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I spent a month in Valencia and after seeing signs for paella everywhere, I had to try cooking my own Spanish vegan paella.
The paella turned out delicious and every time I make it it reminds me of my time in this lovely Spanish city. Hopefully, you get a bit of holiday-feeling as well when you make this easy Spanish vegan paella recipe.
You can try it out at home or even better cook paella during your visit to Valencia.
Origin of Spanish Paella
Paella is considered to be the traditional dish from Spain by everyone outside of Spain. In Spain itself it’s only considered to be a traditional dish from the Valencian region.
To be more precise paella as we know it now comes from the rural area just outside of Valencia, around Albufera Lake. If you’re ever in Valencia, visiting Albufera Lake makes for a beautiful day trip by bike.
Traditionally Valencian paella is not vegan, it contains rabbit and chicken. But it’s very easily veganizable. You only have to substitute the meat with some mockmeat and you’re ready to go. Or you can just make a vegetable paella.
Since paella traditionally isn’t vegan, I veganized the recipe from visitvalencia.com.
The word paella literally translates to frying pan from Valencian which is similar to Catalan. So, as you might have guessed from the name, the pan is very important for making paella. A traditional paella pan is a wide, shallow, non-coated pan with two handles.
In Valencia, you can find paella pans in different price ranges on almost every market. It is quite an experience to cook vegan paella in Valencia yourself after you have bought all the ingredients at the central market.
Because everyone can go out to eat paella but to cook it yourself in the town where the dish originates is truly a special thing to do in Valencia.
Vegan Spanish paella has a few essential ingredients and all other ingredients are quite interchangeable depending on your preferences (or on what you have at home).
The essential ingredients are rice, olive oil, sweet paprika powder, saffron and a tomato. It’s very important that you ake sure to get a good quality for those ingredients. I know Saffron can be very expensive, I would still recommend getting real saffron and not some artifficial substitute.
Rosemary adds a very nice flavour to the Spanish vegan paella but if you don’t like it you can change it for another herb.
Traditional Valencian paella contains big lima beans and grean beans. If you want more veggies in your Spanish vegan paella you can add whatever your heart desires. Especially well suited are zucchini, bell pepper, mushrooms, artishokes or even pak choy.
For the meat substitute you can use whatever you like, I added a vegan sausage which I got at the vegan butchers in Valencia. You can also use mock chicken or tofu. But you can also skip the meat substitute all together and make a authentic vegetable paella.
- 1 Paella pan
- 1/4 cup olive oil the amount depends on the size of the pan
- 1 cup vegan chicken or tofu
- 1 handfull green beans
- 1 tomato
- 1 cup lima beans
- 2 cup water
- 1 cup paella rice
- 1 tsp sweet paprika powder
- 1 pinch saffron
- 1 bunch rosemary save a twig for decoration
- 4 slices lemon optional for decoration
- Chop the tofu and green beans and grate the tomato.
- Heat the oil on low heat and fry the tofu or vegan chicken.
- Add the chopped vegetables (green beans, tomato and any other vegetables you like) and fry for a few minutes.
- Stir in the paprika powder, then add the lima beans, water and saffron.
- Now, add the rice, stir it in properly and then DON'T STIR anymore. Leave to boil for about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the rosemary after about half the time.
- The paella is done when the liquid has evaporated and the bottom is crunchy.
- Decorate the paella with a fresh rosemary twig and some lemon wedges and serve in the pan.
- After you stir in the rice, don’t stir anymore, otherwise, you won’t get the crunchy crust at the bottom.
- When you think the paella is done, you can carefully check if the bottom is already crunchy by lifting one spoon full up.
FAQ about best vegan paella
What is the secret ingredient in paella?
In my opinion, the secret ingredient to a delicious Spanish paella is saffron.
Why is it important not to stir paella?
Traditional paella has a delicious crunchy crust at the bottom and you can only achieve that without stirring.
What to serve with vegetarian paella?
You don’t really need to serve anything with vegetarian paella, it’s delicious on its own. If you do want to serve something with paella I recommend a fresh homemade bread.
What is the best alternative to paella rice?
You can use any round corn rice instead of paella rice.
Is a paella healthy?
The only not-so-healthy ingredient in vegetable paella is olive oil, which is not that bad.