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Chicken and prawn paella

Updated: Tue, 20 September, 2022

Paella with chicken and prawns, a foolproof recipe. No, you don’t need a special pan and yes, socarrat, crusty rice at the bottom is quite possible to achieve.

chicken and prawn paella

Paella is not a national Spanish dish

Paella originates from Valencia, which is a city and also the province the city is located in, one of a dozen or so, more or less fiercely diverse regions of Spain. They are nothing to do with Spanish Costas, named del this or that mostly by non-Spanish tourists.

Paella is a Valencian dish and therefore it is quite unreasonable to demand it in Barcelona or Bilbao.

It’s very much like a tourist visiting England, expecting to be served haggis in a random restaurant. And yet paella has become the dish that the holiday crowd wants to nosh everywhere from Costa del Sol to the Bay of Biscay.

I have a lot of admiration for the Spaniards’ patience and resignation with which to tolerate the costa-vacationing ignorants.

paella mixta

Native types of paella

Paella valenciana traditionally features rabbit, sometimes chicken, often white beans. Not what the tourists expect, eh?

Another type, closer to those expectations, is paella de marisco, with various seafood though not necessarily always tame prawns and mussels: I have been served one where I could only identify octopus amongst other varied sea creatures nestled in rice.

Paella mixta is, as you cleverly guessed, a mix of surf and turf; in other words, whatever is available or at hand. Which is the category that my recipe below broadly falls into.

But I admit there are rice dishes all over Spain and even Portugal similar to paella, except they are called ‘rice with whatever’: arroz negro, arroz de marisco, or arroz de pollo. Invariably referred to as ‘paella’ by the tourists.

Who also pronounce it wrongly. Say it properly: pah/EH/yah. You might get away with pie-yey-ah but never, ever pie-ella or you’ll be laughed all the way out of Valencia.

paella valenciana

One of the top toughest dishes

I have been feeling quite pleased with myself ever since I’ve read that paella was one of the top most difficult dishes to make at home. But is it really?

First, everyone thinks you need a special pan, having seen those street or market vendors cooking it on enormous flat planchas.

I actually bought an authentic paella pan once but it now lives at the darkest end of the cupboard while I make my paella – a frequent occurrence – in my biggest frying pan, about 25cm in diameter. I couldn’t quite fathom the paella pan and how to stop rice from burning and sticking to it.

Maybe it was the fact that I’m not Spanish, or perhaps tools maketh not the master. Either way, it is perfectly feasible with a very big frying pan.

True: it won’t make an amount for a party dish unless the party is the four of you and not very hungry.

Second, what meats or seafood to use in it? As per above, the Valencians prefer either rabbit or octopus but neither hits a north-European spot.

Plus, there are tonnes of conflicting recipes and experts on the subject, admonishing you for adding in chorizo, peeled seafood and for stirring. But if we only ever implemented pure form recipes, the world of cooking would be a shrivelled mummy.

So guess what – the one below isn’t pure form.

Third, how on earth do you achieve the toasted crunchy rice at the bottom called socarrat? It’s without question the best bit and I’d be inclined to agree with the critics that without it, your dish is ‘rice with things’ not paella (see the comments to Jamie’s effort).

How do you? There is an element of luck involved, that’s why my best advice is: don’t stir. Or even DON’T STIR which I make explicitly clear in the recipe.

perfect paella

How to make perfect paella

It is not really difficult. Make sure you have everything peeled, chopped, sliced, cut as well as dissolved (stock) and weighed out (rice). because from the moment you start, the whole cooking process takes only thirty minutes, plus ten to rest the dish.

Heat up the pan and brown the chicken. Then, a bit like cooking in a wok, push it to the sides and use the middle of the pan to cook the onion and garlic, adding tomato puree when the aromatics brown.

