Colourful and easy vegetarian paella recipe


The key to making a vegetable paella that your kids will love is to fill it full of things they already like. To this end I have put in red peppers, peas and black olives. With R we don’t have much in the way to go on in terms of vegetables that he likes but he did eat all the olives! I guess what I’m saying is that you can adjust this recipe to suit you. You could swap the butter beans for a meat substitute like Quorn if you prefer, although I do think the butter beans work really well in this dish.

R has been asking me to make paella for him at least once a week since we went to Valencia last year. We stayed in a tiny beach resort that only had one cafe. Every lunch time we queued up with the Spanish holidaymakers to choose our lunch from the counter and R absolutely loved the traditional paella that he had there. (I ate gazpacho, tortilla and chips on rotation as these were the only veggie options.) I'm not sure that my version will ever be as good as the Valencian paella made in the biggest pan you've ever seen, with fresh local ingredients, and enjoyed after a busy morning playing on the beach, but it's a pretty great meal nonetheless.

Veggie paella is also a fantastic way to up your vegetable intake if you're trying to get close to eating ten a day. If you can’t find (or don't like) fennel feel free to substitute another onion, more peppers, or another vegetable that you like. Broad beans and green beans also work well if you’re making this in summer.


Here’s how to make this colourful and easy vegetarian paella:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely sliced
2 peppers, red, yellow or orange, thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb, cut into thin strips
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp saffron (optional)
1/2 tsp chilli powder (to taste, optional)
300g paella or risotto rice (paella rice can be found in most big supermarkets)
900 ml hot vegetable stock
1 x 400g tin of butter beans
100g peas, frozen are fine
1 jar of black olives
A small handful of parsley, finely chopped
Lemon wedges to serve
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add the sliced onion and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes until soft and golden. Stir often.
  2. Add the peppers and fennel, stir well, and continue to stir and cook for a further ten minutes until soft.
  3. Add the crushed garlic and the spices. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the rice and stir so that it is coated in the vegetable mixture. 
  5. Pour in the vegetable stock, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and leave to bubble away for 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. You don’t need to stir.
  6. A couple of minutes before the rice is due to be cooked add the butterbeans, peas and olives and stir in. Keep cooking until the rice is cooked and the peas beans and olives are hot.
  7. Add the chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve hot with lemon wedges.
This recipe for vegetable paella is easy and delicious. It's suitable for vegetarians and vegans and is easily adaptable so you can use whatever veg you or your family prefer.
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