What Seafood to Use for Paella

Paella is a classic Spanish dish that is known for its rich and flavorful taste. It’s a dish that is often associated with seafood and is made with a variety of ingredients, including rice, saffron, vegetables, and meat. However, the seafood used in paella is what gives the dish its unique flavor and texture. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the best seafood to use for paella.

Understanding Paella

Before we dive into the different types of seafood that are used in paella, it’s important to understand what paella is and where it comes from. Paella originated in Valencia, a region in eastern Spain, and was traditionally made with rabbit, chicken, and snails. Over time, seafood was added to the dish, and it became the paella we know and love today.

Types of Seafood for Paella

When it comes to seafood for paella, there are a variety of options to choose from. The type of seafood you use will depend on your personal preference, as well as the availability of certain ingredients. Here are some of the most popular types of seafood used in paella:

A key takeaway from this text is that the seafood used in paella is a crucial component in giving the dish its unique flavor and texture. Popular seafood options for paella include shrimp, clams, mussels, squid, lobster, and crab, and it’s important to use fresh, high-quality seafood and cook each type separately to ensure the best results. Additionally, using seafood broth instead of water can enhance the flavor of the dish.


Shrimp is one of the most commonly used seafood in paella. It’s easy to find, cooks quickly, and adds a sweet and briny flavor to the dish. When using shrimp in paella, it’s important to leave the shells on, as this will help to infuse the rice with flavor.

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Clams and Mussels

Clams and mussels are another popular seafood option for paella. They add a salty flavor to the dish and are often used in combination with other seafood, such as shrimp and squid. When using clams and mussels in paella, it’s important to clean them thoroughly and discard any that do not open during cooking.


Squid is a unique addition to paella and adds a chewy texture and mild flavor to the dish. It’s important to clean squid thoroughly before using it in paella, as it can have a strong odor and be tough if not prepared properly.

Lobster and Crab

Lobster and crab are often used in more upscale versions of paella. They add a sweet and rich flavor to the dish and are typically added towards the end of cooking, as they cook quickly.

Tips for Cooking Seafood in Paella

When cooking seafood in paella, there are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure that the dish turns out perfectly:

  • Use fresh seafood: The quality of the seafood you use will greatly impact the flavor of the dish. Always use fresh, high-quality seafood for the best results.
  • Cook seafood separately: To ensure that each type of seafood is cooked to perfection, it’s often best to cook them separately and add them to the paella towards the end of cooking.
  • Don’t overcook the seafood: Overcooked seafood can become tough and rubbery, so it’s important to cook it just until it’s done.
  • Use seafood broth: To give the paella an extra boost of flavor, consider using seafood broth instead of water when cooking the rice.
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FAQs – what seafood for paella

What seafood is traditionally used in paella?

Paella is a Spanish rice dish that typically includes a variety of seafood such as shrimp, mussels, clams, squid or calamari, and sometimes even lobster or crab. Other ingredients like chorizo, chicken, and vegetables like bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes are also frequently used.

Can I use frozen seafood for paella?

Yes, you can use frozen seafood for paella, but it’s important to thaw it properly before cooking. Make sure to completely thaw the seafood before adding it to the dish as any ice crystals will create excess moisture and may negatively impact the texture and flavor of the paella.

Do I need to add all the seafood at the same time when making paella?

It’s best to add the seafood gradually during the cooking process, starting with those that take longer to cook, such as shrimp or squid, and finishing with those that cook quickly, such as mussels or clams. This ensures that each type of seafood is cooked to perfection and not overcooked or undercooked.

How do I know when the seafood in my paella is cooked?

It’s important to cook seafood until it’s fully done, but not overcooked. To determine the level of doneness, look for visual cues such as the color of the flesh or shell. Shrimp typically turn pink when cooked through, while mussels and clams will open up when they’re done. Squid or calamari are cooked quickly, so it’s important to keep an eye on them to prevent overcooking.

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Can I substitute different types of seafood in paella?

Yes, you can mix and match different types of seafood based on your preference and availability. Some good substitutes for mussels and clams include scallops, octopus or cuttlefish. Depending on your taste, you could even include fish or prawns in your paella recipe. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time for each type of seafood accordingly.






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