Vegan Spanish Paella – a Delicious Spin on Barcelona’s Signature Dish

Vegan Spanish Paella – a Delicious Spin on Barcelona’s Signature Dish

This is a fun and tasty vegan take on the authentic paella served by street vendors in Barcelona, Spain. You’ll need a 12” paella pan or a big skillet. (You may want to try a good quality non-stick pan like Scanpan, a ceramic coated skillet, or a 6 qt Dutch oven.) Must have a lid. Nan Simonsen demonstrated this recipe in her September 2021 cooking class. Serve with your favorite hot sauce, like Sriracha. Nan likes to top with a bit of tofu sour cream; not traditional, but yummy.  


  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads crumbled into 2 tablespoons water. May use turmeric for color if saffron is not available.
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced 
  • 10 oz diced fresh tomatoes with juice (1 large or 2 small), or 15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
  • 1-2 bay leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper, 8-10 twists
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced cut into 1/2”x1 1/2″ strips (for more obvious color)
  • 1 1/2 cup short grain brown rice
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided, plus a bit more for the dry saute of the onion
  • 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo bean or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 12 ounces fresh asparagus or green beans, cut into 2” pieces
  • 1 can (15 oz) artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, and cut into quarters
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leafed fresh parsley, divided


  • Heat the empty pan over medium-high heat and add the onion allowing it to caramelize, but not burn, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Add a couple of tablespoons of broth or water if necessary, and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for a few minutes (don’t let it get brown). Add fresh tomatoes with juice (or drained canned tomatoes), the saffron with water, and all herbs and spices except the fresh parsley. Mix and cook a few minutes as the juices bubble and spices become aromatic. Stir in the red bell pepper and cook for a couple of minutes. Add rice and stir to coat.
  • Stir in 3 1/4 cups of broth. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium or medium-low in order to continuously cook at a very gentle boil. Cover the pan and cook for 30-35 minutes. Watch to be sure that the mixture does not dry out or burn.
  • Uncover and scatter across the top of the rice mixture the beans, asparagus or green beans, and artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives (if using), and 1/4 cup fresh parsley.  Pour the remaining 3/4 cup broth slowly over the pan, to distribute evenly. Shake the pan to disperse the broth. Don’t stir. Cover and cook 10-12 minutes more, or until vegetables are tender.
  • Uncover and taste the rice for doneness. If necessary, add more broth or water and cook a bit longer. If rice is finished, scatter the frozen peas over the top, cover, and remove from the stovetop and let the dish set for 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley.
  • Set the finished dish on the table as a beautiful centerpiece and serve with a large spoon, along with a crispy green salad and perhaps your favorite hot sauce and sliced green onions. Enjoy!

Traditional Spanish paella has a crispy bottom called socarrat. You can attempt to bring this about by heating the dish over medium-high heat just before serving for approximately 5-8 minutes, listening for a sizzle, but being careful not to burn it. Be aware that this can burn your ceramic pot.

For more recipes and resources to help you build a lifestyle that empowers you to heal, visit our resource page and YouTube channel.

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