If you’ve ever been intimated by making paella, this tutorial is all you need to get going! This saffron-infused easy seafood paella with shrimp and lobster is a simpler take on traditional paella with fewer ingredients and no special pan. It will deliver the WOW factor on all level, but you don’t need to wait for a special occasion to make it!
Be sure to check out the video and step-by-step tutorial for this foolproof seafood paella recipe.
What is Paella?
According to this History of Paella article, paella combines the Roman and Arabic cultures as Arab conquerors introduced rice in Valencia. The word “paella,” may have stemmed from the Arabic word “baquia,” which simply means “leftovers.”
So, historically, paella was introduced by Valencia farm workers as the delicious solution to leftovers. It is basically a one-pot rice dish, embellished with whatever ingredients one would have on hand. And that’s why, it makes perfect sense that there are many variations of paella today.
The question that continues to be hotly debated, even throughout Spain, is: what ingredients go into paella?
Historically, in Valencia, paella dishes may have incorporated chicken, rabbit, snails and beans, about three kinds of fresh beans. But, as mentioned earlier, paella is the mother of leftover solutions and one-pot meals; the ingredients will vary from place to place, depending on the traditions and what ingredients are available. And nowadays, paella is almost always associated with seafood.
Even as we get creative with paella, there are two constants in a paella recipe: Spanish saffron (thankfully, we need just a little bit of this expensive stuff) and rice, preferably a medium-grained rice that absorbs liquid well but maintains some bite and firmness (like this one.)
I take comfort in the fact that paella is one dish I can make my own. In this easy seafood paella, I kept the ingredient list short, focusing on two seafood options: shrimp and lobster. If either is not available to you, feel free to get creative using a firm fish or some muscles or clams.
I did not add any chicken or chorizo, but again, if that is something you are looking for, feel free to adapt this recipe (see section below called “variations on this seafood paella recipe.”
Do I need a special Paella Pan?
You can certainly buy a paella pan or even a special outdoor paella grill, but that is not necessary. Paella is easy enough to adapt and make in a skillet. I don’t own a paella pan myself, but I’ve found a large sturdy skillet like a cast iron skillet to work well. That’s what I use here.
Step-by-Step: How to Make this Easy Paella Recipe
1- The first step here is to get the lobster cooking in boiling water. This will be quick, about 1 to 2 minutes. You don’t want to overcook the lobster, but you’re looking for it to turn a nice pink. When the lobster is cool enough to handle, remove the shell and cut into large chunks to use later. Important: keep the lobster water for later use.
2. I like to soak the paella rice in water a few minutes (15 to 20 minutes or so) before using, this helps it cook evenly. Then, to begin making the paella, heat 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil over medium-high (making sure it’s shimmering but not smoking.) Saute chopped onions first for a couple minutes, then add the rice (drain first).
Cook the rice for 3 minutes, stirring regularly. Yes, I am aware that in some recipes you are almost “forbidden” from stirring the rice. But it worked best for me this way. Grateful to Bobby Flay for this tip.
3. b) Stir in the chopped tomato and green beans. Bring to a boil and let the liquid reduce, then cover (with lid or tightly with foil) and cook on low heat for 20 minutes.
4- Now, we add the shrimp over the rice, pushing it into the rice a little. At this point, if the rice looks to be too dry and might need a tiny bit of water, you can carefully add some. Cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the shrimp turns pink.
4- b) Finally, add the cooked lobster chunks. When the lobster is warmed through, turn heat off. Garnish with parsley, if you like.
How to serve paella?
Traditions aside, in my house, we serve paella family-style with a favorite white wine to go along. Of course, adding a little something to start the meal like chilled tomato Gazpacho is always an option.
Variations on this Seafood Paella Recipe
- To add Chorizo: dried Spanish chorizo makes a good addition, and you can add them early on in the recipe to get the most flavor. Slice chorizo into thin half-moons and, once you’ve sauteed the onions, add the chorizo and give it a quick cook until it crisps a little, then continue on by adding the garlic, lobster cooking water etc.
