7 Must-try American Dishes Similar to Paella 

American Dishes Similar to Paella 

Paella is a Spanish dish where rice is the main ingredient. When done properly, Paella is a very tasty delight that will stimulate all your senses with its taste, texture, and appearance. Although Paella is the only one of its kind, it isn’t the only one of its family-rice-based dishes; therefore, there are similar dishes that will blow your mind. So what American dishes similar to Paella are a must? 

Jambalaya, red beans and rice, Hopin’ John, Loco Moco, dirty rice, Arroz junto, and Arroz Marinero are American dishes similar to Paella from North and South America. All of these dishes are exceptionally delicious and available to make at home.

No matter how similar to Paella the dish is, it is still different. Although there are many rice-based dishes that all resemble one another, Paella still managed to become and remain one of the most original rice-based dishes. Nevertheless, in the following paragraphs, I will describe American dishes similar to Spanish Paella, which you must try. 

List of American Dishes Similar to Paella 

Although Spanish Paella remains unmatched in terms of uniqueness and originality, the dishes listed below are just as delicious and worthy of your time. The following dishes are rice-based dishes that share some of their features with Spanish Paella. These dishes mix European, African, and American cuisines, mixing Cajun and Creole styles.


Jambalaya is a Creole and Cajun-style dish originating in Louisiana, famous for its decadent creaminess. In terms of similarity to the Spanish Paella, Jambalaya is perhaps the most similar one. While Paella’s particular way of cooking remains unmatched, still the density and consistency of the Jambalaya rice are very close to that of the Paella. 

Jambalaya contains vegetables, while the Paella is usually topped with meaty toppings. Still, they are similar, as the Paella is a Creole-style dish. They are both served with a thick sauce and have meaty and vegetarian versions and seafood editions. 

Red Beans and Rice

This Creole dish originated in Louisiana, known as comfort food eaten on Monday. The red beans and rice dish is exceptionally delicious and similar to the Paella, especially since it is seasoned with hot sauce. The rice is topped with sausages, which is often the paella topping, and creamy red beans.

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Hoppin’ John

Hoppin’ John is another Southern dish that made its way to this list because it is topped, just like the Spanish Paella. It contains rice, black-eyed peas, and ham and is traditionally served around the winter holidays, though it can be consumed all year round. 

Hoppin’ John is traditionally made with Cajun seasoning, but Creole seasoning variations exist. The Hoppin’ John’s rice is consistent with the Paella’s, i.e., more on the dry side, and both dishes are served with sauce. 

Loco Moco

A Hawaiian-origin comfort food, the Loco Moco is starchy rice topped with gravy, a hamburger patty, and an egg. Again, topped, just like the Paella, it finds itself on this list due to the similarity in the rice consistency. The paella rice is dry, and the grains are easily detachable, just like with the rice in the Hawaiian Loco Moco. 

Dirty Rice

Dirty rice is yet another Louisiana delicacy that gets its name from the color. Namely, dirty rice contains chicken liver which gives the dish a grayish and brownish color. The white color of the rice opposes the liver shading, and the rice seems dirty. 

Dirty rice is on this list because the rice in this dish is similar to the rice in Paella, and often, both dishes use the same type of rice. While the Paella is Creole, dirty rice is Cajun, which essentially shares a very similar nature.  

American Dishes Similar to Paella 

Arroz Junto 

This is a dish coming from Puerto Rico; Arroz junto is a dish famous and beloved throughout South America. Its main ingredients are rice, beans, and meat. Like the Paella, Arroz junto is a one-pot dish, meaning that what’s in the pot is meant for a single meal. 

The color of this dish, which is a combination of yellow and orange, is very similar to the paella color, and they both taste similar because they share the primary ingredients. 

Arroz Marinero

This seafood-topped rice is very similar to Paella for two reasons- it is topped, and there is a seafood version of the Paella. They share the same color and almost the same texture. The rice in both dishes is dense with separable grains. 

What Makes Paella Special? 

As I already mentioned, Spanish Paella is a unique dish, and there can only be similar dishes, but never the same. If a dish is the same as Paella, it’s Paella. What makes Paella so original in the making. 

The dish is made in a special pan cooked over a roaring fire. The liquid quickly evaporates from the rice, leaving the rice at the bottom of the pan more solid and crust-like.

It is a single pan dish served from the bottom up and is usually topped with sausages and meat. However, the Paella has seafood and vegetarian variations as well. 

American vs. Spanish Cuisine: What Are the Differences? 

American and Spanish cuisine are pretty different, and they are unique. It is common for American cuisine to combine Spanish cooking, but the results are original. The main reason why Spanish and American cuisines differ is the cultural difference and the geographical location. 

White Spanish cuisine is influenced by the Italian, French, and Arabic cultures, the American cuisine is influenced by the English, Dutch, Spanish, and African cultures. 

RELATED: American Fast Food vs. Other Countries: Differences

Processed Foods

Spanish cuisine uses mainly fresh or marinated ingredients, while American cuisine uses mainly processed foods, canned ingredients, or dry ones. Therefore the same dish made in America and in Spain will taste different due to the difference in the ingredients. 

Spanish Food Is Spicier 

It is a known fact that the Spaniards like their food more on the fiery side, while Americans tend to prefer milder tastes. Therefore, the use of spices, the type of spices, and the number of spices differentiate American and Spanish cuisine. 

Differences in Ingredients

Spanish cuisine uses rice and corn as its main ingredients, while American cuisine uses white flour, potatoes, and bread.

The main ingredients in American and Spanish cuisines present yet another big difference between the two cuisines. Spanish cuisine is grain and carb-based, while American cuisine is cereal and carb-based. 

American cuisine includes heavy meats, while Spanish cuisine uses more seafood.

Although the sausage and the patty are frequent members of the Spanish dishes, seafood is a signature ingredient in Spanish cuisine. The reverse goes for American cuisine, where heavier red meats are the stars of the dishes, while seafood is just a visitor. 

  • Laura is the owner of Julie's Cafe Bakery. She started this blog with her grandma Julie who introduced her to the amazing world of cooking. She likes to experiment with different flavors, and her favorite flavors combo is chicken with coconut milk, curry and peanuts!