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 shrimp Alfredo, grilled tilapia, garlic shrimp, seafood pasta or these tender and delicious pan 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.

How To Buy Scallops

You want to use larger sea scallops for this recipe. 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 to thaw and pat dry before you use them. Scallops often come in two forms – dry sea 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.

Seared Scallops Ingredients

To make this recipe, you will need scallops, olive oil, salt, black pepper, butter, garlic, lemon juice, herbs and lemon wedges.

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 skillet or cast-iron 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.
  • Serve your scallops with simple side dishes such as crock pot baked potatoes, carrot souffle, potato pancakes or zucchini casserole.
  • This dish is best when served immediately. If you have leftovers, you can store them in the refrigerator 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, tarragon, basil or chives.

Quick Tip

Choose the largest sea scallops you can afford. This dish does not work as well with the small bay scallops as they are more likely to overcook and before they get that golden brown crust.

A pan of scallops in garlic butter.

Recipe FAQs

What is the secret to searing scallops?

The secret to perfect seared scallops is to avoid overcrowding the pan! I recommend working in batches to make sure there’s enough space in between each scallop to properly develop a golden brown exterior. If the scallops are too close together, they will steam and will not get that beautiful crust.

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.

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!

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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 1 tablespoon of capers to the sauce.
  • Vegetables: Feel free to add some cooked veggies to the pan after you make the butter sauce. Some great options include peas, spinach or broccoli.
Seared scallops served with mashed potatoes and green beans.

Seared scallops are always an easy, yet totally elegant dinner choice. The whole family is sure to love this dish!

More Delicious Seafood Recipes

Seared Scallops Video

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Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments section further down the page.

5 from 57 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!
Time
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine American
Serves 4

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Nutrition

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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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was a great recipe. Perfect for a quick meal. Cooking times are right on target. I added another Pat of butter at finish to thicken the sauce and went with fresh parsley and chives. Perfection!

  2. 5 stars
    Absolutely Fire!!! 🔥🔥🔥

    Perfect sear on the scallop, robust sauce, labor light — do yourself a favor and add this to your repertoire ASAP!

  3. 5 stars
    Had some fresh Hokkaido scallops and they were AMAZING! Can’t say enough positive about his recipe!

      1. Do you have a preference to the type of chive you use? We have both types growing outside right now.

  4. 5 stars
    This was delicious even though the garlic burnt. Are we supposed to leave the pan on high the entire time?

    1. I typically don’t find that garlic burns after 30 seconds on high heat, but stoves definitely can vary in terms of how hot they get. It’s fine to reduce the heat after you sear the scallops!

    2. 5 stars
      Apologies if I’m stepping over the line by offering some tips but, if you use a heavy pan like a well seasoned cast iron pan, turn off the heat when your scallops are done and transfer them to a warm plate/platter. Then throw your butter in and when it’s fully melted, throw the garlic in then add your lemon juice. By now, the garlic will be lightly cooked and the pan will have cooled to a medium low to low temp. Turn the heat back on low, add the scallops then throw parsley in and baste them a few times and serve.

  5. 5 stars
    Excellent recipe and so easy. They are so delish! And now I also know the difference between wet and dry scallops, thank you!

  6. 5 stars
    This was my first time preparing scallops ! I’m 61! I had a frozen bag of sea scallops. They turned out soooo good . I did not have fresh herbs , so I used a blend of dried herbs . It was perfect

  7. 5 stars
    My scallops turned out perfectly cooked and the garlic butter sauce was so rich and flavorful! Loved this recipe!

  8. 5 stars
    I love seared scallops so much we even had them on our wedding reception menu, but I wouldn’t have considered attempting to make them at home before reading your recipe. Thank you for all the helpful tips! Now, I can recreate my wedding reception dinner for a date night or anniversary dinner at home, too!