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Valencia or bomba rice (Recipe: chicken paella with slow-roasted tomatoes) {gluten-free}


Everyone plays favorites.

Ice skating over roller skating.

Rock 'n roll over jazz.

Peanut M&Ms over plain.

In the rice department, I have favorites, too. For short grain, I choose carnaroli over arborio when I want to make super-creamy risotto or rice pudding. For long grain, Carolina beats Uncle Ben's every time.

When it comes to medium-grain rices, the ones used for paella, I haven't cooked with Valencia or bomba rice often enough to pick a favorite, so naturally I keep both in The Perfect Pantry. (Of course, that is my excuse for having such a full pantry: inability to narrow down my spice, condiment, and dry goods choices!)

Though I use both rices for paella, there really are differences between the two varieties.

Bomba, the more rare and costly, is a Denominación de Origen round, medium-short grain rice cultivated in the L'Albufera region of Spain. It's difficult to grow and harvest, and has a long maturation cycle, which explain its high cost. Bomba differs from most rice varieties because it expands in length (most rices, when they absorb liquid, expand in width), and can absorb three times its volume in liquid. When cooked, the grains remain separate and do not stick together. Bomba is the rice prized by chefs in Spain; it's the best of the best.

So why bother with the Valencia? Which rice is best for which recipe? The better question is: which rice is best for which cook?

Bomba is a more flexible rice; because it can absorb much more liquid, it's hard to overcook bomba. If you're new to paella, this is the rice for you. Valencia, always more affordable, is your rice if you're a more experienced cook; it gets softer more quickly, which means that you need to keep an eye on it and measure your liquid carefully.

Both bomba and Valencia are available online here and here. Use them to make paella with any combination of ingredients — veggies, seafood or meatballs — or the creamiest rice pudding.

Chicken paella with slow-roasted tomatoes

Based on the method described in Penelope Casas' Paella, which develops a beautiful soccarat — a thin layer of rice at the bottom of the pan that becomes brown and crusty and is considered the best part of the paella. It is scraped off after the paella is served, and shared with everyone at the table. Serves 6-8.


2 cups chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium canned
Kosher or sea salt
1/4 tsp crumbled thread saffron
3 lb chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on
8 Tbsp olive oil
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
I box frozen artichoke hearts (already quartered)
8 slow-roasted tomato halves, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika (mild or hot, to taste)
3 cups bomba or Valencia rice, or arborio
Salt and black pepper to taste


Heat the broth, salt, saffron, and 4 cups water in a covered pot over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, then keep the broth hot over the lowest heat.

Sprinkle chicken pieces all over with salt.

Preheat the oven to 400°F for gas, 450°F for electric.

Heat the oil over fairly high heat in a paella pan measuring 17-18 inches at its widest point (or in a shallow casserole of similar size), over 2 burners if necessary. Sauté the chicken over high heat until brown (it should not be fully cooked), about 5 minutes, turning once. (Be careful — this will splatter.) Add the green pepper, onion and garlic, and cook until slightly softened, keeping the heat high. Stir in the artichokes and tomatoes, and cook on high for about 3 minutes. Add the parsley, cook 1 minute, then mix in the paprika.

Stir in the rice and coat well with the pan mixture. Pour in the hot broth and bring to a boil. Taste for salt and pepper, and continue to boil about 5 minutes, stirring and rotating the pan occasionally, until the rice is no longer soupy but enough liquid remains to continue cooking the rice, about 5 minutes.

Transfer pan to the oven. Cook, uncovered, until the rice is almost al dente, 10-13 minutes in a gas oven, 15-20 minutes in electric.

Remove to a warm spot, cover with foil, and let sit 5-10 minutes, until the rice is cooked to taste. Return the paella to the stovetop over high heat and cook, without stirring, until a soccarat (crust) of rice forms at the bottom of the pan (be careful not to burn it). This will take 3-4 minutes. Bring the pan to the table and serve hot.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

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Why have I never heard of bomba rice before?

Now that I have, I'll be running across it everywhere.

Mimi, jazz, ice skating, peanuts

Hi Lydia,

I have been reading your blog for months now and you do a great job! I have made many of your recipes and they are all great!

I have a question regarding the paella. I have made Penelope's paella three times now after finding her recipe awhile back. I stuck faithfully to the ingredients, including using Bomba rice and the correct size paella pan, but when I add the broth/water mixture, it's too much for the already crowded pan. I have to add it in small batches and wait for it to absorb, then add more with a baster while it's in the oven. Did you have a similar experience? Just curious. I was thinking about cutting back on the rice and broth a bit next time. Any advice would be appreciated. Everyone loves the dish BTW. It's delicious!

I do love rice, and would love to try this short-grained rice. I;m afraid all I use is arborio for risotto and different varieties of Indian rice for my Indian dishes. Your artichoke paella is a must-try!

Mimi, I'm rock and roll, roller skating, peanut. Bomba is a bit harder to find than Valencia, but both are delicious rices. I think, like all things, that as more restaurant chefs discover the bomba, it will become easier to find both online and in markets. I have a good local gourmet market that carries Valencia, and have had an easy time finding it online from the authentic Spanish grocers.

