Best Paella Rice Substitutes

9 Best Paella Rice Substitutes in 2022

As one of Spain’s most iconic dishes, paella is universally recognized. Mixes saffron rice with various proteins, vegetables, and herbs. But how flexible is this recipe in terms of using alternatives to rice?

What are some good alternatives to rice for paella? The greatest substitutes for paella rice are short-grain rice, arborio rice, Calasparra rice, Calrose rice, sticky rice, basmati rice, parboiled rice, jasmine rice, and more!

In this article, we’ll discuss some viable alternatives to traditional paella rice and show you how to make the most of them in your own paella dishes.

What Is Paella?

The easiest way to define paella is as a wild card. Every time you make it, it can have a slightly different flavor and appearance thanks to the nearly infinite variety of ingredients that can be used to make it! On the Mediterranean coast of Spain, this dish was created somewhere in the middle of the 19th century.

It is not surprising that rice-based cuisine were the most popular in the area given that the coastal area was surrounded by rice crops. One of the reasons people began experimenting with new rice meals was the abundance of rice and seafood. It didn’t take long until paella, particularly in Valencia, gained center stage!

Bomba rice, a short-grain kind that is well-known for its toughness and capacity to absorb water, is used to make paella. The basic components of paella are virtually always constant; to produce traditional paella, you need the following five ingredients:

Rice Protein Broth with Veggies and Saffron
an enormous shallow pan
Even though Bomba rice is used to make traditional paella, there are countless ways to customize this one-pot meal.

For instance, there are numerous types of meat you can use, including fish, steak, chicken, minced meat, chopped boneless meat, and pork.

The other items on the list above, such as rice, are likewise subject to the same leniency. But let’s first talk about the fundamentals of this dish and how it should be prepared before we consider the alternatives.

How Is Paella Made?

Paella necessitates a large shallow pan large enough to hold the rice and all of the other ingredients while still leaving room for some seafood garnish. This pan is crucial because it allows the rice to simmer in the broth and caramelize at the bottom.

We may even say that the pan is what makes paella so remarkable. The dish would not be considered paella without it! Once you’ve mastered the principles, you may start creating your own pan of paella!

The recipe begins with a high-quality broth made from chicken, beef, shrimp, or any protein combination of your choice — but the broth must be infused with saffron for a more traditional flavor.

Meanwhile, protein such as boneless chicken or Spanish chorizo is sautéed separately in the pan before adding sofrito (which may also be created at home) as well as tomatoes, spices, salt, and fresh herbs. When all of the ingredients are halfway cooked, add the Bomba rice and gently toss it in.

The rice is topped with the broth and then left to cook without being disturbed until all of the water has evaporated and the rice has a layer of caramelization at the bottom.

Optionally, top the skillet with seafood that has been cooked either through residual steam or separately in the oven. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve immediately!

Characteristics Of Paella

Now that we’ve discussed what paella is and how it’s prepared, let’s examine some of its most crucial aspects.


Paella’s flavor is elusive due of the dish’s adaptability. However, shrimp, lobster, and/or clams added to a basic paella dish give it a marine flavor. The broth, rice, and spices in paella give it umami undertones combined with a slightly earthy and spicy flavor.

Changes in the components, like in seafood paella, will result in a somewhat altered flavor profile. Paella made with chicken or beef, for example, will have a more robust umami and savory taste.

Vegetable-saffron stock with a wide variety of vegetables can turn this dish into a vegan option, though the dish’s signature flavor profile will be noticeably altered.


Bomba rice, which is extremely adept at absorbing water without becoming mushy, is used to make paella. Depending on the type of protein and other ingredients, the texture of the rice can provide for a robust and delectably tender bite in any paella recipe, making it one of the most important components.

The rice towards the bottom of the pan that has caramelized is especially noteworthy because it gives the dish a very mildly crunchy and chewy texture that goes incredibly well with the overall soft yet firm texture of bomba rice.

Other types of rice can also be used to prepare paella at home! While most varieties of rice will have the same soft texture, employing long-grain rice may nevertheless result in a variety of mouthfeels.

Why Substitute Paella Rice?

One of the main reasons people desire to substitute paella rice is that it can be difficult to find, especially if you do not reside in the region where it is grown. Sure, you may purchase it in a variety of large supermarket chains, but for the majority of people, finding top quality paella rice might be challenging.

If you don’t like the mouthfeel and texture of short-grain rice, you can use paella rice instead. This is especially important for folks who have never tried any form of short-grain rice. Fortunately, substituting and customizing paella is simple!

Best Paella Rice Substitutes

Paella can be made using a variety of rices; here are the best ones that can be used with ease.

1. Tamanishiki Super Premium Short Grain Rice

Paella’s trademark short-grain rice is a culinary hallmark. If you’re looking for “paella rice,” chances are it’s Bomba rice because that’s what most stores call it. Most types of short-grain rice work well in paella because they have the ideal size, shape, and texture after cooking.

You can also use long-grain rice, and we’ll cover a couple varieties on the list as well, but if you don’t have any bomba rice on hand, any short-grain rice will serve.

The short rice grains are able to absorb enough of liquid without becoming mushy. They have a firm texture that is both delicious and capable of supporting the weight of the rest of the dish on its own.

