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Host a flavor-filled fiesta with this scrumptious seafood paella recipe! Featuring chorizo, hearty veggies, and perfectly crispy rice cooked in a cast iron skillet, this delectable dish is layered with succulent shrimp, clams, and mussels. Whether you’re cooking for your family or entertaining guests, this Spanish chorizo paella is sure to be the star of the show!
What is paella?
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From its birthplace in Valencia on the eastern coast of Spain, Paella has been a favorite for so long (especially for me!).
Prepared over an open fire over a large flat pan, this classic dish is loaded with different kinds of seafood, veggies, and a layer of crispy rice. The delicious combination of flavors is taken to the next level with a touch of smoky chorizo, creating an unforgettable culinary experience.
Note: If you haven’t seen/made it already, my chicken chorizo paella is one of my most popular recipes on the site for those who can’t eat seafood.
Why this seafood paella works
This seafood paella is a perfect way to bring Mediterranean flair to your dinner table. It’s easy enough for a weeknight meal but special enough to serve when you have guests over!
The combination of seafood and chorizo infuses the dish with ample amounts of flavor that are sure to please your taste buds. The seafood cooks quickly in the flavorful broth and is combined with seafood stock, tomatoes, onion, garlic, paprika, and a pinch of saffron.
Plus, you can use whatever seafood combination you like for this recipe! Feel free to play around with different types of seafood, such as shrimp, scallops, salmon, or mussels, for your seafood paella.
Seafood ingredients needed
Here’s everything you need to make this delicious dinner:
- Large shell-on raw shrimp
- Little neck (steamer) clams
- Spanish chorizo
- Seafood broth
- Clam juice
- Dry white wine
- Arborio (or bomba) rice
- Saffron threads
- Green peas
- Fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- Red bell pepper
- Garlic cloves
- Olive oil
- Smoked paprika
- Salt and pepper
- Lemon wedges
How to prepare the seafood
Whenever you make this Spanish paella, I highly recommended using as much fresh seafood and taking the time to prep it before cooking!
Here are a few ways I like to do that:
Clams and mussels
When buying clams and mussels, it’s important to make sure they are all closed.
If they are open before being cooked, that means they have already died, and you need to discard them. You can also give them a smell, and they should not smell fishy. A bad clam or mussel can ruin the dish!
Also, when purchasing clams and mussels, ask for ice on the side (if your grocery offers the option). Clams and mussels are still living, so you want to get them out of the packaging as soon as you get home and store them in a bowl filled with ice until you are ready to cook them.
For the best quality, use your clams and mussels on the same day you purchase them!
To clean them:
- Gently scrub them with a brush to get rid of any grit on the shells under cold water!
When buying shrimp, inspect them and make sure they look bright and have no signs of black spots.
For this paella recipe, I used large shell-on shrimp. I went with shell-on because that adds more flavor to the seafood broth. Also, whenever you cook the shrimp, it captures the flavor of the paella— making it even more delicious!
To clean the shrimp:
- To devein a shrimp with the shell on, use a paring knife to make a shallow cut along the back of the shrimp and pull out the vein.
- If you find the veins too difficult to remove, a seafood deveiner is a great tool – it looks like tweezers with tiny hooks at the end that easily pull out the vein!
What other kind of seafood can I add to this Spanish paella?
This paella is a great way to mix and match seafood!
Here are some other seafood options that would work perfectly in this recipe:
- Crab meat
- Lobster tail
What’s the best chorizo to use in a seafood paella?
There are many different types of chorizo to choose from. To give seafood paella its unique flavor, I like to use Spanish chorizo. It gives the seafood paella a smoky and savory taste that pairs perfectly with the seafood! You can also use Portuguese chorizo, which is already par-cooked.
Mexican chorizo is the raw version and is best used crumbled in recipes, not this one.
Although the Spanish chorizo is already par-cooked, I sauté it in the skillet with olive oil to brown and allow the delicious juices to release and the chorizo to caramelize.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the chorizo and set aside, leaving behind all the flavorful oil.
How to make the paella base
To start making the delicious flavor base for the paella, it’s important to prep and cook the veggies and aromatics first.
- In the same pan that you cooked the chorizo, reduce the heat to medium, and sauté the diced yellow onion, red bell pepper, smoked paprika, salt & pepper for 3-4 minutes until vegetables begin to soften.
- Then, add minced garlic and let it all combine.
- After, pour in a 1/4 cup of dry white wine; leave it on flame till the alcohol has cooked off completely and the liquid reduces by half (around 2 minutes).
- To give your dish an extraordinary smoky depth of flavor that elevates its taste – fire-roasted tomatoes come really handy here! Add them after the liquids have reduced.
Make the seafood stock
While the base of your paella is reducing, it’s a great time to put together the liquid you are going to use to make the seafood stock.
For this seafood-based paella, I use a combination of seafood stock and clam juice for the liquid. To enhance its flavor further, include a pinch of saffron threads – it’ll do wonders to make your paella even tastier!
In case you can’t find any clam juice easily, simply add more seafood stock instead.
What is saffron?
Saffron is a spice made from the dried stigmas of crocus flowers and is widely used in Spanish recipes. It gives seafood paella its distinctive yellow color and a unique flavor. As far as flavor goes, saffron has a very earthy taste with some nuttiness.
It’s a staple in paellas!
How to cook paella rice
Rice is a big part of what makes paella delicious. You want to use short-grain or medium-grain Spanish rice, like Bomba or Arborio.
- In the same cast iron with the veggies, add back in the Spanish chorizo with the rice, saffron, and seafood broth.
