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.

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 create. Shrimp, mussels, and other specialty meats and seafood prices add up really fast.

I am really excited to share this recipe with you because it is easy to make, and the cost is so low! 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. 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.

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.

Recipe step-by-step 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. When it is gone, and your rice is tender, the paella is ready to serve!

A closeup of a forkful of paella.

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

Tips and Recipe FAQ:

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 air-tight 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.

If you love this paella, wait until you try this Spanish Mussels recipe!

A plate of paella on the dinner table.

More easy gluten free budget recipes:

a 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

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Notes

  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

SPECIAL NOTE

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.

Nutrition

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




20 Comments

  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.