Paella made with saffron-infused rice, chicken, sausage, and seafood is hearty, delicious, and a guaranteed holiday favorite.  This Spanish-style rice dish is easy to make in one pan and cooks in one pan!

Paella with shrimp, chicken, mussels in a wide pan

Table Of Contents

  • The Philippine Paella
  • Ingredient notes
  • Cooking tips
  • What is a socarrat
  • How to serve and store
  • More Christmas favorites
  • Paella

Paella is a Spanish rice dish cooked and served in a paellera, a large shallow frying pan, where it took its name.  It is traditionally made with short grain rice, butter beans or peas, and plentiful meats in the area, such as duck, chicken, rabbit, or seafood. Saffron threads give the dish its characteristic color and flavor, but turmeric can be substituted as a cheaper alternative.

While many consider Paella as the national dish of Spain, it originated from the Valencia region, which is regarded as the home of Paella.  Many variations exist in Spanish-speaking countries and internationally, from the original Paella Valenciana, Paella de mariscos made of seafood, to mixed Paella, which combines meat, seafood, and vegetables.

shrimp, rice, tomato sauce, mussels, chicken, sausage, paprika, saffron

The Philippine Paella

This Filipino-style Paella or paelya is the perfect example of Spanish influences in our cuisine. A byproduct of 300 years of colonization, it is a delicious fusion of our local tastes and cultural heritage.

As it commonly uses relatively expensive ingredients like saffron and prawns, the dish is mostly relegated to special occasions and holiday celebrations. It’s an elegant and impressive addition to any Christmas feast!

Arroz Valenciana is another Filipino interpretation of the Spanish paella, using native ingredients such as coconut milk and glutinous rice.

browning seasoned chicken in a paellera

Ingredient notes

  • Rice– the recipe uses long grain as it’s more readily available. However, for a more traditional take, you can use Bomba rice, Valencia, or Calasparra rice.
  • Saffron– gives the rice a golden color and a floral, slightly sweet flavor. It is considered as the most precious and most expensive spice in the world. As an cheaper option, you can use ground turmeric or safflower (kasubha).
  • Chicken– use bone-in chicken cut into serving parts. If using boneless, skinless breast or thigh meat, cut into large portions so they’ll cook congruently with the rice. Duck is another meat option to use.
  • Chorizo de bilbao– a dry, spicy semi-cured pork sausage which adds a smoky flavor. You may also use the Spanish Chorizo as a substitute.
  • Seafood– shrimp and mussels are used in the recipe. You can also add squid rings, littleneck clams, or lobster if you want to go extra fancy.
pouring rice to tomato sauce in a pan

Cooking Tips

  • Paella is traditionally cooked in a paellera. If you don’t have one, use a pan that’s wide but not too deep to allow moisture to evaporate quickly. Make sure it’s large enough to allow space for the rice to expand.
  • Other than a quick stir to coat the rice with the sauce, refrain from stirring and leave the paella covered and undisturbed as it cooks. If it is cooking more on one side than the other, just rotate the pan.
  • After you take the rice off the heat, allow it to rest, covered, for at least 10 minutes before serving to absorb excess moisture.

What is a socarrat

It is a Spanish term that describes the golden crunchy crust that forms in the bottom layer of the Paella. The layer develops on its own as the rice cooks or by turning the heat up for a couple of minutes before the cooking is done.

Mixed paella in a white serving bowl

How to serve and store

  • Paella is traditionally served straight from the pan or paellera. You can add lemon wedges before serving.   It is considered a complete meal in itself, but you can also serve it with crusty bread or fried plantain slices.
  • Transfer leftovers as soon as cooled in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months. For food safety, do not leave it at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • To reheat, place Paella in a pan and stir in a tablespoon of olive oil to loosen the rice. Or reheat using a microwave at 2 to 3-minute intervals until completely warmed through, stirring well after each interval to distribute heat.

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