This healthy paella recipe is flavorful and delicious – the saffron-infused rice mixed with fresh seafood makes for a comforting dish that takes you right to Spain.
While paella is undeniably delicious, is paella healthy?
Paella is typically not a healthy dish given the high amounts of carbs from the paella rice and high amounts of fats from oils. A typical serving of paella will run at about 600 calories, largely due to its high fat and carb content. Additionally, it is hard to portion control since it is often eaten in a group setting.
However, with just a few tweaks, we can easily make a healthy paella to satisfy your cravings while helping you stay fit.
💭 What is Paella?
Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that originated in Valencia. It is a rice-based dish that is typically cooked in a large, shallow pan over an open flame. The dish is characterized by its saffron-infused rice and a variety of ingredients, which may include seafood, chicken, and vegetables.
✅ Why This Recipe Works
Easy to make – No hours of simmering or prep needed. This dish will come together in about 30 minutes.
Restaurant quality taste from home – By utilizing the key cooking techniques used to make top-tier paella, you can make a restaurant-quality healthy paella from the comfort of your home
Healthy and nutritious – Made with lower calories with careful portioning, this is a great well-balanced healthy paella recipe for those who are craving the dish that want to stay on track with their fitness goals
🍎 Calories and Nutrition – How to Make It Healthy
A serving of this healthy paella recipe runs at 334 calories with 27 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat, and 44 grams of carbs.
The dish is predominantly made of paella rice, seafood, and sofrito (vegetables simmered down in oil), which makes it a great well-balanced dish. It’s key to portion control the carbs and fats and ensure ample protein content.
To ensure the healthy paella was cooked correctly in my 10-inch paella pan, it made sense to make 3 servings of this dish.
Here's what I did to make this healthy paella:
- Portioned 6 ounces of scallops, 4 ounces of shrimp, and 3 ounces of clam to ensure there was ample protein content in each serving
- Used ¾ cup of paella rice, so ¼ cup for each serving.
- Used exactly 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Typically I opt for cooking spray, but olive oil is needed here for the flavor development of the aromatics.
- Utilized shrimp shells, stock, and aromatics to make my own homemade paella stock, which is negligible in calories
For a detailed breakdown of each ingredient, their portioning, and how they make up the nutrition profile of this healthy paella recipe, you may refer to the table below:
📋 Ingredient Notes
To make the healthy paella recipe, you’ll need the following.
Seafood – I used a combination of scallops, shrimp, and clams. Other popular options also include mussels and squid rings. I would highly recommend at least including the shrimp, and reserving the shells and head to make your own stock for optimal flavor.
Paella Rice – Be sure to get proper paella rice. If you only have white or brown rice, I would recommend making the scallop fried rice or crab fried rice instead.
Saffron – Essential for building the flavor of the paella.
Bay leaves – Another flavor builder for the paella. Typically steeped with the stock and strained away.
Broth – I would recommend creating your own stock by simmering the leftover shrimp and fish shells with garlic, bay leaves, onions, peppercorn, and parsley for 10-20 minutes. Alternatively, you can use chicken broth or paella stock.
See my recipe card below for a complete list of the ingredients with measurements.
📖 Substitutions and Variations
Use chicken – Although this goes against the traditional rules of paella around not mixing meat and seafood together, you can also opt to use chicken as another lean protein source in the healthy paella.
Risotto rice – If you cannot find paella rice, risotto rice would also work. If you only have normal rice, opt to make scallop fried rice instead.
Broth options – You can make your own paella stock, buy premade paella stock, or just use chicken broth.
Switch up the vegetables – I wouldn’t remove any of the vegetables since they are used to create the flavor for this dish, but feel free to add additional vegetables to the paella.
Saffron substitutions – You can use ½ teaspoon of turmeric instead of saffron for a similar golden color. The flavor won’t quite be the same though.
🔪 Step by Step Instructions
Make the shrimp shell stock – Start by peeling the shells off the shrimp and placing them in a large pot. Cover the shells with water and add in a quartered onion, minced garlic, peppercorns, and a few sprigs of parsley. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain the stock and discard the solids.
