The history of paella as we know it today dates back to the 19th century, though its roots go back much further, and it is enjoyed to this day as one of Spain’s best loved dishes. Some of the best paella can be found in Valencia, where the dish originated, but there is also great paella to be discovered in all of the major Spanish cities, including Barcelona and Madrid. In this guide we highlight five of the best types of paella that you must try when you’re visiting the country.
The original, and in many people’s eyes, the best paella around, classic Valencian paella is traditionally cooked over a fire of orange tree and pine branches. As the smoke infuses the food, people are encouraged to eat the rice and meat dish straight from the pan.
The most common paella you’ll see on Spanish menus is the mixed paella. It is generally fairly open to interpretation, with chefs adding anything from crabs and lobster to chicken and rabbit. Regardless of what may be in your mixed paella, the signature blend of peppers, garlic and tomatoes means it should taste superb.
Quite possibly the most unusual looking paella you will come across in Spain, black paella gets its name thanks to the use of squid ink in the dish. The ink not only changes the colour of the food but also enhances the seafood flavours. This dish is most popular in Valencia and Catalonia.
The use of ham and salami instead of chicken or seafood is the essential difference between traditional and white paella. This variety of the dish is often served in tapas bars and can mostly commonly be found in the Andalusia region of Spain. It’s often eaten with a glass of red wine.
If you’re not a fan of meat or fish, vegetarian paella is the dish for you. This vegetable-heavy version of the Spanish classic typically uses artichokes, asparagus, mushrooms and olives. Lighter than traditional paella, it makes a great choice for lunch.