Paella Rice Substitute: Beyond the Traditional

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Spanish paella in black wooden background.

Take cover! 

Today, I’m dropping a ‘substitute’ article bomb that is sure to blow you away. 

And the topic? It came all the way from España. 

With its white color and short-grain size, no one would bat an eye for bomba rice. 

Then boom, surprise. It’s paella. 

The very dish that is synonymous with Spanish cuisine. 

It’s more than just a dish, actually. It’s a cultural experience! 

I can almost taste the socarrat, a testament to the perfect paella. 

Didn’t see that one coming, huh? 

Yes, this seemingly unassuming grain is the rice we use in making the beloved paella. 

If anything, though, bomba rice’s pearly sheen should have been an indication of its high-quality nature as a grain. 

Then there’s its namesake to account for as well! “Bomba” translates to “bomb” in Spanish. 

It has this uncanny ability to absorb water and expand during cooking while still maintaining its firmness. 

Or it could as easily be a nod to the Moors’ (they introduced the rice variety in Spain) gunpowder expertise. 

Either way it’s a name that packs a punch 😉

So you see? There’s nothing ordinary about bomba rice, at all. And it would be a grave mistake to brush it off.

But there’s always an exception to everything. 

So what if it isn’t available? Will you just waste away in some grocery store aisle, then? 

No! Head held up high, you’ll march towards the bomba rice substitutes and make do. 

Defusing the Bomba Crisis: Paella Rice Substitutes

Paella in a cooking pot with wooden background.

Bomba rice may be the most traditional and “prized” rice for paella, but this doesn’t mean anything in our kitchens! 

When have we ever favored the traditional route, anyway? 

Maybe once or twice? Almost never for resourceful foodies like us! 

Here are two paella rice substitutes and their very own paella recipe:

Senia Rice

First up is another Spanish short-grain rice that has a very similar texture and liquid absorption like bomba rice. 

Senia rice even originated from Valencia, same as bomba rice. 


  • 1 cup of Senia rice
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • ½ pound of chopped boneless chicken thighs
  • ½ pound of sliced chorizo
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp of smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp of saffron threads
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium fire. Add the chicken, chorizo, and cook until golden brown. 
  2. Add the onion and garlic, then cook for a minute.
  3. Stir in the bell pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  4. Throw in the Senia rice, paprika, and saffron. Toast everything for a minute. 
  5. Pour in the broth and bring it to a boil. Reduce the fire to low and simmer for 18-20 minutes. 
  6. Include the peas and cook for a minute. Then, season with salt and pepper.
  7. Let the paella rest for 5 minutes before serving. 

Arborio Rice

Arborio rice in white bowl on the white wooden table.

Alright alright, this one’s usually for risotto but they’re cousins!!! 

paella and risotto have a slightly similar cooking process. 

Both use short-grain rice as well. 

‘Sides, arborio rice may be an unlikely paella rice substitute, but surprisingly enough, it has a talent for paella. At least if you play your cards right. 


  • 1 cup of arborio rice
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • ½ pound of peeled and deveined shrimp
  • ½ pound of mussels
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp of paprika
  • ¼ tsp of saffron threads
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 lemon cut into wedges


  1. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, then set aside. 
  2. Add the mussels and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Make sure to reserve the mussel broth. 
  3. Throw in the onion and garlic, then cook for a minute until they become soft. 
  4. Stir in the bell pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes. 
  5. Include the tomatoes, paprika, and saffron. Cook for 5 minutes and stir occasionally. 
  6. Pour both the chicken and mussel broth, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low after. 
  7. Add the arborio rice, making sure to stir occasionally to coat it with broth. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  8. Put the shrimp and mussels after 15 minutes and continue to simmer for 5 minutes.
  9. Season with salt and pepper. 
  10. Garnish with lemon wedges before serving. 

Paella Salvation

Now that you’ve uncovered these bomba rice substitutes, I welcome you to the paella army!

And we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg, too. 

Don’t limit yourself with these two paella rice substitutes. There’s much to learn and discover. 

With creativity and curiosity at your side, the paella possibilities are endless. 

I’m honestly excited for your next creation. 

Bombs away, Foodies!

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