Quinoa and Shrimp Paella

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You’re going to love our version of Quinoa and Shrimp Paella, adapted from a traditional Spanish version that uses rice. Instead of filling up on empty white rice calories, we decided to use quinoa instead, and it turned out wonderfully. We love the versatility of paella; you can make it with so many different ingredients! Some people use chicken, lobster, or sausage as the protein, and you’ll find vegetables varying from green beans to fresh tomatoes and lima beans. In this version, we use shrimp because it’s one of our favorite lean proteins. Adding our signature seafood seasoning to the shrimp really brings out its flavors. You end up with a dish that’s so delicious, you’ll want to eat it all the time. How great that it also happens to be so healthy!

You can whip up this healthy Quinoa and Shrimp Paella dish in less than 30 minutes, so what are you waiting for? It’s a great opportunity to try Spanish cuisine without having to splurge on an expensive restaurant meal.

A Quick Note about Saffron

Saffron is one of the world’s most expensive spices – in fact, it’s worth more per ounce than gold, earning its nickname “red gold!” While it is very expensive, it’s definitely worth using for this dish. It has a floral aroma, but it doesn’t taste sweet. Rather, it’s a touch earthy and grassy, lending a deep, complex flavor to anything you add it to. It really takes a good paella and elevates it to a GREAT paella, just with the addition of a few threads.

If you don’t want to spring for saffron, or you can’t find it at the local grocery store, never fear. This dish tastes 100 percent delicious without it. But, it definitely has a more authentic flavor with the saffron addition, so splurge if you can.

We Love a One-Pan Meal!

The other great thing about this Quinoa and Shrimp Paella is that it’s a one-pan meal! There’s no need to precook the quinoa or the shrimp – they both cook right in the pan along with the other ingredients.

After cooking your onions, bell peppers, and garlic, you can add uncooked quinoa and chicken broth straight to the pan. Simmer it all together until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is cooked. Then, add your raw shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, and peas. Shrimp cook so quickly, so the residual heat is more than enough to turn them pink and opaque.

Just like that, the dish is ready to serve! Let us know what you thought in the comments! For a vegan version of paella, check out this Fusion Paella Recipe.

Quinoa & Shrimp Paella

Quinoa & Shrimp Paella

Yields: 7 servings | Serving Size: 1 cup | Calories: 273 | Total Fat: 6 g | Saturated Fat: 1 g | Trans Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 125 | Carbohydrates: 33 g | Sodium: 412 mg | Dietary Fiber: 5 g | Sugars: 3 g | Protein: 22 g | SmartPoints (Freestyle): 7 |


  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups dry quinoa, rinse well
  • 3 cups chicken broth, fat-free, low-sodium
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads (optional, Tumeric)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Kosher or sea salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded & membrane removed, sliced into 1/2" strips
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (click for recipe)
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, thawed


  1. Tip: If saffron is available, it's recommended because of it's distinct Spanish flavor, making it perfect for this dish. Be sure to rub the threads for flavor release when adding to the chicken broth. Saffron is a little on the pricy side but well worth it.
  2. While preparing quinoa, sprinkle shrimp with a pinch of salt and seafood seasoning. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. In a large skillet, heat oil to medium-low and sauté onions until tender, about 5 minutes. Add sliced bell pepper strips and sauté an additional 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add quinoa, chicken broth, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, saffron, paprika, black pepper and salt. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low boil, and continuing cooking approximately 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  4. Add sun-dried tomatoes, peas and shrimp, cover and continuing cooking 5 minutes. Remove from heat, leave covered and allow to set 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and serve.

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23 Comments on "Quinoa and Shrimp Paella"

  1. Steph  March 12, 2014

    This was fantastic! May actually rival my other current Skinny Ms. recipe, the chicken taco slow-cooker soup. Notably, I didn't have Saffron and couldn't get any easily in town, so I just left it out altogether. I loved it, and so did my sweetie, who added a few dashes of hot sauce and gobbled it up.

  2. Jennifer  April 14, 2014

    This was amazing!! I skipped the saffron bc it was so expensive, but it turned out great without! My husband even made the comment that we will be having this again!

