Moorish Paella

October 21, 2010

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: I love paella because it is a little more hearty and cozy than a lot of pasta dishes but just as versatile--you can pretty much fill the dish with whatever you have on hand. I came up with this recipe after a dinner party left me with a few lamb sausages, lots of spices and half a can of harissa I did not want to waste. - NWBNWB

Food52 Review: The fun of paella is that it's a dish whose flavor you have to build, phase by phase, as you layer ingredients into the paella pan. You can see the dish darkening and intensifying as you move through the steps. In NWB's Moorish Paella you blend a spice mixture of caraway, smoked and sweet paprikas, and cumin, and add it a spoonful at a time so the heat and flavor magnify, and by the end you have a dish that reminds us in its burly spirit of jambalaya. - A&MThe Editors

Serves: 4
Prep time: 8 hrs
Cook time: 1 hrs


  • 4 bone-in skin on chicken thighs
  • 4 small or two large links of Merguez sausage (chorizo is fine if you can't find the lamb sausage)
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon caraway, ground
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon harissa
  • 2 cups Arborio (or other short grain) rice
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pinch salt, more to taste
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry wine (I used a rose)
In This Recipe


  1. In the morning place the chicken thighs in a plastic bag or bowl with a generous amount of salt to brine in fridge all day or at least 1 hour. Mix ground spices together in bowl with pinch of salt.
  2. Cut sausage into discs and brown on each side in pan. You can leave them in links to brown as well, I prefer to cut them before cooking. Remove sausage onto paper towel lined plate and let cool. Leave fat in pan. Turn off heat if you need a few minutes to prepare next step.
  3. Remove chicken from refrigerator and pat dry. Use the sausage fat and add olive oil if you need more. Over medium-high heat brown chicken skin side down for 3-5 minutes or until rich brown, turn over and brown for 2 more minutes. Remove chicken to plate with sausage.
  4. Add olive oil as needed and onion to pan and cook about 3 minutes. Add dash of salt and a spoonful of the spice mixture. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add cauliflower and cook for 5 minutes. Add more of the spice mixture.
  5. Add wine and scrape bottom of pan for any bits. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add sausage and harissa and stir until harissa is well incorporated. Add tomato puree and cook for 5 minutes. Add more spice mixture.
  6. Add rice and distribute evenly across the pan. Add chicken. Add chicken stock. Add the rest of the spice mixture and season with salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until rice is cooked through--I find this varies depending on the stove top--20-30 minutes. You can cover the pan if it is taking too long to cook. After it is done cooking let sit off the heat for 2-4 minutes. Serve.

More Great Recipes:
Spanish|Chicken|Chicken Thigh|One-Pot Wonders|Entree

Reviews (77) Questions (6)

77 Reviews

Trena H. November 11, 2016
Wow! I just made this tonight for an early dinner. I couldn't stop eating it and my husband went back for seconds. This one is a keeper!
Christine March 23, 2015
This recipe sounds delicious, but please do not call it a paella.
pratchford September 20, 2014
I'm always a bit nervous serving guests something I haven't made before but turned out perfectly! he only thing I changes was I used 2 legs and 1 whole breast quartered.
Big hit.
Andrea M. June 22, 2014
So good! A couple of extra bits of chicken and it would feed six easily. I love the cauliflower masquerading as rice!
sevenfaces May 8, 2014
This makes so much rice! A couple more chicken thighs and I'd definitely say it feeds 6. I really liked the sound of the flavour combo so I almost doubled the amount of spice and tomatoes, reducing the amount of chicken stock accordingly. I always rinse my rice thoroughly as I can't stand a gluggy paella, so the texture turned out perfectly. Served with rocket on top and grilled corn and zucchini on the side for a well-balanced meal. Thanks for sharing this recipe :)
ElleM January 7, 2014
I would suggest, depending on party size, that you slightly reduce the rice, and thus chicken stock accordingly. I made this tonight, improvising with a tablespoon of 'Hot' chilli seasoning and a concoction of peppers + spice mixture from recipe. It was interesting, not bad actually, but it was just bleh. I just kept noticing how much rice there was, 2 large containers worth after dinner was put away. I think that my rice swelled, as I did notice a lot of stock in my pan initially, but it was perfectly cooked through. The dinner was made for two, intending on having leftovers, but now I think we may be able to stretch the rice into a side dish for steaks, or include steak chunks for lunches at work. Possibilities are endless; tastes like Spanish rice
Maria L. October 30, 2013
Me gustaria que llevara aceitunas. Es tipico en las Paellas. Gracias por estas recetas maravillosas.
adele93 February 18, 2013
i ended up just following the recipe, worked well though i was expecting a "deeper" flavour, i found the rice just tasted like the chicken stock and there was a spicy undertone - is this how its meant to be?
adele93 February 17, 2013
I've been asked to make this for 5 adults and i am wondering how the spices should be altered to ensure there is no loss of flavour. i am gonig ot increase the chicken to 7 thighs
adele93 February 17, 2013
and the rice to 500g along with the stock - any ideas
ingefaer January 21, 2013
This smells heavenly cooking on the stove. Have not started dinner yet. One thing I find, the amount of liquid to the amount of rice does not seem to be enough - I had to add a lot more stock.
Alan D. January 21, 2013
This is a brilliant variation, and kosher too. Can't wait to try it. To answer Musebe below, Ihave made paellas in large roasting pan. The importnat thing is that it be large and not deep so that the liquid concentrates rapidely and the rice doesn't get mushy. I use a similar technique in my kosher jamabalaya variation. So many jambalaya's are super mushy, but this one had firm rice like a good paella : . You can always treyf it up with seafood (don't overcook0 hama nd pork sausage if you want.
Musebe October 5, 2012
Paella not polenta lol
Musebe October 5, 2012
Is a polenta pan really needed for this dish?
Dtown B. August 12, 2012
I looked at this recipe a couple times, I finally made it and it was excellent!!! it's a keeper!!!!
darksideofthespoon June 21, 2012
This is a weekly staple at home now! It's amazing, tonight we don't have chicken thighs so we're making it with tons of sausage and prawns... I even made my own Harissa to use, very excited to see how it turns out - I'm sure it'll be stunning!
FERNANDA September 20, 2013
i WANT TO TRY THIS TONIGHT but WHAT IF HARISSA ' could you explain as i am not familiar with it...
Author Comment
NWB May 1, 2012
So glad your family liked it!
Burnt O. April 19, 2012
Oooo - I have leftover harris a from catering a party last weekend. Will pick up some merguez at the market with a head of cauliflower. Everything else is in the pantry / freezer. Can't wait!
Author Comment
NWB May 1, 2012
Hope you like it!
student E. March 5, 2012
i made this with my mom for a family dinner saturday night and it was a huge hit! ours turned out quite spicy, which my family loved, but might have been too much for someone with a different palate -- maybe it was the harissa we used? loved the addition of caraway!

we tripled the chicken and used skinless, boneless thighs, which was great with the leftover rice! i don't think the brining added much. next time, i will add even more cauliflower too.

so delicious! looking forward to making it again!
fuhsi January 26, 2012
Have made this 5 times since trying it as our first paella in November. After first time, poured off the fat after the sausages cooked, and more recently swapped out the sausage for turkey sausage, but otherwise, perfect in every way. Texture, flavor, portion, ease of cooking- an A+! Thank you!
Author Comment
NWB February 11, 2012
Thank you! I'm so glad you like it!
phzs January 14, 2012
Thanks for a recipe which does not contain anything fishy.