You’ll love this amazing Spanish Chicken and Chorizo Paella! It’s an easy, flavor-packed rice dish that is loved all around the world.
It’s packed with tender chicken, spiced Spanish chorizo, veggies, and tender rice. The entire dish is so well-balanced and the flavors are seriously out of this world!
It comes together in just 45 minutes. Whether you’re making it for dinner or to entertain guests at home, this chicken and chorizo paella will surely impress everyone!
Paella is one of those dishes that have a special place in my heart. I’ve tried many variations of it, and while seafood paella will always be my number one, this Chicken and Chorizo Paella comes very, very close.
The flavors in this chicken and chorizo paella are marvelous! Incredibly fragrant, and a bit smokey with a hint of spice from the Spanish chorizo. The rice absorbs all that wonderful flavor from the sofrito, chorizo, and the spices.
The traditional way to cook paella is over open flame outdoors, but I adapted this chicken chorizo paella recipe so you can make it indoors on a gas or electric stove.
Why we love this paella recipe:
- Easy to make! Don’t be intimidated by this iconic Spanish dish. It’s actually very easy to make and I provide a step-by-step tutorial below.
- Incredibly flavorful: Each ingredient adds layers of flavor upon flavor. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice makes it even better!
- Ready in 45 minutes: Make it on weekdays or weekends.
- Great for hosting: If you love to entertain, this paella is a MUST. Serve with a spread of Spanish tapas and you’ll be the most popular host in town!
What is Paella?
Paella is one of the most well-known dishes from Spain, most commonly from the region of Valencia, although there are variations from other regions too. This iconic rice dish is made with a variety of proteins and vegetables, and spices, one of the most popular ones being saffron. It is traditionally cooked in a shallow paella pan over open flame.
A good paella has a good socarrat, which is that glorious crust of toasted rice that forms in the bottom of the pan. It can be hard to achieve sometimes, but hey, practice makes perfect!
What Type of Rice to Use
The best rice to make this chicken and chorizo paella (or any other variations) is Arborio or Bomba rice. Other types of rice commonly used in Spain are Calasparra, Senia, and Bahia, but those can be harder to find depending on where you live.
These types of rice do a great job absorbing all the liquid and flavor without getting clumpy, so the grains remain beautifully separated.
If you can’t find it, regular short-grain rice will do. I would NOT recommend using brown rice though since it does not absorb liquid and flavor as well.
Saffron is a fragrant spice from a flower called crocus sativus. They look like threads and are deep orange in color. In cooking, saffron releases flavors that infuse the entire dish with delicate and subtle floral aroma, and also adds a beautiful light golden hue.
The flavors are so subtle you can barely taste it on its own, but without it, you’ll feel like something is missing. It’s the kind of aroma that permeates through the entire dish and elevates it.
Yes, saffron can be expensive but it’s so worth it, in my opinion. It will take your chicken and chorizo paella from amazing to super amazing! A little bit goes a long way. I usually get mine at my local Whole Foods, but you can also find it at Trader Joe’s or online.
Below are a few helpful ingredient notes from recipe testing. As always the full ingredient list with quantities can be found in the recipe card down below.
- Chicken thighs: I prefer to use boneless thighs because they cook faster, but bone-in thighs will work too. Cubed chicken breast works too.
- Yellow onion, red bell pepper, and garlic: These three ingredients make the sofrito, which is the flavor base or foundation.
- Canned diced tomatoes: For flavor, color, and texture.
- Smoked paprika: Provides amazing smokey flavors and adds color. Paprika is a very common spice used in Spanish cuisine.
- Spanish chorizo: Spanish chorizo is dry cured and smoked. Do NOT use Mexican chorizo, which is raw and crumbly.
- Arborio rice: This is my favorite type of rice for paella, and it’s the same one I use to make risotto. Bomba rice is also great. It absorbs liquid really well without getting mushy or clumpy. If you can’t find these, regular white short grain rice will do.
- Saffron threads: You need a large pinch, about 1 to 2 teaspoons.
- Chicken broth or stock: The liquid component to cook the rice.
- Frozen green peas: If you’re not a fan of peas, omit them.
- Salt, pepper, olive oil
- Lemon wedges: For serving. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice adds so much brightness and amplifies flavors. I’d HIGHLY recommend it!
- Chopped Italian parsley for garnish
Making paella is actually very easy! No need to buy a special paella burner or pan, and no special skills required. I adapted the traditional recipe so you can make it right at home, whether it’s on a gas or electric stove.
Step 1 | Soak saffron in broth
In a small bowl, infuse the saffron threads with some chicken broth. This will bring out the floral aroma of the saffron. Set aside.
Step 2 | Season and cook chicken
Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large 12-inch skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Sear the chicken on both sides until golden brown. It doesn’t need to be cooked through at this point.
Step 3 | Sauté sofrito and chorizo
In the same skillet (do not wipe clean), add a few more drizzles of olive oil and saute the diced onions, bell peppers, garlic, and smoked paprika until softened and fragrant. Then, add the sliced chorizo and cook for another 3 minutes, until the flavors come together.
Step 4 | Add tomatoes, rice, broth and saffron
Add the canned diced tomatoes, Arborio rice, broth, and the saffron threads (broth included). Stir to combine evenly.
Step 5 | Return chicken to skillet with peas
Return the seared chicken into the skillet, nesting it under the broth. Add the peas.
Step 6 | Simmer until cooked through
Once the broth starts to come to a simmer, cover with the lid and let it cook over low heat, undisturbed. Do not stir it, as this would cause the rice to get too sticky, sort of like risotto. Plus, you want the bottom to cook undisturbed so you can get that desired socarrat.
