Paella on the Grill Variation—Paella “Primavera”

I created this meatless paella for some vegetarian friends and for my first Primal Grill TV show. For a really dramatic presentation, fire up two kettle grills. Use one for cooking the rice and the second one for grilling the vegetables. Or use a large charcoal grill, like a Weber Ranch, or a large gas grill. If your grill space is limited, grill the vegetables first (this could even be done at a previous grill session) and grill the paella to order.

Find the non-vegetarian version version here.

Click here to read Steven Raichlen’s take on paella, and a brief history of the classic dish.


Paella on the Grill Variation—Paella “Primavera”

Recipe Notes

  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Method: Direct grilling
  • Equipment: Logs or chunks of hardwood for the fire or hardwood chips (soaked in water for 30 minutes, then drained); paella pan; grill hoe; Tuscan grill (optional—helpful if working on a wood fire).


  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 ripe tomato, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 cups Valencia-style rice, such as Bomba or Calaspara
  • 1 cup cooked, drained garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 to 5 cups vegetable stock (preferably homemade)
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

For the vegetables:

  • 8 mini bell peppers, skewered on bamboo skewers
  • 1 large sweet onion, peeled and cut into 6 or 8 wedges, skewered on bamboo skewers
  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut sharply on the diagonal into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1 medium yellow squash, trimmed and cut sharply on the diagonal into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, skewered on bamboo skewers
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, and/or basil (or use 1-1/2 tablespoons dried herbs)
  • 12 cloves garlic in their skins, skewered on bamboo skewers or toothpicks
  • 1/4 cup cooked green peas (or if you have an unbelievable amount of patience, fresh peas skewered on a slender bamboo skewer)

Recipe Steps

Step 1: Place the saffron in a small bowl with 2 teaspoons warm water. Let soak for 5 minutes.

Step 2: Set up your grill for direct grilling and build a 3-zone fire. In the best of all possible worlds, you’d build and work over a campfire. Alternatively, you’d work on a large charcoal grill (like a Weber Ranch) or gas grill. If working on a charcoal grill, toss a log or some wood chunks on the fire to generate smoke. If working on a gas grill, place the wood chips in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch.

Step 3: Place the paella pan over the hottest part of your fire. Add the olive oil and a piece of onion and heat until the onion sizzles boisterously in the oil. Add the remaining onion and red bell pepper and cook over high heat, stirring with a long-handled implement, like a grill hoe, until the onions begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, and tomato halfway through (after 2 minutes). If the mixture starts to burn, slide the pan to a cooler part of the grill.

Step 4: Stir in the rice and sauté until the grains look shiny, 1 minute. Add the garbanzo beans and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the soaked saffron and wine and boil for 1 minute. Stir in 4 cups stock and adjust the heat (by moving the paella pan closer or further away from hot part of the fire) to obtain a gentle simmer. Gently simmer the rice until soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the 5th cup of stock if needed, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Step 5: Meanwhile, lightly brush the mini bell peppers, onion, zucchini, yellow squash, and, tomatoes with olive oil. Season on both sides with salt and pepper and sprinkle with herbs. On another part of the fire (if working on a campfire, position your Tuscan grill over the embers), grill the peppers, onion zucchini, yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, and garlic until golden brown—even darkly browned—on the outside and tender. This will take 3 to 6 minutes per side, depending on the vegetable—the peppers and onion will take longer than zucchini and tomatoes. You may have to work over a lower heat (or at the edge of the grill) for the garlic—it should be tender and browned, but not burnt. In the event you have been obsessive enough to skewer the peas, place on the grill and grill until lightly browned and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Step 6: The last 5 minutes of cooking the paella, stir the vegetables into the rice, removing and discarding the skewers. (Slip the burned skins off the garlic.) Taste the paella for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. If you’ve done this right and the stars are in alignment, the rice will be tender just as all the stock is absorbed and the vegetables are cooked. You may need to add more stock or you may need to cook the rice a little longer to absorb any excess stock. Get ready for the second best paella on Planet Barbecue.