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Vegetarian Paella Salad with Spiced Walnuts

Bright and healthy with savory, sweet, color and crunch, everything you want in a stellar salad, this paella salad with spiced walnuts has it all!

I received free samples of California Walnuts featured in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by California Walnuts and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

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Vegetarian Paella Salad with Spiced Walnuts in wooden bowl

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Most all of the ingredients for this plant-based salad can be found in a well-stocked pantry. Plus it’s easy to make! 

You begin with brown rice cooked with savory onions, tomatoes, and saffron spice. Next you dress it in a peppery spicy olive oil and sherry vinaigrette.

Then you pile on all the goodies. Artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, tender crisp edamame, creamy firm chickpeas, and, on top of all that, a generous sprinkling of candied spiced walnuts!

wooden bowl of saffron brown rice with spiced walnuts, chickpeas, edamame and artichoke hearts

Paella salad with spiced walnuts is my vegetarian twist on the Spanish dish of saffron-flavored rice that’s classically combined with a variety of meats and shellfish. In keeping with the Spanish theme, besides the saffron, this paella salad features both sherry wine vinegar and smoky Spanish paprika.

Serving suggestion: For a welcome hot weather dinner, serve your paella salad with spiced candied walnuts on top of a bed of arugula.

Want to be party popular? Bring this salad to your next potluck. (Gosh, I hope with this Covid-19 stay-home smaller-groups strategy, we nip this pandemic enough to feel good about getting together for summer barbeques and parties.)

Brown rice paella salad in a bowl with artichoke hearts, saffron, chickpeas

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Why use jasmine brown rice for paella salad?

  • Long grain organic jasmine brown rice, with a nutty flavor similar to the more expensive basmati brown rice, yields a softer, sticky-moist texture that works nicely here. Classic paella calls for shorter starchier kernels that when cooked become very creamy, too creamy, I feel, for this salad.
  • Brown rice, known for its high protein and fiber nutrient content, is a healthy choice. If you wish, you can substitute white jasmine rice—plan on a shorter cooking time than with brown jasmine rice.

About cooking brown rice:

  • The goal is clingy and sticky, not mushy. Resist the urge to stir any time during the cooking! To check if the liquid has been absorbed or not, tilt the pan to the side. If you see liquid, cook for more time.

About saffron spice:

  • This bright yellow-orange stigma from a small purple crocus flower is the world’s most expensive spice. Integral to paella, a little saffron goes a long way to flavor and tint the rice. Turmeric has a similar color but much stronger flavor and should not be mistaken or substituted for saffron.

What is sherry wine vinegar?

  • Made from aged sherry wine, sherry vinegar has a robust oaky, caramelly flavor. I used Napa Valley Naturals sherry vinegar that’s aged from a Spanish vinegar starter. If you don’t have sherry vinegar you can substitute another vinegar, like apple cider or red wine vinegars.

What is smoked paprika?

  • Known also as pimentón, smoked Spanish paprika is a rich smoky sweet pepper spice. I used the mild “dulce” smoked paprika in this recipe.

Paella Salad with small bowl of walnuts on the side

About California Walnuts:

  • This recipe is part of a contest sponsored by California Walnuts who sent me a box of their quality walnuts.
  • A handful of California walnuts is a versatile snack that can satisfy any taste preference, from savory to sweet. I like walnuts most any way and decided to feature sweet candied walnuts in a savory salad recipe! The spiced walnuts are so tasty, you might want to make a double batch so you have some to snack on later! 
  • Walnuts add healthy protein and fat–they are the only nut to provide an excellent source of the plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid.
  • Learn more about nutritional walnuts here.

More healthy salads you will love:

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*** Healthy Aperture, a photo sharing website, sent a note alerting me to the California Walnut contest. See my Healthy Aperture recipes here.

*** Adapted from Thinkrice.com and USA Rice Foundation.

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Paella Salad with small bowl of walnuts on the side
Print Recipe
4 from 2 votes

Vegetarian Paella Salad with Spiced Walnuts

This bright paella salad features candied spiced walnuts! Made with savory seasoned brown rice, tossed with sherry vinagigrette, and loaded with chickpeas, edamame, artichoke hearts, and roasted red pepper.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Main Course, Salad
Cuisine: American, Spanish
Keyword: brown rice, paella, saffron
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients

For the rice:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups organic Jasmine brown rice (see note)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 bay leaf

Candied spiced walnuts:

  • 1 cup California walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the vinaigrette:

  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar (see notes)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper

The add ins:

  • ¼ cup chopped parsley leaves
  • 1/3 cup diced roasted red pepper, from a jar
  • 1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, cut in halves or quarters
  • 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • 1 cup cooked organic shelled edamame beans

Instructions

Cook the rice:

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and the onion and sauté until both the onion and the rice begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vegetable broth, tomatoes, saffron, smoked paprika, salt and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, and reduce the heat to very low.
  • Steam until the rice is tender and all of the liquid is absorbed, 45 to 60 minutes. Let the rice stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Turn out into a large bowl and remove the bay leaf.

Make the spiced walnuts:

  • Drop the walnuts into boiling water, turn off heat and let stand 2 minutes; drain. Heat oil in a large skillet, add the walnuts, sugar, salt, cumin and cayenne pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the sugar melts and the nuts are lightly toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Make the vinaigrette dressing:

  • In a small bowl, whisk the garlic, mustard and sherry vinegar. Gradually drizzle in the olive oil, whisking. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Pour the dressing over the rice in the bowl.
  • Mix in the parsley, artichoke hearts, chickpeas, and edamame. Refrigerate until well chilled. Just before serving, mix in half of the spiced walnuts. Sprinkle the remaining nuts over the top as garnish.

Notes

  • Brown rice, known for its high protein and fiber nutrient content, is a healthy choice. If you wish, you can substitute white jasmine rice—plan on a shorter cooking time than with brown jasmine rice.
  • If you don’t have sherry vinegar you can substitute another vinegar, like apple cider or red wine vinegars.

Nutrition

Calories: 470kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 1065mg | Potassium: 336mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 569IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 62mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @lettyskitchen or tag #lettyskitchen!

Nutrition information is meant to be an estimate only. The numbers will vary based on the brands you use and substitutions you made, and how much you actually eat.

2 comments

  • Very fancy use of walnuts! Reply · 26 April, 2020

    • Thank you Tammy! They’re addicting with or without the salad. Reply · 26 April, 2020

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