Poor Man’s Paella

Paella is a dish that for years was wrapped in mystique, seemingly out of reach of the average American. It’s a darn shame because a simple Paella is a stunning dish and very doable dish for a week-night dinner.

Poor Man's Paella - chicken, regular rice. Fantastic, even on a budget.

Poor Man’s Paella – chicken, regular rice. Fantastic, even on a budget.

While gourmands may search out ingredients from far-flung places, buy special spices and hardware, Paella is really just rice, flavorings and whatever meats, poultry and/or seafood one wishes to add. A person posted on Epicurious that he’d lived in Spain for six months and “true” Paella almost always has seafood. My answer, below:

Am I being unkind? I am, I know, I know, but sometimes the sarcasm comes out, and I always loved the Lion King. I just can’t imagine a Rabbit or some of other many and varied Paella dishes combined with Seafood. I’ve heard, too, that this same issue is often debated amongst the Paella experts in Valencia. I’m betting there are many Spanish families who put out marvelous Paella for their families but only go to great lengths for company, get togethers and parties.

There’s no more an “authentic” or “true” Paella than there is a an “authentic” or “true” stew! It can be truly gourmet or down home, have saffron or not, wine or not, be plain or spicy, have sausage or not, seafood or not…well, you get the idea. Make it how YOU want it and you’ll be guaranteed to love it.

Poor Man's Paella - made with chicken

Poor Man’s Paella – made with chicken

This recipe is a fantastic method for an easy indoor Paella and will work very well with almost any Paella I can think of. You can go all out and add whatever ingredients you wish and you won’t go wrong. Pull out your Paella pan, more power to you, and if you want to use or order a special rice, go for it! A little seafood, some sausage and a touch of Saffron are always welcome additions – and please ask me to dinner!

If you just want a marvelous dinner made with what’s on hand – that’s fine, too 🙂 and still a wonderful way to go. You can see how beautifully this cooks up in my cast iron skillet. 🙂 One “gourmet” addition that’s really worthwhile to seek out is the saffron, and it’s not as expensive as you might think – a small amount weighs hardly anything and adds a ton of flavor, and it is possible to pick up a “second” grade instead of a fine or fancy.

Sofrito, onions, peppers, tomatoes cooked to a jam.

Sofrito, onions, peppers, tomatoes cooked to a jam.

I often make this Paella with my Sofrito, a blend of onions, peppers and tomatoes cooked up into a jammy deliciousness and packaged for the freezer. Having a bit of Sofrito on hand is a smart thing and a great time-saver. Directions are in the recipe to just saute up your own vegetables along with a note on how to add and use Sofrito, instead. Use a good, flavorful stock or this dish may not be at it’s best.

Fiesta Friday Badge Button I party @I think I will go ahead and bring this over to Angie at the Novice Gardener for this week’s Fiesta Friday, an ongoing extravaganza. Angie has given bloggers a platform to show off their best dishes, and this humble paella, in spite of being made with chicken, is one of mine.

Judge the amount of chicken by the appetites of those eating; this makes about 4 cups of rice so just add what’s appropriate for your family. And, by the way, if you’d like to use Chorizo (or a local sausage) and/or seafood, the instructions are below. Serve with lemon or lime wedges or red wine vinegar passed at the table.

Poor Man's Paella - chicken, regular rice. Fantastic, even on a budget.

Poor Man’s Paella – chicken, regular rice. Fantastic, even on a budget.


Poor Man's Paella

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 8 boneless chicken thighs, enough for your family
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small or one large bell pepper, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed & minced
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups Arborio (or medium or short grain rice, see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pimenton, 1/2 teaspoon saffron or 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • salt & pepper to taste for the broth

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and adjust oven rack to about four to five inches from the bottom. Warm stock and wine in a medium sauce pan. Shortly before using, add saffron if desired.

Unroll thighs, trim any fat or undesirable portions. Season chicken with salt, pepper and pimenton if using. Roll back up. Heat oil in a 14 inch oven proof skillet or paella pan over medium high heat. Brown chicken, seam side down (it helps to keep it together) for several minutes per side until nicely browned. Transfer to a plate.

Add onions, peppers and garlic. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in rice and toast for a moment or two, stirring constantly. Add the broth mixture, then bring to a boil, cooking for about two minutes, stirring often. Taste and adjust any seasonings keeping in mind the broth will be flavoring the rice. See note.

Nestle the chicken into the rice, cover and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with peas and recover. Let stand for 10 minutes before fluffing the rice with a fork and serving.


  • Instead of using the onion, pepper and tomato in this recipe, I often use a cup (or two) of my Sofrito. I simply add it in along with the rice after removing the chicken, but even when I do so, I still add the garlic. I used one cup in the above photo – but far prefer two cups!
  • I have used “special” rice and plain old rice, both are delicious and cook beautifully with this method.
  • If upon tasting the broth, add any more salt, pepper, pimenton, saffron, etc. to the dish if necessary. If the broth still needs help, consider an “emergency” save of a little chicken base, Sazon, Goya Adobo seasoning, etc. If the broth isn’t good and tasty and strongly flavored, the final dish will be dull, dull, dull.
  • Putting the dish towards the bottom of the oven will hopefully give some crustiness to the rice at the bottom and sides of the pan.

from the kitchen of http://www.frugalhausfrau.com

Put your own Spin on it:

  • A Spanish chorizo is marvelous in this dish. Slice very thinly and brown up and remove before the chicken goes in. The amount of fat may vary so keep behind about 2 tablespoons to cook with. Add the chorizo back in with the chicken.
  • Shrimp is a great addition, and if they’re small, they can be tossed in with the peas to steam, but do so quickly and recover. Larger shrimp or prawns should go in a few minutes before the dish is done.

Inspired by Cook’s Illustrated’s method of baking Spanish Rice, Martha Stewart and Epicurious,

8 thoughts on “Poor Man’s Paella

    • It really was good! We made it twice last week – the first time chicken and shrimp and the second was this one. 🙂 We couldn’t hold off for photos the first time around!

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