Please bear in mind that bomba rice is often prepared immediately after opening the package, without first soaking the grains, and in an uncovered pan. Cooking times for different varieties of short-grain rice can vary, so always refer to the package’s back for guidance.

2. Tilda Pure Basmati Rice, Premium Aromatic and Authentic Rice

Paella can be made with basmati rice, a very popular and readily available variety of white rice. Despite having long grains, basmati rice nevertheless has a fluffy texture and earthy, nutty flavors that go perfectly with the other elements in a standard paella.

When cooked correctly, basmati rice is highly soft and simple to eat. They can be prepared in the same manner as bomba rice, including in an open pot. To maximize the texture of basmati rice, it is advised to wash and soak the rice beforehand.

3. Augason Farms Long Grain Brown Rice Emergency Food Storage

Brown rice is a natural choice for anyone looking for a healthy alternative to bomba or any other long/short-grained rice. This rice contains a lot of nutrients because it hasn’t been fully processed and still has the yellow-brownish outer coating.

Brown rice has a moderate flavor and is considerably chewier as a result of the additional layers. This trait can either enhance or detract from the enjoyment of paella.

However, there is no doubting that brown rice would be a fantastic substitute for bomba in vegan paella. It will add a distinct texture to each bite while also making the dish more nutritious.

4. Calasparra Rice

If you want to maintain the traditional and authentic nature of your dish, we recommend using Calasparra rice.This form of rice is nearly comparable to Bomba rice in every way, which is a significant advantage.

Calasparra rice is a similar type of short-grain rice also grown in Spain. When cooked, it retains the same mouthfeel and texture, and it also absorbs liquids rather well.

However, Calasparra rice does not normally require the same ratio of water to rice, so you should check the cooking directions on the back of the package carefully.

5. Annie Chun’s – Cooked White Sticky Rice: Instant

Paella is traditionally served with a rice that is not sticky and has grains that remain separate after cooking; however, we think that sticky rice would be a welcome addition to this dish.

Sticky rice takes relatively little time to prepare and can be found in almost any supermarket. Because of its low amylose concentration, this rice works well in a wide variety of paella and other vegetarian and protein-based dishes.

If you want precisely cooked rice, you’ll need to remember how long it takes to cook and how to prepare it, as well as how much broth and other ingredients to use.

6. Iberia Parboiled Rice

Due of its similar firm and separated texture and higher nutritional value than paella rice, parboiled rice is a great alternative to bomba rice. It is simpler to prepare this kind of rice at home because it is partially boiled in the husk. Other “polished” or processed rice has a noticeably nuttier flavor than parboiled rice.

Following the method and adjusting the amount of liquid as necessary will allow you to utilize parboiled rice in the same way as paella rice.

7. Riceselect Rice Arborio Jar

We cannot recommend arborio rice highly enough if you want a creamy yet firm rice. Arborio rice is a variety of Italian rice that is commonly used to make real risotto. If you’re already familiar with this style of rice, we recommend you try it with paella as well!

Due to its popularity, it is widely available online or in any store — and you will also be able to locate various high-quality arborio rice versions!

It has a solid and creamy texture that is considerably chewier than other short-grain rice varieties. Arborio rice is also very easy to work with and absorbs water/broth just like standard paella rice.

8. Botan Musenmai Calrose Rice

Calrose rice is a medium-grain variety of rice that has many qualities with paella rice. This variety of rice is well-known in North America and is regarded as the ancestor of California’s rice industry.

Calrose rice is exceptional because it quickly absorbs any flavor you throw at it. It may also absorb water exceptionally well, giving it a soft and slightly stickier consistency.

Because of their similarities, Calrose rice and Japanese short-grain rice are frequently compared. Since it is slightly sticky and tends to clump, it is ideal for sushi and as a straight replacement for sticky rice.

Calrose rice will perform just as well in paella due to its capacity to absorb and retain flavor; it will also provide a substantial bite!

9. Dynasty Jasmine Rice

You can think of jasmine rice as a happy medium between sticky and basmati. Like basmati rice, jasmine rice is a long-grain kind, but its texture is significantly more moist and softer without being sticky.

It can be a good option for paella because of how well its flavors hold heat when cooked. Caramelizing this rice makes it especially nutty and sweet, giving the paella an entirely new depth of flavor and texture.

Related Questions

With many different kinds of rice, paella can be made in a variety of ways. We figured you might have some relevant queries now that you are aware of the greatest ones.

Can any rice variety be used to make paella?

Paella is generally made with short-grain rice, so use similar types of rice first — but in an emergency, almost any variety of rice can be used to make paella.Rice’s role in paella is to add bulk, flavor, and texture. All of these traits can be found in a wide range of rice!

Are paella rice and bomba rice the same thing?

Yes, paella and bomba rice are same. All true paella recipes require for bomba rice, a short-grain rice renowned for its ability to absorb and hold moisture while cooking. If you are searching for true paella rice in a store, simply go to the rice aisle and search for “paella rice.” Verify on the packaging’s back that the rice is bomba rice before making a purchase.

Is paella a dry rice dish?

Yes. The broth in which paella rice is cooked must be lowered until the rice is cooked dry. This also lets the bottom of the pan get caramelized.

Keeping in mind that paella demands skill and precise measures because the rice must be cooked at the precise moment the extra moisture evaporates.

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