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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

Spanish Vegetarian Paella with Quinoa

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This gluten-free, mouth-watering, vegetarian paella is healthy, hearty and packed full of aromatic and smoky Spanish flavors. Made with quinoa, beans and a lot of fresh vegetables, this classic dish gets a tasty make-over!

finished vegetarian paella made with fresh vegetables and quinoa, on a white plate

I love feeding my family food that is hearty but completely healthy. This vegetarian paella is sure to keep you satisfied and full, while tantalizing your taste buds. Not only that, but it also makes lovely leftovers to have around for a light lunch – so it’s great for meal planning too!

This absolutely delicious vegetarian paella recipe is exactly what you need when you’re craving comfort food. Made with lots of veggies like fresh zucchini, peas, artichoke hearts, bell peppers, quinoa, and fire-roasted diced tomatoes, what could be better? Each bite gives you the perfect amount of saffron, ground cumin, a little bit of heat from cayenne pepper, and lots of yummy garlic. 

This recipe makes about 6 servings, and each serving has only ~300 calories, with 13g fiber and 13g protein. Making this paella always transports me to my travels to Granada and Seville, where we would eat paella under the stars at outdoor cafes, during the warm Spanish summer nights.

I’m very excited to be sharing this dish with you because I’m pretty sure you’re going to love everything about it. You honestly can’t go wrong with this paella recipe and it’s easy to make adjustments to add extra flavors and textures as well. I hope this recipe makes you feel like you’ve gotten a little bit of Spain in your own kitchen, and you love it as much as we did!

Tools and Equipment You’ll Need

Recipe Ingredients & Notes

vegetarian paella ingredients
  • Vegetables: This recipe calls for bell peppers, artichokes, zucchini, peas and tomatoes — but you can change up the veggies based on whatever you like! Asparagus, yellow squash, or even sweet potatoes would all taste great in this dish.
  • Protein: This is a vegan paella, but it’s still super high in plant protein! I used quinoa and kidney beans, but you could use chickpeas, white beans, or even lentils!
  • Rice: Typically, paella recipes use a short to medium grain rice like Valencia or Arborio. But those types of rice are super high in refined carbs, and not the healthiest option. Instead, I used quinoa which is actually a complete protein disguised as a grain! You could also use brown rice if you wanted, or a mix of quinoa and brown rice would be great as well.
  • Spices: Saffron, chili powder, cumin and cayenne are the star spices in this dish. But you can change up the quantities or the spices themselves based on your preferences. Saffron can be pricey, so if you can’t find it or it’s out of your budget, use ground turmeric instead.

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1: Put the quinoa into a large bowl. Cover with water and stir well to wash the grain. Pour off the water and then repeat the washing process.

quinoa uncooked in a white bowl

Step 2: Sauté onion and garlic in a deep non-stick skillet with a little (2 tsp) extra virgin olive oil until soft. Add the quinoa and saffron and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes.

quinoa and onions in a pan

Step 3: Add paprika, cumin, cayenne, chili powder, tomatoes, peppers, beans, salt, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to very low, and cook covered for 15 minutes.

veggies, quinoa and beans cooking in a large pot

Step 4: Place the zucchini on top of the quinoa and re-cover. Cook for about 5 more minutes, until quinoa is done. Remove the cover, stir in the peas, and cook uncovered until peas are warm and all liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

zucchini and quinoa cooking in a large pot

Step 5: Season with a few splashes of lemon juice, adjust spices and salt as needed, and stir in a few tbsp of sliced almonds. If you’re using artichoke hearts and/or olives, arrange them on top and let them heat through for about 5 minutes before serving.

finished paella in a large pot on the stovetop

Step 6: Serve each plate with a sprinkling of sliced almonds on top, parsley, and a wedge or a slice of lemon (if you want a bit more lemon flavor).

finished vegetarian paella made with fresh vegetables and quinoa

What Makes This Vegetarian Paella Healthy?

  • High in Fiber and Protein: This vegetarian paella might be meatless, but it is still packed with protein! Each serving has over 13 grams of protein (and 13 grams of fiber!) That’s over 40% of your daily fiber needs.
  • Low in Calories: Each giant serving of this paella has less than 300 calories! So you can enjoy this dish completely guilt-free and even go back for seconds!
  • Vitamins and Minerals: I could go on and on, telling you all the vitamins and minerals that are in this vegetarian paella. I want to point out a few of the vitamins and minerals you will be getting every time you eat this paella recipe. Protein, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, and vitamin K! 

Will Kids Enjoy This Vegan Paella Recipe?

Yes, for the most part, kids will love to eat this vegetarian paella recipe. If your kids struggle with eating vegetables, that’s okay. Give them little portions at a time, and encourage them to try just one bite (and if they do, celebrate it!) You can also dice up the veggies super small for pickier kids, or use veggies you know they will like. For spice-sensitive kids, just reduce or omit the hotter spices based on their preferences.

finished vegetarian paella made with fresh vegetables and quinoa, on a white plate

Recipe FAQs

How Do You Store Leftover Paella?

Refrigerator: Allow the vegetarian paella to cool completely. Transfer it to an airtight food storage container and keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days.
To Freeze: Let the paella cool, then transfer to an airtight container. It will keep in the freezer for up to 2 months.
To Reheat: If frozen, let it thaw in the fridge before reheating. Then transfer to an oven safe dish and warm it in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Alternatively, transfer to a large pan on the stovetop with a couple tsp of olive oil, and heat over medium low heat until the paella is completely warmed through.

What Do You Serve With Vegetable Paella?

In many cases, we don’t serve anything with this homemade paella recipe. Because it is packed with so many vegetables, beans, and spices you really don’t feel like you need anything else to go with it. However, if you’re hosting a party and you want to serve something a little bit extra than that is more than fine as well. You could go with some gluten free bread, a bright and colorful salad, or a tray of fresh vegetables.

