This article was updated on 12/07/2023 for clarity and to incorporate new insights.
There’s no such thing as a small portion of paella, so what do you do when you’ve cooked for six but only two of you are eating?
I’ve personally tested several reheating methods to find out which one’s the best at delivering a paella that’s (nearly) as good as new. No rubbery seafood or mushy rice in sight!
In a rush? Here’s the short answer.
The best way to reheat paella is on the stove in a heavy bottom pan. Add your paella along with 1-2 tablespoons of water to the pan and cover it with a lid. Heat the paella on a medium heat until it’s warmed through. Your paella will be moist and flavorsome.
How I tested reheating paella
To find the best way of reheating paella, I cooked a large batch and stored it (most of it anyway) overnight. It would have been rude not to taste some fresh!
The following day, I tested the following techniques to reheat the dish:
- The oven: Great for large portions.
- The microwave: Not good for seafood paella.
- The stove: My favorite method.
- A steamer: Good if you don’t mind a wet texture.
- A slower cooker: Not recommended.
Related: How To Reheat Jambalaya
How to reheat paella on the stove
Time: 4-5 minutes
- Place a heavy-bottomed pan on the stove over a medium heat.
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of stock or water before adding your leftover paella to the pan. Stir the paella to combine it with the liquid.
- Close the pan with a lid to trap the steam and heat the paella for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Serve immediately with one of these fantastic side dishes for paella.
Note: if your paella is frozen, you can still use this method, but make sure to break the rice up as soon as possible.
Stirring is important on the stove to make sure the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. But you need to balance this with keeping as much moisture in the pan as you can.
Opening the lid to stir the paella too often will let out all the steam, and you could end up with dry paella. If the paella does start to go dry, you can always add more water in.
If you want to add a little bit of crunch to your rice, use oil instead of water or stock. This will give a fried rice effect.
Results: The stove was my favorite reheating method. The frying bought out the flavors of the dish more than any other method, especially the chorizo. The rice also had the nicest texture. It wasn’t mushy or overcooked but wasn’t dried out either.
How to reheat paella in the oven
Time: 15-25 minutes
- Start by heating your oven to 300°F and placing your paella in an oven-safe dish.
- Spread your leftovers out slightly to separate and clumps of rice.
- Sprinkle a few tablespoons of water (or stock) over the paella and tightly cover the dish with a layer of foil.
- Leave the dish to heat for 15 to 25 minutes depending on portion size.
Heating the rice in the oven can very quickly dry out the ingredients, so you want to lock in as much moisture as possible – foil is your best friend here.
Always opt for stock over water if you have the choice. A few days in the fridge will mute the flavors of the paella and adding stock helps bring them back to life.
You also want to avoid opening the foil too much while reheating the paella. Every time you take a peak or stir the dish, you’ll let some of the precious moisture escape, and you risk ending up with a dry paella.
Results: The paella tasted nice out of the oven, but it was a little dried out, and the texture of the rice seemed slightly overcooked (although I’m nitpicking here). The oven would be a great method for large batches of paella that won’t fit in the microwave or are too big for a pan.
How to reheat paella in the microwave
Time: 60 seconds
- Place your leftover paella in a heatproof dish and (optionally) remove any seafood.
- Ensure there are no clumps by mixing the paella and cover the rice with a damp paper towel.
- Heat the paella for 30 seconds before checking the temperature.
- Continue in 30 seconds increments until the paella is piping hot all the way through, stirring the rice during every break.
- Let the paella rest for 30 seconds before serving.
The damp paper towel should be touching the rice, not resting on top of the bowl. It will create steam to rehydrate the rice. Be careful when removing the paper towel because the same steam can easily burn you.
You can also sprinkle a few tablespoons of water directly onto the paella and then cover the dish with some pierced plastic wrap.
Results: My paella was okay out of the microwave. The taste was slightly dull, the rice was a little gummy, and the seafood was rubbery. But for a quick lunch, it was fine. Chicken or vegetable paella would fare better.
How to reheat paella in a steamer
Time: 3-4 minutes
- Add 2-3 inches of water or stock to a steamer and bring it to a gentle simmer.
- Place the paella into the steamer basket. If the holes in your steamer are too big, you can put the paella on a plate.
- Let the paella steam for roughly 3-4 minutes before serving.
If you don’t have a steamer, you can improvise by placing a mesh strainer over a pot of boiling water.
Steaming uses second-hand heat, so it’s gentle in nature. Because of this, it deals with seafood quite well (although there’s still a chance it’ll overcook). An even gentler method would be to use a double boiler. In a double boiler, the steam heats the bowl, which then heats the paella.
Results: Steaming would be perfect for rehydrating dried out paella, or a paella with lots of delicate fish. My paella was definitely wetter than with other methods, and while I liked the moist paella, it would have been too mushy for some people.
A note on reheating paella in a slow cooker
I initially included this in my tests because I saw it recommended in other places, but while I was researching I learnt that it’s not considered safe to reheat foods in a slow cooker.
Because the slow cooked takes so long to get up to temperature, there’s a risk your paella would be left in the ‘danger zone’ for bacteria for too long. And I don’t want anyone getting food poisoning!
How to store paella
You can store leftover paella in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days. Wait for the paella to cool to room temperature before storing it, and remove any seafood shells.
Never leave your paella sitting at room temperature for more than two hours. The rice and the seafood are magnets for harmful bacteria! If you have a large batch of paella I recommend spreading it out between different containers so it cools quickly enough.
How to freeze paella
To freeze paella, separate it into portion-sized servings and place the cooled-down leftovers in a heavy-duty freezer bag. Squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can before laying them flat in the freezer. Paella will last for up to 3 months in the freezer.
If you don’t have freezer bags, you can use an airtight container, but cover the top of the rice with a layer of plastic wrap to protect it from the air gap. Exposure to air speeds up freezer burn!
Note that shellfish generally doesn’t freeze well (the texture turns rubbery), so I would consider taking all the seafood out before you freeze the paella. You can cook fresh seafood while you’re reheating the rice.
To thaw paella, take it out of the freezer the night before you want to use it and let it defrost in the fridge. You can also place a bag of frozen paella in a bowl of cold water to speed up the thawing process. Alternatively, you can reheat the paella straight from the freezer on the stove..
Read Next: How To Reheat Quinoa
BEST Way To Reheat Paella [Tested Methods]
- Heavy bottom pan
- 1 portion paella
- 1 portion stock or water
- Place a heavy-bottomed pan on the stove over a medium heat.
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of stock or water.
- Add your leftover paella to the pan and stir to combine with the water.
- Close the pan with a lid to keep the steam from escaping.
- Heat the paella for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.