- To add shellfish such as clams or mussels, nestle well-cleaned clams or mussels into the rice at the same time you add the shrimp, making sure the hinge sides are up so they release juices into the rice. Cover and cook until clams and mussels are open (about 6 to 10 minutes.)
- To add fish. I’ve been asked if adding fish fillets is an option. If you’re going for a thinner fish like sole fillet, you can cut it up into pieces and add it at the same time you add the shrimp. Make sure you give the fish a little seasoning. Again, you’ll cover and cook a few minutes until shrimp turns pink and your fish is nice and flaky.
Watch the video tutorial for this easy seafood paella recipe:
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Easy saffron-infused seafood paella recipe with lobster and shrimp! No need for a special paella pan, a large sturdy skillet like cast iron will work well. Be sure to see the tips for best results. Watch the video and step-by-step tutorial above.
- 4 small lobster tails (6-12 oz each)
- 3 tbsp Private Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cups Spanish rice or medium-grain rice, soaked in water for 15 to 20 minutes and then drained
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 large pinches of Spanish saffron threads soaked in 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp Sweet Spanish paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp aleppo pepper flakes
- 2 large Roma tomatoes, finely chopped
- 6 oz French green beans, trimmed
- 1 lb prawns or large shrimp or your choice, peeled and deveined
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- In a large pot, bring 3 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add the lobster tails and let boil very briefly (1-2 minutes) until pink. Turn the heat off. Remove the lobster tails with a pair of tongs. Do not discard the lobster cooking water. When the lobster is cool enough to handle, remove the shell and cut into large chunks.
- In a large deep pan or cast iron skillet, heat 3 tbsp olive oil. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the chopped onions. Saute the onions for 2 minutes then add the rice, and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring regularly. Now add the chopped garlic and the lobster cooking water. Stir in the saffron and it’s soaking liquid, paprika, cayenne pepper, aleppo pepper, and salt. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and green beans. Bring to a boil and let the liquid slightly reduce, then cover (with lid or tightly with foil) and cook on low heat for 20 minutes.
- Uncover and spread the shrimp over the rice, pushing it into the rice slightly. Add a little water if needed. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes or until the shrimp turns pink. Finally, add the cooked lobster chunks. When the lobster is warmed through, turn heat off. Garnish with parsley.
- Serve the paella hot with your favorite white wine.
- Pro-Tip: Depending on the kind of rice you use, you may or not need to soak it in water before cooking. I have found that soaking rice in water for 15 minutes or so (until you are able to easily break a grain of rice between your thumb and index finger) helps speed the cooking process. When you do this, you naturally use less cooking water. The rice cooks evenly and more quickly.
- Pro-Tip: In some paella recipes, you are almost “forbidden” from stirring the rice early in the cooking process. But it worked best for me this way. Grateful to Bobby Flay for this tip.
- To add Chorizo: dried Spanish chorizo makes a good addition. Slice it into thin half-moons and once you’ve sauteed the onions (step #2), add the chorizo and give it a quick cook until it crisps a little, then continue on with the recipe.
- To add shellfish such as clams or mussels: nestle well-cleaned clams or mussels into the rice at the same time you add the shrimp (step #3), making sure the hinge sides are up so they release juices into the rice. Cover and cook until clams and mussels are open and shrimp turns pink.
- To add fish: I’ve been asked if adding fish fillets is an option. If you’re going for a thinner white fish like sole fillet, you can cut it up into pieces and add it at the same time you add the shrimp (step #3). Make sure you give the fish a little seasoning. Again, you’ll cover and cook a few minutes until shrimp turns pink and your fish is nice and flaky.
- Recommended for this Recipe: Our Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil (from organically grown and processed Koroneiki olives), and our all-natural Spanish paprika and Aleppo Pepper (a mild pepper that lends depth and subtle sweetness.)
- SAVE! Try our Our Greek Olive Oil Bundle; Ultimate Mediterranean Spice Bundle; or create your own 6-pack or 3-pack of our all-natural or organic spices!
- Category: Entree
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Mediterranean/Spanish
Keywords: Paella, Seafood Paella, Easy Paella Recipe
*This post originally appeared on this site in 2015, and it has recently been updated with new information and media for readers’ benefit.