Cooking paella in the Instant Pot has been an excellent discovery for me. I adore paella and crave it often. It's certainly not the trickiest dish to cook on the stovetop, but it is one you have to tend to while the rice is cooking. The Instant Pot simply takes care of the rice cooking process for you. There's some preparation to do first, but then you just set the Instant Pot to cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. After a quick release, you are left with a delicious paella that is brimming with bold earthy flavours.
I can't promise that this will be the most authentic paella you will eat, but I can assure you that it will be brimming with an irresistible smoky and savoury deliciousness and that the rice will be cooked to perfection.
🛒 Key ingredients and possible alternatives
- Protein - this recipe includes chicken, chorizo, and prawns/shrimp. You can omit one of these if you want to and increase the volume of the other two.
- Rice - it's best to make paella with Spanish paella rice, but if you find this is difficult to get hold of you can use Arborio risotto rice instead.
- White wine - adding wine to the dish during the cooking process is optional but highly recommended because it enhances the delicious flavours in the paella. You may also want to enjoy a glass of white wine with your paella. A dry white like sauvignon blanc will go nicely.
- Smoked paprika - adds smoky and umami flavour to the dish.
- Balsamic vinegar - brings a slightly tangy richness.
- Saffron - adds a complex earthy taste. You could swap this for ¼ - ½ tsp ground turmeric. I have not tried this, but it would also bring an earthy flavour and add yellow colour to the dish.
- Smoked salt - chicken stock is the main provider of saltiness but I have always found that a little more is needed. It's best to taste the paella after it has cooked in the Instant Pot and add a little more salt if needed. I always choose smoked salt because it adds to the smoky flavours that the chorizo and paprika bring to the dish, but you can also use sea salt too.
- Lemon - this is added to the cooked paella to bring tanginess and freshness to the dish. You may also want to serve the paella with some additional lemon wedges.
🧑🍳 How to make Instant Pot Paella
1. Sauté onions, chicken, chorizo and garlic
Set the Instant Pot to sauté mode, pour in the oil, add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the chicken and chorizo and cook them for a few more minutes until the chicken has browned. Then add the garlic and cook for one more minute until fragrant.
2. Add the rice and white wine
Add the rice to the Instant Pot and continue to saute for 1-2 minutes until the rice is hot. Then pour in the wine and let it reduce for a couple of minutes.
3. Pressure cook
Add the paprika, balsamic and saffron to the Instant Pot, pour in the chicken stock and stir. Set the Instant Pot to cook for 4 minutes at high pressure.
4. Add the shrimp/prawns
Do a quick release when the cooking time is up and put the Instant Pot back on sauté mode. Add smoked or sea salt to taste. Stir in the shrimp/prawns and let them cook in the paella for 2-3 minutes until they are opaque. Turn the instant pot off, stir in the lemon juice and serve immediately.
🔪 Tools and Equipment
- Instant Pot - this recipe has been tested with a 6 quart instant pot. If you are using an 8 quart instant pot you will need to double or triple to quantity to ensure there is enough liquid.
- Sharp knife - for prepping the chicken, chorizo, and shrimp/prawns.
- Medium-sized frying pan (if you prefer to sauté on the stovetop) - some people (including myself) prefer to sauté on the stovetop instead of the Instant Pot. I personally prefer it because it's easier to see what I am doing and I can reap the benefits of a non-stick pan.
👍 Top tips for perfect Instant Pot Paella
- Reduce the wine - make sure you cook off the wine before you add the seasoning and set the instant pot to cook on high pressure. This ensures the wine will bring out the other flavours in the dish without adding an unpleasant flavour of alcohol.
- Add prawns/shrimp after pressure cooking - they only take a couple of minutes to cook. If you add them before you pressure cook they will be overdone.
- Season the cooked paella with lemon juice and salt - I always find the cooked paella benefits from a little salt. Taste it and see after it has pressure cooked. I like to add smoked salt but you can also use sea or kosher salt. You must also add lemon juice because adds a zingy citrusy taste that will bring the paella to the next level.
I don't recommend saving this paella because it contains shellfish. If you have leftovers make sure you refrigerate them as soon as they are cool and eat them within 24 hours. Make sure you reheat the paella thoroughly on the stove or in the microwave. The paella will last a little longer without the prawns/shrimp. If you are intending to eat it over two days I recommend sautéing the prawns/shrimp separately and adding them to the portion that you are going to eat. You can then cook up some fresh prawns/shrimp when you come to eat the leftovers. The paella is not suitable for freezing.
You certainly can, but you'll get the best results if you brown the meat first. This will lock in the flavours and make it much tastier.
It's best to use a variety of Spanish paella rice such as Arroz Redonda, Bomba or Calasparra rice. These types of rice are able to absorb water and retain their firmness when cooked. You can substitute paella rice for Alborio risotto rice if you need to because it's also good at absorbing liquid, although, it is creamier.