  3. Tara  May 7, 2014

    Is the Spanish paprika smoked or non-smoked? There are two types…..
    Anyone used smoked, I would like to make this and I have the smoked but just not sure whether it would be complimentary or not:-)

    • SkinnyMs  May 7, 2014

      It's nonsmoked, but you can do it with smoked for a smokey flavor and it would be delicious.

  4. Katie D.  June 5, 2014

    I'm starting it right now, but do I do the quinoa separately in its own pot, or do I add it dry, pre-cooked when I add chicken broth?

    • SkinnyMs  June 6, 2014

      Katie, Add uncooked quinoa at the same time you add the chicken broth and other ingredients.

  5. Tara  June 27, 2014

    Should the shrimp be cooked before putting it in?

    • SkinnyMs  June 27, 2014

      Tara, Cook the raw shrimp in the last 5 minutes, until pink and opaque.

  6. Julie  September 9, 2014

    This is DELICIOUS!!! This is one of my "go to" recipes, I love it and it is so healthy Don't forget the seafood seasoning (I used Old Bay), as it is mentioned in the ingredients, but not the instructions!!! Make this, you will be happy you did. Thank you for all of your wonderful recipes!

  7. Stephanie  September 16, 2014

    I used fire roasted diced tomatoes and threw in some chicken and a little leftover polish sausage, as well. It was delicious and my husband LOVES it. We'll definitely keep this one in the rotation

  8. Dyanna Person  November 10, 2014

    This is one of the most delicious things I have ever made. I'm so glad its not unhealthy 🙂

  9. Terryn  January 26, 2015

    I didn't have or use all of the different spices listed on the recipe, but it didn't seem to matter. This was still amazing without all the exact spices! I was blown away with the flavour and how filling it was. A definite new staple in my household. It also makes enough for many meals for us!

  10. Jennifer  February 18, 2015

    My husband and I both have an aversion to green peas but I want to make this! What would be a good veggie substitute?

    • SkinnyMs  February 19, 2015

      Jennifer, You can use frozen corn kernels or frozen (small chopped) carrots.

  11. Tracey  June 10, 2016

    Oh my goodness! This is amazing! I have never cooked quinoa before. Thank you so much for introducing it so well. This will definitely be something we continue to enjoy.

  12. Joanne  January 11, 2017

    I made it tonight and it was awesome
    NOTE: I did not have saffron, seafood seasoning or peppers so I compromised. Cheaper anyway.

    In place of saffron I used Goya Azafran(saffron).
    I sprinkled Goya Sazon con culantro y achiote on the shrimp. (Gave nice color to the shrimp)

    In place of the sliced pepper I julienned a carrot and added that after the chicken broth.
    I also used sofritto which made it even more awesome!! I added 2 tablespoons right after I sautéed the onion.

    • Gale Compton  January 12, 2017

      Joanee, You’re right, saffron is expensive. It’s a luxury that I purchase about once per year. 🙂 Love your tips!

    • Melissa  March 7, 2017

      I’m a beginner to cooking and actually goofed a little ( wish I would have read some comments first) . I put in cooked quinoa and wasn’t sure if shrimp get cooked with peas together in last 5 min or get cooked prior … could you just reiterate that it is indeed last 5 min shrimp are put in ( raw) ? The flavors were amazing ., I just need a second shot 🙂

      • Gale Compton  March 7, 2017

        Melissa, Oh my! 🙂 Yes, the shrimp goes in the last 5 (maybe 6) minutes of cooking. Shrimp cooks very fast…too long makes them like rubber.

        • Melissa  March 9, 2017

          Thanks Gale! I’m confident about giving the dish a second try ?

  13. Sue  June 27, 2019

    Love this recipe! I have served it for my husband and me, to company, and even made it for an open house (sangria is a nice compliment) to great reviews and many requests for the recipe. The gluten-free bonus makes it a winner for those with gluten sensitivity. I used smoked paprika and added a few Aleppo pepper flakes and grilled chorizo at the end. Thank you for providing a flavorful, flexible, easy, and healthful go-to recipe I will continue to use for years to come.

    • Nichole Furlong  June 29, 2019

      We’re glad to hear how much you love the recipe, Sue!


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