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Julia Child's Paella a l'Americaine - Julia's twist on an extraordinary Spanish Classic with rice, saffron, shrimp, mussels and chorizo

Julia Child’s Paella a l’Americaine

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Julia Child’s Paella a l’Americaine was one of my mom’s signature dishes. Made for special occasions, we loved to dive into the pan full of chicken, seafood, spicy chorizo and rice!  

This impressive, multifaceted one dish meal is a Spanish classic and perfect for entertaining. Your guests will be thrilled with every flavorful bite  of this Seafood Paella Recipe with Chicken!

Julia Child's Paella a l'Americaine in a blue paella dish

Paella a l’Americaine

My mom discovered this Paella a l’Americaine recipe back in the day when our television only had 4 stations. And NO remote control. She watched the Galloping Gourmet and The French Chef, who happened to be Julia Child. One Saturday, Julia dazzled my mother by demonstrating her seafood paella recipe with chicken.

After the show aired, my mom promptly wrote the TV station. They then mailed her the recipe. How quaint is that? I treasure that original typed copy.

My mom was a terrific and adventurous cook and my dad was a willing guinea pig. He would eat absolutely anything except for one dish. He was haunted by memories of his mother’s oxtail soup. Granted, he lived through the depression and there may have been some mighty pitiful oxtails that went into my Grandma’s soup pot.

When my mom tested out wontons, egg rolls, moussaka, and paella on the family, we gobbled it all down. Paella was saved for special occasions, and I make the same seafood paella recipe that my mom shared with our family decades years ago.

Overhead view of Paella a l'Americaine

What is Paella?

Paella is a Spanish dish that hails from Valencia, a coastal city. The earliest version, from the early 1800’s, was made with rabbit, chicken, snails, 3 types of beans plus the one constant, saffron flavored rice. It was cooked over an open fire, recipes have been adapted for home and restaurant sized portions.

You can put whatever you want in your paella as long as it has four crucial items: rice, saffron, garlic and paprika. The sofrito of vegetables like onions and peppers cooked in oil is also crucial for flavor development.

Julia Child’s Paella

Julia Child’s version of paella features ingredients that can easily be found at most American grocery stores. Each region in Spain has their own take and the recipes often contain squid, fish, olives, chick peas and even the aforementioned rabbit. My mom has been gone less than a year, but I felt her love enveloping me as I cooked up this dish.

Like my mom, I love serving this gorgeous paella recipe for dinner parties and family gatherings. Add a crisp green salad, crusty bread and an Easy Sangria to complete the menu. Consider purchasing a paella pan if you’re going to make this paella a l’Americaine again and again. Otherwise, a good substitute is a 3 quart straight sided stainless steel pan. For the best paella, your pan will need a large surface area. Non-stick and cast iron pans are not recommended.

Julia Child's Paella a l'Americaine in a cast iron paella dish on a blue and white napkin



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Paella a l'Americaine | Julia's twist on an extraordinary Spanish Classic with rice, saffron, shrimp, mussels and chorizo

Julia Child’s Paella a l’Americaine

Very slightly adapted from Julia Child’s Paella a l’Americaine.

  • Author: Liz Berg
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings
  • Category: Entree, Seafood, Chicken, Pork
  • Method: Sauting
  • Cuisine: Spanish


  • 1 pound fresh chorizo sausage
  • 1/2 pound bacon, sliced into small strips
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 cup sliced red bell pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 small bone-in chicken breasts
  • 4 chicken drumsticks
  • 1⁄2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 1⁄2 cups chicken broth
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups imported arborio rice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound large shrimp, deveined and shelled
  • 24 mussels
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced, and large diced
  • 2 cups frozen green peas, defrosted
  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • Parsley, minced


