These seared scallops are large sea scallops that are cooked until golden brown and caramelized, then finished off with a garlic butter sauce. A quick and easy dinner option that can be on the table in 20 minutes!

When I’m looking to impress, I serve seafood for dinner. Some of my favorite options include garlic shrimp, seafood pasta or these tender and delicious pan seared scallops.

Seared Scallops Seared Scallops

Seared scallops in a lemon garlic sauce with fresh parsley.

Seared scallops are so simple to make, yet they look and taste like they came from a fancy restaurant! This is my absolute favorite way to prepare fresh scallops, and it always gets rave reviews.


You want to use larger sea scallops for this recipe, rather than the small bay scallops. Look for scallops that are uniform in size and color and smell fresh – they shouldn’t have an overly fishy smell. You can purchase fresh scallops at the seafood counter of your local grocery store. Frozen scallops work well too, just make sure they’re completely thawed and patted dry before you use them. Scallops often come in two forms – dry scallops and wet scallops. Wet scallops are treated with water and chemicals, which preserves their freshness, but they won’t brown as nicely as dry scallops because they are often water logged and can steam instead of sear. I recommend purchasing dry scallops whenever possible for the best results.

Raw sea scallops on a plate.

How do you make seared scallops?

Start by patting your scallops dry with a paper towel. You’ll want to make sure the scallops are completely dry so that they’ll sear nicely and not release a lot of liquid as they cook. Heat olive oil in a heavy pan over medium high heat. Season the scallops with salt and pepper and add them to the pan. Cook for a few minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove the scallops from the pan, then add butter, garlic and fresh herbs to the pan. Let the sauce cook, then return the scallops to the pan and spoon the sauce over the top. Add a sprinkle of parsley, then serve and enjoy.

Scallops cooked to golden brown in a pan.

Tips for the perfect seared scallops

  • Make sure your scallops are in a single layer in the pan and not touching. You can work in batches if desired. If the scallops are too close together, they can steam instead of sear.
  • This dish is best when served immediately. If you have leftovers, you can store them in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat any leftovers on the stove over low heat until warmed through. You want to be careful not to overcook the scallops when you reheat them.
  • Feel free to use any herbs you like in this recipe. I often use parsley because I always have it on hand, but other options include dill, thyme, basil or chives.

How long do scallops take to cook?

Large sea scallops need to cook for 2-3 minutes per side. You’ll want to closely monitor your scallops as they cook, because they go from tender and juicy to rubbery and overcooked in a matter of minutes!

A pan of scallops in garlic butter.

How do you know when a scallop is done?

Scallops are done when they turn firm and opaque. It’s better to slightly undercook your scallops and let them rest for a minute or two to finish cooking through, than to overcook them.

Seared scallop flavor variations

This recipe is delicious as-is, but you can add other flavors to the mix to customize it to your tastes.

  • Greek: Add 1/2 cup diced tomatoes, 1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives and 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese.
  • Mexican: Stir in 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, 2 teaspoons minced jalapeno, the juice of one lime and 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro.
  • Piccata Style: Add 2 tablespoons capers to the sauce.

Seared scallops served with mashed potatoes and green beans.

Seared scallops are always an easy, yet totally elegant dinner choice. Serve them with mashed potatoes, rice or pasta, and watch everyone ask for another serving!

More delicious seafood recipes

Seared Scallops Video

5 from 22 votes

Seared Scallops with Garlic Butter

AuthorSara Welch
Seared scallops in a lemon garlic sauce with fresh parsley.
These seared scallops are large sea scallops that are cooked until golden brown and caramelized, then finished off with a garlic butter sauce. A quick and easy dinner option that can be on the table in 20 minutes!
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine American
Serves 4


  • 1 1/4 pounds sea scallops preferably fresh dry packed scallops
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon chopped fresh herbs plus more for garnish
  • lemon wedges for garnish


  • Pat the scallops dry on both sides with a paper towel. Season the scallops on both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over high heat until it's just smoking. Add the scallops in a single layer and cook for 2-3 minutes per side.
  • Remove the scallops from the pan. Melt the butter in the pan.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the lemon juice and herbs.
  • Return the scallops to the pan. Spoon the sauce over the top. Garnish with herbs and lemon wedges, then serve immediately.


Calories: 206kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 57mg | Sodium: 631mg | Potassium: 291mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 262IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 1mg

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Recipe Rating


  1. My wife made a two-scallop version that tasted wonderful, with tomatoes. Sauce over the top adds a lot.

  2. 5 stars
    Love this recipe! I’ve already used it 3 times. I follow the ingredients/steps provided with the exception of omitting salt since I use salted butter and black pepper (as a personal preference). I also added about 1-2 tsps of Capers and used parsley as my herb of choice. Thank you for this simple, yet delicious recipe

  3. 5 stars
    Loved this dish! I made it for dinner for friends. There wasn’t a single scallop left over. I will make this dish often.

  4. 5 stars
    What a simple recipe! We spruced up the recipe by adding jumbo shrimp, lump immigration crab, and asparagus. Cook the scallops the same with shrimp and flake the crab over the top, double the butter and add asparagus. Cook about 2 minutes and then add the garlic. Cook 30 seconds and then add parsley and lemon. Stir everything together and serve.

  5. Los prepare para la cena de mi familia y les di un toque personal de chimichurri echo por mi hijo quedaron estupendos.
    Garcias por la excelente receta!!!

  6. 5 stars
    Delicious…. The scallops were perfect. I have a few picky eaters and they were a hit!!!
    Will definitely make again.

  7. 5 stars
    Made these for dinner last night and it didn’t disappoint! So tender and flavorful; my whole family loved it!

  8. 5 stars
    These are perfect for date nights inside the house! I love how simple they are to make, which I had no idea they were this simple.

  9. 5 stars
    What a great guide to preparing scallops! I tried these tips and my scallops came out perfectly, and tasted so good!

  10. 5 stars
    This is the perfect dinner for date nights! It’s elegant enough to stun your guest, but easy enough to make at home. This is getting saved for our next date night at home.