How to Make Chicken Paella: A Delicious Spanish Dish


Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that originated in the Valencia region. It is a flavorful and vibrant rice dish that is often made with a variety of ingredients, including chicken, seafood, and vegetables. In this article, we will focus on how to make a delicious chicken paella, known as “paella de pollo” in Spanish. We will explore the history of paella, the key ingredients and techniques involved in making this dish, and provide a step-by-step guide to help you create a mouthwatering chicken paella in your own kitchen.

The History of Paella

Paella has a rich history that dates back to the 18th century in the Valencia region of Spain. It was originally a peasant dish, cooked over an open fire in a large, shallow pan called a “paellera.” The ingredients used in paella were often determined by what was available locally, such as rice, vegetables, and meat.

Over time, paella gained popularity and became a staple dish in Spanish cuisine. It is now enjoyed throughout Spain and around the world, with various regional variations and ingredient combinations. Paella is not only a delicious meal but also a symbol of Spanish culture and hospitality.

The Key Ingredients

Before we dive into the recipe, let’s take a look at the key ingredients that make up a flavorful chicken paella:

  • Chicken: Use bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, such as thighs and drumsticks, for maximum flavor.
  • Rice: Short-grain rice, such as Bomba or Calasparra, is traditionally used in paella as it absorbs flavors well and maintains its shape.
  • Sofrito: This is a mixture of sautéed onions, garlic, and tomatoes that forms the base of the paella.
  • Broth: Chicken broth is used to cook the rice and infuse it with flavor. You can use homemade broth or store-bought.
  • Saffron: This expensive spice adds a distinct flavor and vibrant yellow color to the paella. If saffron is not available, you can use turmeric as a substitute.
  • Vegetables: Traditional paella includes vegetables like bell peppers, peas, and green beans. These add color, texture, and freshness to the dish.
  • Seasonings: Paprika, salt, and pepper are commonly used to season the chicken and rice.
  • Olive oil: High-quality olive oil is essential for sautéing the ingredients and adding richness to the paella.

The Cooking Process

Now that we have a good understanding of the key ingredients, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of making a delicious chicken paella:

Step 1: Prepare the Chicken

Start by seasoning the chicken pieces with salt, pepper, and paprika. Heat olive oil in a large paella pan or a wide, shallow skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook until browned on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.

Step 2: Make the Sofrito

In the same pan, add diced onions and minced garlic. Sauté until the onions become translucent. Then, add diced tomatoes and cook until they soften and release their juices. This mixture is known as the sofrito and forms the flavor base of the paella.

Step 3: Add the Rice and Broth

Add the rice to the pan and stir it into the sofrito, ensuring that each grain is coated with the mixture. Toast the rice for a couple of minutes to enhance its nutty flavor. Then, pour in the chicken broth and add saffron threads or turmeric. Stir well to combine all the ingredients.

Step 4: Arrange the Chicken and Vegetables

Place the browned chicken pieces on top of the rice, pushing them slightly into the mixture. Add the vegetables, such as sliced bell peppers, peas, and green beans, on top of the rice as well. This arrangement allows the flavors to meld together as the paella cooks.

Step 5: Cook and Simmer

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil. Allow the paella to simmer for about 20-25 minutes, or until the rice is cooked and has absorbed the liquid. Avoid stirring the paella during this time to prevent the rice from becoming mushy.

Step 6: Let it Rest

Once the rice is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and let it rest for a few minutes. This resting period allows the flavors to further develop and the rice to settle.

Step 7: Serve and Enjoy

Garnish the paella with freshly chopped parsley and lemon wedges. Serve it directly from the pan, allowing everyone to dig in and enjoy the delicious flavors of the chicken paella.


1. Can I use boneless chicken for paella?

While bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces are traditionally used in paella, you can use boneless chicken if you prefer. However, keep in mind that bone-in chicken adds more flavor to the dish.

2. Can I use a different type of rice?

Short-grain rice, such as Bomba or Calasparra, is recommended for paella as it absorbs flavors well and maintains its shape. However, if you cannot find these varieties, you can use Arborio rice as a substitute.

3. Can I add other ingredients to the paella?

Absolutely! Paella is a versatile dish, and you can customize it to your liking. Some popular additions include shrimp, mussels, chorizo, and artichokes. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time and technique accordingly.

4. How do I achieve the perfect socarrat?

Socarrat refers to the crispy, caramelized layer of rice that forms at the bottom of the paella pan. To achieve this, increase the heat to medium-high for the last few minutes of cooking. Listen for a crackling sound and smell the toasty aroma. Be careful not to burn the rice.

5. Can I make paella in advance?

Paella is best enjoyed fresh, but you can make it in advance and reheat it if needed. However, keep in mind that the rice may lose some of its texture upon reheating. To reheat, add a splash of broth or



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