DarBar, welcome! It's fine to add the liquid in batches, but what I find is that, if my pan is hot enough when the liquid goes in, it begins to both absorb and boil right away so that most or all of the liquid will fit, even if the pan is incredibly full. All of the liquid should go in before the pan goes into the oven; you need to cook it on the stovetop until there's no liquid pooled on the surface. Get as much liquid as you can into the paella right away, rather than cooking like you would for risotto, letting liquid absorb a little at a time. This rice will take up a large amount of liquid. You can certainly cut the amount of both rice and liquid, especially if you've got a hearty filling, but remember that paella is all about the rice -- it is the star, and everything else the garnish. I'm so glad you're enjoying these recipes; my absolute favorite is the veggie paella with fresh garlic sauce. Makes me swoon.....

Nupur, arborio will work for this, but do try the Spanish rices if you can find either Valencia or bomba. I love the Indian rices for Indian dishes, too; your blog inspires me to try many new things (and to add to my not-so-perfect pantry!).

New to me! I love a yummy paella~ now I can give it a try.
roller blading, jazz, and junior mints

wonderful post, Lydia. thanks for the links to online sources - around here, I can only generally get my hands on arborio, so I use that for risottos and paellas. Never heard of bomba - can't wait to try it out.

I can't believe I've never tried cooking paella. When I was an exchange student in Spain, my host mother showed me how she made it, but I've lost my notes. But now that you've given us both an excellent lesson in types of rice and a fabulous recipe, I should finally try making this delicious dish.

I can't believe I've never tried cooking paella. When I was an exchange student in Spain, my host mother showed me how she made it, but I've lost my notes. But now that you've given us both an excellent lesson in types of rice and a fabulous recipe, I should finally try making this delicious dish.

Sandi, I've got a thing for junior mints, too. I associate them with movies, because I always bought them at the concession stand when I was a kid.

Scott, these Spanish rices are much easier to find now. Spanish Table and La Tienda have both been great sources for me, but there are many others.

Lisa, I'd really recommend getting Paella by Penelope Casas. She explains her method very well, and the recipes range from traditional to absolutely innovative. Authentic paella pans are inexpensive, too, so I'd recommend getting one of those, rather than the fancy, overpriced stainless steel ones that simply don't work as well. Ole!

This is one of those dishes on my list of adventures to embark upon and I haven't taken the time yet. I'll keep yours in mind when it happens.

Lydia, I bow to you! You are a paella expert. I've never heard of bomba rice, so thank you very much. I love rice and enjoy trying different varieties. To me, rice is a true delight so I love learning things like this. And thanks for the recipe!


I love, love, love rice - give me any dish made with rice and I'll smile forever. :)

Unfortunately, I'm allergic to some types of seafood and can't have paella, but this type of rice sounds really interesting - I've never heard of it.

I'm always learning new thing from you!

Tanna, paella is addictive, and infinitely variable. I hope you'll try it.

Sher, I'd never tried cooking with the bomba until a couple of years ago. I think you'll like it.

Patricia, back in July I posted a recipe for a veggie paella with fresh garlic sauce, also from Penelope Casas. No seafood! Please check it out; here's the link --

Oh yes, the soccarat... Haven't had the chance to partake of it before but I can see how enjoyable it is chiselling the bits off the pan to share! Much like the crust that forms at the bottom of a fondue vessel! (which incidentally, I've also never had but fantasise about, haha)

oh, i didn't realize that there were designated paella rices. i'll keep my eye out for either variety, and of course, a good vegetarian-take on paella. thanks for the lesson!

I love Paella, I've only made it a couple of times but it is so delicious! I have great difficulty trying to persaude people to use the right type of rice for the relevent dish. It makes all the difference! Plus, the little sacks of rice look very cute too!

Shilpa, now you've got me thinking about that crusty fondue cheese....oh, it sounds heavenly!

Connie, see my comment to Patricia, above. The veggie paella recipe is amazing.

Freya, I'm still learning about different kinds of rice and how they behave in different uses. I have one kind that I use in my rice cooker for Chinese food, Indian rices that I use for curries, Italian and Spanish rices. It makes a huge difference in the finished dish, doesn't it?

I read about bomba rice a few months ago, and actually went to the trouble to mail order a bag. I loved how my paella turned out, with moist but not mushy grains. It is costly, so next time I'll use the more readily available Valencia.

Your paella recipe is on my list to make this week. Yum.

Ice skating, rock and roll, plain.

Bomba and several other paella rices grown in Spain are short grain rices,not even close to medium grain. Bomba swells in diameter but not in length and absorbs a lot more liquid than other non paella varieties without getting mushy and falling apart.The paella should have very little moisture left when finished cooking. That is why you should never use medium grain arborio risotto rice. My bag of Calasparra Bomba rice says rice to water: 1:4 for paella and 1:3 covered.Never cover a paella. Many recipes call for less water. I will have to experiment. I can't find a consistent answer on line.

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