The Best Vegetable Paella Recipe (Easy and Vegetarian)

The Best Vegetable Paella Recipe (Easy and Vegetarian)

This is the best Vegetable Paella Recipe! It comes together incredibly quickly, is packed with nutritious vegetables, is family friendly, and can be customized with additional vegetables or protein. It comes out perfectly every time! I know you'll love adding it to your family's dinner rotation.

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What is Paella?

Spanish Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that originated in Valencia. It's a flavorful rice dish cooked in a special pan, a wide paella pan. The key ingredients in authentic paella include rice, saffron, and a combination of meats, sometimes beans and vegetables. The dish is known for its vibrant colors and rich flavors, with a slightly crispy layer of rice at the bottom of the pan, known as "socarrat," adding a delightful texture. Paella is a symbol of communal dining, often prepared and enjoyed during special occasions or gatherings in Spain.

The word "paella" is derived from the Old French word "paelle," which means pan. In Valencian, the local language of the Valencia region in Spain where paella originated, the term specifically refers to the pan in which the dish is cooked. Over time, the dish itself came to be known as "paella" due to its association with the distinctive pan used in its preparation.

Why you Should Try this Delicious Vegetarian Version of Paella

Vegetarian Paella Recipe, large shallow pan full of paella ready to eat

My Paella Recipe is a delicious vegetarian version that is:

  • Vegan
  • Gluten-Free
  • Full of healthy whole foods
  • The perfect meal for a busy weeknight
  • Includes simple ingredients
  • Simplifies the cooking process, by including an ovenproof skillet and baking
  • Full of authentic Spanish flavor
  • Customizable
  • Family friendly

The Ingredients in this Vegetable Paella Recipe Provide Many Healthy Benefits

  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (3 T): This heart-healthy oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce bad cholesterol levels. It's also loaded with antioxidants, supporting overall well-being.
  2. Zucchini or Yellow Squash (2 medium, sliced): Packed with vitamins and minerals, zucchini contributes to healthy digestion and provides a low-calorie addition to the paella.
  3. Baby Bella or White Mushrooms (4 oz., sliced): Mushrooms are a great source of antioxidants, selenium, and vitamin D. They add a savory umami flavor to the dish while promoting immune health.
  4. Bell Peppers (2, chopped): Bell peppers (red pepper or any color) are high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that supports skin health and boosts the immune system. Their vibrant colors also indicate a variety of beneficial phytochemicals.
  5. Yellow Onion (½, diced): Onions contain antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. They add flavor to the paella while contributing to overall health.
  6. Garlic (5 cloves, chopped): Garlic is known for its immune-boosting properties and contains allicin, a compound with potential heart health benefits. It adds depth of flavor to the dish.
  7. Smoked Paprika (1 t): Paprika is a spice that not only enhances the flavor but also contains antioxidants and may have anti-inflammatory effects.
  8. Saffron Threads (Pinch): Saffron adds a distinctive color and flavor. It has potential anti-depressant properties and may have antioxidant effects. If substituted with turmeric, you still get a warm color along with anti-inflammatory benefits.
  9. 14 oz. Can Diced Tomatoes: Tomatoes are rich in vitamins C and K, as well as antioxidants like lycopene. They contribute to heart health and support bone health. Fresh tomatoes could also be substituted. Fire-roasted tomatoes are also excellent in this dish.
  10. Short Grain Rice (1 ½ cup): The type of rice definitely matters! Choosing the right rice is one of the keys to this vegetable paella recipe. Most grocery stores will have a selection of Spanish rice choose from. Short grain rice such as (bomba rice or arborio rice) are the best choices for paella rice. Rice is a good source of energy-providing carbohydrates. Brown rice can also be substituted for the white rice. Like the white rice, brown rice which is short grain will be the best rice for this recipe.
  11. Green Peas (1 cup): Peas add a burst of sweetness and are rich in fiber, promoting digestive health. They also provide plant-based protein.
  12. Vegetable Broth or Vegetable Stock (3 ½ cups): Low in calories and often low in fat, vegetable broth serves as a flavorful liquid base for the paella. It enhances the overall taste while keeping the dish vegetarian. If you are not concerned about keeping the dish vegetarian, chicken broth works well. Read more about vegetable broth and various ways to make your own.
  13. Lemon Wedges (For serving and garnish): Lemons provide a zesty brightness and are an excellent source of vitamin C. They can enhance the absorption of iron from plant-based sources.

This Vegetarian Paella Recipe can be customized with additional vegetables and proteins. Options include: artichoke hearts, green beans, marinated red bell pepper, beans (fava beans work well), tofu, Kalamata olives, or any extra vegetables of your choice.