  1. Prick sausages with a fork and steam in a pan with a little water till cooked through. Cool and slice.
  2. Add sausages and bacon to a large saute pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook until lightly browned; stir in onions and peppers.
  3. Cover and cook slowly until vegetables are tender. Add garlic and cook another minute till fragrant.
  4. Remove all ingredients to a heatproof bowl with a slotted spoon, then transfer fat to a paella pan.
  5. Dry chicken pieces in paper towels, heat fat in the paella pan, and brown chicken on all sides.
  6. Add the reserved vegetables and sausages, wine, chicken broth and seasonings. Add salt and pepper to taste (will vary depending on saltiness of your chicken broth). Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes (chicken won’t be completely cooked at this point. If making ahead, this is where you can stop, cool and refrigerate. Bring to a boil before continuing).
  7. Sprinkle in the rice, mixing it down into the liquid with a spoon.
  8. Boil rapidly 5 to 6 minutes, uncovered. Do not stir the rice.
  9. While mixture is boiling, mix shrimp with the lemon juice, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  10. When the rice is swollen and begins to rise to the surface, rapidly push the shrimp, tail end down, into the rice and add the mussels, hinge-side down. Cook for a few minutes, flipping shrimp as needed.
  11. Again, do not stir, simply push these ingredients down into the rice with a spoon.
  12. Reduce heat and let paella simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes, or more, uncovered, until rice is just tender–slightly al dente. Sprinkle with peas and tomatoes the last 4 or 5 minutes. You may briefly cover the pan with a lid if needed to cook the seafood.
  13. To serve, sprinkled with minced parsley and have lemon quarters available to pass.

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Julia Child's Paella a l'Americaine - Julia's twist on an extraordinary Spanish Classic with rice, saffron, shrimp, mussels and chorizo

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25 comments on “Julia Child’s Paella a l’Americaine”

  1. I love paella and this looks simply mouthwatering! So fun to learn more about your family and your mom’s cooking style…it’s easy to see why those memories came flooding back to you in the kitchen!

  2. There is nothing that beats a good family recipe to bring back happy memories. Food really can be a wonderful window to the past 😀

  3. This sounds delicious, a great family meal.

  4. wow so much seafood!!! This is a great weekend meal, Liz.

  5. Nice memories at this time of year Liz! Happy Thanksgiving Week-enjoy:@)

  6. Oh my. What a feast! It’s got something for everyone. Love it.

  7. Looks gorgeous! I always wanted to try paella 🙂

  8. This looks wonderful, Liz. It is amazing the power food has to connect us with memories.

  9. Oh Liz this paella looks gorgeous! I’m agree with you, each city in Spain has her own recipe!
    Paella is a dish of fishermen. Normally they mixed with the rice remains unsold fish or some chasms and vegetables according to the season. When I go in Spain, my father cook paella with the seafood. But when we are in the countryside, he cook with chicken, chorizo….

  10. I love a good Paella. It’s such a warm and inviting dish!

  11. I love the story about your mom writing the TV station, and your beautiful words about her. There truly is something special about happy memories – of family, food, and love.

  12. Liz, this looks absolutely amazing!!! I wish I could dig right in!

  13. Love that you have the original recipe! Looks amazing!

  14. I LOVE Julia Child. One of my favorite books I’ve ever read was a biography about her that talked about her work during the war years. Fascinating! And a delicious paella, too! 🙂

  15. I have seriously been craving a good paella for the past couple weeks, and now I want it even more so. This looks amazing!

  16. I can practically hear my husband wiping drool from his chin now. All the things he loves are in here!

  17. Love, love, love the story of your mother mailing in her request for Julia Childs’ recipe…Looks like you’ve also perfected the paella…And filling your home with lots of <3

  18. Such a gorgeous dish! I love Paella and perfect for the holidays!

  19. I love this story and how recreating this dish again sparked memories as the aroma spread through your kitchen. I’ve printed this beautiful and hearty recipe to try.

    Well also pick up some Gallo wine and send my corks to them for this wonderful cause.

    Thanks for sharing.

  20. What a gorgeous meal! It looks like something my entire family would enjoy. Yummed and Stumbled your dish. 🙂

  21. How beautiful Liz! I love the stories that you share of your mom and the explanation of how this dish came about.

  22. Oh the shrimp just jump off the page. What a beautiful recipe. I love all the herb and spices and the wine is a perfect compliment. Just yummy!

  23. It doesn’t specify when to incorporate the peppers and chorizo back into the dish.

    • Hi, Mar,

      Thanks for catching my omission. I’ve amended the recipe—the peppers and chorizo go back into the pan after you brown the chicken. Add with the chicken broth, etc. I’m sorry for the inconvenience. Happy New Year!

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