Did My Seafood Paella Recipe Break Spanish Culinary Law? Valencia’s Controversial Ingredients Debate Is Here!

A Work Of Culinary Art – Or Is It A Crime?

As a lover of food, this website is dedicated to the celebration of food in all ways – but apparently, there are laws that cannot be broken!

According to one Spanish city, crimes have been committed in the name of “Paella” – so now researchers in Valencia have laid down 10 commandments of what “thou shall and shall not” put in their national dish!

Here Are Your “TEN” Paella Ingredients – No Exceptions!

The city of Valencia has laid down the law – no messing with their traditiional Paella recipe!

The ten permitted ingredients are these:

Rice, Water, Olive Oil, Salt, Saffron (or food colouring), Tomato, Flat Green Beans, Lima Beans, Chicken and Rabbit.

That’s it!

More importantly:

NO Fish or Shellfish. EVER.

This is the Paella my wife Alex and I had on Spain’s “Wild Coast”, the Costa Brava – and there are Shrimp and Mussels!

Well, that may be ending! Social Scientists at the Universidad Católica de Valencia – at the instigation of local Chef Rafael Vidal – questioned 400 amateur chefs aged over 50 from 266 Valencian villages.

Ninety per cent of those interviewed agreed on the 10 essential ingredients, with some dissent over rabbit (88.9%).

Paprika (62.5%) and rosemary (52.2%) are also considered acceptable, as are artichokes (46.3%), when in season.

That would make this Paella illegal! They go on to say:

“Everyone has an opinion about paella but the idea was to do fieldwork to establish what are the essential ingredients,” says Pablo Vidal (no relation), an anthropologist at the university involved in the research.

“What we have shown is what is always an ingredient of paella, what ingredients are sometimes used and what should never be used.”

With that said, here’s my recipe that broke ALL the rules!

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My Paella Adventure!

I’m always looking for some new recipes, and what better way to find one than looking in a cookbook I had sitting right on my shelf!

I was inspired by this great cookbook we bought after our trip to Spain:

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Bravo to Penelope Casas for the great historical perspective on this “national” dish of Spain.

Using Penelope’s cookbook as my guide, it was time to make some Spanish Paella at home!

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Who’s Hungry?

Paella is a traditional Spanish dish from Valencia. This book says this rice dish can have meat, fish, seafood, and vegetables – and is characterized by its use of saffron to give it a yellow color and unique flavor.



So, I made one at home!

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It Begins With The Base…

It’s a two-part process…first, prep the ingredients like onion, garlic, bell pepper so they are ready to cook, then put together all of your proteins:

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Cue The Langoustines!

Yes, the centerpiece of this Paella is going to be these beautiful Langoustines…and thanks to the terrific food emporium Eataly here in Century City for supplying these gorgeous fellows…as well as fresh Clams, Mussels, Chicken Thighs and Chicken Chorizo!

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First step is to pre-cook the Chicken thighs and Chicken Chorizo…note, that was all I had access to that day, but it tasted great!

And how do they look when cooking? Here you go!

It smelled as good as it sounded!

Once those items were pre-cooked, they were set aside…next up, pre-cook some of the seafood!

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I chose to pre-cook my seafood…simmered in boiling, salted water for a few minutes – covered to steam them open…you can use that broth later if you want, but either way, most of my protein was precooked with one big exception…

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Next up, time to cook the onions, garlic and bell pepper (just for Alex, this is a separate dish for me without the bell pepper – sorry,, not a fan).

I used the same pan I cooked the chicken and chorizo in, first giving it a splash of white wine to allow me to scrape the little tasty bits off the bottom, then I added my ingredients, including my Paprika and Saffron, and let it cook…

Don’t worry, the whole recipe with portions is at the end of this!

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Now the fun stuff: add broth – I used Chicken Stock, put the chicken and chorizo back in and let it simmer away, bringing together all of the flavors…

As I mentioned, I made two different recipes: Alex got bell peppers plus I also used Cauliflower Rice for hers…it works well, but I went with the traditional rice, which was pre-cooked at added now, along with some fire-roasted tomatoes:

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Now comes the fun part: putting the Clams and Mussels back into the pan, and top it all with those Langoustines!

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Put a lid on and let the Langoustines steam in the mixture for 7=8 minutes, then take the lid off and let the liquid cook away…and it will sound like this:

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Once you take the lid off and let it simmer, the rice absorbs the liquid and the final dish takes shape!

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I plated the dish is a large shallow bowl and topped it with fresh parsley – which led me to this final presentation:

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And it was a delicious success!

I mentioned earlier that I wasn’t going to get “in the weeds” with the portion information, choosing to leave it here along with some really terrific history of this incredible dish.

Back to the terrific Paella Cookbook by Penelope Casas – here is the recipe I followed – loosely – to create our Paella at home – after she explains the importance of this dish to that Country:

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See how she says that Valencia’s do NOT mix seafood and meat – but we did!

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Of course, nothing will ever match the real thing from Spain.

As I said early, Alex and I were lucky enough to taste it on Spain’s “Wild Coast”:



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Here’s a look at the incredible dish we got in Costa Brava, part of our adventure along Spain’s “Wild Coast!”

Click here for more:

If you get the chance to go to Costa Brava, make sure to take a day to ride a big through the three medieval villages!

They are close enough to bike to all three, and so we did!

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Click here to see our entire route:

I have been using this website to focus on food – whether in travels or in film! I shared this terrific “Eggs In A Hole” recipe thanks to Cher as part of my “dinner and a movie” series:

Click here for a delicious dish from the great comedy “Moonstruck!”

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If you like what you see, please click on my link and follow this blog as well!

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Categories: Bite Eat Swallow, Bite! Eat! Repeat!, Books / Media, Cookbooks, Eat This!, Food, Food Pictures, Food Porn, Food Travel, Recipes, Travel, Wacky Food, World's Wildest Food

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18 replies

  1. I break all the rules with Paella like you John..no bell peppers …we like bell peppers just not in Paella and I use spicy chorizo…Love Paella an d yours looks and sounds absolutely delish 🙂

  2. I would happily eat your dish, John. But as a lover of rabbit, I would love to try that ‘official’ paella too!
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. HI John, I love paella with shrimp and hake and even haddock. I don’t like mussels. I will be horrified if one of my favourite dishes is banned.

    • It will be interesting if they just want to keep a “traditional” title for the dish alive, as Darlene says, many restaurants in Spain don’t use the word paella anyway! Thanks for reading, much appreciated!

  4. I have noticed recently that many restaurants here in Spain just call them rice dishes. LIke: Arroz al Horno, an oven baked rice that hails from Castellon, Spain. Arroz a Abanda, a simple seafood rice dish, very similar to a seafood paella. Arroz Meloso con Verdudas, a rice dish loaded with vegetables. They all look and taste like paella. I make my own paella and it does not have all the traditional ingredients. (I would never eat anything with rabbit in it!) Yours looks amazing!

    • I love seafood and never knew it was against the culinary rules in Valencia – I agree that we should all let our taste buds take us in all new directions always! Thanks for commenting!

  5. Mattie and Josh had the biggest Paella I’ve ever seen while studying in Valencia. It was cooked in a 25 foot diameter pan in the parking lot (fire built under it!) Definitely no seafood in it

  6. I’m all about adding seafood and deleting the rabbit. it looks wonderful!

  7. Fantastic seafood paella. So detailed. Impressive pictures. I think seafood paella is the most popular in Spain outside Valencia. In Valencia it is probably the other way around. It´s a bit like pizza, the best ones are not likely found in Italy anymore.

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