+34 633 795 660 hello@paellabarcelona.com

History of paella: Origins and evolution


Paella, the iconic dish of Spanish gastronomy, has a fascinating and humble origin in Valencia. The origin of paella dates back to ancient times, influenced by historical figures and significant events such as the universal expositions, which helped spread its worldwide fame.

Over time, this dish has evolved, incorporating regional variations and international adaptations that highlight its versatility and cultural richness. Today, paella is not only a culinary symbol of Spain, but also a representation of the evolution and diversity of cuisine over the centuries.

If you want to learn how to prepare an authentic paella, at Paella Barcelona Cooking School we offer corporate workshops to learn how to prepare it and honour this rich culinary tradition.

Evolution and origins of paella

Paella, a characteristic dish of Spanish gastronomy, has undergone an interesting process of evolution throughout history. Since the origin of paella in the Valencian Community, it has been transformed and adapted to new influences and culinary trends that have marked its trajectory.

This iconic Valencian dish has gone from being a simple peasant dish to becoming a symbol of national identity, reflecting the cultural and gastronomic richness of Spain over the centuries.

The history of paella has been marked by the creativity of chefs and the influence of historical figures who contributed to its spread and popularity all over the world.

Influence of historical figures

The influence of historical figures in the history of paella has been fundamental to its recognition as an emblematic dish of Spanish gastronomy.

From figures such as Philip II, who contributed to its spread in the 19th century, to Alexandre Dumas and Georges Auguste Escoffier, who highlighted its culinary value on various historical occasions.

These influential figures helped to give paella a level of prestige and national and international recognition, making it a symbol of Spanish culinary identity.


History of paella: International spread

Since the origin of paella, which originated in the Valencian Community, the dish has transcended borders and conquered palates around the world. Its popularity has grown thanks to the spread of Spanish gastronomic culture in different countrie

  • Paella came to be appreciated in different regions of Spain and later spread throughout Europe, becoming a recurring dish in restaurants and culinary events.
  • The arrival of paella in America, especially in countries such as the United States and Mexico, contributed to its international recognition, making it a popular choice on restaurant menus.
  • In Asia, paella has been enthusiastically embraced in nations such as Japan and China, where the fusion of local flavours with the traditional recipe has given rise to unique versions of the dish.

Paella in the 19th century

The 19th century was important for the history of paella, as it established itself as a prominent dish at receptions and celebrations throughout Spain.

As we have mentioned, the influence of historical figures such as Philip II, Alexandre Dumas and Georges Auguste Escoffier contributed to the spread and popularity of this emblematic dish.

It began to be served at royal tables and important events, becoming a symbol of Spanish gastronomy. In the same way, the universal exhibitions played a fundamental role in the promotion and recognition of paella at international level, highlighting the culinary advances of the Valencian region in this centur

The variety of ingredients and ways of preparing paella in the 19th century reflected the richness of Spanish cuisine of the time, making it an emblematic dish that transcended borders and positioned itself as a cultural and culinary icon.

How important were the Universal Exhibitions in the history of paella?

The universal exhibitions played a fundamental role in the dissemination and history of paella at an international level. At these world events, Valencian gastronomy, and paella in particular, were presented as outstanding examples of the culinary diversity and cultural richness of the region.

Paella became a representative dish of Spanish identity, attracting the attention of visitors from all over the world. In addition, the culinary advances of the Valencian region were showcased in the exhibitions, showing the evolution of the paella recipe over the centuries.

The adaptability of paella to different regional and international contexts was highlighted as an example of the versatility of Spanish gastronomy.

Paella: Icon of Spanish gastronomy

Paella, an emblematic dish of Spanish gastronomy, has established itself as a nationally and internationally recognised culinary icon.  Its popularity has transcended borders, becoming one of the most representative and appreciated dishes in Spanish gastronomy.

Since its origins, paella has stood out for its versatility and its ability to adapt to different culinary preferences, making it a symbol of the country’s gastronomic diversity.

What regional variations does paella have?

Throughout the history of paella, this dish has spread throughout different areas of Spain and the world, and has incorporated ingredients and culinary techniques specific to each region, enriching its diversity.

For example, in the region of Murcia, the “seafood paella” stands out, where seafood such as prawns, clams and squid become the protagonists of this exquisite dish.


In the Catalonia region, we find “mountain paella”, which usually includes game meat such as rabbit or wild boar, adding a rustic and tasty touch to the traditional recipe.

In the Valencian Community, the birthplace and origin of paella, you can find variations such as “vegetable paella”, perfect for those who love a lighter, vegetarian diet.

These regional variations demonstrate the culinary richness of paella, adapting to the local flavours and products of each place. Each version of paella reflects the gastronomic and cultural identity of the region in which it is prepared, enriching the tradition and diversity of this iconic dish.

Learn how to cook paella as part of the national identity!

As the history of paella has evolved, there have been interesting cultural and culinary changes rooted in the Valencian region. The adaptability of paella, as well as its fusion of ingredients and techniques, has given rise to a diversity of regional and international variations that reflect the richness and creativity of the gastronomy.

To be part of this tradition, at Paella Barcelona Cooking School we offer a unique experience where you can learn to prepare this emblematic dish as a team with true mastery.

Recommended articles: