If you love paella but hate how expensive it can be to make, you will love this easy poor man’s gluten free paella. Full of scallops, shrimp, and calamari, your friends will never know you skimped on cost.

A pan full of gluten free paella on a table.

Paella is one of those comfort foods I will always order in a restaurant. It is naturally gluten free, and it is filled with delicious seafood and rice. I was always intimidated to try to make it. Maybe it was the fancy-sounding ingredients?

Unfortunately, paella can also be a very expensive meal to prepare. Shrimp, mussels, and other specialty meats and seafood prices add up quickly.

I am really excited to share this recipe with you because it is easy to make and so low-cost! It is a great poor-man paella and is great for those on a budget!

If you are on a budget, I have tons of easy tips to save money on gluten-free food. Living gluten free on a budget is easy!

What is Paella?

Paella is a Spanish dish that originated in the 19th century on the Eastern coast of Spain. I want to share the three rules for making paella. (My recipe breaks at least one rule, so I am a bit of a rebel!

  1. Cook paella over a fire.
  2. Use a paella pan (oops!)
  3. Use medium-grain rice.

Why this gluten free paella recipe is great:

I have always thought that paella is a showstopper meal that is perfect for entertaining. It not only has a beautiful golden color from being cooked with saffron threads, but having lots of seafood and meats slowly cooking in the rice adds a beautiful depth of flavor that bursts through with every bite.

As I posted before, this is a fabulous meal, on my husband’s A list! For me, it takes 1-1/2 hours total time but I don’t mind because it’s so good. For the #6 simmer step, I simmer 20 minutes covered, then uncovered until liquid is absorbed. Instead of 1-1/2 cups water, I use 1-1/4 cups chicken broth (a little less liquid for white rice as you suggest.)”

mary m., blog comment

Allergen Information:

This homemade budget paella recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, soy-free, and oat-free

Ingredient Notes:

  • Seafood – As I mentioned, you can use Trader Joe’s inexpensive seafood blend. You want to make sure you have shrimp, calamari, scallops, and any other types you like.
  • Chicken – I made this optional. Many paellas have chicken cooked in them.
  • Saffron – Saffron can be expensive, but luckily, you only need a tiny pinch to get the flavor. If you don’t have saffron, you can substitute turmeric.
  • Chicken broth – I like to use low sodium.
  • Rice – White or brown is good.

Step-By-Step Photos and Directions:

Step 1: Add the onions and oil to a pan and cook for 2 minutes until the onions soften.

Photos of making paella steps 2 and 3.

Step 2: Add the broth, peppers, and seasonings.

Step 3: Add the thawed seafood and canned diced tomatoes. If you want to get fancy, toss in some mussels or clams. These are inexpensive and can add some pizzaz to this gluten free paella.

Add the raw chicken if you are adding it now so it has time to cook in the broth.

Photos of steps 4 and 5 making homemade gluten free paella.

Step 4: Add the rice and continue to cook the paella on medium heat until it boils. Once it comes to a boil, turn the cooking temperature to low. Stir frequently.

Add the optional thawed frozen peas and cooked chicken sausage if you are adding those in.

Step 5: the liquid will continue to cook down. The paella is ready to serve when it is gone and your rice is tender!

A closeup of a forkful of paella.

If you are looking for even more budget recipes, here are 17 delicious gluten free budget recipes!

Frequently Asked Questions:

What seafood is best for paella?

You can use various seafood and meats in your seafood paella recipe. Chicken, sausage, mussels, fish, clams, and shrimp are most commonly used. My kids love shellfish of any kind; as long as there is no fish in this recipe, they will eat it up. (My kids are funny about fish.)

How do you keep the cost of this recipe low?

Trader Joe’s sells a mixed seafood bag in their frozen section, priced really low. I love to use this instead of expensive seafood in my paella recipe.

How long will this paella keep fresh?

This paella should keep fresh for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Store in an airtight container.

Can you make paella without a paella pan?

You can easily make this paella without a paella pan! I don’t own

What rice is best for paella?

The best rice for paella is medium-grain rice. My favorites are Calrose, Basmati, and Brown Rice varieties.

A plate of paella on the dinner table.

More easy gluten free budget recipes:

Love This Recipe?

If you made and enjoyed this recipe, I would be incredibly grateful if you could leave a comment below. This will help others know this recipe is delicious. Thank you!

A large serving pan full of paella on a table.

