Paella-Style Shrimp and Brown Rice (Pantry Recipe)


Paella-Style Shrimp and Brown Rice

This paella-style shrimp and brown rice is another one of those weeknight scramble recipes that’ll save you from having to resort to takeout, frozen meals, or cereal. The best part? You can keep everything you need on hand indefinitely between your pantry and your freezer. Oh and it’s veggie and nutrient right and almost entirely hands off.

I’ve shared my full pantry stocking list here and all of these ingredients are included in that version. In fact, you probably have them on hand already except for maybe the frozen shrimp and saffron. But trust me, it’s worth it to buy these two and keep them on hand for this recipe and more.

In case your pantry isn’t fully stocked yet, you’ll need to make sure that you stock up on the following this week if you want to be prepared to make this recipe next time a dinner crisis strikes:

  • 1 lb frozen shrimp, shelled and deveined (tails on are ok)
  • 1 bag frozen bell peppers and 1 bag frozen peas (I used half of each)
  • 1.5 cups short grain brown rice
  • 3-4 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon (optional)

Great. Now that you have everything on hand, let’s get cooking!

Paella-Style Shrimp and Brown Rice Recipe

Paella-Style Shrimp and Brown Rice (Pantry Recipe)

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Serving Size: 4


  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1.5 cups short grain brown rice
  • 3-4 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 lb frozen shrimp, shelled and deveined (tails on are ok)
  • 1 bag frozen bell peppers and 1 bag frozen peas (I used half of each)
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon (optional)


  1. Melt 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat in a large saute pan (make sure it has a lid). Add in rice and toast, stirring regularly, until it starts to become a little opaque.
  2. Add 3 cups water or broth, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid for about 30 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, place shrimp in a collander under cool running water to defrost. You should be able to tell when they're full defrosted by touch (about 5 minutes). Also, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil. Pour over pinch of saffron in a small bowl to develop.
  4. After 30 minutes, open lid and add in saffron and water mixture.
  5. Wait 10 more minutes then add in the defrosted shrimp and 1/2 bag each of frozen bell pepper and frozen peas. Add a little more water if it's looking really dry.
  6. Check after 5 minutes. If shrimp isn't yet fully opaque and/or veggies are still frozen let cook a few more minutes before checking again. Taste and season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon if you have it.

Why frozen shrimp?

You can absolutely substitute fresh shrimp here, but the reality is that most shrimp you buy in the store has been pre-frozen anyways. The frozen kind is great to keep on hand because it defrosts and cooks super quickly, plus it really elevates any weeknight meal.

If you have frozen shrimp on hand, you have tons of quick and easy dinner options. We use ours in this dish, obviously, but also:

  • Added to pasta with veggies, butter, and a some red pepper flakes
  • In a stir fry
  • As a filling in lettuce wraps
  • As a quick appetizer for drop-in guests

What shrimp should I buy?

Shrimp is a bit of a tricky item to purchase because there are so many considerations:

  • Fresh or frozen?
  • Shell on or off?
  • Wild-caught or farmed?
  • What size?

There are a lot of intricacies, many of which you can read about in these two guides that I really like:

Of course, like all decisions, much of this will come down to availability, budget, and usage. That said, here’s my recommendation:

  • Buy frozen for convenience of storage
  • Buy shell off for easiest usage (shell-on is great for grilling but can be a pain in quick applications for families)
  • Look for wild-caught (Marine Stewardship Council – MSC – Certified if at all possible) or farmed with high aquaculture standards (Whole Foods Market has great, published standards around this)
  • Buy medium (36-50) or large (26-40) for greatest flexibility in usage

Now go forth and eat Paella-style Shrimp and Brown Rice!


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