How To Make The Best Vegan Paella
Paella is a dish loved by many — deeply savoury and deliciously satisfying, it's no wonder it has become so popular outside of Valencia and outside Spain, for that matter. Here are some top tips to get the best out of your paella, including paella pan recommendations and the lowdown on the optimal ingredients.
Invest in a paella pan
Seems like a basic one, but a proper paella pan is the easiest way to get you paella looking and tasting like the real deal. Paella pans are big and flat, allowing the bomba rice to cook evenly at the same rate. They are also crucially not non-stick — the rice at the bottom of the pan needs to stick to the pan to get crispy and caramelised. This part is called the socarrat, and it is what many people consider to be the best bit of a paella. These enamelled pans from The Paella Company will do the trick, and they’re super affordable.
Use good quality stock
A rich stock is important as the rice cooks and soaks up all the flavours, so naturally a good quality and flavourful stock makes for the best paella. If you have any offcuts of vegetables and herbs, add it to a pot of cold water, bring to a boil, and let it simmer for a while, before letting cool and adding it to Tupperware and freezing. That way, any time a dish like paella calls for a great savoury homemade stock, you’ve got one ready.
Try to find smoked paprika from Vera
This sounds pedantic, but trust me. A few years ago I went to a paella masterclass in Valencia and the chef there made a point of explaining smoked paprika from Vera in Spain is the best. Lots of smoked paprika has the scent but doesn’t actually have a lot of flavour, but paprika from this region specifically has the earthy and smoked flavour that a dish like this needs. In terms of aromatics, paella doesn’t actually have many ingredients going on but instead relies on the best versions and qualities of what ingredients it does use.
When I lived in Spain, a box of Vera paprika would cost around 50 cents at my local supermarket, but here you’d be hard pressed to find it for under £3 (sigh). It is still a relatively small investment for an ingredient (though not the only ingredient I’ll tell you to invest in, read the next paragraph for clarity), but it lasts a while and it will elevate any dish that calls for a hit of smokiness. Look out specifically for La Chinata and El Rey De La Vera brands in international supermarkets.
Try to find saffron from Castilla La Mancha
At the aforementioned masterclass I attended, another key ingredient that we received insight on was saffron. While saffron is available to buy in powder form, our chef instructed us — no, practically begged us to use strands, specifically from the Castilla La Mancha region in Spain. Most Spanish Saffron is produced in the region, and are some of the best in the world. It is more difficult to find so you’re unlikely to find it in supermarkets, but you can likely find it at international supermarkets and grocery shops.
Finally, the key to the best vegan paella is to use this fantastic recipe developed by our food editor, Val. It’s savoury, smoky, and completely plant-based, so everyone can get in on the action! And if you want to get true Spanish feels, make your paella on a barbecue the next time the sun is out. All the best paellas I have tried have been made on a barbecue or open flame, as is common in Spain and especially customary when celebrating events and religious holidays. And there you have it — the best vegan paella. Enjoy!
By Toni Olukiran
Toni is one of our lovely Content Marketing Assistants, and when she’s not writing posts about everything from Jamaican cooking to vegan champagne, she’s making a Spotify playlist (she was at 200, at her last count) or playing tennis in the park.