- One of the best parts of paella is that crispy crust that develops on the bottom of the rice. Once you add the rice, stir it to combine, and then LEAVE IT! This is going to help you get that crunchy layer at the bottom that is oh-so-delicious.
- After 15 minutes, uncover the rice. There should still be liquid that hasn’t been absorbed yet.
- Add in the frozen peas and stir to combine.
If you have any uncooked rice left over, it’s perfect to use in this pea and asparagus risotto!
Finish cooking and add garnishes to paella
- Generously layer the seafood on top of your dish and cover it with a lid or foil.
- Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, until the clams/mussels have opened up and the shrimp are pink/cooked through.
- Once finished cooking, sprinkle fresh parsley overtop as well as lemon wedges for squeezing for added flavor. It gives it a delicious bright acidic note!
How do I know if the seafood is cooked through?
It’s a commonly accepted rule of thumb that clams and mussels which don’t open when steamed should be discarded. Clams, however, may behave differently as their muscles can seize during cooking – if you gently try to pry it with a knife though, it should release its grip on the shell.
If not, then it would be best to discard this batch.
How to eat and serve Spanish seafood paella
Paellas are best served directly from the pan – such a great way to impress your guests!
Enjoy seafood paella with a fresh and tangy salad with lemon dijon vinaigrette and a slice of homemade garlic bread.
Finally, don’t forget about providing a bowl in which you can discard all used shells!
How to store paella
Make sure to let the seafood paella cool down before you store it in the fridge. Place it in an airtight container and consume it within 3-4 days.
If you want to freeze the seafood paella, wait for it to cool down and then place it in a freezer-safe container. It should last up to 3 months in the freezer.
Can I reheat clams and mussels?
Reheating your steamed clams and mussels can be tricky. If you’re not cautious, they might end up tough or rubbery. To avoid this mishap, remove the seafood from the paella before reheating it.
Once the rest of the dish is hot, take them out of their shells and add them to it; as a result, they’ll warm up without becoming overcooked thanks to the heat coming off from its ingredients!
Love seafood? Try out these other recipes:
- Clams and Chorizo
- Grilled Avocado and Shrimp Ceviche
- Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Crema
- Herb-Grilled Shrimp and Chorizo
- Baked Coconut Shrimp
- Linguine and Clams in White Wine Sauce
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- 4 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
- 1 pound large shell on raw shrimp
- 1 pound littleneck or steamer clams (scrubbed)
- 1/2 pound mussels (scrubbed)
- 2 links Spanish Chorizo (12oz (see note #1), sliced)
- Salt/freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 small onion (diced)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 large red bell pepper (diced)
- 14.5 ounces fire roasted diced tomatoes (1 can)
- 4 cups seafood broth
- 1/4 cup clam juice (see note #2)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups Bomba or Arborio rice
- Pinch saffron threads
- 1/2 cup frozen green peas
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- Lemon wedges (for garnish)
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- Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large cast iron skillet or paella pan over med/high heat, add chorizo and sauté until browned about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove and set aside leaving juices in pan.
- Lower heat to medium and add in diced yellow onion, red bell pepper, smoked paprika, pinch of salt & pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until onions and peppers begin to soften. Add in the minced garlic and cook an additional minute until fragrant. Add 1/4 dry white wine and allow alcohol to cook off and liquid to reduce by half, about 2 minutes.
- Add in the can of diced tomatoes, seafood broth, and clam juice. Bring to a boil. Add in a pinch of saffron threads, chorizo, and rice. Stir the rice once so that the liquid is covering, lower the heat to low, cover, and simmer undisturbed for 15 minutes. (This allows rice to get crispy layer on the bottom).
- After 15 minutes, remove the cover, and there should still be liquid that hasn’t absorbed yet. Add in the frozen peas, stir to combine. Then add the seafood on top, with the opening of the clams/mussels facing up for them to easily open. Cover and cook an additional 15-20 minutes, until the clams/mussels have opened, and shrimp are pink/cooked through. Discard any mussels that have not opened. If clams are still shut, take a knife and try to wiggle it open to see if the muscles release and it opens.
- Remove from heat, top with freshly chopped parsley, serve with fresh lemon wedges and a bowl to discard shells in.
- Chorizo: There are different types of chorizo. Spanish/Portuguese chorizo is par-cooked and what I use in this recipe. Mexican chorizo is raw and used crumbled, if you use Mexican chorizo, you will have to fully cook it before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
- Clam juice: If you can not find clam juice, add an additional 1/4 cup of seafood broth.
- Buying seafood: When purchasing clams and mussels, ask for ice on the side if your grocery offers. Clams and mussels are still living, so you want to get them out of the packaging as soon as you get home. Put them in a bowl on ice and place in refrigerator until ready to use. Use day of.
- Prepping seafood: Ensure the clams and mussels are all closed when purchased. If they are open before being cooked, that means they have already died and you need to discard them. You can also give them a smell, they should not smell fishy. A bad clam or mussel can ruin the dish! Gently scrub them with a brush to get rid of any grit on the shells under cold water.
- Shrimp: I use shell-on shrimp for this paella. The shells give the broth an additional seafood flavor layer. You’ll have to peel them as you eat or you can substitute already peeled shrimp.
- Reheating: You can reheat steamed clams and mussels, but you have to exercise care or else they will become tough and rubbery. I recommend removing them from the paella, reheating the paella (minus the clams/mussels), then once the rest of the dish is heated, remove them from the shells and mix into the dish. The warmth of the dish will heat the clams and mussels without overcooking them.