What Kind of Rice Do You need for Vegan Paella?

Bomba or Calasparra Rice are the two most common rices used when making a paella recipe. You just need a short grain rice that will cook up nicely – Arborio Rice would also work well. However, none of these types of rices count as whole grains, so I opted for quinoa instead! You could use brown rice as well, or a combination of brown rice + quinoa.

What is Socarrat?

Socarrat is the crispy golden crust that you’ll find on the bottom of a traditional paella dish. The way you get this is by not stirring the rice, and letting the broth cook off until the bottom of the paella gets crispy, but not burnt! It can go from crispy to burnt super fast, so you have to watch it carefully and pull it off the heat as soon as you see it getting golden brown. You don’t have to have socarrat in order to have a great paella though! I made mine without it, and it turned out delicious regardless!

Vegetable Paella Variations

  • Instead of kidney beans, try chickpeas, white beans, or even lentils!
  • Garnish with fresh herbs such as parsley, oregano, or basil.
  • Try switching up the vegetables: olives, mushrooms, asparagus, or squash would all work great!
  • Instead of quinoa, try a combination of brown rice & quinoa, You could also try wild rice.

Top Tips For Making Vegetarian Paella

  • Make sure that you go ahead and rinse the quinoa before you begin cooking. If you don’t sometimes the quinoa will develop a little bit of a bitter or soapy taste that isn’t very pleasant.
  • You’ll need to cook the paella until the water or liquid has absorbed which usually takes around 15 minutes. In some cases you may need to cook it a little bit longer if it takes longer to absorb the liquid. 
  • If you turn up the heat at the end of cooking the paella, you’ll start to develop that golden toasted layer at the bottom of the pan (socarrat) – but be careful not to walk away from the stove or your paella will burn!
  • Don’t stir the paella while cooking. Just let it absorb all the flavors in the pan and fluff it with a fork when you’re ready to serve.
  • You don’t need a paella pan, but I do recommend a large relatively shallow pan to maximize the surface area that gets cooked at one time.
finished vegetarian paella made with fresh vegetables and quinoa, on a white plate

Check Out These Other Droolworthy Entree Recipes!

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finished vegetarian paella made with fresh vegetables and quinoa
Print Recipe
5 from 5 votes

Vegetarian Paella with Quinoa

This gluten-free, mouth-watering, vegetarian paella is healthy, hearty and packed full of aromatic Spanish flavors. Made with quinoa, beans and a lot of fresh vegetables, this classic dish gets a tasty make-over!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mediterranean
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 283.8kcal
Author: Anjali Shah

Ingredients

  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/4 tsp saffron crushed
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1.5 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper
  • 14 oz fire roasted diced tomatoes 1 can
  • 1 yellow bell pepper chopped
  • 1 14 oz can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained can also use chickpeas
  • 2.5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 medium zucchini quartered lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 cup peas fresh or frozen
  • 1 tsp salt more or less t taste
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 can artichoke hearts rinsed and cut into quarters (optional)
  • Sliced almonds
  • olives (Kalamata or your favorite kind) optional
  • chopped fresh parsley optional, as garnish

Instructions

  • Put the quinoa into a large bowl. Cover with water and stir well to wash the grain. Pour off the water and then repeat the washing process.
  • Sauté onion and garlic in a deep non-stick skillet with a little (2 tsp) extra virgin olive oil until soft. Add the quinoa and saffron and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes.
  • Add paprika, cumin, cayenne, chili powder, tomatoes, peppers, beans, salt, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to very low, and cook covered for 15 minutes.
  • Place the zucchini on top of the quinoa and re-cover. Cook for about 5 more minutes, until quinoa is done. Remove the cover, stir in the peas, and cook uncovered until peas are warm and all liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  • Season with a few splashes of lemon juice, adjust spices and salt as needed, and stir in a few tbsp of sliced almonds. If you're using artichoke hearts and/or olives, arrange them on top and let them heat through for about 5 minutes before serving.
  • Serve each plate with a sprinkling of sliced almonds on top, parsley, and a wedge or a slice of lemon (if you want a bit more lemon flavor).

Video

https://youtu.be/fs759j_WnqE

Notes

Vegetable Paella Variations
  • Instead of kidney beans, try chickpeas, white beans, or even lentils!
  • Garnish with fresh herbs such as parsley, oregano, or basil.
  • Try switching up the vegetables: olives, mushrooms, asparagus, or squash would all work great!
  • Instead of quinoa, try a combination of brown rice & quinoa, You could also try wild rice.
Top Tips For Making Vegetarian Paella
  • Make sure that you go ahead and rinse the quinoa before you begin cooking. If you don’t sometimes the quinoa will develop a little bit of a bitter or soapy taste that isn’t very pleasant.
  • You’ll need to cook the paella until the water or liquid has absorbed which usually takes around 15 minutes. In some cases you may need to cook it a little bit longer if it takes longer to absorb the liquid. 
  • If you turn up the heat at the end of cooking the paella, you’ll start to develop that golden toasted layer at the bottom of the pan (socarrat) – but be careful not to walk away from the stove or your paella will burn!
  • Don’t stir the paella while cooking. Just let it absorb all the flavors in the pan and fluff it with a fork when you’re ready to serve.
  • You don’t need a paella pan, but I do recommend a large relatively shallow pan to maximize the surface area that gets cooked at one time.
Adapted from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

Nutrition

Calories: 283.8kcal | Carbohydrates: 50.3g | Protein: 13.5g | Fat: 4.7g | Sodium: 993.6mg | Fiber: 13.5g | Sugar: 6.5g

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