An iconic Spanish dish that made its place in the US

Sometimes you find yourself wondering about the true origins of the food you usually eat at home or restaurants. This is a dilemma because the truth is that most dishes have influences from many different cultures. It is very difficult to locate one single meal maintaining its original roots.

For example, in the United States, there are thousands of dishes that are a variation of other countries’ preparation and were adapted to create a new version with local ingredients. People feel these preparations are like their own, and they become common meals. Meatloaf, apple pie, and hot dogs are good examples of American meals that are not really American.

US gastronomy is a fusion cuisine combining preparations from all over the world. It has autochthonous dishes; the most popular are those with a mixture of influences.

Moreover, some dishes are well recognized as foreign preparations but have a local version like the Chinese chicken salad, Cuban sandwich, or American Paella.

American style Paella

Before explaining what an American Paella is, let’s introduce this traditional dish that over the centuries has become the most popular Spanish preparation worldwide. It was created in Valencia, a Mediterranean region in Spain where some workers used to cook it for lunchtime. The original recipe contains rice, duck, rabbit, vegetables and saffron, a spice which gives the typical color and flavor.

From this version, some variations have been created all over Spain and the world:

  • Assorted Paella: A rice dish with meat, chicken and seafood.
  • Seafood Paella: It has clams, mussels and shrimps.
  • Vegetarian Paella: Rice with vegetables like artichokes, beans, peas, and green peppers.
  • Black Paella: It includes the traditional ingredients but rice is coloured with squid ink.

In the United States, you will find restaurants that offer the traditional Paella, as the one made in Valencia. They also may offer the American version of this Spanish dish, the so-called American paella.

It is based on the ingredients of the original dish but with the addition of local flavors. It is paella seafood with chorizo, chicken, and vegetables.

Just like in Spain with a touch of the US

Cooking this dish at home is very simple and fast. The advantage of making the local version of an international dish is that you can buy all the ingredients in your preferred grocery store. So, you do not have to worry about going to different specialty stores for specific components.

There are many recipes for American Paella. The difference relies on the amount of ingredients and the cooking techniques used. You may use the one that adapts to your taste. Here the traditional way is presented:

American Paella

Ingredients (8 servings)

  • ½  pound of fresh chorizo.
  • ½ pound of sliced bacon.
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • 3 minced cloves of garlic.
  • 1 cup of diced onion.
  • 1 cup of sliced red bell pepper.
  • 4 small chicken breasts (bone-in).
  • 4 chicken drumsticks.
  • 4 1⁄2 cups of chicken broth.
  • 1⁄2 cup of dry white wine.
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon of saffron threads.
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika.
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon of ground coriander.
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon of dried oregano.
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon of dried thyme.
  • Salt and black pepper to taste.
  • 1 bay leaf.
  • 2 cups of short-grain rice.
  • 1 pound of deveined and shelled shrimps.
  • 24 units of mussels.
  • 3 peeled and diced tomatoes.
  • 2 cups of frozen green peas.
  • 1 cup of garbanzo beans.
  • 2 lemons.
  • Minced parsley to taste.

Marinade for shrimps

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
  • ¼ teaspoon of oregano.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.


  1. In a pan, cook the chorizo at medium heat with some water. Let it cool and cut into slices.
  2. In another big saucepan (paella pan or wok), heat up some olive oil. Add chorizo, bacon, onion and pepper. Sauté until they get browned. Take out and reserve.
  3. In the same saucepan, incorporate the chicken and the garlic. Cook until the chicken is brown.
  4. Add chicken broth, wine, saffron threads, paprika, coriander, dried oregano, dried thyme, salt, and pepper. Stir very well.
  5. Bring this mixture to a boil, and then incorporate the chorizo mixture, and rice.
  6. While rice is cooking, marinate the shrimps with a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice with some oregano, a bay leaf, salt and pepper. Reserve.
  7. When the rice is almost tender, incorporate shrimps, and mussels.
  8. Simmer for about 10 minutes at low heat.
  9. Add green peas, garbanzo beans, and tomatoes. Cook for 10 more minutes.
  10. Serve with minced parsley and lemon quarters on top.