Cooking Paella Indoors vs. Outdoors
Paella tends to cook better and more consistently over gas flame. Traditionally, it’s cooked over an open fire, uncovered, on a special burner designed just for paellas. As you can imagine, that can be hard to replicate indoors. The biggest problem is that most regular house stoves are not large or strong enough to cook the rice evenly.
With that said, if you’re cooking indoors on a gas or electric stovetop, using a large skillet with a lid would be best. The lid will allow the rice to cook thoroughly. It can be cast iron, stainless steel, or nonstick.
If you’re looking to go the traditional route, get a paella pan burner (this one is a 20-inch, so double the recipe). It’s basically an outdoor gas burner with two burner rings, one that heats the pan around the outer edge and another one that cooks the center. You could also cook it on your grill, but be careful not to burn the handles.
Pairing and Serving Ideas
This is a beautiful dish that makes you feel right at home. And the great thing is that it’s meant to be enjoyed with lots of “tapas,” which are appetizers or snacks in Spanish cuisine meant to make a meal or accompany a main dish. Yes, bring all the tapas please!
If you like rice recipes, definitely give these a try:
- Mexican Chicken and Rice (an awesome one pot meal!)
- One Pot Jambalaya
- Wild Rice Pilaf and Mushrooms
- Butternut Squash Risotto
- Curry Fried Rice
Use dry-cured Spanish chorizo, which is typically semi-hard in texture. Do not use Mexican chorizo, which is raw and crumbly.
I like to use Arborio or Bomba rice, but any type of white short grain rice should work. Do not use brown rice.
Not necessary, if you’re cooking it indoors, I’d recommend using a large 12-inch skillet with a lid, which helps to cook the rice evenly and thoroughly. If you’re cooking outdoors, you can buy a traditional paella gas burner.
You could, but it may lack that unique floral aroma. However, if you can’t find saffron, the recipe will still work without it.
This recipe was published in 2019 and updated in January 2023 to include new photos and information, plus a few recipe modifications.
Tips for Success
- Use Spanish chorizo, which is dry-cured and smoked. Do not use Mexican chorizo.
- Saffron can be difficult to find and a bit expensive, but it’s such a wonderful spice that adds so much aroma throughout the entire dish. If you can, definitely use it!
- Use Arborio or Bomba rice: These absorb flavor like no other and don’t stick together. If you can’t find these, use other types of short grain rice. Don’t use brown rice.
- Don’t stir the rice once the broth starts simmering. Let it cook undisturbed. Stirring constantly creates consistency like risotto. The rice is supposed to be loose. This will also help the socarrat develop (the crust of toasted rice that forms in the bottom of the pan).
Chicken and Chorizo Paella
- 1 large pinch saffron threads - about 2 teaspoons
- 6 chicken boneless thighs - or bone-in
- 1 medium yellow onion, small-diced
- 1 red bell pepper, small-diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 8 ounces dry-cured smoked Spanish chorizo, sliced - see notes below
- 1 ½ cups Arborio rice - see notes below
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 3 cups chicken broth plus 1 tablespoon, divided
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil
- Chopped Italian parsley for garnish
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Combine a large pinch of saffron threads with 1 tablespoon of chicken broth to let it infuse. Set aside.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large 12-inch skillet (one with a lid) over medium heat. Cook the chicken about 6 to 8 minutes per side, until browned. Remove from the skillet and transfer to a plate. It doesn't need to be completely cooked through at this point.
- To the same pan (do not wipe), add a few more drizzles of oil. Then add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, and smoked paprika. Sauté until fragrant and soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add sliced Spanish chorizo and cook for about 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and slightly browned.
- Add the rice and canned diced tomatoes. Stir to combine for about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the 3 cups of chicken broth and saffron threads along with the broth it was infused in. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir to combine. Bring to a light boil and then reduce to a simmer.
- Return the chicken to the pan, nesting it under the broth. Add the frozen peas on top. Cook, covered, for about 25 minutes on low heat, until the rice is tender and the chicken is fully cooked through. Tip: Once it comes to a simmer, let the rice cook undisturbed, do not stir constantly. Stirring will cause it to have the consistency of risotto.
- Remove from heat and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving, with the lid covered. During this time, the rice will absorb the remaining liquid and flavors. Serve with parsley and lemon wedges. I'd highly recommend a squeeze of lemon juice to amplify flavors. Enjoy!
- Spanish chorizo: It’s dry-cured and smoked. Do not use Mexican chorizo – it’s raw and crumbly, so it won’t work.
- Rice: I use Arborio or Bomba rice. If you can’t find it, use other types of short grain rice, but don’t use brown rice.
- Saffron: This spice looks almost like flower strings or threads. It’s derived from a flower called crocus sativus. I get it at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, and it’s also available online.
- For indoors cooking, I find that using a large 12-inch skillet with a lid works best. If cooking outdoors, cook on a grill or get a paella gas burner.
- Paella tastes best when it’s freshly made, so I would not recommend making it ahead.
- I’d highly recommend a squeeze of fresh lemon juice when serving. It amplifies flavors and it’s amazing!
- Leftovers: Store in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
- Chicken thighs: Use boneless or bone-in thighs. Cubed chicken breast will work too.
- Arborio rice: Bomba rice, Calasparra, Senia, and Bahia rice. Or regular white short grain rice. Do not use brown rice.
- Saffron: If you can’t find it, omit.