How to Make this Easy Vegetable Paella Recipe

  1. Prepare the Vegetables for your veggie paella: In a cast-iron large skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Cook the zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and bell peppers until they're tender and get a bit of a golden-brown color. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt to season. Once done, set these flavorful veggies aside.
  2. Sauté the Onions and Garlic: In the same skillet, add 2 tablespoons oil. Over medium heat, cook the diced onions until they turn translucent. Introduce the garlic, a pinch more salt, smoked paprika, and saffron (or turmeric). Cook for an additional 30 seconds, allowing the fragrant spices to infuse the dish.
  3. Incorporate Tomatoes and Rice: Add the diced tomatoes with their juices and the short grain rice to the skillet. Stir thoroughly to ensure that each grain of rice gets coated with the rich flavors of the onions, garlic, and spices.
  4. Bring Back the Cooked Vegetables: Reintroduce the cooked vegetables (zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and bell peppers) back to the skillet with the rice mixture. Also, add the peas. Stir well
  5. Add Vegetable Broth: Pour in the vegetable broth and bring the mixture to a boil. 
  6. Transfer to the Oven: Once everything is well-mingled, transfer the skillet to the preheated oven. Allow it to bake for approximately 20 minutes (cooking time may vary slightly) or until the rice is fully cooked, and the liquid is absorbed. The cooking pan used in my vegetarian paella recipe breaks from other paella recipes you may have seen. Although I do not use the traditional paella pan, using a cast iron skillet allows for baking this dish which I have found to be the easiest way to prepare the vegan paella. The rice cooks perfectly this way!
  7. Optional Crisping (Stovetop): For an extra layer of texture, you can put the skillet back on the stovetop at medium heat. Cook until the bottom of the rice forms a crispy rice crust on the bottom.
  8. Garnish and Serve: Top your paella with fresh parsley and serve it with lemon wedges. Squeeze a little bit of lemon juice on top of the rice for serving. I also like to top the dish with a few sliced peppers for additional garnish.

Serving Suggestions for Veggie Paella

We enjoy this paella as a weeknight meal and even prepare it to entertain. To round out the meal, you can serve your vegetarian paella recipe with a crunchy baguette, a big green salad, and bit of red wine (alcoholic or NA). Of course meat or other protein can be added to this dish.

Vegetarian Paella Recipe, large pan of veggie paella garnished with parsley and lemon

Frequently Asked Questions about Vegetable Paella Recipes

What is the most important spice in paella?

The most important spice in paella is saffron. Saffron not only imparts a distinctive golden color to the dish but also adds a unique and complex flavor. It contributes a floral and slightly earthy taste, elevating the overall profile of the paella. While saffron is key to traditional paella, some variations may use turmeric as a substitute for a similar color and a hint of warm, bitter notes.

What is a substitute for saffron in paella?

Saffron can be a bit difficult to find in grocery stores and it on the expensive side. As mentioned, a common substitute for saffron in paella is turmeric. While turmeric doesn't exactly replicate saffron's unique flavor, it provides a similar vibrant yellow color and a warm, slightly bitter taste. Keep in mind that turmeric has a potent color, so start with a small amount and adjust as needed.

How do you store this vegetable paella recipe?

This recipe is not freezer friendly. However, leftovers can be kept in an airtight container for several days. This vegan paella is a great way to have leftovers for lunches for the coming week.

What is the best rice to use for paella?

The best rice to use for paella is short-grain rice, specifically a variety known as Bomba rice. Bomba rice is traditional in many Spanish paella recipes because of its ability to absorb liquid and flavors while maintaining a firm texture. Its short and round grains help create the characteristic paella dish with a slightly chewy exterior and a tender interior. If Bomba rice is unavailable, you can also use other short-grain rice varieties like Calasparra rice or Arborio as alternatives. It's essential to choose rice that can absorb the broth or liquid while staying a bit al dente, preserving the distinct texture of a well-made paella. 

Vegetarian Paella Recipe, pan of vegan paella ready to eat

Vegetable Paella Recipe

This Vegetarian Paella recipe comes together incredibly quickly, is packed with nutritious vegetables, is family friendly and customizable. It comes out perfectly every time!
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Spanish
Servings 6


  • 1 oven safe skillet (such as cast iron)


  • 3 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 medium zucchini or yellow squash sliced and cut in quarters
  • 4 oz. baby bella or white mushrooms sliced
  • 2 small bell peppers roughly chopped
  • ½ yellow onion diced
  • 5 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 t. smoked paprika
  • salt
  • Pinch of saffron threads turmeric can be substituted
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cup short grain rice
  • 1 cup peas
  • 3 ½ cups vegetable broth
  • Parsley for garnish
  • Lemons for serving and garnish


  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • In a cast iron (or oven-safe) skillet, heat 2 T olive oil over medium heat. Cook the zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and bell peppers until tender and a bit browned. Season generously with salt. Set the vegetables aside.
  • Using the same skillet, add 1-2 T olive oil. Over medium heat, cook the onions until they are translucent. Add in the garlic, a pinch more salt, paprika, and saffron (or turmeric), cooking for an additional 30 seconds.
  • Add the tomatoes with their juices and the rice. Stir to combine, making sure the rice is completely covered in the flavors.
  • Add the cooked vegetables (zucchini or squash, mushrooms, and peppers) back to the skillet. Also add the peas. Stir to combine everything.
  • Add the vegetable broth and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked and the liquid is absorbed.
  • Put the skillet back on the stove at medium heat. Cook until the bottom of the rice begins to crisp. (Optional)
  • Top with parsley and lemon wedges for serving.
Keyword Rice, Vegan, vegetarian

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