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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

Vegan Paella

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Vegan paella is comforting, flavorful, and family-friendly. It’s made with cooked brown rice, spicy tofu, earthy mushrooms, veggies, a hint of fresh lemon juice, and the perfect amount of seasonings. It’s so delicious that you won’t miss the meat – I promise!

​If you’re looking for the perfect meal to please everyone in your family that happens to taste great as leftovers, then this recipe is for you! Everything about this vegan paella recipe is flavorful, fragrant, easy to make, and leaves a lasting impression on anyone who tastes it.

Most vegetarian or vegan paella recipes are very tasty but don’t have any added protein, so they aren’t very filling. But this vegan Spanish paella is spicy, hearty, and packed with protein – which helps keep you full and satisfied long after you’ve finished your meal.

This dish took me right back to Spain, and when served with a glass of wine, felt like I was in an authentic Spanish restaurant!

👩🏽‍🍳 Why You’ll Love Vegan Paella

  • Protein: This meal is PACKED with protein and happens to be vegan too. You will get 11 grams of plant-based protein in every serving. 
  • Plant Based: This is a vegan version of traditional Spanish paella but it tastes just like the the traditional recipe!
  • Fiber: Whole grains and veggies give you 7 grams of fiber in each serving of this vegan paella.
  • Low Calorie: You won’t believe it, but each giant serving of this authentic paella is only about 200 calories. That means you can go back for seconds completely guilt-free!
  • Feeds A Crowd: This is a popular rice dish for feeding the whole family or serving at a dinner party. It makes a lot of paella so it’s great for feeding a crowd!

Latest Recipe Video!

🥘 Ingredients

These simple ingredients are easy to whip up quickly to make this traditional Spanish rice dish. All of these ingredients can easily be found at most grocery stores. Here’s what you need:

vegan paella ingredients
  • Paella Rice: I chose brown rice instead of the traditional Bomba rice for added whole grains and fiber. Brown rice also makes this a gluten free paella. But if you want to match a classic paella, use Bomba, Arborio, or Calasparra rice. I thought the brown rice honestly tasted just as good!
  • Saffron: Saffron has a very earthy, floral, sweet flavor. It’s important to get a higher quality saffron that’s fresh for the best taste. Saffron threads are important for getting that authentic paella flavor into this Spanish dish!
  • Tofu: For protein! It also has a meaty texture, so it replaces the meat typically used in paella recipes. Choose extra firm tofu.
  • Veggies: You can choose any you like — I added bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, onions, corn, tomatoes, and peas.
  • Spices: You’ll need cumin, sweet paprika, smoked paprika, salt, cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper, and garlic for this paella with vegetables.
  • Vegetable Broth: Vegetable stock helps to deepen the flavor of this tofu paella and allows it to simmer longer on the stovetop.
  • Lemon Juice: Don’t leave this out! It’s critical for adding brightness and acidity to your finished veggie paella dish.

🍲 Ingredient Substitutions

  • Rice: You can use another kind of rice – short grain rice varieties like Bomba, Arborio rice (risotto rice) or Calasparra are good options for this tofu paella recipe.
  • Vegetables: Feel free to use whatever variety of vegetables you have on hand! Zucchini, artichoke hearts, olives, green peas, roasted red bell pepper, green beans, and yellow squash would all work well as vegetables in paella.
  • Saffron: Saffron is expensive, so for a more budget-friendly alternative (or if you just don’t have saffron on hand), you can use turmeric instead!
  • Meat Alternatives: If you want to add some meat-like flair to the dish, try adding chopped vegan sausage, seitan, or make a vegan chorizo paella.

🔪 How To Make Vegan Paella

Here’s how to make this easy vegan paella recipe. For more detailed instructions and nutrition facts, see the recipe card below.

