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Persian Saffron Paella with Dried Chorizo, Mussels, & Smoked Turkey

Kindi Lantz November 29, 2018

Easy Paella Using Thanksgiving Leftovers and Persian Saffron

Paella is such an exceptional dish for a cold fall or winter day. It's warm, comforting, quite filling, and packed with satisfying spices and plenty of protein. Classic paella purists might scoff at this recipe due to the lack of authenticity but, unless you have spent any amount of time in Valencia, chances are the paella you've had isn't actually the real deal either. 

You see, traditionally, paella was made with a variety of local ingredients that usually included rabbits, snails, and various types of beans—much different than the chicken, shrimp, and sausage versions that frequently appear on menus today.

Still, those versions, in my opinion, are equally (if not more) delectable, and the variations don't end with that particular mixture of poultry, seafood, and pork. From mushrooms and tofu to duck and lobster, if it's edible, it is probably an ingredient in some chef's take on the Spanish classic. There is just one constant and that is saffron—the spice that gives it that unmatched flavor and deep yellow hue.

In the interest of creative paella variations, I developed this Persian Saffron Paella recipe with Thanksgiving leftovers in mind. You see, every year, like many Americans, my family gets turkey 3 times bigger than we actually need and every year we try to come up with unique ways to use the leftovers. Because, let's face it, turkey sandwiches and turkey soup get old really quickly. This year, we smoked the turkey and I thought that hickory flavor would be perfect in a paella dish alongside smoky Spanish chorizo, and fresh buttery mussels. If you don't have leftovers, you can always buy a smoked turkey, rotisserie chicken, or use any other meat you have on hand.

Since the recipe already strayed from the traditional variety, I decided to put another twist on this Thanksgiving paella. Paella is typically made using a Spanish short-grain rice like Bomba or Calasparra because they absorb more liquid (and more flavor) but I find these kinds of rice to contain higher levels of starch and prefer a more firm, dry variety (I'll save the short grain for risotto). Because of my low-starch preference, I went with basmati but feel free to utilize the traditional variety if you wish (just make sure you add extra broth to account for the nearly 1/3 higher absorption power of short-grain rice).

As you see, unless you are an absolute purist, paella is a fantastic dish for culinary innovativeness. So get inspired and develop a paella masterpiece that suits your own tastes—just don't leave out the saffron!

If you aren't in the mood to be inventive, though, you can always just use this recipe!

Persian Saffron Paella with Dried Chorizo, Fresh Mussels, & Smoked Turkey


  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped into 1/4-inch piece
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons fresh, minced garlic, divided
  • 1 generous pinch of saffron threads (1 teaspoon)
  • 2 cups uncooked rice
  • 1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon 
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 cups turkey or chicken bone broth
  • 1 pound mussels, debearded
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 7 ounces of dried Spanish chorizo, sliced thinly 
  • 2 cups leftover turkey, chopped 
  • 1 cup peas


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or paella pan over medium heat. 
  2. Add the onions and sauté, turning often, for 3-5 minutes until edges have turned golden.
  3. Stir in the bell peppers and garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. 
  4. Move the onion, bell pepper, and garlic mixture to the outer edges of the pan, leaving the center exposed. Add the saffron to the center of the pan and toast for 2 minutes, turning continuously. 
  5. Add the rice to the center of the pan and toast, turning often, for another 4 minutes.
  6. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, oregano, paprika, pepper, sage, sea salt, and lemon zest.
  7. Add bone broth and fresh lemon juice and turn the heat up to high. 
  8. When the liquid has started to boil, place a lid on the pan, turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes, or until all liquid has absorbed. 
  9. In the last 10 minutes of the cooking process, you can start preparing your mussels. 
  10. Melt butter in a medium-sized pot over medium-low heat. 
  11. Stir in the dijon mustard, garlic, and lemon juice. 
  12. Toss the mussels in the dijon, lemon, garlic, butter, mixture and place a lid on it. 
  13. When the mussels have opened, they are finished cooking. Discard any unopened mussels. 
  14. Once all liquid has been absorbed in the rice, stir in the turkey, chorizo, peas, and juices from mussels. 
  15. Top with the mussels and place the lid on for 3-5 more minutes, while turkey, peas, and chorizo warm up. 

To Serve:

Serve, family-style in the same pan you cooked it in. Garnish with parsley.