Quinoa Paella – A Healthy Vegetarian Paella Recipe

There is something sexy about men cooking! Every culture has festivals or traditions where a group of men come together and cook out under the sky, generally on an open fire – be it the American barbecue, Indian biryani, or Spanish paella. As family stories flow over drinks in the open air, and men take charge of everything – from building the fire to the actual cooking, the whole experience truly is a food lover’s paradise.

I have worked with some amazing male chefs, and I personally know guys who absolutely enjoy cooking at home. But there are some men who lack the patience to work in the kitchen! Even these reluctant cooks light up when they see an open fire. Give them a couple of beers and they can make wonders! Something about the open fire brings out the cook in every man. I have actually seen men arguing over who gets to be the grill master, can you see that happening over a kitchen stove?

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Paella. The word itself takes you to an exotic place! Paella actually denotes the pan that the dish is cooked in. I am a big fan of one pot meals, and Paella has to be on the top of the list of my all time favorites! Paella is to Spanish cuisine what Risotto is to Italian cuisine, it has become a simple technique of cooking that can be translated to varying recipes.

Traditionally, Paella is cooked with different varieties of short grain spanish white rice. While everyone has their own spin on how they cook their Paella, the two constants are saffron and sweet spanish paprika, derived from the Pimenton pepper. The saffron gives the paella a bright yellow color and a unique sweet aroma while the paprika gives the dish spicy smokiness. Paella is a versatile dish and can be cooked with seafood, poultry, meats and even vegetables.

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My favorite substitute for the white rice in a Paella is Quinoa. Quinoa is a protein rich seed which contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. It’s rich in iron, lysine, magnesium and vitamin B2. I have used chickpeas, carrots, peas, green beans, turnips and cherry tomatoes in this paella. Be really generous with lemon juice while serving; the citrus brings out the flavors in all the other vegetables. This vegetable paella dish is one of the tastiest way you can eat your vegetables!

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Quinoa Paella – A Healthy Vegetarian Paella Recipe

Cook time:

seves 6

1 cup raw quinoa
1 1/2 cup low sodium vegetable stock/water
1 tsp spanish smoked paprika
1/2 tsp saffron – toasted slightly and pounded in a mortar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp olive oil/coconut oil
1 small white onion – chopped
1 red bell pepper – chopped
2 cloves garlic – chopped
1 cup chopped vegetables (carrot, turnip, cauliflower, green beans, tomatoes)
1/2 cup green peas
1 cup garbanzo beans
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
lemon wedges

Rinse quinoa in a strainer under running cold water. Drain and spread the quinoa on a paper towel lined plate. Let it dry for 15 minutes. In a sauce pan toast quinoa on medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently until quinoa is very fragrant and makes popping sound. Toasting quinoa will reduce its bitterness and make the cooked quinoa fluffier. Transfer quinoa into the plate and set aside.

Bring stock to simmer in a big pot. Preheat the oven to 300°F.

In a large shallow pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions , garlic and bell peppers. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chopped vegetables, green peas, garbanzo beans and raisins. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the quinoa and stir until well coated with vegetable mixture and slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, cumin and spanish paprika, mix well. Now Add hot vegetable stock and bring to boil. Add saffron, mix well and check for seasoning.

Put the paella in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes until all the liquid absorbs. (If you don’t have an oven accessible, you can also cook on stove top – reduce the heat to very low and allow to simmer until all the liquid absorbs.) Remove from the oven, cover with kitchen towel and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff the paella with fork, garnish with herbs and sliced almonds, serve with lemon wedges.

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  1. says

    Wowee! Those colours! Amazing! It’s so funny Medha, we’re really on the same track! I’m busy with a black rice paella.. how funny, we’re constantly thinking of the same kind of meals?! Anyway, it looks stunning, and I’m absolutely gonna try this. I think quinoa is one of the most satisfying foods I’ve had in years!

  2. says

    Love your take on the typical Spanish paella. I have yet to cook with quinoa or even taste it for that matter. Your paella dish looks so pretty and deliciously healthy. I am finding it a very comforting meal for sure.

  3. says

    I cooked this recipe Saturday night for my son and wife and it was fantastic! The funny thing was that I thought I had some saffron in the spice rack but when I went to make it we were out of saffron. Regardless, it was one of the tastiest dishes I have cooked in some time. Next time, I’ll use saffron. But even without it, it was awesome. Thank you!

    • says

      Paul, I am so happy that the Paella came out good! You could use a pinch of turmeric if you are out of Saffron next time. Turmeric is called “poor man’s saffron” :)

  4. Anna says

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I tried this tonight – it was my first attempt at Paella and it was absolutely delicious. The best part – I now have leftovers for healthy dinners for the week! All the best!

  5. says

    Made it for the second time and once again it was awesome. This time, I doubled the recipe and I have to say it was a little difficult to manage all that stuff in the pot. Probably won’t do that again. Two other things:

    1. I didn’t have any raisins so I chopped up some dried figs instead. Excellent substitution; in fact, I might always use figs in the future.
    2. It tastes even better as leftovers.

    Thanks again!

    • says

      Woohoo! Figs are my favorite too, great call. Improvisation is what cooking is about, isn’t it? Thanks for the update. I might just have to try this recipe again, it’s been a while. And I will make sure to get some figs!

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