchen – vegan vegetable paella

—- DO NOT STIR BEYOND THIS POINT! —-

Unlike risotto, paella should be tender but not creamy. We want a brown and crispy layer of rice (the socarrat) at the bottom of the pan. Over-stirring can cause the rice to release too much starch in the broth, so please avoid.

Leave to simmer for 10-12 minutes over a medium heat.

K33 Kitchen – vegan vegetable paella

When you see some small gaps start to appear on the surface of rice this means most of the liquid has been absorbed.

K33 Kitchen – vegan vegetable paella

Add 3-4 small stems of rosemary on top.

Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan with aluminium foil and leave to cook for a further 5 minutes. I know it is so tempting to see how the rice is doing but don’t!

K33 Kitchen – vegan vegetable paella

Turn off the heat, leave the foil on the pan and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve warm straight from the pan, with the fresh lemon wedges.

It is unusual that I write such a lengthy recipe and I am genuinely delighted you have made it all the way to here. I hope you will give this recipe a try, especially if you are getting tired with watery, overcooked and unflavoured paella from restaurants. This is a must-make recipe for a real Spanish food enthusiast.

You may also want to check out my other Spanish food recipes.

If you have followed and made this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment and take a picture, tagging it with #k33_kitchen and share it on Instagram! I’d be very excited to see what you come up with. Cheers, hope you enjoy my recipes! <3 <3


K33 Kitchen – vegan vegetable paella

Difficulty: Intermediate

Serves: 2

Prep.: 15 mins | Cook: 20mins

Ingredients:
  • 150g paella rice
  • 1 large ripe tomato (about 200g), halved
  • 1/2 red pepper (about 60g), deseeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 yellow pepper(about 60g), deseeded and cut into thin strips
  • 3 frozen artichoke heads, roughly chopped
  • 100g white beans
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 100g mushrooms
  • 60g green beans
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp bouillon powder (vegetable stock)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 450ml hot water
  • Handful of fresh rosemary (optional)
  • Pinch of parsley, chopped (optional)
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, cut into wedges (optional)
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Instructions:
  1. Add a pinch of good quality saffron, salt and bouillon powder to 450ml hot water, stir well. Allow to infuse for at least 5-10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, over a large bowl, use the largest holes on a grater to grate the tomatoes and discard the skin, season with salt and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a large flat pan, add the minced garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes until the garlic turns slightly golden in colour.
  4. Add all the vegetables, peas and white beans and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes until soft.
  5. Season the vegetables with smoked paprika, black pepper and pour in the grated tomato, stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes until they are in a slightly brown colour.
  6. Add in the rice, stir very gently and spread evenly around the pan. 
  7. You may also want to move the vegetables around to get a more even distribution. After this DO NOT STIR please! Leave to simmer for 10-12 minutes over a medium heat.
  8. When you see some small gaps start to appear on the surface of rice this means most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add 3-4 small stems of rosemary on top of the rice.
  9. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan with aluminium foil and leave to cook for a further 5 minutes.
  10. Turn off the heat and leaving the foil on the pan, allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
  11. Serve warm straight from the pan, with the fresh lemon wedges.
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