Campfire paella recipe with chicken and vegetables – the best camping dinner
Camping is one of my favorite ways to recharge. Although camping for a few nights is a lot of fun, it isn’t always realistic. To combat this, we started going on short one-night camping trips to sites less than two hours away. In the summer, the distance from the unrelenting heat of Phoenix, and year round, the ability to disconnect from tech and relax in nature is exactly what I need. No schedule, no to-do, nowhere to be. Only here, in the moment, with the breeze creating a familiar yet mesmerizing whooooshing sound as it blows through the top of the pine trees. Our recent campsite was close enough to a creek that we could hear the water bubbling and flowing over rocks and fallen trees. That night, we lay in our tent with full bellies and happy hearts; the sound of the crickets and frogs lulled us to sleep under a blanket of stars so bright it was impossible to believe.
Sometimes I like to grab something easy at the store for our camping meals so that we can explore and not worry about tending to a fire or a meal. This wasn’t one of those times; I was in full cooking adventure mode (hint: it didn’t begin or end with this campfire paella). We started off with the inaugural use of the cast iron skillet that I found in my parents’ garage. I scrubbed the rust off and re-seasoned it, and it was finally ready to be reinstated in the kitchen.
We stoked our fire until we had some good coals and then created a pseudo stovetop out of some large rocks with a pile of hot coals between the two rocks. I placed the cast iron on the heat and got to work – we started with cornbread to have on the side. I’ll tell you, “baking” cornbread in a cast iron skillet isn’t easy, but boy was it worth it! We snacked on cornbread with honey while the main event simmered away: campfire paella ?
I’ve been enchanted by the idea of campfire paella for some time now. I read this article and since then it has become somewhat of an obsession. I knew it would happen one day, like my life was leading up to this, kind of like Kristen Bell and her sloth moment (except maybe not that excited).
Traditional paella calls for tomatoes, but we forgot to pack the can opener so we were canned tomato-less. We threw some whole cherry tomatoes in a pan to lightly char the outsides instead. This paella is hearty and satisfying with a refreshing squeeze of lemon on top and it was just what I was craving on this chilly Prescott evening.
Chicken & Chorizo Campfire PaellaPrint Recipe
- Half pound of chicken strips
- Half pound chicken chorizo
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- Spice blend (below)
- 1 chicken bullion cube or 1 tsp Better than Bullion + 2 cups hot water*
- 2 cups Arborrio rice
- 2 Tbsp flavorless oil
- Spice blend:
- Black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Chili powder
- Spoked paprika
- Sea salt
Every time I make paella my spice blend changes. It always includes the same things but I typically taste and adjust each time to make it how I want it to be. Start with a tablespoon of paprika, a teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt, and saffron, and a quarter teaspoon of black pepper. This time I also added chili powder, smoked paprika and cumin.
Heat oil in your pan. Add the chicken slices and sprinkle with some of your spice blend. Cook until done and remove from the pan; set aside.
Add chorizo to your pan and cook until just about done.
Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the pan. Sautée until the onions are translucent.
Stir in a tablespoon of the spice blend (or two, if you like stronger flavors) and allow it to cook for another minute.
Pour in the chicken bullion and water (you can also use chicken broth) and the rice. Stir to combine and allow it to come to a simmer.
Cover if you have a cover for your pan, and cook over low coals for about 30-40 minutes, or until the rice has fully absorbed all of the liquid and a light crust has formed at the bottom of the rice. The cook time will largely depend on how consistent you can keep your fire temperature.
Serve topped with charred cherry tomatoes, a lemon wedge, and a slice of good bread or cornbread.
*I find it easy to travel with bullion cubes or Better than Bullion, but you can also bring a can or carton of chicken stock and use that instead. To make this recipe really easy on yourself, prepare ahead by chopping your vegetables and putting them together in a ziplock. Be sure your chicken is already cut into strips, and measure your spices before you leave the house. You even can add a tablespoon of your spice blend to your chicken and let it marinate. If you'd like to make your paella with canned tomatoes, you can add them in when you add in the rice, and reduce the water by half. Keep an eye on the rice and water levels as it cooks, and feel free to add water if needed. Campfire cooking is full of the unexpected.