This Cuban Seafood Paella Recipe is going to walk you through making a traditional paella that is packed with flavor and loaded with seafood. It’s an intimidating dish, that we break down for you and make so simple. Let’s jump right in!
This seafood paella is inspired by my Abuelo Pepe, who was Cuban with Spanish parents. My grandparents were the ultimate hosts and made paella regularly. They had pans in every size. Unlike most restaurants, my Abuelo’s paella had more seafood than rice. He was a showman and had a more is better attitude when it came to almost anything in life but especially food. He always started the paella when all the family and guests had arrived because the paella is the centerpiece of the party. It’s the main event. The best advice he would give is probably to enjoy the process. Get people involved with adding in the ingredients, stirring and of course taste testing.Ani
What is Cuban Seafood Paella?
Paella, is a traditional iconic dish that comes from Spain. It is another beautiful example of how simple ingredients are amplified and taken to a new level to create a delicious and very impressive dish. Here the short grain rice is toasted and flavored with a chorizo sofrito, cooked gently in a saffron fish broth and studded with a generous amount of seafood.
In the coast of Spain you will find an incredible variety of paellas. Each region adds it’s own special twist. The most common are Seafood Paella that come with a combination of fish and shellfish. In regions like Valencia, you will find paella made with chicken and rabbit (YUM!). The process for each is always the same, but it’s just the ingredients that need a little tweaking.
Paella is a dish that you usually find at a celebration or special occasion. However do not let that fool you! This dish is deceptively simple. It’s actually easier than pie! That’s right. the steps are very straightforward. It starts with sofrito, and then you just layer in the seafood and rice. A small paella for 6-8 people can be ready in less than an hour. A larger paella will take a little longer but the rice is always ready in about 20 minutes.
There are three things that can make or break your paella; the rice, the seafood and the process:
How to Make Cuban Seafood Paella
Let’s focus on the process. The process of making the paella is simple, but important. There are certain steps that if done correctly will really take your paella to the next level.
To start we want to focus on the pan you are using. We love to use a traditional paella pan because it really helps all the ingredients cook properly and evenly. The shape of the pan is what allows the rice to cook so perfectly. But if you don’t have a paella pan, don’t let that deter you from making this recipe. You can find one online, (like THIS ONE), or at a specialty Spanish shop. However you can also use a shallow large non-stick pan, or even a cast iron skillet will work!
Let’s shift our focus to the rice. The type of rice is very important. We like calasparra bomba rice. It’s a short round grain rice that comes directly from Spain. It will grow by more than 2 times its size so although it’s expensive you can feed a lot of people with very little.
There is a paella tradition that requires adding the rice in the shape of a cross. It’s very superstitious and doesn’t really allow you to move the rice around once it’s in the pan. We don’t believe in this. In fact, we believe it’s very important to move the rice around the pan. Adding the rice into the pan before the liquid allows it to toast a little (adding flavor) but also allows the rice a chance to really absorb the flavors you have going on in the pan.
Our Tips for a Delicious Cuban Seafood Paella
It is important to make sure your pan is nice and hot before you add your chorizo. Once your chorizo is starting to brown, that’s when you want to add your onions and salt and pepper.
In this recipe, we call for a mix of chorizo, fish and shellfish. However you can switch it up to use what you like. The most important thing is to get the freshest fish you can get your hands on.
If you are using calamari, you want to add it ahead of the rest of the seafood. The calamari needs a little extra time to help tenderize it. Add it in after the rice and with the broth, because those few minutes will go a long way in making it nice and soft and full of flavor.
A great combination is fish and mussels but we’ve done it with only shrimp and it’s delicious. You can also swap out the mussels for clams if you enjoy them more. The langostinos or lobster are not totally essential but it is nice to have something extra special to top the paella.
The trick for saffron! Add the saffron into the fish broth a few minutes before you need to use it. Think about adding in the saffron before you begin the sofrito. The saffron needs time to “bloom” in the broth to really bring the most flavor.
Once you add the fish broth, the key is to make sure everything is covered by the liquid by about a half inch. If it is, you are good to go, however if it is not, add a little more liquid.
Make sure the lid is tight while it simmers. This will really allow the paella to cook well and make a big difference in allowing your rice to soften.
Paella Math! If you need to make this recipe for more people, we got you! Add a 1/2 cup more of rice as well as 4 extra pieces of each seafood you plan on using per 4 people. So if you wanted to make this for 10 people you would use 1 1/2 cups of rice and 4 extra pieces of mussels, fish, and shrimp. If you wanted to do this for 12 people you would simply double the recipe. If you have any questions at all just comment below or send us an email!
What to Serve with our Cuban Seafood Paella
You can serve our paella an array of tapas and appetizers while it is being made, and of course you want to think about dessert. Here are a few ideas:
Cuban Seafood PaellaCourse: EntreeCuisine: SpanishDifficulty: Easy
1 Spanish dried and cured chorizo, about 6-8 ounces, chopped (we like the brand palacios)
1 pound of calamari, cleaned and cut into ½-inch rings
6 shrimp with tails on
6 langostinos or 2 lobster tails split in half lengthwise
1 pound of grouper fillet, cut in large chunks
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup of bell peppers, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 cup of rice
1 cup of white wine (we like Albarino or Savignon Blanc)
1 tablespoon of paprika
1 tablespoon of creole seasoning
3 to 4 cups of fish broth, hot
½ teaspoon of saffron
1/4 cup of olive oil
¼ cup of parsley, finely chopped
Garnish with lemons or limes and more fresh herbs
- In a platter, season all the fish and seafood with salt, pepper and the creole seasoning. Although you are seasoning all of it the same try to keep them separate because you will be adding in each of them at different times. Then set the platter aside.
- Add the saffron to 3 cups of hot fish broth. Allow it to bloom in the broth. Set aside.
- Heat your paella pan to medium. Allow it to get hot for a couple of minutes. Add the chorizo.
Mix around the chorizo and allow it to start releasing its oil. If its starting to smoke too much, turn down the heat.
- Build your sofrito. Add the onion, 2 tablespoons of oil, salt and pepper and stir. Cook on medium low for a few minutes until the onions soften. Then add the bell peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes until they start to soften. Add a couple more tablespoons of oil if necessary.
- Add the paprika another large pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper.
- Move the sofrito to the side and add the garlic. At this point you will probably need another 2-3 tablespoons of oil. You want to make sure it is cooking well and not burning. Mix all the sofrito together.
- Add the rice and mix into the sofrito. You want to toast the rice to give it flavor.
- If you are using calamari, add your calamari rings and give it a mix.
- Raise your heat to medium high/ high add the wine. Allow it to evaporate almost completely.
- Add 3 cups of fish broth and mix in to make sure there is enough. It’s enough once the rice is just completely covered. Raise the heat to high.
- As soon as it boils vigorously in the entire pan begin to add the seafood. Nestle the shrimp evenly in the broth all around the pan. Then add the chunks of fish. Lastly place the mussels and large langostinos.
- Lower the heat to low and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
- Simmer for 20 minutes then uncover. If you are unsure if the paella is done, just slightly peek inside the pan at 20 minutes to check on the rice. The rice should be fully cooked but holding its shape. (Think of the texture of risotto where the rice is creamy but not mushy.)
- Remove the foil from the paella and leave on low for another 2 minutes. If you like it more watery add another ½ cup of water. If you like it a little more dry, leave on low for another 2-5 minutes.
- Then turn off the heat and garnish. Serve immediately. Remember that as it sits the rice will continue to absorb the liquid.