The BEST Salads That Go With Paella!

If you’re a paella fan but struggling to find the perfect side dish, look no further than the world of salads!

Not only do salads offer a refreshing and healthy complement to the rich and savoury flavors of this Spanish dish, but they also provide endless possibilities for creative and delicious combinations.

But with so many salad options out there, how do you choose the perfect one?

Join us as we explore the best salads that go with paella, from zesty and tangy tomato salads to crisp and colorful greens that will have your taste buds dancing. 

Let’s dive in…

(Be sure to also take a look at the best starters for paella, and the best desserts for paella!) 

Paella and Salads: The Perfect Pairing

Salads play a vital role in balancing the richness of paella, creating a wholesome meal.

The combination of light, fresh, and zesty ingredients creates a refreshing contrast to the hearty paella, cutting through the umami-packed flavours of the seafood, chicken, and saffron.

Spanish cuisine is known for its effortless harmony of flavours and textures.

When selecting a salad to accompany your paella, you’ll want to keep this principle in mind.

Opt for a salad that showcases seasonal ingredients and bright, zesty dressings. Think fresh leaves, colourful bell peppers, thinly sliced onions, olives, and tomatoes marinated in a zesty vinaigrette. These punchy ingredients not only complement the paella, but also provide your guests with a truly authentic Spanish dining experience.

A few popular salad choices to accompany your paella include:

  • Ensalada de Pimientos Rojos: a roasted red pepper salad with garlic, vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Ensalada de Pipirrana: a combination of finely diced cucumber, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, olives, and salted fresh tuna or anchovies, dressed with olive oil and vinegar.
  • Ensalada de Endivias con Salmón: endive leaves tossed with smoked salmon, capers, and a zesty mustard vinaigrette.

To elevate your paella and salad pairing to new heights, consider adding ingredients that echo the flavours present in your chosen paella recipe.

For instance, scatter some capers or olives onto your salad to provide little bursts of briny flavour that complement the seafood in your paella.

Additionally, a touch of smoky paprika in your salad dressing can help marry the two dishes together.

The Art of Choosing the Perfect Salad

Understanding Flavours and Textures

When selecting the perfect salad to accompany your paella, it’s crucial to consider the flavours and textures that will complement the dish.

Since paella is known for its rich, smoky taste, opt for a salad with contrasting flavours to bring balance to the meal.

For example, go for:

  • A citrus-based salad, like an orange and fennel one, to provide zest and tanginess
  • A herb-infused salad, featuring mint or basil, to add a refreshing touch

It’s equally important to find a salad offering a mix of textures.

Paella is typically a hearty dish with various ingredients, so by adding contrasting textures in the salad, you can create a more balanced and enjoyable eating experience.

Consider the following:

  • A crunchy salad with ingredients like nuts, seeds, or crispy vegetables
  • A silky salad with creamy elements like avocado or soft goat’s cheese

Popular Salads That Go With Paella

Green Salads

When it comes to green salads, a simple and fresh option always works well with paella.

Opt for a mixed leaf salad containing ingredients like rocket, baby spinach, and watercress.

A classic vinaigrette dressing made with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a touch of lemon juice brings a zesty touch to balance the rich flavours of paella.

  • Key ingredients: Mixed leaves, vinaigrette dressing, lemon juice

Tomato Salads

A vibrant tomato salad can brighten up your paella meal.

Choose a mix of colourful cherry tomatoes and combine them with fresh basil, sliced red onions, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Season with salt and black pepper for a delicious and refreshing side that will complement your paella beautifully.

  • Key ingredients: Cherry tomatoes, basil, red onions, olive oil

Bean Salads

A flavoursome and protein-packed bean salad can be an excellent choice to complete your paella meal.

Combine butter beans, cannellini beans, and black-eyed beans with chopped peppers, onion, and parsley.

Drizzle with a tangy mustard vinaigrette dressing to add a burst of flavour.

  • Key ingredients: Mixed beans, peppers, onion, mustard vinaigrette

Potato Salads

Lastly, potato salad can make a lovely addition to your paella dinner.

For a light and flavourful version, consider a mix of new potatoes cooked in their skins, halved or quartered, and dressed with a blend of olive oil, white wine vinegar, and wholegrain mustard.

Add in finely chopped spring onions and flat-leaf parsley for a touch of freshness.

  • Key ingredients: New potatoes, olive oil, white wine vinegar, wholegrain mustard, spring onions, flat-leaf parsley

Salad Ingredients to Enhance Your Paella

Veggies and Salads

To complement your delicious paella, you can choose from an array of fresh vegetables to create delightful salad combinations.

Start with a base of lettuce, arugula or spinach, then add your favourite crunchy vegetables.

Some great choices include:

  • Peppers: Choose from sweet bell peppers or spicy varieties if you prefer a bit of heat.
  • Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes add a burst of sweetness, while large varieties can provide a more substantial bite.
  • Cucumber: Refreshing and crisp, cucumber pairs well with many salad ingredients.
  • Olives: Add a Mediterranean twist with kalamata or green olives.
  • Carrots: Grate them for texture or slice them into thin circles for a crunchy component.

Cheeses and Nuts

For a touch of luxury and added depth of flavour, mix in a variety of cheeses and nuts:

Cheese Nut
Parmesan Almonds
Goat cheese Walnuts
Feta Pine nuts
Shaved Manchego Pistachios

These combinations add a delicious balance of textures, giving your salad a much-needed contrast to the creamy, rich paella.

Dressing Your Salads

A punchy, flavourful dressing can enhance your paired salad and elevate your meal.

Focus on simple, fresh ingredients such as garlic, onions, red onion, and fresh parsley.

Mix these with the tanginess of citrus or vinegar to complement your paella’s richness. An easy yet flavoursome dressing could include:

  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Garlic
  • Salt and pepper

Feel free to explore different variations according to your taste, such as adding a touch of honey for sweetness or mustard for an additional kick.

The key is to keep it light and refreshing, allowing the flavours of your paella to shine through while enjoying the vibrant salad on your plate.

Your friends and family will love the combination, and you’ll be the star chef of your next gathering!