Best Homemade Spanish Vegan Paella

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This easy Spanish-style vegan paella has all the Valencian paella vibes without any meat.  I’ve used only authentic paella ingredients for the best vegan paella recipe ever.

I spent a few years living in Valencia when I was a kid. One of my fondest memories is the weekly Sunday paellas that my dad would cook on an open fire. All our friends and family would gather in the backyard and enjoy the summer breeze, delicious food, and good company. 

If you’re unfamiliar with paella, it’s a traditional Spanish dish invented in Valencia. It was originally made by farmers who would cook rice with whatever ingredients they had on hand, such as snails and rabbit. Today, paella has evolved into a classic dish that is enjoyed throughout Spain and around the world. 

There are many versions of paella, such as paella de marisco (seafood paella), paella Valenciana (the classic paella with chicken and rabbit), paella mixta (with both meat and seafood), and vegetarian paella (which happens to be vegan). There’s even a paella called black paella (paella negra), made with squid ink that colors the rice a spectacular shade of black.

Why You’ll Love This Spanish Style Vegan Paella Recipe

My ultimate vegan paella recipe features traditional Valencian paella ingredients, such as lima beans (called garrofones in Valencia, Spain), bell peppers, rosemary, and saffron. It’s perfect for those who love the taste of authentic Spanish cuisine, but don’t consume animal products.

I’ve included all the tips and tricks you need for the best vegan paella experience ever. From how to incorporate the saffron and how often to stir the rice to which is the best wine to pair with vegan paella, we’ve covered it all. 

Vegan paella is not only healthy and scrumptious, but it’s also naturally gluten-free. The Arborio rice gives a glutinous creamy texture to the paella without any actual gluten. It’s love at first bite!

What Vegan Paella Ingredients Do I Need?

For the best vegan paella, you need to use the best quality ingredients. Don’t skip the saffron, rosemary, or lima beans, and use Arborio rice or another short-grain rice for the best result. 

Here’s the list of vegan paella ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1 cup of Arborio rice or arroz bomba (use high-quality round grain rice)
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • ¼ tsp. saffron threads
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 medium-sized fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup of frozen peas
  • 1 cup of green beans, trimmed
  • 1 can (15 oz) lima beans (garrofones), drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried rosemary 
  • 1 tsp. sweet smoked paprika (pimentón)

How To Make Homemade Spanish-Style Vegan Paella

Step 1: Sauté garlic, followed by bell peppers, then the tomatoes

Heat the paellera (a flat-bottomed pan used for paella) or a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and sauté the garlic until fragrant.

Add the chopped bell pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes until they are tender.

Add the chopped fresh tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes until they are soft and the juices have been released.

Step 2: Add rice, then broth with saffron, and finally beans

Add the arborio rice to the skillet, along with salt and paprika, and sauté for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Step 3: Add saffron to the vegetable broth

Add the saffron to the vegetable broth and stir until the saffron has dissolved. Pour the broth mixture into the skillet.

Step 4: Add beans and peas with rosemary

Add the drained and rinsed lima beans, green beans, and frozen peas to the skillet. Stir gently to combine. Place the rosemary sprigs on top.

Step 5: Simmer Covered Until Rice is Tender

Cover the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.

Step 6: Let rest and serve

Remove from heat and let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Serve hot with a side salad and lemon for spritzing. Buen provecho!

Notes & Tips

  • If you don’t have a paellera (a flat-bottomed pan used specifically for paella), you can use a large skillet or a Dutch oven.
  • Use good-quality extra virgin olive oil. Spanish cooking and extra virgin olive oil are like peas in a pod. The flavor it lends to this vegan paella is irreplaceable. But if you want to cut down on fat and the cost, simply cut the olive oil in half, but do use a high-quality brand.
  • For the best flavor, use fresh vegetables. I’ve used canned lima beans (butter beans) for convenience, but you can cook them from dried before adding them to the paella too. 
  • To cook the lima beans (garrofones) from dried, first, soak them overnight. Then, cook them in a separate pot with water until they’re al dente. Add them to the paella along with the broth. 
  • Use high-quality saffron for the best flavor and color. The sweet smoked paprika also provides a unique flavor and a touch of color that’s indispensable. 
  • Add the saffron at the right time. It shouldn’t be added any sooner than 20 minutes before the paella is finished, otherwise, the flavor isn’t optimal.
  • Don’t stir the paella too much while it’s cooking. This can cause the rice to become mushy.
  • If the rice burns on the bottom, that’s okay and normal. The burnt layer of rice on the bottom of a paella is called socarrat in Valencian and it’s considered to be a delicacy. My brother and I used to fight for those crispy charred rice pieces. 
  • If using an open fire and paellera, make sure to maintain a consistent temperature by adjusting the flames as necessary. You may need to add more broth or water if the liquid evaporates too quickly.
  • The best wine to pair with vegan paella is a Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, or any rich-flavored red wine. I like to serve red wine slightly chilled, but not icy cold. Paella also pairs well with sangria (red wine mixed with fresh fruits and ice). 

