Spanish Paella

Spanish Paella – Vegan

Recently the paella [pah-yel-uh or pah-yeh-uh] got a special mention and grabbed eyeballs at the Oscars thanks to Natalie Portman. Chef Wolfgang Puck who produced food for the Governers Ball Bash held in honour of the winners made a vegetarian (vegan) paella for Ms. Portman who happens to be vegan and also won the best actress for Black Swan. For those who eye vegan diet with suspicion and imagine that it is deficient in calcium or vitamins, I must mention that she looked radiant, healthy and beautiful even in her advanced pregnancy stage.

Since I had made a Spanish sauce just sometime before the Oscars, I was inspired to make a paella the very next day after I read the article.

I followed the process given by Chef Puck but used ingredients available in my kitchen. I stash a good amount of stock in the freezer every weekend made with left over, sad looking veggies, and I already had the frito so things were much easier for me. Since I had some fennel stalks from the soup I made a few days back, my stock also had a good amount of fennel stalks this time so it proved ideal for the dish. I made the paella twice over the week, once for dinner and once for lunch. My family loves any rice dish and I love anything that is one pot!

The traditional paella consists of two parts – the sofrito, and the rice with vegetables. Sofrito is the term for the tomato sauce and the sauce I posted last time serves the purpose beautifully! The rice and vegetables are something you choose. The preferred choice for the rice used in a paella, I gather is bomba which is a short grained variety that expands in width on cooking rather than in length. Based on the characteristics I substituted with the local short grained, plump and flavourful variety called ‘ambemohar’. It works well and like the bomba, requires three times water while cooking. Much better than basmati which needs only two and does not really plump up. My paella uses a lot of herbs because for me any rice dish is all about fresh flavours – think basil, thyme or parsley!

Vegan Spanish Paella

Dish: Spanish Paella
Yield: Not really enough for four, if you like it as much as we did!

Spanish Tomato Sauce – 2 cups
Vegan stock (made with fennel bulbs too, preferably) – 3 to 4 cups

Olive oil (Light or extra light) – 3 tablespoons

Garlic cloves – 2, chopped
White part of two leeks – sliced into thin rings
Half of a big yellow bell pepper, washed, cut into half, deseeded, and diced small
Half of a big green bell pepper, same as above.
Half of a big red bell pepper, treated the same way
One big red chilli (used for stuffed pickle), chopped (optional, I needed this one!)
Paella rice (I used ambemohar) – 1.5 cups, not rinsed!
Cayenne pepper powder (optional) – I added to my taste.
Powdered pink salt – as per taste

Carrots and zucchini – cut into thin rings and blanched in salted water.


Heat a big wok or pan. Pour 3 tablespoons of light olive oil. When hot, add garlic cloves. Stir fry for a minute and add the chopped leeks.

Fry for a minute or two till transluscent and then add the peppers. After stir frying and letting them cook well with a pinch of salt till done, add 2 cups of your spanish tomato sauce.

Keep stirring and cooking till it comes together into a paste. Add the rice and stir well to coat. In European cooking apparently the rice is not washed before adding. I used to find it odd earlier but having done this quite a few times, I no longer have a sense of foreboding about putting in the rice dry. I still spread it on a towel and wipe dry because I in my head the rice is not clean enough otherwise! Maybe I do have a foreboding after all!

While the rice is being stirred, heat your stock. When the sauce has coated the rice well, add three cups of hot stock. I do not add it cold as the temperature of the cooked food changes drastically and the vegetables tend to get overcooked. Also it is a time saver!

Stir everything in the pan. Check seasoning and adjust. I also added a teaspoon of jalapeno chilli powder for some much needed heat. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium and let cook in simmering heat, without stirring any more. When the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked, shake the pan and check if there is water still in the vessel. Reduce heat and cook till water is absorbed, the kitchen is aromatic and the rice just starts smelling toasty in the pan. If you feel that the water was not enough add about half a cup of boiling water/stock and continue cooking till it reaches the above stage. Put off fire. Cover the vessel and let rest for five minutes to let the flavours meld.

Before serving top with blanched vegetables and a dash of olive oil. This is not a traditional topping and you can substitute with peppers or leeks or what you think would taste nice. I have to restrain myself heavily from adding fried cashews which goes in all Indian rice dishes! This one does not require it but I am always tempted to do it.

