Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver

You might think Spain would be flattered that one of Britain's most famous chefs chose to create his own version of a beloved national dish. You'd be wrong.

Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
The TV chef added chorizo to paella Photo:

When Jamie Oliver posted a photograph of a delicious looking pot of rice, his own mouthwatering recipe for the popular Valencian dish of paella, he could hardly have expected to spark provoke outrage.  

“Good Spanish food doesn't get much better than paella. My version combines chicken thighs & chorizo,”  he tweeted in an seemingly harmless post on Tuesday with a photo of his “recipe of the day”.

But the Naked Chef had unwittingly committed one of the most heinous crimes in Spanish cooking: he added the spicy sausage chorizo to a dish where it really wasn't welcome.

READ MORE: Jamie Oliver's recipe for Chicken and Chorizo paella

It wasn’t long before the nation of Spain rose up to defend one of its most iconic and traditional dishes slamming Oliver for his “abomination” and urging him to go back to cooking school.

Someone even compared the Naked Chef's version to the laughable attempt to improve a priceless fresco by an octogenarian parishoner in northeastern Spain.

The London Paella School even reached out to offer the famous TV chef a free lesson.

Someone has even started a petition calling for support to stop British chefs – including Gordon Ramsey and Nigella Lawson alongside Jamie Oliver – adding chorzo to paella.


But it wasn’t all criticism. Famous Spanish chef José Andrés who has built up a  culinary empire in the USA jumped in to his defence.

Spaniards are so protective of their de-facto national dish that there are even self-proclaimed “paella police” in the form of Wikipaella.

READ MORE Paella: Six reason you have probably been doing it wrong

The online group monitors restaurants, naming and shaming those who don’t come up to scratch and offering awards to those establishments that meet approval and respect the tradition by serving an authentic paella.

According to the website, the ingredients of a good paella can depend on the region and there are always seasonal variations such as the addition of artichokes. It states however that carrots, mushrooms and above all chorizo have no place there.

When it comes to paella, tradition wins out over experimentation.

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Ten ingredients you should NEVER have in a real Spanish paella

Valencian paella has just been given protected status for its cultural significance, so if you really want to stay in the good books of your Spanish friends or family, here are ten ingredients you probably thought should go in paella but are strictly forbidden.

Valencian regional president Ximo Puig and Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez tuck into an authentic paella. Photo: José Jordán/AFP
Valencian regional president Ximo Puig and Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez tuck into an authentic paella. Photo: José Jordán/AFP

As Jamie Oliver knows full well, people from Spain – and the Valencia region in particular – can be pretty puritanical when it comes to how a paella should be made. 

The British star chef received a barrage of criticism and even death threats from Spain after adding an off-limits ingredient.

“Remove the chorizo. We don’t negotiate with terrorists. First warning,” one disgruntled Spaniard responded to Oliver’s Instagram post. 

“Why don’t you chop off your fingers and turn them into nuggets?” another critic went as far as saying.

‘Paellagate’ may have made international headlines and taken matters to the extreme, but it’s safe to say that many Valencians are fed up with their beloved paella – icon of Spanish cuisine and the Mediterranean diet – being butchered by chefs who don’t stick to the correct ingredients.

Think it’s a bit far-fetched? Well, on Tuesday the regional government of Valencia (where paella is originally from) decided to give their quintessential dish protected status for its cultural importance, detailing in an 8-page bulletin why it deserves the accolade.

READ ALSO: Five things you probably didn’t know about Spanish paella

Among the reasons to protect paella are “the distortions that could result from mass tourism” and the need to safeguard “traditional professions” associated with paella-making. 

So if it wasn’t clear already, Valencians and Spaniards in general paella pretty seriously. 

To be clear, there are different variations of paella which we’ll detail below, but overall you should avoid the following ingredients when preparing a paella or looking for an authentic paella at a restaurant. 

Peas: You often see peas in paellas but this is a big no-no in fact, it should be green beans instead.

Onion: That’s right, cebollas may be found in many Spanish recipes but add them to a paella and you may end up crying for two reasons.

Chorizo: A quintessential Spanish food product but as Jamie Oliver has been warned, not one that should be added to authentic paella.

Carrots: An extra ingredient to your vegetarian paella won’t hurt, right? The colour even matches that misplaced shrimp as well. ‘Chuck in some mushrooms while you’re at it, why won’t you?’ said no Valencian ever.

Mixing meat and seafood: As we’ll detail below, seafood and meat-based paellas are allowed by the paella vigilantes, but mixing chicken with shrimp isn’t a match made in heaven for them. 

A seafood and meat paella dished up in France. (Photo by Thibaud MORITZ / AFP)
A seafood and meat paella dished up in France. (Photo by Thibaud MORITZ / AFP)

Beef: If chicken, duck, rabbit and in some rare cases pork chops are allowed, why not diced-up beef, you may ask? Expect disapproving looks from Castellón down to Alicante.

Stock: Any proud Valencian will stay well clear of the different premade ‘caldo’ options on offer at Spanish supermarkets and make their own stock using water and the paella’s official ingredients.

Food colouring: So you’ve not been able to get your hands on some saffron and thought that by dyeing the food yellow a Spaniard wouldn’t notice? Good luck with that.  

Wrong rice: Avoid long-grain rice like Basmati and if possible try to get your hands on bomba, bahía or sénia rice, the best kinds for paella.

What ingredients should an authentic Spanish paella include?

According to Wikipaella, the self-proclaimed online “paella police”, there are three types of paella – paella Valenciana, arroz a banda (or senyoret) and paella with rabbit and snails (paella de conejo y caracoles).

Each has slightly different variations in their ingredients, but the main traditional ingredients are the same: rice, extra virgin olive oil, saffron and tomato. 

Arroz a banda has seafood, which includes cuttlefish, shrimp and angler fish as the most frequently used ingredients. Less common is squid or mussels.

Paella Valenciana has chicken, rabbit and often snails or duck. Pork ribs and meatballs are not used as frequently but still get the OK from Wikipaella.

The site recognizes that there are always regional and seasonal differences among recipes, such as adding artichokes, but as we saw above there are some definite no-nos. 

And remember: nobody expects the Valencian Paella Inquisition!

READ MORE: Paella – Six reasons you have probably been doing it wrong