California-Inspired Vegetarian Paella

updated Feb 3, 2020
California-Inspired Vegetarian Paella

A vegetarian and vegan paella filled with colorful vegetables.

Serves4 to 6

Prep10 minutes

Cook25 minutes to 30 minutes

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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Before my recent trip to California, it wasn’t the sun, sand, or relaxed vibes I was most looking forward to — it was the farmers markets. If you’ve been lucky enough to visit them yourself, you know what I am talking about. The colors! The abundance!

This paella is a celebration of the rich array of California produce. So yes, of course it’s got avocado, but it also has juicy tomatoes, tender zucchini, and an overload of fresh herbs. Since most of these items also happen to be coming into season elsewhere, I’d urge you to make this recipe ASAP.

A Colorful, Vegetable-Forward Twist on Paella

Paella is a Spanish dish often made with seafood, meat, or both, but I don’t think it minds taking a little trip to California. The smoky, saffron-kissed rice is a perfect base for a mix of summer vegetables. Chunks of zucchini and summer squash are cooked with the rice, but where this dish really shines is in the garnish. A heap of cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, and mixed tender herbs are piled onto the finished skillet, making it quite the looker. Scoop up a bit of everything into each serving and you’ll practically taste the California sun.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

California-Inspired Vegetarian Paella

A vegetarian and vegan paella filled with colorful vegetables.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes to 30 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 4 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 1 1/2 cups

    arborio or other short-grain white rice

  • 1 quart

    (4 cups) low-sodium vegetable broth

  • 1 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • Pinch saffron threads (optional)

  • 1

    small summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

  • 1

    small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

  • 1

    medium avocado, diced

  • 1 pint

    cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

  • 1/3 cup

    coarsely chopped fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil, parsley, dill, or tarragon

  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  1. Heat the oil in a 10- or 12-inch cast iron or straight-sided skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the zucchini and sauté until lightly browned but not yet tender, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

  2. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and saffron, if using, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook without stirring until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, 18 to 20 minutes. (If the rice is cooked before the liquid is completely absorbed, uncover the skillet and let it simmer for an extra minute or two to evaporate it.)

  3. Taste and season with more salt as needed. Scatter the tomatoes, avocado, and herbs over the paella and serve with lemon wedges.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 5 days.