Easy Gluten Free Paella

Sandi Gaertner
This makes a delicious inexpensive gluten free paella recipe in about 30 minutes!
5 from 18 votes
dairy free allergen icon
an egg free allergen icon
gluten free allergy icon
nut free allergen icon
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Gluten Free Dinner Recipes, Meal Recipes
Cuisine American
Servings 6 people
Calories 288 kcal


  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 red or green pepper chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 ½ cups brown rice * see note
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 14 ounces diced tomatoes no salt added
  • 1 package of frozen seafood defrosted (I use Trader Joe’s calamari, shrimp, and scallop blend.)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pinches saffron threads

Optional Ingredients:

  • 3 links of Italian chicken sausage chopped (you can also add chicken if you would like)
  • cup frozen peas *thawed


  • In a big pot on medium heat, add oil, onion, and garlic.
  • Cook for 4-5 minutes.
  • Add rice, diced tomatoes, seafood, optional ingredients, and water to the pot.
  • Add salt, pepper, and saffron to the pot. Bring to a boil.
  • Cover the pot and turn down the heat to low.
  • Simmer until the water has all been absorbed.
  • Add more salt if needed.


  1. I used Trader Joe’s frozen seafood mix because it is inexpensive and comes with a lot of seafood in the bag. Be sure to thaw it and drain the extra water out of the bag before adding it to the rice mixture.
  2. If you want, add mussels or clams to the paella. They are inexpensive if you buy a few and they make the presentation look really nice if you are entertaining.
  3. You can use white or brown rice. The white rice will need a little less liquid.
  4. This paella will keep for up to 3 days in an air-tight container


Please know that every gluten free flour blend has a different starch to grain ratio. If you use a blend I didn’t test, you may need to adjust your moisture levels in your baked goods.


Serving: 1gCalories: 288kcalCarbohydrates: 45gProtein: 11gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 30mgSodium: 838mgPotassium: 342mgFiber: 3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 365IUVitamin C: 28mgCalcium: 48mgIron: 2mg
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Nutrition Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the actual nutritional information with the products and brands you are using with your preferred nutritional calculator.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    As I posted before, this is a fabulous meal, on my husband’s A list! For me, it takes 1-1/2 hours total time but I don’t mind because it’s so good. For the #6 simmer step, I simmer 20 minutes covered, then uncovered until liquid is absorbed. Instead of 1-1/2 cups water, I use 1-1/4 cups chicken broth (a little less liquid for white rice as you suggest.) Now I use ALL the optional ingredients as well: 3 sausage links, 1/2 cup thawed frozen peas and 1/2 lb. mussels. I verified with you Sandy, that the rice used in the recipe should be uncooked. May I verify that the sausage should also be uncooked?
    Thank you for creating such a wonderful gluten free dish!

  2. You may have saved the happier part of my life! I love your recipes and since following you I complain a lot less! Flavor, texture, satisfaction – THEY’RE back.
    Thank you, Thank you.

  3. 5 stars
    Hi Sandy,
    I enjoyed making this recipe, the very first paella I ever tried (I’m 71 years young). It was very tasty! I added the peas and some mussels, but no sausage or chicken. I do have some questions, however. My rice turned out mushy and I think it’s because I cooked the 1-1/2 cups Basmati rice before I added it to the recipe. Please confirm that it should go into the recipe uncooked. Also, the printed recipe has no chicken broth, only water. Yet the description above calls for broth. Which is correct? Just want to thank you for your many wonderful gluten-free recipes. I have tried many of them, especially the dinner recipes and my husband and I enjoy them all!

      1. 5 stars
        OK, that makes sense Sandi, thank you. Also, do you recommend substituting the 1-1/2 cups water with same amount of chicken broth?

  4. 5 stars
    This looks like a great recipe !
    Can you tell me how you adapted it for brown rice ?
    My brown rice takes 45/50 min to cook .
    Many thanks

    1. Hi Kim, When I use brown rice, I add the seafood much later as it takes a longer time to cook. This keeps the seafood from getting mushy.

  5. 5 stars
    I wish seafood wasn’t so expensive. I have to catch it on sale and freeze it to have year round. Otherwise I pay a lot. I do have most of these ingredients though!

  6. This sounds delicious and I can’t wait to try it! Can you please tell me about how long it takes for half of the liquid to be absorbed? That would be a huge help to me. Thanks!

    1. Hi Chrystal, I cook this on medium low heat and I tend to add the broth in a cup at a time. It may vary a bit depending on if you use a gas or electric stove. I recommend checking it every 5-8 minutes, stir and add liquid each time. I hope this helps.

  7. I love paella and you’re right it really can be an expensive dish to make, however when you add up all the people it feeds, it’s a great meal for entertaining! Your version sounds really tasty! I can’t wait to put this together!