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Vegetarian Paella Recipe

Combine fresh vegetables, tender rice, and colorful spices to create a filling and unique vegetarian paella meal.

From "Pretty Simple Cooking: 100 Delicious Vegetarian Recipes to Make You Fall in Love with Real Food"
July / August 2018

  • This paella dish deviates from traditional, meat-based versions, featuring fresh vegetables and saffron in each bite.
    Photo by Sonja and Alex Overhiser
  • It's estimated that Iran is responsible for 85 percent of the world's saffron production.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/nito

Yield: 6 servings

Paella is a popular, rice-based dish that pulls in a variety of ingredients, including seafood, meat, vegetables, and spices such as saffron. This variation is a vegetarian paella, atypical of traditional recipes, that features fresh produce and incorporates the highly prized saffron threads. You can either buy saffron threads for this recipe, or harvest your own from the saffron crocus plants in your garden.


• 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 handful green beans (about 3 ounces), ends removed
• 1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
• 4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
• 1 small head or 1/2 large cauliflower, chopped into florets
• 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, and sliced
• One 15-ounce can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes (or 2 cups diced, fresh tomatoes)
• 1-1/2 cups dry white arborio rice
• 1-1/2 tbsp smoked paprika (pimentón)
• Pinch saffron
• 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
• 3-1/2 cups vegetable broth
• One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
• 1 large roasted red pepper (freshly roasted or from a jar), thinly sliced


1. In a large skillet (at least 12 inches) or paella pan, drizzle a bit of olive oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the green beans and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until bright green, slightly tender, and charred in parts; remove from the pan and set aside. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to the hot pan, and sauté the onion until just translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, cauliflower, and mushrooms, and sauté for about 1 minute until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomatoes with their liquid, and cook until all liquid is reduced, about 6 to 7 minutes.

2. Stir in the rice, smoked paprika, saffron, and kosher salt. Stirring constantly, cook for about 1 minute until the rice is well-coated. Add the broth and chickpeas and stir to combine. Arrange the green beans on top, slightly pressing them into the rice, then sprinkle the red pepper strips over the top. Bring to a simmer.

3. Allow the liquid to slowly absorb at a medium simmer, gently bubbling; do not stir. Avoiding stirring allows for a bit of crusty rice on the bottom and edges of the pan, while the remainder of the rice stays tender. Cook until the rice is al dente and all bubbling has stopped, about 25 to 30 minutes depending on the pan. Take care that the simmer is gentle; if the heat is too high, the rice on the bottom may burn. (If you’re using a paella pan, place it across two stovetop burners and rotate it occasionally to make sure all sides cook evenly.) When the rice is done, remove from the heat and serve immediately.

• Learn more about saffron for your garden in Grow and Harvest Your own Saffron.

Excerpted from A Couple Cooks | Pretty Simple Cooking: 100 Delicious Vegetarian Recipes to Make You Fall in Love with Real Food by Sonja Overhiser and Alex Overhiser. Copyright © 2018. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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