So you don’t have to wrack your brain figuring out what to serve with paella, here are 15 paella side dish recipes that complement the savory flavors beautifully!
Paella is a dish that can be shared at parties, family gatherings, and other special occasions – with rice, meats, and vegetables all cooked together in a single pan.
Because of all these ingredients, people think there’s no need for a side dish for it, however, contrary to popular belief, having one or two complementary dishes with your paella helps make it even better.
Before we get into the side dish recipes, let’s first dig deeper into what paella is and what makes it so special.
It’s so iconic and well-loved that it has rightfully earned its place in the culinary world as the national dish of the country.
For those who don’t know, there are four main paella types you can choose from.
These include the original Valenciana, seafood paella, mixed paella, and vegetable paella.
The fifth type, which is the black paella, is considered a novelty dish and not one of the main types.
Also called Paella Negra, the dark color of this dish comes from squid ink.
Considered the most authentic of all these types is the Valenciana, which is made using a combination of rice, meat (usually chicken or rabbit), beans, green vegetables, and saffron, which gives the paella its signature yellow color.
The most popular, however, is the mixed paella since it has a combination of seafood and meat that make the dish a well-rounded option.
Cooked in a paella pan aptly called a paellera, this dish can take around an hour or so to cook, with some recipes cooking faster (such as the seafood paella which cooks in under an hour) and some taking longer (like the mixed paella that can take an hour and a half to finish).
This is often a favorite at parties and get-togethers due to the myriad of flavors that can be found in just one pan!
The presentation of any paella is also a party-pleaser since it’s served in the pan that it’s cooked in and the ingredients, like the shrimp, mussels, and brightly colored vegetables, are arranged aesthetically.
Whichever paella you choose to serve though, always keep in mind that having one or two side dishes with it will help make the meal more enjoyable.
You can also opt for simpler options, like the Fried Plantains that add some sweetness to your meal, or the Spanish Cucumber & Tomato Salad that gives a touch of freshness to your table.
Here’s a tip—#10 is a good choice when partnered with #12.
Is your mouth watering at the thought of these possibilities?
If you’re excited about getting started, let’s get going!
It doesn’t get any simpler than this!
With only two ingredients, this side dish for paella gives your meal a sweetness that complements the savory flavors that come with your rice dish.
Cook this up right before serving so that it’s still warm when it gets to the table.
If you want to add some crunch to your meal, this is one dish worth trying.
You can even prep this while your paella is cooking.
For a more garlicky flavor, try using roasted garlic instead of fresh garlic for this recipe.
You can also add garlic chips or toasted garlic bits on top of the beans for more garlic goodness!
What goes better with a dish that originates from Spain than a side dish that’s also from Spain?
Patatas a lo Pobre, which translates to “poor man’s potatoes” in English, is another potato side dish that you can serve with your favorite paella.
Add some paprika for more color and some cayenne powder for a spicy kick!
Another great side dish from the same region as the original paella is this mixed green salad.
While this recipe calls for a head of romaine, you can mix it up with a variety of greens, like arugula, chicory, and escarole.
You can omit the anchovies too if you don’t like how fishy it tastes.
Broccoli is another vegetable that’s always great as a side dish.
The honey-mustard dressing mixed with these tree-shaped veggies gives a contrasting sweetness to your savory paella.
To ensure that your broccoli stays crisp, just blanche them for a minute and drop them in ice water immediately after.
You can also serve your broccoli raw to ensure maximum crispness!
Even though this salad is Greek-inspired, the flavors in this side dish go well with paella.
Although the recipe calls for mozzarella cheese, you can change it up and use a sharper (or softer) cheese instead.
One fantastic substitute for the cheese in the dish is feta!
If you want to partner your traditional paella with another traditional Spanish dish, then this cold soup is a fantastic choice!
This tomato soup, which is traditionally served in a glass (kind of like a non-alcoholic Bloody Mary, with tomato chunks) doesn’t need to be cooked.
Just chop the ingredients on the list, toss everything in a blender, pulse, and serve!
When you have a dish that’s as rich as paella as your main course, you need something on the side that’s a bit on the bland side.
This White Bean Salad is dressed with a light vinaigrette, making it tangy but not overpowering.
For a creamier dressing, swap the vinaigrette with a light mayonnaise-based one instead.
Imagine your dinner table bursting with colors from your paella and a platter of vibrant grilled vegetables!
Choose from a long list of veggies that hold up really well when grilled, which include asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, and peppers.
This is a good option when thinking about what to serve with paella, particularly when you have loads of vegetables in your refrigerator.
Dress with a light vinaigrette or as is, it’s all up to you!
Considered one of the more traditional accompaniments to paella, this red pepper dish can be made ahead of time or while your paella is cooking.
A good balsamic vinegar, some extra virgin olive oil, and some salt are all this dish need to make it perfect!
For a smokier version, instead of broiling in the oven, roast these over charcoal.
This is another peppery dish that can be partnered with any type of paella!
Just like your standard roasted bell peppers, these are charred under a broiler, over hot coals, or on an open flame.
The peppers in this side dish aren’t peeled, however, and are served as is skin and all.
If you want some tang to this side dish, a squeeze of lime or a simple vinaigrette will suffice.
Crusty bread is also a great partner for any kind of paella!
Try this bread that originates from Barcelona (yes, another Spanish dish), which is their version of the Italian Ciabatta.
This artisanal bread has a very crisp crust that goes well with the somewhat mushy textures of your paella.
15. Pan Con Tomate
And if you have any leftover bread (or you end up baking a lot) from the previous recipe, this is another superb bread dish to try with paella!
Cut your crystal bread in half (or in bite-sized pieces), top with grated heirloom tomatoes, sprinkle some fresh herbs on top, and voila!
You can tweak this recipe to your taste.
Some people add a little grated cheese on top, while a few opt for fresh basil or some extra garlic flakes.
The bottom line
This list shows you that when you’re trying to figure out what to serve with paella, you have a wealth of choices at your fingertips.
For your Pan con Tomate, you can use store-bought bread, if you’re not looking forward to baking your own.
You can also use regular bread, such as toast, to create the last dish on the list.
Whatever you choose to partner with your paella, you should know that the main dish itself is a masterpiece already.
You just need a few additions here and there to make it even more special for you and the people sharing this dish with you.
- Fried Plantains
- Garlic & Butter Green Beans
- Potato & Red Pepper Frittata
- Patatas A Lo Pobre
- Spanish Cucumber & Tomato Salad
- Ensalada Mixta (Mixed Green Salad)
- Honey Mustard Broccoli Salad
- Marinated Olives, Mozzarella, & Tomato Salad
- Mediterranean White Bean Salad
- Grilled Vegetables
- Roasted Red Bell Peppers (Pimientos Rojos Asados)
- Padron Peppers (Pimientos De Padrón)
- Crystal Bread (Spanish Style Ciabatta)
- Pan Con Tomate
- Have a look at our list of What To Serve With Paella.
- Choose the dish you want to recreate.
- Start cooking your newly found recipe!
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