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

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Rampant branch closures and job cuts help Spain’s banks post huge earnings

Spain’s biggest banks this week reported huge profits in 2021 and cheered their return to recovery post-Covid, but ruthless cost-cutting in the form of thousands of layoffs, hundreds of branch closures and the removal of many ATMs have left customers in Spain suffering, in this latest example of ‘Capitalismo 2.0’. 

A man withdraws cash from a Santander branch in Madrid.
More than 3,500 Santander workers lost their jobs in Spain in 2021 and a further 2,000 more employees working for Santander across Europe were also laid off. Photo: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP

Spanish banking giant Santander on Wednesday said it has bounced back from the pandemic as it returned to profit last year, beating analyst expectations and exceeding its pre-COVID earnings.

Likewise, Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA said on Thursday that it saw a strong rebound in 2021 following the Covid crisis, tripling its net profits thanks to a recovery in business activity.

It’s a similar story for Unicaja (€137 million profit in 2021), Caixabank (€5.2 billion profit thanks to merge with Bankia), Sabadell (€530 million profit last year), Abanca (€323 million profit) and all of Spain’s other main banks.

This may be promising news for Spain’s banking sector, but their profits have come at a cost for many of their employees and customers. 

In 2021, 19,000 bank employees lost their jobs, almost all through state-approved ERE layoffs, meant for companies struggling financially.

BBVA employees protest against layoffs in May 2021 in Madrid. Spain’s second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, in a move denounced by unions as “scandalous”. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

Around 11 percent of bank branches in Spain have also been closed down in 2021 as part of Spanish banks’ attempts to cut costs, even though they’ve agreed to pay just under €5 billion in compensation.

Rampant branch closures have in turn resulted in 2,200 ATMs being removed since the Covid-19 pandemic began, even though the use of cajeros automáticos went up by 20 percent in 2021.

There are now 48,300 ATMs in Spain, levels not seen since 2001.


Apart from losses caused by the coronavirus crisis, Spain’s financial institutions have justified the lay-offs, branch closures and ATM removals under the premise that there was already a shift to online banking taking place among customers. 

But the problem has been around for longer in a country with stark population differences between the cities and so-called ‘Empty Spain’, with rural communities and elderly people bearing the brunt of it. 


Caixabank laid off almost 6,500 workers in the first sixth months of 2021. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

Just this month, a 78-year-old Valencian man has than collected 400,000+ signatures in an online petition calling for Spanish banks to offer face-to-face customer service that’s “humane” to elderly people, spurring the Bank of Spain and even Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to publicly say they would address the problem.

READ MORE: ‘I’m old, not stupid’ – How one Spanish senior is demanding face-to-face bank service

It’s worth noting that between 2008 and 2019, Spain had the highest number of branch closures and bank job cuts in Europe, with 48 percent of its branches shuttered compared with a bloc-wide average of 31 percent.

Below is more detailed information on how Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks, have reported their huge profits in 2021.


Driven by a strong performance in the United States and Britain, the bank booked a net profit of €8.1 billion in 2021, close to a 12-year high. 

It was a huge improvement from 2020 when the pandemic hit and the bank suffered a net loss of €8.7 billion after it was forced to write down the value of several of its branches, particularly in the UK. It was also higher than 2019, when the bank posted a net profit of €6.5 billion.

Analysts from FactSet were expecting profits of €7.9 billion. 

“Our 2021 results demonstrate once again the value of our scale and presence across both developed and developing markets, with attributable profit 25 per cent higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019,” said chief executive Ana Botin in a statement.

Net banking income, the equivalent to turnover, also increased, reaching €33.4 billion, compared to €31.9 billion in 2020. This dynamic was made possible by a strong increase in customer numbers, with the group now counting almost 153 million customers worldwide. 

“We have added five million new customers in the last 12 months alone,” said Botin.

Santander performed particularly well in Europe and North America, with profits doubling in constant euros compared to 2020. In the UK, where Santander has a strong presence, current profit even “quadrupled” over the same period to €1.6 billion.

Last year’s net loss was the first in Banco Santander’s history, after having to revise downwards the value of several of its subsidiaries, notably in the UK, because of COVID.

The banking giant, which cut nearly 3,500 jobs at the end of 2020, in September announced an interim shareholder payout of €1.7 billion for its 2021 results. “In the coming weeks, we will announce additional compensation linked to the 2021 results,” it said.


The group, which mainly operates in Spain but also in Latin America, Mexico and Turkey, posted profits of €4.65 billion ($5.25 billion), up from €1.3 billion a year earlier.

The result, which followed a solid fourth quarter with profits of €1.34 billion, was higher than expected, with FactSet analysts expecting a figure of €4.32 billion .

Excluding non-recurring items, such as the outcome of a restructuring plan launched last year, it generated profits of 5.07 billion euros in what was the highest figure “in 10 years”, the bank said in a statement.

In 2020, the Spanish bank saw its net profit tumble 63 percent as a result of asset depreciation and provisions taken against an increase in bad loans due to the economic fallout of the virus crisis.

“The economic recovery over the past year has brought with it a marked upturn in banking activity, mainly in the loan portfolio,” the bank explained, pointing to a reduction of the provisions put in place because of Covid.

In 2021, BBVA added a “record” 8.7 million new customers, largely due to the growth of its online activities. It now has 81.7 million customers worldwide.

The group’s net interest margins also rose 6.1 percent year-on-year to €14.7 billion, said the bank, which is undergoing a cost-cutting drive.

So far, it has axed 2,935 jobs and closed down 480 branches as the banking sector undergoes increasing digitalisation and fewer and fewer transactions are carried out over the counter.

At the end of 2020, BBVA sold its US unit to PNC Financial Services for nearly 10 billion euros and decided to reinvest some of the funds in the Turkish market.

In November, it launched a bid to take full control of its Turkish lending subsidiary Garanti, offering €2.25 billion ($2.6 billion) to buy the 50.15 percent stake it does not yet own.

The deal should be finalised in the first quarter of 2022.