The pepper joins in, still over medium-high heat, and after a couple of minutes you can stir everything together plus chorizo, and shower it with paprika.

how to cook paella

Now the key moment: pouring in stock. That’s right: first the stock, then the rice. Let it come to a vigorous bubble before you sprinkle the rice over it, more or less evenly.

And that’s the end of stirring the pan! Let it cook for 10 minutes, pushing rice grains into the liquid if necessary, adding some wine if it threatens to cook off too soon.

Time for prawns and peas, if using. Arrange them prettily and turn down the heat to a low simmer, until all the liquid is gone and the prawns have turned pink. This stage lasts about 10 minutes as well and you can cover the pan for it – with a baking sheet if the pan doesn’t have a fitting lid.

And finally the exciting bit: after the 10 minutes turn the heat right up and listen for the rice to start crackling, like popcorn. Keep it like that for half a minute - and it’s done.

how to cook paella

Paella needs steaming off: cover it with a tea towel to absorb it and let it sit for another ten minutes.

Uncover, serve and dig for the socarrat…


More Spanish recipes

Fideua, Spanish pasta dish with fish and seafood, is cooked exactly like paella: in an enormous pan, only with short vermicelli pasta replacing rice.

A fine example of ‘rice with things’ a.k.a. a variation on the paella theme: Spanish rice with corn and chorizo sausage. This dish is easily adaptable, just swap ingredients.

And for dessert, an authentic Spanish recipe for tarta de Santiago, traditional Galician almond cake or pie. Tarta or torta de Santiago has only three basic ingredients and is the most famous Spanish dessert.


Chicken and prawn paella

Servings: 3-4Time: 1 hour


  • 600ml (23 quart) chicken stock from cube or fresh
  • a few strands of saffron
  • 1 chicken breast and 1 thigh, boneless but with skin on
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 1 heaped tsp tomato purée
  • 1 red pepper, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp smoked hot paprika
  • 70g (212 oz.) sliced chorizo
  • 200g (1 cup) paella rice (Bomba or Calasparra)
  • 12 cup dry white wine
  • 8-12 raw king prawns, shelled, shell-on or a mix
  • 12 cup frozen peas, thawed



1. Heat up the stock or dissolve the cube in boiling water; add the saffron and stir.

2. Chop each chicken thigh and breast into 4 or 5 pieces and season them with salt and pepper.

3. Heat up the oil in the largest pan you have (25cm/10inch) and brown the chicken pieces on all sides.

4. Push them to the sides and add the onion and garlic into the middle of the pan. Fry it hard for a couple of minutes, then stir in the tomato puree, keeping it away from the chicken.

5. Add the red pepper; fry it together with the onion and garlic for a minute.

6. Turn down the heat a little and mix the chicken pieces in. Sprinkle over the smoked paprika and add the chorizo pieces.

7. Pour the stock into the pan, all at once and turn up the heat. Let it bubble vigorously for two-three minutes.

8. Sprinkle the rice evenly over the surface of the stock – DO NOT STIR from now on. Cook it for 10 minutes until the rice appears through the liquid. Gently displace any dry grains sticking to the chicken but DO NOT STIR. If it looks too dry too soon, add the white wine.

9. Sprinkle the peas over the surface and arrange the prawns on top. Turn the heat down and simmer the paella for 10 minutes until the rice has absorbed all the liquid; you may cover the pan at this stage so the prawns cook through. If you don’t have a lid to fit the pan, cover it with a large baking sheet.

10. After the 10 minutes turn the heat right up for 1 minute until you can hear the rice start to pop and crackle. Keep it on for 30 seconds and take the pan off the heat.

11. Cover it with a clean dry tea towel to absorb the steam, keep it like that for 10 minutes, then serve in the pan placed in the middle of the table.

12. If you’re lucky, the mixture has stuck to the bottom of the pan; crispy and almost-burnt. This is socarrat, a characteristic of good paella. Well done – the socarrat is truly scrumptious.

Originally published: Mon, 3 July, 2017

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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