Prepare The Tofu: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat (you can use any large pan, or a cast iron skillet as well). Add tofu when olive oil is heated through, season with salt. Sauté 10 minutes, or until tofu is browned, stirring occasionally.

tofu sauteeing in a pan

Cook The Mushrooms: Add mushrooms, and sauté 4 to 5 minutes over medium heat, or until mushrooms release liquid and begin to brown.

onions and mushrooms added to a pan

Prepare The Rice: Meanwhile, cook your brown rice. Add in saffron at the same time you add the rice to the boiling water. Stir and cook on low – let sit until all water is absorbed. Back to the tofu/mushroom mixture: Stir in carrots, corn, tomatoes, garlic, and all of your spices (including salt & pepper), and sauté 2-5 minutes more.

peppers and seasonings added to a pan

Add Rice To Veggies: Stir in rice, and about 4 oz veggie broth. Cover with lid, and simmer 10-15 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Add peas on surface (do not stir yet), cover, and allow peas to steam 1 to 2 minutes.

peas added to paella mixture

Garnish: Remove pan from heat, and stir in lemon juice and green onions, and garnish with lemon wedges on top of the rice. Taste this meatless paella with tofu, and adjust seasonings as needed.

vegan paella with tofu served in a large skillet

Serve and enjoy!

Forkful of vegan paella with vegetables and tofu served in a bowl.

💭 Expert Tips

  • Allow The Ingredients To Cook: Once you add the rice to the pan, I know it’s tempting to stir it several times. But don’t stir it; because that will give you more of a risotto like consistency. For authentic paella, you want it to absorb the liquid and get a nice crust on the bottom of the pan (this crust, made up of crispy rice, is called the soccarat!)
  • Use Your Knife Skills: Chop all your veggies into evenly size bite-size pieces. It’s much easier to eat when everything is uniform, but also it will cook much more evenly as well. 
  • Don’t Skimp On The Citrus: The fresh lemon juice gives the vegan paella a little bit of extra zest, so don’t skip adding it. Always try to use fresh lemon juice, not the bottled stuff. It makes a huge difference when it comes to flavor. 
  • Slow Cooker: If you’ve used a crockpot to make a rice-based dish before, just adjust this recipe to your typical cook times for rice and veggies in a slow cooker. 

📖 Variations

This Spanish vegan paella is already delicious as is! But if you want to change things up a bit, here are a few different ways you can make it.

  • Jackfruit Paella: Instead of the tofu, use canned jackfruit torn into shreds for a meaty texture.
  • White Wine: Add a splash of wine in addition to the vegetable broth for another layer of flavor.
  • Bean Paella: Use a combination of beans and legumes like chickpeas, black beans, and lentils to provide protein and texture instead of, or along with, the tofu.
  • Spices: For a spicy kick, add red pepper flakes, black pepper, or more cayenne pepper powder.
  • Garnish: Sprinkle more spring onions over top or add some green olives or kalamata olives into this vegetarian paella recipe.
  • Roasted Vegetable Paella: Roast your vegetables in the oven before adding them to the paella for a deeper, caramelized flavor. This can include roasted red peppers, eggplant, and cherry tomatoes.

🍽 Serving Suggestions

This hearty dish hardly needs any accompaniment, but there are plenty of sides to serve with this vegan vegetable paella if you’d like!

  • Lemon: While there’s already lemon in the dish, serve some lemon wedges alongside this veg paella for an even more bright flavor.
  • Soup: Serve any style of soup you like, but this cucumber gazpacho will pair perfectly. 
  • Bread: Soak up the flavors of the paella by dipping crusty bread into it. Get a store-bought loaf, or try making homemade gluten-free bread.
  • Appetizers: Before serving this veggie paella recipe, try serving starters Spanish tapas-style. Some great options are marinated veggies, olives, mushroom fritters, or crispy air fryer tempeh

🙌 Dietary Adaptations

This paella is already gluten free, vegan, low calorie, high protein, and low sugar, thanks to the brown rice and plant based ingredients. Here is one more way you can adjust this recipe:

Low Carb: For those living a low-carb or keto lifestyle, you can switch out the rice for cauliflower rice, adjusting cooking times as necessary.

🫙 Storage Directions

Leftover paella tastes great because the flavors just have more time to blend together!

  • To Store In The Refrigerator: Transfer paella that has cooled to room temperature in an airtight container and place it in the fridge. It will keep for up to 4-5 days in the fridge.
  • To Store In The Freezer: While technically you can freeze this recipe, the rice might be a little mushy when you defrost it. That said, it will keep in the freezer for up to 4 months in an airtight, freezer-safe container!

❓Recipe FAQs

WHAT IS THE SECRET INGREDIENT IN PAELLA?

The secret to the best paella is using real saffron for the most amazing flavor. Saffron is also what gives paella its beautiful golden color! Two other secrets to making paella super flavorful are: 1) Make homemade stock instead of using store bought stock and 2) Make sure you use the correct cooking technique to get that “socarrat” (the crispy rice on the bottom) done perfectly.

