5 Ways the Spanish makes paella

While the rest of the world may think of paella as the quintessential Spanish dish, to the natives themselves, paella or simply arroz (rice) in its purest form is associated primarily with the city of Valencia. That’s not to say that the rest of the country hasn’t added its own twist – in fact every town seems to have their own version loaded with local and seasonal ingredients. Here are a few different ways you might find paella prepared around Spain.

Valencian Paella

It’s said that the Moors first introduced the idea of a rice based casserole dish to the region as early as the 10th century, flavouring it with spices brought from the Arabic world. By the early 1900s paella had become known as a traditional Valencian meal with a strict list of ingredients including rabbit, snails, beans, tomatoes, fresh paprika, saffron and garlic, all cooked with rice in a traditional wide pan.

Seafood paella, by the sea, Spain

Seafood Paella

Paella is often made with seafood instead of meat, especially in sun drenched coastal provinces such as Huelva, off the Gulf of Cadiz. Huelva City is renowned for its shellfish, including white prawns and razor clams, brought in fresh from the sea. Being one of the less touristy areas of Andalusia, getting a beautifully authentic seafood paella should be easy work in many of its local restaurants.

White Paella

As a popular rice growing region, Andalusia is prime paella territory, and as such, many of the area’s charming towns and villages have their own versions. These often use ham or chorizo, which would’ve been prohibited under religious dietary laws in the original Moorish dish. One local example is white paella, often found in eastern Andalusia, which is a lighter dish served as tapas or as a starter, and made without adding colouring.

Black Paella from Spain

Black Paella

The north western region of Galicia boasts 1,200km of coastline and is world famous for fishing. Therefore, it’s no surprise to learn that their local take on paella also adds a little something from the sea. Often referred to simply as ‘black paella’, the inclusion of octopus or squid ink, as well as the traditional seafood ingredients, gives the dish its distinctive colour and a deliciously bold flavour.

Vegetarian Paella

Being a veggie doesn’t mean missing out on paella. Many restaurants offer paella de verduras, which substitutes meat and fish with vegetables such as artichokes, mushrooms or olives. You’ll find this in most regions of Spain, but keep an eye out for an arroceria (a restaurant specialising in rice dishes) to find the widest range of top quality ingredients.