Vegan Spanish Paella

Serve hot. Being me, I could not control myself anymore. We had it with potato chips!

In not time we polished off the paella.

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Have your say

  1. Saee Koranne-Khandekar

    Yum, yum, yum!

  2. The photographs are awesome and the paella looks very tempting. My only issue is that there is no protein if it is eaten as a one pot meal. It is just pure carbohydrates and vegetables. I think adding some sort of beans in the rice may balance it a little.

  3. Madhu, if you want some beans cook and add as a topping. It is an acceptable one for this dish. However, I don't see any issue here. You can have your protein intake during other times of the day. Proteins are not available in vangibath, pulav, lemon rice or tamarind rice either and it is had as a one pot meal regularly in most South Indian homes.

  4. Of bakery and bread

    Have to try this recipe.

  5. definitely delicious
    it can tell from the ingredients
    thx for sharing

  6. One pot meal is a favorite with me too. And loved the color of the rice. Now I think I should make that suace first.

  7. I am really drooling over the sauce n paella..I just love it like u do..:)I would love to try your way next time when I make Paella..
    and Harini regarding Arugula,I got it in godrej,mahalaxmi…Even I dont see it regularly but when I found it I grabbed it..

  8. Who does not love one pot meal..I am big fan of that..Paella looks so flavorful and the recipe…Thanks for sharing!

  9. excellent food shots as always

  10. You are making my mouth water! The dish looks delicious…

  11. Thanks everyone. Pratibha, again the differential treatment! I go regularly here to GN at Thane and we have a few herbs as saving grace! I will make a trip to the Mahalaxmi outlet on my way back home next week. Thank you very much for the information!

  12. Wow,I too had bookmarked Puck's Paella and was just collecting ingredients -ofcourse not all are available. Love ur sofrito and ur version of his paella.
    With ambemohar,what u have explained is true,but does it not give a gluey/sticky texture?I heard paella shld be dry like biryani and ur pic looks the correct perfect texture. Is it bcoz u used unwashed rice?
    Also why saindhav namak? Just curious thats y.
    Also where u got dried jalapeno powder.
    I d not know abt traditional toppings,but urs looks best and most preferable to me also.

    Sorry if I am crossing my limits with u.With you my tongue loses its grip/control Dearest H.

  13. Sweatha, I don't see your tongue running away, as you put it:). Like you said, I think the key is the unwashed rice. Paella needs high starch rice and washing gets rid of the starch. Ambemohar is not only more starchy then basmati but also absorbs flavours well which is essential for paella. Basmati or kolam do not plump much and remain dry. But you have to take care not to overcook the rice which might result in sticky rice instead of paeella!

    Saindhav namak is organic and powdered rock salt so I prefer this for daily use than iodized or polished white one. More healthier. Nothing else. You can substitute regular salt.

    I got the jalapeno powder from a friend who traveled to Canada early this year:). You can use any chilli powder that is highly pungent and do not impart a deep red colour instead.

  14. ive never eaten paella… cos ive only seen versions with meat or seafood – but i am definitely going to try this recipe… looks delicious, and btw… i made the tamarind rice last week, was fantastic.

  15. Got it Boss. Thanks :). You r right. Overcooking will make it sticky. I think I may go for reg chilli powder can't think of anything else now. Thanks again 🙂 dearie

  16. Sweatha, thanks a bunch! It just struck me that I mean cayenne pepper and out of the blue something made me write jalapeno chilli powder!! What a blunder – I would not have noticed had you not brought my attention to it. Rectified now! What Santa bought was cayenne pepper:D.

    Rajani, so I have not eaten one too:). I haven't eaten half the things I make outside but I look details such as authentic texture and taste and make out how the food should taste. I can only hope this is how it should taste!! Am glad you liked the tamarind rice:). Mom will be glad too!

  17. Very pretty, very creative, Harini. This is quite similar to what Americans call "Spanish Rice," which is naturally vegan (rice cooked in tomato sauce w/ bell peppers), except you have all these nice crunchy garnishes added.

  18. Thanks for the clarification dearie. But I have heard of dried jalapeno pdr. Anyway if its cayenne pepper then we can use deggi mirch powder. Yes!!

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