Paella is a classic dish that comes from Valencia, Spain, and is one of their most identifiable dishes. Made with a combination of shrimp, mussels, chorizo, chicken thighs, tomatoes, rice, garlic, saffron, white wine, rice, and peas, it hits all the taste hotspots. And this version can be made in a Dutch oven, no paella pan required.

A large Dutch oven full of shrimp, mussels, red peppers, peas, lemon slices, parsley, bay leaves, and onion with a serving spoon.

Soccarat, a layer of crusty browned rice that forms on the bottom of the pan, is a traditional part of paella. In our paella, soccarat does not develop because most of the cooking is done in the oven. We have provided instructions to develop soccarat in step 6; if you prefer, skip this step and go directly from step 5 to step 7. For this recipe, we’ve suggest garnishing with parsley but you can also use fresh rosemary, as seen in the photograph.–The Editors of Cook’s Illustrated


A large Dutch oven full of shrimp, mussels, red peppers, peas, lemon slices, parsley, bay leaves, and onion with a serving spoon.

This paella recipe calls for making it in a Dutch oven (the Dutch oven should be 11 to 12 inches in diameter with at least a 6-quart capacity). With minor modifications, it can also be made in a paella pan. Cured Spanish chorizo is the sausage of choice for paella, but fresh chorizo or Portuguese linguiça is an acceptable substitute.

The Editors of Cook’s Illustrated

Prep 1 hr 15 mins

Cook 30 mins

Total 1 hr 45 mins

  • Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position; heat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Toss the shrimp, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 teaspoon of the garlic in a medium bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper; set aside.

  • Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the pepper strips and cook, stirring occasionally, until the skin begins to blister and turn spotty black, 3 to 4 minutes. Move the pepper to a small plate and set it aside.
  • Add 1 teaspoon oil to the now-empty Dutch oven; heat the oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add the chicken pieces in a single layer; cook, without moving the pieces, until browned, about 3 minutes. Turn the pieces and brown on the second side, about 3 minutes longer; dump the chicken into a medium bowl. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chorizo to the pot; cook, stirring frequently, until deeply browned and the fat begins to render, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chorizo to the bowl with the chicken and set aside.

  • Add enough oil to the fat in the Dutch oven to equal 2 tablespoons; heat over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes; stir in the remaining garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes; cook until the mixture begins to darken and thicken slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until the grains are well coated with the tomato mixture, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, wine, saffron, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Return the chicken and chorizo to the pot, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot and place it in the oven; cook until the rice absorbs almost all of the liquid, about 15 minutes.
  • Remove the paella from the oven (close the oven door to retain heat). Uncover the paella; scatter the shrimp over the rice, insert the mussels hinged-side down into the rice (so they stand upright), arrange the bell pepper strips in a pinwheel pattern, and scatter the peas over the top. Cover and return to the oven; cook until the shrimp are opaque and the mussels have opened, 10 to 12 minutes.

  • Optional: If soccarat (see headnote) is desired, set the Dutch oven, uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, rotating the pot 180 degrees after about 2 minutes for even browning.

  • Let the paella stand, covered, about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels that have not opened and the bay leaf, if it can be easily removed. Sprinkle the paella with the parsley and serve, passing the lemon wedges separately.

*What kinds of rice can I use in paella?

This recipe suggests Valencia or Arborio rice and there’s a reason for that. First of all, paella is from Valencia, Spain, so it stands to reason that the recipe evolved using the rice from the region as well. But there’s a good reason for it–short-grain rice can absorb a lot of liquid before turning to a soft, mushy mess.
It also tends to clump together when cooked, giving it an advantage when you’re cooking up that crispy socarrat on the bottom. If you’re really, really stuck, medium-grain rice will work ok but long-grain rice will give you a completely different result that will be nothing like paella. 

Serving: 1portionCalories: 573kcal (29%)Carbohydrates: 66g (22%)Protein: 40g (80%)Fat: 14g (22%)Saturated Fat: 4g (25%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 195mg (65%)Sodium: 1437mg (62%)Potassium: 760mg (22%)Fiber: 4g (17%)Sugar: 4g (4%)Vitamin A: 1237IU (25%)Vitamin C: 57mg (69%)Calcium: 113mg (11%)Iron: 7mg (39%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Originally published October 07, 2005

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.