Ready in under 20 minutes, this one pot easy couscous paella is the perfect quick, healthy meal! A delicious Spanish inspired spice blend gives a paella like flavour with a different grain! Gluten free and high protein too!
Growing up, my choice of grains was pretty limited. Dinners would always be based on Persian style batsmati rice (thanks mum), Asian style steamed rice (thanks dad) or uncooked microwave rice still left in the packet because some of us didn’t know how to rip open a packet and turn the microwave on (thanks Niki).
Okay, fine. Niki gets the green light here because she was five and was banned from the kitchen to begin with but since I get the blame for everything in life, she gets called out here.
The older I got, I branched out to rolled oats in the mornings, brown rice on occasion and then this new, circular nutty grain- Couscous.
I remember seeing it in the supermarkets when I was told to go buy milk and these were ‘new’ on our shelves and being the marketer’s dream I am, chucked it in my basket. I arrived back home and gave it to mum and told her to make it.
“What is this couscous?”
“I don’t know, I saw it at the shops”
“It must be the Australian word for Risotto. It is risotto. This is not new.”
“Mum, that is NOT risotto.”
…………..Oh mother. Potato. Potato.
Those who have made risotto before AND have made couscous before would know that the cooking methods are VASTLY different. Any guesses what the end result was?
Couscous soup. Followed by pizza hut on speed dial and ME getting told off for wasting time and money.
I think it was a while later when I ate couscous again (made appropriately) and loved it- It had a nutty, savoury flavour which picked up any spice or sauce you mixed with it. It also reiterated to me that associating this grain with a soup would be punishment.
Couscous has always been one of my lunch time grains of choice- Eaten under some curried salmon patties or slow roasted Persian chicken, it was the complementary carb option. Recently and for this recipe, I’ve loved using pulled Tandoori chicken or the fillets basted with the tandoori sauce. Because of it’s quick cooking method and ability to absorb flavours and spices really well, I wanted to try a Paella like dish using that as the grain over arborio rice.
The beauty of this recipe is how quick it is to make- Couscous + Mix ins of choice + Spices = A meal ready in under 20 minutes. My favourite kind of paella has chargrilled chicken, carrots, chorizo sausage, pine nuts and celery. I didn’t have any chorizo when I made this version but I’d highly recommend it. Another benefit of this dish is how customisable it is. Vegetarian? Omit the chicken and add some legumes or extra veggies. Vegan? I’m keen to try this with tempeh cubes and try a vegan friendly stock. A fan of seafood? This tastes delicious with prawns and mussels tossed through. Whichever method you use to jazz it up, you’ll be thrilled at how quickly it comes together.
Make this delicious Easy One Pot Couscous Paella and have all the delicious flavours and textures of a traditional paella minus the time.
Potato Tomato. Tomato Potato.
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Easy Couscous Paella
- 1 1/2 cups dry couscous can use gluten free
- 3 cups flavoured stock of choice I used gluten free chicken
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon saffron
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter can sub for olive oil or oil of choice
- 1 cup cooked protein of choice I used chicken
- 1-2 cups diced vegetables of choice I used red peppers, carrots and celery
- Chopped spinach to cover
- In a large pot, add the stock of choice and on medium heat, bring to the boil.
- Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and add the olive oil and sea salt and mix well. Add the dry couscous and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes before removing from the heat. Allow the couscous to sit for 5-6 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
- While this is happening, lightly microwave or steam your diced vegetables until just tender. Set aside.
- After the liquid has been absorbed, fluff the couscous with a fork and add the cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and saffron and mix very well. Stir through the unsalted butter until the couscous is coated.
- Put the pot back on the stove and turn the heat to low. After 1 minute, add the protein of choice and vegetables and mix and cook for an extra minute before removing from the heat, fluffing once more with a fork and serving. Top with chopped spinach.
If using chicken, dish can be kept for up to 3 days. If using vegetables only, can be kept for up to one week.
For an even quicker way, omit the first two directions and use instant couscous.
What was a staple grain for you growing up?
Has your taste for grains expanded?
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I think that you are in my brain. Seriously. I adore couscous (I’d be interested to try this with quinoa as well, or even cauliflower rice), and paella is one of my dear favorites. But it is so difficult to find a truly amazing paella. There was one place in NYC that did the most incredible Cuban seafood paella. Oh, I ache to go back there!
YES! I think it would be epic with quinoa!
We need to hunt down a paella place in Chi-ca-go.
great lunch idea!
I love escaping into your story-telling when I read your blog posts! White jasmine rice was 100% a staple for me, growing up. Both my parents are Vietnamese, so I’ve had a lot of rice in my day :P. I learning to love quinoa more and more!
Guess where Im going for dinner tomorrow….Victoria Street aka Viet restaurant street. Cannot Wait. Minh Minh come at me!
YUM!!! Hope to see some pics on IG 🙂
For sure! 🙂
Haha! I love that you get the final say with Niki here on your site, Arman. Bring it on, lil sister! So I’ve had couscous (delicious!) and I’ve made paella a couple of times (delicious)…but I’ve never made couscous paella. What a fun combo of flavors. 20 minutes, eh? I can deal with that. Sign me up! Pecan pecan.
Also, our staple grain growing up was meat. and potatoes.
Meat and potatoes are my grains of choice these days. Pecan Pecan. America. Umerica.
This looks DELISH.
Thanks heaps Lexi 🙂
Yummy! I love paella!
How good is it!
You’ve blown me away again- this looks A-MAZ-ING! I’ve never had a paella with chicken before, but this needs to change immediately. I can tell the chicken in this dish is just bursting with flavor!
Thanks heaps, Sonali! Promise it’s a good one!
I love couscous and don’t make it enough. This looks delicious (sans the chicken). 😉 I haven’t made paella is so long, thanks for the inspiration.
Of course! thanks for stopping by, Linda!
I love couscous! I think it’s more filling than rice — it just tastes chewier, in a good way. Paella makes me think back to when I studied abroad and had it in Barcelona. It’s one of those dishes that is supposedly a staple over there, but I couldn’t find it anywhere haha so I ended up at kind of a commercial/touristy restaurant that served it. But it was so so good! I just love it with seafood. I bet chicken would be even better though.
Oh and you really are the scapegoat of the family 😉 they best be careful lest you stop cooking altogether!! haha
They totally should haha!
YES! Definitely more chewier than rice and filling! It’s the best with chicken AND seafood!
we ate a lot of couscous growing up, probably because of how easy it is to prepare, but I love this paella style
Thanks so much Heather!
I have every single ingredient for this on hand and I’m in need of a good dinner… I’m so glad I found this recipe! Thank you for sharing (you’ve taken the pressure off of what to make tonight)!
So glad to hear it- Please let me know how it goes!
I remember my mom making couscous when I was young and thinking it was THE COOLEST. I still think it is, particularly because it cooks up so darn quick. Good lookin’ recipe!
Dude, you had an epic childhood then! 😉
Oh yummmmm! I love cous cous. I’m about to move house and the only carb left in my pantry is cous cous, so I will be eating it all next week. Thanks for the recipe inspiration!
Hahaha it was one of the last things in u pantry too!
Lundberg Family Farms makes a great brown rice “couscous” for us Celiacs!
Do they make rice cakes? I think I’ve had them when I was in America!
Rice has been the love of my life for as long as I can remember, and I’m pretty sure it’s one of the only things I’d eat as a picky little kid. I’ve definitely branched out as I’ve gotten older and tried things like quinoa, bulgar, polenta, millet, amaranth, and buckwheat, but rice will always be in my top two… with oats. Still have to try couscous, though!
You need to try couscous, sardines, watermelon chicken….so much.