This super simple seared scallops recipe is cooked to crisp and tender perfection and doused in a luscious lemon garlic butter sauce. And although they look elegantly chef-made–this how to cook scallops guide is incredibly easy and straightforward to prepare. Here’s everything you need to know!
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Seared Scallops Ingredients + Variations
Before you get started, here are a few key ingredients you’ll need to make pan seared scallops, plus a few potential swaps:
- The fats: Butter and avocado oil are an ideal combo for achieving that perfect sear while infusing a subtle richness. Avocado oil can be swapped for any mild tasting oil with a low smoke point.
- The sauce: Garlic and lemon juice, for a citrusy zing that complements the natural sweetness of the scallops. You can use any citrus juice you prefer here: orange and lime are also delicious.
- The finish: Chives add a touch of elegance and a mild onion flavor. You can also use parsley, sage, or basil if that works better with your sides.
Tips For Purchasing Scallops
There are a lot of things to consider when purchasing scallops. In short, I always buy large sea scallops that are dry packed, and I try to purchase frozen. Here’s why:
- Size: Sometimes scallops are labeled “small, medium, large”, other times you’ll see a funky numbering system like “U/10, U/15”; U10 means under 10 scallops in 1 pound, so U10 is the largest scallop you can buy.
- Bay vs. Sea Scallops: Bay scallops are smaller in size, slightly sweet in flavor, and very delicate. I don’t recommend them for pan searing as they get tough easily and are often overcooked. While sea scallops are the big ones, that are perfect for pan searing. Their internal texture stays nice and tender, while the exterior is perfect for achieving a crispy crust.
- Fresh vs. Frozen: I much prefer frozen scallops to fresh, as they’re often fresher(!). Especially if your package is labeled IQF (individually quick frozen)–these are frozen almost immediately, which maintains their freshness.
- Avoid Added Moisture: Try to purchase dry packed scallops, and if you can’t tell from the packaging, ask an employee. Wet packed are loaded with preservatives, which make the scallops absorb water, i.e. they won’t taste or sear as well!
How To Sear Scallops
This succulently juicy and oh-so-delicious pan fried scallops recipe comes together more easily than you’d think! Here’s how:
- Preparation: Pat the scallops dry using paper towels to remove excess moisture–this helps to achieve that delicious sear while allowing the seasoning to stick. Season them lightly with salt and pepper.
- Heat the Pan: Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add a mixture of butter and avocado oil.
- Searing: Place the scallops in the hot skillet, ensuring they are not crowded–you can use 2 pans if necessary. Cook for about until they develop a golden-brown crust.
- Add Flavor: Set seared scallops aside on a plate and add the remaining butter, minced garlic, and lemon juice to the pan. Saute until fragrant.
- Garnish: Drizzle butter over pan seared scallops and sprinkle with freshly chopped chives.
Pro Tips for Cooking Scallops
Mastering pan seared scallops is all about technique. Here are a few tips to keep you on track:
- Is it better to cook scallops in butter or oil? A combination of butter and avocado oil is often recommended for searing scallops. Butter adds richness and flavor, while avocado oil has a high smoke point, making it suitable for achieving that perfect sear without burning.
- How long to cook scallops in a frying pan? For optimal results, aim to cook scallops for about 1.5 to 2 minutes per side in a hot frying pan. It’s crucial not to overcrowd the pan to ensure even cooking and a beautiful sear.
- How do you know scallops are done? Properly cooked scallops will turn opaque and slightly firm to the touch. Avoid overcooking, as they can become tough and rubbery.
- What is the best cooking method for scallops? Searing scallops in a hot skillet is one of the best methods, as it quickly develops a caramelized crust while keeping the inside tender and flavorful.
What To Serve With Scallops
This pan fried scallops recipe pairs wonderfully with various sides and accompaniments, such as:
- Creamy risotto, or keep it low carb with this cauliflower risotto.
- Steamed or roasted vegetables.
- Fresh salad greens, such as a simple arugula or kale salad.
- Mashed potatoes (You know I have a mashed cauliflower version to check out too!).
Other Seafood Recipes You’ll Love
- Pan Seared Salmon
- Parmesan Crusted Tilapia
- Ahi Tuna Salad
- Bourbon Glazed Salmon
- Chipotle Shrimp
- Mediterranean Sea Bass
Seared ScallopsPrint Recipe Pin Recipe
- 14 – 16 large sea scallops
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil or vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Chives chopped for serving
- Pat scallops completely dry with paper towels. If your scallops have the small side muscle still attached, be sure to remove and rinse before drying. Season the top of your scallops with half the salt and pepper.
- Heat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. If your pan isn't large enough to fit all the scallops without crowding, grab a second pan. Once the pan is super hot, add the oil and 1 tablespoon of butter and swirl until the butter has melted. Place the scallops seasoning side down in the pan, and don't touch/flip until a golden crust has formed on this side, about 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper.
- Flip scallops and sear on the second side until the same crust has formed, and the scallops have cooked to your liking, about 1-2 minutes.
- Place seared scallops on a plate. Reduce the heat of your pan to medium, and allow it to cool for a minute or 2. Add remaining butter and garlic and saute until fragrant. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, use this to help scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of your pan.
- Drizzle lemon garlic butter over the scallops before serving and sprinkle with freshly chopped chives. Enjoy!