Seafood Paella


This saffron-infused Seafood Paella is loaded with mussels, clams, and shrimp. Cook it on the grill for best flavor. It serves a crowd and would be so much fun for your next cookout!

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

Are you ready for a party? Mix up a pitcher of sangria and call your friends and neighbors!

A festive occasion calls for a big statement, and this paella is just that: a colorful rice dish bursting with clams, mussels and shrimp along with smoky chorizo and saffron for tons of flavor. You don’t need much else to serve alongside it, but you could make a green salad if you feel inspired.

Set the whole pan of paella on your picnic table, and bring out some crusty bread and wine glasses. Summer is just too short not to celebrate it with friends.

VIDEO! How to Make Seafood Paella


The origins of paella are ancient, rooted in the area around Valencia, Spain near the Albufera Lagoon, where both fishing and rice growing dominated the region for centuries.

Paella was the food of farm workers who cooked dishes of rice over wood fires, embellished with whatever ingredients they could find.

The dish is named for the wide, shallow pan in which the paella is cooked. The word “paella” is from a Valencian dialect meaning “pan,” probably derived from the Latin word “patella” for pan.

Seafood Paella with Rice recipe add the seafood


While you can buy a paella pan and even a special outdoor paella grill for cooking it, it’s easy enough to adapt the traditional paella method to our home kitchens without a lot of extra fuss.

Since I don’t possess a paella pan, I used the largest sturdy skillet in my collection of pans. A cast iron pan would be ideal but mine was not big enough and I found my heavy skillet worked just fine. Lacking a large skillet, you could also use a medium-size roasting pan (approximately 14 X 10 inches).


Although you can cook paella entirely indoors on top of the stove, when you consider paella’s wood-fired origins, it makes total sense to cook it outside on the grill. For this recipe, I started it on the stove indoors while the grill heated, and then finished it on the grill. Even, steady, medium heat is the goal.

How to make seafood paella


Paella is the mother of all the one-pot meals, so it makes a supreme party dish. Improvisation rules the day, since even in Spain the issue of what ingredients should go in paella is hotly disputed, making it impossible for foreigners, let alone Spaniards, to dictate them strictly.

Okay, I know I just said that improvisation is the name of the game, but here are a few guidelines:

  • The Rice

Paella is essentially a rice dish, and the type of rice does make a difference. Spanish bomba rice, a medium-grained stubby rice that absorbs liquid well but maintains some firmness when it cooks, is preferred.

Since it is hard to find and pricey, you can substitute Italian Carnaroli, Calrose, or another short-grain rice.

The crispy bits! Once the stock comes to a simmer, don’t stir it. As the paella cooks, the rice stays on the bottom and forms a crusty golden bottom layer in the finished dish. This crust of rice is called socarrat and is coveted by true paella lovers. The vegetables rise to the top while cooking.

  • The Stock

For this seafood paella, you can use fish stock if you like and if you can find a good source for it, but I actually prefer chicken stock. It adds a depth of flavor, and as the shellfish cook, you get plenty of sweet, briny juices to flavor the rice. Be sure to taste the stock and season it with salt if necessary.

  • Saffron

Saffron is a key ingredient, too. These orange-red threads are actually the dried stigmas of crocus flowers. Crumbled into a pot of hot stock, saffron adds an earthy, floral, and somewhat mysterious flavor to your paella. It imbues the rice with a gorgeous golden color, too.

Saffron is a fairly expensive spice, but thankfully you only need a few threads to season a whole dish of paella. It also keeps for a fairly long time as long if it’s stored in an airtight container and kept out of direct sunlight, so you don’t need to worry about using up your extra saffron right away.

Most well-stocked grocery stores should carry saffron, such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Look for it in the spice section.

  • The Sofrito

Paella starts with a sofrito—finely chopped onions, garlic, and tomatoes or red peppers sautéed gently in olive oil. It is akin to the Italian soffrito or French mirepoix. Sofrito lays the groundwork for all the flavors in the dish to mingle; think of it as priming a canvas before making a painting.

  • The Seafood and Chorizo

I chose shrimp, clams, and mussels for this seafood version of paella, and Spanish dry-cured chorizo for its smoky, meaty flavor. You can substitute other cooked sausages if you like, and add some smoked paprika to taste to achieve the desired flavor.

Thoroughly scrub the clams and mussels before cooking and discard any with cracked or broken shells.


Seafood Paella Recipe

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings

If you have trouble finding Spanish chorizo, substitute another kind of cooked sausage along with 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika (for the smoky flavor).

No grill? Cook this inside! Cook the paella through step 6 on top of the stove. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add the seafood (step 7), cover the pan tightly with foil and finish cooking in the oven for 6 to 10 minutes or until the rice and shrimp are both cooked through and the mussels and clams are open. Check to see if the bottom has browned and, if not, set the pan over medium heat for a minute or two to allow the bottom layer of rice to caramelize.


