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Paella 101: How to Properly Serve Paella

paealla serving in small paella dish ready to eat seafood paella enameled paella pan

Knowing how to make paella and presenting paella correctly are two different things. Paella is the type of dish that is not only delicious, but also visually impressive. If you look up paellas online, you will see plenty of fantastic designs and layouts. Carefully placed shells, perfect spread of lemons with a bit of fresh cilantro or other herbs are common with finished paella dishes.

Here at Machika, we decided to go over some of the best ways to serve and plate paella dishes. Often, how you plate will depend on your dish. Of course, if you are making chicken chorizo paella, you would not have lobster tails in shells to place around the dish. When serving paella, you have to consider two things: the plating and the garnishing. With that in mind, here are some of the best ways to serve paella!

Best Paella Garnishes

Garnishing simply means to sprinkle some type of herbs onto a finished this. Garnishing a dish provides a delicious, fresh herb aroma and taste that really can bring a dish together. However, garnishes are not always herbs. For example, you could have a paella recipe that garnishes with peas. Some recipes call for the fresh unfrozen peas to be added when the dish is finished. The paella then sits for 10 mins. During this time, the fresh peas soften and the dish is ready to eat afterwards. You could also garnish a dish with other fresh vegetables or slices of lemon (a common garnish). Some of the best garnishes for paella include:

  • Cilantro
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Lemons

Cilantro Paella Garnish

Cilantro is a great fresh herb that you can garnish paella with. However, it is not as common as the others on the list. Some people may have specific genes that cause cilantro to taste like soap. If you’ve ever heard a family member or friend complain about cilantro, this is probably why. If you love the taste of fresh cilantro though, it pairs very well with chicken chorizo paellas.

Parsley & Oregano

Parsley is similar to oregano in that both provide an earthy, herb flavor and even look similar. You would garnish a paella dish similar to how you would any other fresh herb. Cutting the piece of fresh parsley into very small pieces and spread evenly over finished paella. They both go well with paellas that use tomatoes and chicken paellas.


seafood paella plating with shrimp and lemon garnish

Lemons are a very common addition to paella dishes. However, you are not meant to eat the lemons. Instead, they are supposed to be portioned out with each serving so that you can squeeze the juice over the paella. But why not just spritz the whole dish with lemon? Well, not everyone likes the same amount of lemon juice in their paella and some may not want it at all. Though it pairs well with all types of paella, it’s good to leave it up to the individual you are serving it to.

Plating Paella and Serving

The traditional way to plate paella is typically in a smaller serving sized paella pan, though in the past it was eaten straight out of the original pan! However, the goal of plating a paella dish for serving is to essentially create a miniature version of the whole dish. With any meats like shrimp and clams, you will want to place them in a circular pattern and as evenly spread out as possible.

So, if you are using lemons, clams, shrimp, and other pieces of food that are traditionally laid on top of the dish, you want each plated serving to contain equal amounts. With small single serving paella dishes, it gives your plating that next level quality. You can also heat the smaller paella pans over a small flame or on a stove to keep the serving warm or reheat it. However, don’t feel too bad if you only have plates. Nowadays, paella will mostly come on a plate rather than in a single pan or small serving pans.

Maria Perez machika blog writer blurb.

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