Festive Paella for the Holidays


Traditional paella is rice-based, but I thought I’d kick it up a jazzy notch and swap the rice out for quinoa. The result is a filling and flavorful paella-style dish that makes for a guest-worthy meal.


This festive and tasty paella-style recipe makes a colorful and satisfying entrée for a holiday party! 


Quinoa and Butternut Squash Paella

Makes 8 to 10 servings 

1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, with liquid

1 ½  cups diced onion

4 cups chopped butternut squash (cut in 1-inch cubes)

1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

1 ½ cups lightly packed, thinly sliced curly kale

1 ¾ cups quinoa, rinsed thoroughly

2 ½ cups vegetable broth, plus more as needed

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (see note)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 large red pepper, sliced into strips

Lemon wedges, for garnish

2 to 3 scallions, chopped, for garnish


Put the tomatoes and their juice in a medium bowl and lightly mash using a potato masher or large fork. Put the onion and tomatoes in a 12-inch paella pan or large, deep skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Decrease the heat to medium low, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the butternut squash. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chickpeas, kale, and quinoa. Cover and cook for 2 minutes.

Put the broth, garlic, sugar, lemon juice, turmeric, paprika, salt, and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl and stir to incorporate. Pour the broth mixture into the skillet and stir gently to combine. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. If the paella seems dry at this point, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of vegetable broth. Stir the paella one more time. 

Arrange the red pepper slices over the top of the paella in a pleasing pattern. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow the paella to stand for 10 to 15 minutes to firm up.


 Spoon the paella onto plates or cut into slices. Serve warm with a lemon wedge on the side. Sprinkle some of the chopped scallions (if using) on top of each serving.


Chef’s Note: You may use sweet paprika in this recipe.