  • 4 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled and then loosely measured
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 ounces mild dried chorizo sausage, sliced into thin half-moons (See Recipe Note)
  • 3 cups short-grain rice, such as Spanish Bomba rice or Italian Arborio
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 pound large (21-24 per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails left on
  • 1 pound mussels, rinsed and scrubbed
  • 1 pound littleneck clams, rinsed and scrubbed
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley, for garnish


1 Preheat the grill: Heat a gas grill to medium-high heat (375ºF), or light a charcoal grill and let burn until the charcoal is covered with gray ash.

2 Steep the saffron: In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock to a boil. Add the saffron and salt. Turn off the heat and let the saffron steep for at least 15 minutes. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

Paella recipe with seafood steep the saffron

3 Cook the sofrito base: In a 12- to 14-inch stainless steel skillet or cast iron pan, heat the oil over medium heat on top of the stove. Add the onion and red pepper, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic and chorizo.

Easy seafood paella recipe cook the soffrito base

4 Assemble the ingredients by the grill: On a table next to the grill, set the skillet with the sofrito, the rice, tomatoes, infused stock, salt, peas, shrimp, mussels, and clams.

5 Begin cooking the paella: Set the skillet with the sofrito on the grill. Add the rice, and cook, stirring often, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the rice is coated with oil and lightly toasted.

Stir in the stock, tomatoes, and peas. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if you like.

Best seafood paella recipe stir in the stock and tomatoes

Spread the rice evenly over the bottom of the pan. Close the grill cover and simmer the rice without stirring for 15 minutes, or until the rice absorbs most of the stock. If the mixture looks dry, pour about 1 cup of hot water over it, but do not stir.

Seafood paella with rice recipe let the rice absorb the stock

6 Add the seafood: Nestle the mussels and clams into the rice with the hinge sides up so they release their juices into the rice. Arrange the shrimp around the shellfish.

Cover the pan with foil, close the grill and cook for 6 to 10 minutes longer (depending on the heat of your grill), or until the rice and shrimp are both cooked through and the mussels and clams are open. (Discard any shellfish that remain tightly shut once everything else is cooked.)

Seafood Paella with Rice recipe add the seafood

7 Check to see if the bottom is browned: Slip a spatula under the rice and check to see if you have achieved the elusive golden brown socarrat. If not, set the pan over the heat, uncovered, for a few minutes to lightly caramelize the bottom.

Sprinkle with parsley and bring the whole pan to the table for serving.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

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32 Comments / Reviews

No ImageSeafood Paella

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Tracy

    I halved and modified the recipe a bit so I had to give it 5 stars in fairness. Here are my modifications and comments for those who are interested.

    I used 8 scallops, 16 jumbo shrimp and a thin chicken breast (cubed and pre-cooked in olive oil, salt and pepper) because no mussels or clams were available during the COVID-19 lockdown.

    I also made my own fire-roasted tomatoes by cutting 3 medium tomatoes in half, drizzling with olive oil and then broiling them in the oven for 15 min until the tops were blackened. I then let the tomatoes cool before dicing.

    For the sofrito, I added all of the roasted tomatoes that I’d made, a splash of white wine, the onions and the garlic. I did not use bell peppers (I dislike their flavor).

    I used 1 ½ cups of Calrose rice. I thought it was very nice but it needed about 10 more minutes of cooking time than this recipe called for. I ended up with overcooked shrimp and peas so I extended the cooking time from 15 to about 25 minutes BEFORE adding the shrimp and frozen peas.

    At the end, I was pleased with the flavor; however, I did not achieve the caramelized bottom because of worries over overcooked seafood and peas. The extra cooking time should fix this. I also think this (my modified) recipe would benefit from a bit more of a seafood flavor. I might consider adding clam juice to the broth in the future (or just the mussels and clams as the original recipe called for, if they’re available!).

    Thank you for the lovely recipe! :D


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  2. Xavier

    Everybody in my family loved it, I didn’t put bany chorizo, one of my son is vegetarian, I added scallops and shrimp …
    Thank you.


  3. Matthew

    Too much rice it over flowed pan before adding seafood.

    Show Replies (1)
  4. dirk

    yummy, easy recipe cooked on the grill! Took a little more liquid to get the rice to cook all the way through, using Valencia rice.


  5. Joan

    Made it this evening as indicated except I used seafood without shells as that was more easily available . Turned out great and I had the nerve, as a Brit living in the Valencia region, to make it for a Spanish neighbour. The family loved it (dad and older-teenage son) and said I could make it anytime for them. So for those readers and followers of this site, don’t be shy/nervous, just follow the instructions and you’ll be successful. It’s easy too; not tricky at all. Just remember not to stir the rice once it’s started cooking so that you achieve the crispy base. Congratulations to the ‘inventor/designer’ of this recipe. Jolly good job, what ho! BTW, the original protein in this dish was freshly-caught rats, snails and other feral critturs. Not for me, thank you.


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