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Why You May Want To Skip The Onions To Preserve Paella's Texture

Paella with shrimp and clams
Paella with shrimp and clams - Fortyforks/Shutterstock

Paella is one of those old-world dishes that brings together the bounty of the sea with the treasures of the land. Muscles, prawns, squid, clams, and octopus come together in a chorizo and saffron-punctuated rice base for the ultimate fresh meal. While the seafood and spiced sausage often steal the spotlight, the crunchy layer of rice provides the textural backbone of the dish. Even the name "paella" refers to the wide, shallow pan needed to cook the grains so that it has a distinct crunchy feel.

Nailing this al dente texture is one of the hardest elements of paella and one that chefs have obsessed over. One tip they follow to keep things from going mushy? Nixing the onions. While onions are beloved for imparting a nice note of allium flavor to cooking, they're also known to bring quite a bit of moisture to the pan. In fact, they are made up of about 89% water, so they can completely throw off your broth-to-rice ratio but adding unexpected liquid. Thankfully, there are a few ways to keep that onion factor without the watery pitfalls.

Read more: 29 Authentic Spanish Dishes You Need To Try At Least Once

Opt For Onion Powder And Dried Minced Onion

Onion powder in wooden bowl
Onion powder in wooden bowl - NIKCOA/Shutterstock

The first way to fix the watery onion conundrum is to do a bit of compartmentalized cooking. Instead of throwing the raw vegetables in with everything else, you can sauté them separately from the mix, so that some of that excess moisture is sweated away. You won't want to take your onions too far along in the cooking process, though, as they could potentially burn in the paella pan with the other ingredients. Just cook them until properly translucent, and that'll take care of potential sogginess.


The second and easiest way to solve this issue is to sub it with one of its dehydrated cousins — onion powder or dried, minced onion. Start by stirring in a teaspoon of the powder into the broth, adding more later if you think it could do with a stronger allium punch. A teaspoon or two of minced onions would also work well, but note that it too will absorb a bit of liquid, so don't add too much. Making paella is a balancing act, but a tasty one, so it's worth the effort to get the onion dilemma sorted before pulling out your pan.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.