What goes with paella or what to serve with paella is something to take into account when you look for the full paella experience.
Despite the fact paella it’s definitely a complete dish by itself, that doesn’t mean that you can’t pair it with other side dishes. And that’s it when you are making paella for someone else mainly for guests.
However, Paella does stand on its own and I wouldn’t introduce many different flavors. Thus, we know this very well in Spain, and we combine paella and tapas. As you might know, tapas are served before the main side.
I like paella so much that I prefer not to eat tapas or starters so I can have more room for paella.
In this article, you will learn what is served with paella, either food, and wine.
- 1 What to eat with Paella
- 2 Paella side dishes
- 3 More ideas to pair with paella like a pro
What to eat with Paella
As I said before, paella is traditionally served with tapas, as appetizers or starters. We know tapas is a must for a proper paella with family, friends, or even work colleagues and is what it is usually served as a menu. Then, we choose carefully what is served with paella so the whole meal is perfect and not too heavy. So, what do you serve with paella?
Considering this, besides tapas, nothing will be best than a light salad with olive oil, olives, lettuce, tomato, canned tuna, cucumber, onion, boiled egg, white asparagus… it really goes well with paella.
Gazpacho is a typical Spanish dish, originally from the south of Spain. Gazpacho Andaluz is a cold soup, or more appropriately a whipped salad, with ingredients such as olive oil, vinegar, water and other additives such as almonds or raw fresh vegetables, usually tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, and garlic.
It is usually served fresh in the hot summer months, but it is always a great starter for paella because is light, tasty and full of vitamins.
Once all these ingredients are mixed in a recipient, just grind and blend well with the mixer and leave to cool in the refrigerator until serving time.
In addition, you can finely chop fresh vegetables on top before serving.
Never something this healthy was so delicious
This salad and/or gazpacho will be accompanied by not too filling tapas.
What is Tapas?
Tapas is a classic of Spanish gastronomy that nowadays has reached the whole globe and if ask in Spain what to serve with paella, tapas will be one of the most repeated options.
Tapas are small portions of food to accompany a drink (wine, beer, or cider are the most common). They were born as slices of ham or cheese but today you can find small works of culinary art under the name “tapa” on the menu.
In the words of Miguel de Cervantes, tapas were a kind of alarm clock to thirst and the desire to drink wine or any other drink. Besides, tapas are defined by the Real Academia Española as a “small portion of some food that is served as an accompaniment to a drink“.
Just as the definitions and versions of the term are varied, so are the stories of the origin of the famous “Spanish tapas“. One of the theories assures that they are born with a well-defined objective: to prevent the wine from rising too quickly to the head of the diners and ending up with a good drunkenness.
King Alfonso X “El Sabio” was the one who regulated that in Castilian mesons it was forbidden to serve wine without accompanying it with some portion of food: slices of ham, chorizo or cheese, generally.
Which Tapas to Serve with Paella?
Chips or crips and salted fried peanuts, pistachios, almonds… are usually present on the table while waiting for paella.
Olives are, very much in their essence, an important and recognized part of the Mediterranean diet. Whether as a central element of the dish or as an essential decorative complement to it, the presence of this fruit in an immense variety of recipes is as undeniable as it is necessary, and certainly not by chance.
Who in Spain hasn’t ever had the classic bowl of olives accompanied by a delicious cold beer?
Due to its great variety and the intense and pleasant taste of this small fruit pillar of the Mediterranean diet, tapas with olives is a real delicatessen and have become one of the most popular snacks in restaurants and tapas bars nationwide.
Grilled cuttlefish with garlic and parsley is a well-known dish in Spanish cuisine, usually prepared in this way and presented in small portions to share dressed with oil and smashed garlic, and parsley.
The recipe for grilled cuttlefish is extremely easy to make. The result is a light dish, rich and ready in five minutes; to share with friends along with a good cold beer while waiting for the paella.
Croquettes are simply a breadcrumbed and fried roll of food leftovers (usually), normally bound with bechamel sauce or mashed potatoes. Good croquettes are crunchy on the surface and soft and melting on the inside.
Although they may not sound like a gourmet invention, when made well, they are delicious.
You can find a wide range of croquettes in Spain specializes in croquettes, a culinary tradition stemming from its frugal past. The most popular versions are:
- Ham Croquettes (Serrano)
- Cod Croquettes
- Pulled Chicken Croquettes
- Shrimp Croquettes
- Mushroom Croquettes
Croquettes aren’t especially light, and they need a while to be made. However, either frozen or fresh, a couple of them per person is a great tapa.
Spain is one of the countries with the most varieties of cheese in the world, along with France and Italy, but I don’t know why both French and Italians have much more fame and popularity. So: Long live the Spanish cheese! We love Spanish Cheeses!
In Spain, we can find sheep cheese, cow cheese, and goat cheese. Fresh, semi-cured or cured cheeses. Smoked cheeses, cheeses cured in wine, beer, paprika, or rosemary. There are more and more traditional producers who, in small cheese factories, make more personal and original creations.
Then, the tapa can be simply some pieces or slices of chosen cheese on a plate, to be eaten alone.
Serrano ham or Iberian Ham is a must on every table while the paella is being mad and the answer is easy: paella and ham have lived together for a very long time.
There are few foods that are more Spanish than ham. Spanish ham (jamón) is the one food that all Spaniards, by default of just being Spanish, have to like. Whenever I have heard a foreigner say they do not like jamón, the response of every single Spaniard has been, “But have you tried the good stuff?”
The two most important hams that distinguish themselves as wise and well-minded visitors are Serrano ham and Iberian ham. The difference between them is not their geographical origin. Instead, the label refers to the breed of pig used to make the ham. Although the name Jamón Serrano refers to its origin in the Sierra (mountains), it is used for all types of smoked ham from the normal (pink) pig breed. For the more exquisite Iberian ham, the rather rare species of black Iberian pig is needed. The purer the breed, the more expensive the ham.
As well as cheese, the tapa is very simple. Just offer it sliced on a plate, maybe accompanied by sliced bread or similar.
Prawns or Shrimps
Either it’s seafood paella, paella Valenciana or meat paella prawns its a fantastic tapa. Maybe because Spain is a peninsula or perhaps because prawns and shrimps are delicious, this is a great starter for paella.
They can be served in very different ways, but here you have the common ones.
- Boiled and salted
- Grilled and dressed with salt and lemon
- Fried with garlic and parsley
- Battered (tails)
The Padrón peppers, some bite, and others don’t (saying), it is a variety of small green pepper, generally between 3 and 5 cm.
The “funny” thing with them is you never know if they are spicy or not until you try them and then, it is too late.
Surely this is due to the current forms of cultivation since the pepper generates its itch producing a compound that serves as a defense against external attacks, such as insects and each pepper generates it differently.
Paella side dishes
If you are looking for side dishes for paella… first of all, I have to say we Spanish usually eat paella as a single main, without side dishes.
However, sometimes a light salad can be a perfect sice dish for paella:
- Fresh diced tomato
- Boiled egg
- Canned tuna
- Fresh raw onion
- Olive oil
I hope you found inspiration to live an authentic paella experience, no matter where you are