What Type of Rice is Best for Paella?

Technically, to make traditional authentic paella, the best rice to use is a Spanish rice called Bomba (or Calasparra) rice. But really, any short-grain rice can be a good substitute for Bomba rice. Paella rice is a refined white grain, so for a healthier swap, I recommend brown rice, which has a similar hearty texture but is much more nutritious! For a low-carb option, you can also try cauliflower rice. For a higher protein option, make a vegan quinoa paella!

Do I need a Traditional Paella Pan To Make This Recipe?

The short answer is – no you don’t! A large paella pan is great if you’re going to be making paella very frequently, but if you’re only going to make this recipe once in a while, you can just use the next best thing – which is a large shallow skillet. I recommend a shallow pan with a flat bottom that’s at least 12 inches wide – the larger and more shallow the better so the rice can cook evenly.

single serving of vegan paella with tofu with a skillet of paella in the background

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📋 Recipe Card

🎥 Watch How to Make It

https://youtu.be/-6r0RfUMTl0
Print Recipe
5 from 10 votes

Vegan Paella

Vegan paella is comforting, flavorful, and family-friendly. It’s made with cooked brown rice, spicy tofu, earthy mushrooms, veggies, a hint of fresh lemon juice, and the perfect amount of seasonings. It’s so delicious that you won’t miss the meat – I promise!
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Spanish, Vegan
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 228kcal
Author: Anjali Shah

Ingredients

Shop Ingredients on Jupiter

Instructions

  • Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add tofu when oil is heated through, season with salt. Sauté 10 minutes, or until tofu is browned, stirring occasionally.
  • Add mushrooms, and sauté 4 to 5 minutes, or until mushrooms release liquid and begin to brown.
  • Meanwhile, cook your brown rice. Add in saffron at the same time you add the rice to the boiling water. Stir and cook on low – let sit until all water is absorbed. Back to the tofu/mushroom mixture: Stir in carrots, corn, tomatoes, garlic, and all of your spices (including salt & pepper), and sauté 2-5 minutes more.
  • Stir in rice, and about 4 oz veggie broth. Cover with lid, and simmer 10-15 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed.
  • Add peas on surface (do not stir yet), cover, and allow peas to steam 1 to 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and stir in lemon juice and green onions. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Notes

  • Allow The Ingredients To Cook: Once you add the rice to the pan, I know it’s tempting to stir it several times. But don’t stir it; because that will give you more of a risotto like consistency. For authentic paella, you want it to absorb the liquid and get a nice crust on the bottom of the pan (this crust, made up of crispy rice, is called the soccarat!)
  • Use Your Knife Skills: Chop all your veggies into evenly size bite-size pieces. It’s much easier to eat when everything is uniform, but also it will cook much more evenly as well. 
  • Don’t Skimp On The Citrus: The fresh lemon juice gives the vegan paella a little bit of extra zest, so don’t skip adding it. Always try to use fresh lemon juice, not the bottled stuff. It makes a huge difference when it comes to flavor. 
  • Slow Cooker: If you’ve used a crockpot to make a rice-based dish before, just adjust this recipe to your typical cook times for rice and veggies in a slow cooker.

Nutrition

Calories: 228kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 854mg | Potassium: 967mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 7g

30 responses to “Vegan Paella”

  1. Hey, your Vegan Paella recipe is a total hit in my kitchen! The vibrant flavors and hearty mix of veggies make it a regular on my dinner rotation.5 stars

  2. In my experience, colorful food tends to be really tasty. My mouth is watering just looking at the recipe! I’ll try this vegan paella really soon!5 stars

  3. This is so awesome! I love paella and this comes with very rich, nutritious, and healthy ingredients. Who would have thought of having vegetable paella? Genius!

    • Thanks so much Linda!! I’m sure you’ll love this dish – there’s no reason why comfort food can’t be both healthy AND satisfying! 🙂

  4. Whenever I see paella on a menu, I always think to myself – I wonder if I can make this into a vegetarian dish. You did all the work for me! I’m definitely making this soon. I think both my meat eating husband and I would enjoy it! Thanks!

    • Haha you know – that’s exactly what I used to think when I had paella in Spain – because while it was tasty it just wasn’t satisfying enough as a balanced vegetarian dish. I can’t wait to hear how you and your husband like this recipe! Hopefully the tofu is a good meat substitution for him!

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