Make the Salmorreta – Mince the onion, garlic, jalapeno, and tomato into small pieces. In the paella pan, add the olive oil, then add in the onion. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the onions begin to wilt. Add in the garlic and cook for about a minute, then add in the peppers and tomatoes. Stir everything together until the vegetables begin to soften and cook down.
Toast the rice –. Pour in the rice and stir until coated in the oil mixture. Toast the rice for 2-3 minutes until slightly golden.
Add the shrimp shell stock – Pour in the shrimp shell stock and saffron threads, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let it cook for 10-15 minutes until the rice is almost fully cooked. Sprinkle generously with salt.
Add the seafood – Add in the shrimp, scallops, and clams, arranging them on top of the rice. Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for another 5-7 minutes until the seafood is fully cooked and the rice is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish and serve – Garnish the paella with fresh parsley and lemon wedges, and serve hot.
💭 Recipe FAQs
The secret ingredient in paella is Salmorreta, which consists of a medley of vegetables that is simmered down in oil. This breaks down the vegetables and produces a sweet, caramelized flavor.
If you don't have a paella pan, you an substitute with any wide shallow pan, such as a stainless steel skillet or non-stick pan. Check out this list of paella pan substitutes for more ideas.
It’s likely that the Salmorreta hasn’t been fully developed and/or you need to add additional salt. If you have already finished cooking the paella, adding additional salt to taste can help remedy this.
Paella is a bigger dish and that is great to make ahead as meal prep. To store, add the portions into an airtight container in the fridge and consume within 2-3 days.
💡 Expert Tips
Don’t move the paella – While it may be tempting to stir the paella when cooking, let the paella sit and cook by itself to ensure even cooking.
Watch for the shellfish top open– If you are cooking with shellfish such as mussels and clams, be sure to watch out for the shells to fully open to indicate that the shellfish is fully cooked. When clams and mussels don’t open, it’s likely a sign that they have gone bad and should be disposed of.
Mince the vegetables into small pieces to make the Salmorreta – Big chunks will result in uneven cooking and will not result in proper flavor development.
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Healthy Paella Recipe
- 1 Paella pan (Stainless steel pan works)
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 2 cloves Garlic
- ½ Yellow Onion
- 1 Roma Tomato
- 1 Jalapeno
Shrimp Shell Stock
- Shrimp Heads and Stock
- 1 clove Garlic (Smashed)
- ½ Yellow Onion
- 3 sprigs Parsley
- ½ teaspoon Black Peppercorn
- 4 cups Water
Seafood and Rice
- 4 oz Shrimp
- 6 oz Scallop
- 3 oz Clam
- ¾ cups Paella Rice
- Make the shrimp shell stock – Start by peeling the shells off the shrimp and placing them in a large pot. Cover the shells with water and add in a quartered onion, minced garlic, peppercorns, and a few sprigs of parsley. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain the stock and discard the solids.
- Make the Salmorreta – Mince the onion, garlic, jalapeno, and tomato into small pieces. In the paella pan, add the olive oil, then add in the onion. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the onions begin to wilt. Add in the garlic and cook for about a minute, then add in the peppers and tomatoes. Stir everything together until the vegetables begin to soften and cook down.
- Toast the rice –. Pour in the rice and stir until coated in the oil mixture. Toast the rice for 2-3 minutes until slightly golden.
- Add the shrimp shell stock – Pour in the shrimp shell stock and saffron threads, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let it cook for 10-15 minutes until the rice is almost fully cooked. Sprinkle generously with salt.
- Add the seafood – Add in the shrimp, scallops, and clams, arranging them on top of the rice. Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for another 5-7 minutes until the seafood is fully cooked and the rice is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Hi there! I came across this recipe while looking for healthy dinner ideas and I'm so excited to try it out. I've been trying to incorporate more seafood into my diet and this healthy paella recipe seems like the perfect way to do it.
One ingredient that I like to add to my paella is bulk Himalayan salt. Not only does it add a delicious flavor to the dish, but it also provides a range of minerals and trace elements that are important for overall health and wellness. Plus, using bulk Himalayan salt is a more sustainable and eco-friendly option than using regular table salt.
Thank you for sharing this delicious and nutritious recipe. I can't wait to try it out and add it to my regular meal rotation!