Variations & Substitutions

To make spicy vegan paella, add a pinch of red pepper flakes or some canned jalapeños. It’s not very traditional, but my dad adds jalapeños sometimes and the spice and flavor they add are exquisite.

If you don’t have fresh rosemary sprigs, add a teaspoon of dried rosemary along with the chopped tomatoes. 

For a heartier meal, add tofu, seitan, or tempeh along with the lima beans. Or serve the paella with some Crunchy Vegan Lettuce Wraps for fresh veggies and protein all in one. 

You can add other ingredients such as vegan chorizo, mushrooms, or artichokes for extra flavor and texture. Or make garbanzo vegan paella by using chickpeas instead of lima beans. 

Make vegan seafood paella by adding vegan shrimp and/or vegan fish. You can even do a vegan paella mixta by adding vegan chorizo or vegan meatballs

Storage and Make-ahead Instructions

Leftover paella can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop with a splash of vegetable broth to keep it from drying out.

Paella can be made ahead of time and reheated before serving. Follow the recipe instructions up until the point of adding the rice. Instead, let the vegetable mixture cool and store it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When ready to serve, reheat the vegetable mixture and add the rice and broth.

FAQs

Can I use regular long-grain rice instead of Arborio rice?

It’s best to use Arborio rice, arroz bomba, or another short-grain rice for paella as it has a higher starch content and will result in a creamier texture. 

Can I omit the saffron?

Saffron is a key ingredient in paella, but if you cannot find it or do not wish to use it, you can omit it. The dish will still be delicious, but it’ll miss the vibrant yellow color and unique flavor that saffron brings.

Can I freeze paella?

Paella can be frozen, but the texture of the rice may suffer slightly upon reheating. To freeze, let the paella cool completely, transfer it to an airtight container, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.

Can I cook this paella over an open fire? 

Yes, you can cook this paella over an open fire using a paellera. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time and heat as needed.

Can I Make Vegan Paella In A Slow Cooker?

Yes, you can! You will need to use 4 cups of vegetable broth in this case. 

Instructions for making Spanish-style vegan paella in a slow cooker:

  • In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bell peppers and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the peppers are slightly softened. 
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and sauté for 2-3 more minutes, until the tomatoes have released their juices. 
  • Add the arborio rice and saffron threads to the skillet and stir to combine. Transfer the rice mixture to a slow cooker. 
  • Add the vegetable broth to the slow cooker and stir well. Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 4-5 hours, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. 
  • During the last 30 minutes of cooking, add the lima beans, green beans, and frozen peas to the slow cooker and stir to combine. 
  • Serve hot, with lemon wedges on the side. 

Spanish Vegan Paella

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 239kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of Arborio rice
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • ¼ tsp. saffron threads
  • 5 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 2 medium-sized fresh tomatoes chopped
  • ½ cup of frozen peas
  • 1 cup of green beans trimmed
  • 1 can 15 oz lima beans (garrofones), drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried rosemary

Instructions

  • Heat the paellera or a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and sauté the garlic until fragrant. Add the chopped bell pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes until they are tender.
  • Add the chopped fresh tomatoes, salt, and paprika, and cook for 5 minutes until they are soft and the juices have been released.
  • Add the arborio rice and sauté for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the saffron to the vegetable broth and stir until the saffron has dissolved. Pour the broth mixture into the skillet.
  • Add lima beans, green beans, and frozen peas. Stir gently to combine. Place the rosemary sprigs on top.
  • Cover the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Remove from heat and let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
  • Serve hot with a side salad and lemon for spritzing. Buen provecho!

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 239kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 638mg | Potassium: 281mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1423IU | Vitamin C: 55mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 2mg

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