These pan seared scallops are a healthy seafood dinner that cooks in no time! Learn how to cook scallops perfectly every time and also learn some variations like baked, grilled or scallops scampi!
That sweet sweet taste, almost like candy.
Hints of salt water coursing through every bite.
And that crispy outer crust.
Scallops have got my ♥
I tend to cook with a lot of spices, but scallops are one of the few foods that come out of the sea nearly ready to eat.
Just a simple sprinkle of salt, pepper and a healthy squeeze of lemon is all you need.
The key to cooking scallops perfectly
Since seasoning is minimal, the thing to remember with any scallop recipe you cook is that you NEED to create a crispy outer crust.
I can’t stress this point enough.
There are plenty of tips in the recipe below for creating the perfect crust : )
You want to do this for two reasons:
- The crust provides a nice textural balance to the natural softness of the scallops
- It seals the moisture in the scallops so that they’re not rubbery…believe me when I say there is nothing worse than overcooked scallops; you might as well try to eat a shoe
In order to create that nice crust, you need to make sure your scallops are nice and dry.
Too much moisture will create steam instead of a crust. Use a paper towel to pat dry each scallop (on all sides) before seasoning with salt and pepper.
What should you eat with these pan seared scallops?
Honestly, you can eat these on their own, in a big heap. They don’t need much at all.
But if you love a good sauce or topping on your seafood dinners, you can try these:
- Mango Avocado Salsa: I topped these pan seared scallops with this salsa and it was so light and refreshing (see the pic!)
- Creamy Avocado Spread: You can smear this spread on a plate and gently place each scallop on top of it. Because of the mild flavor of the avocados, this sauce is mellow enough not to overpower the natural scallop flavor.
- Make a healthy scallops scampi!: When the scallops are cooked, you can take them out of the pan and add 1 chopped clove of garlic, 1/2 cup clam juice, a handful of chopped parsley and 1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil. Use a whisk to loosen the pan seared scallop bits the that are stuck to the pan. Simmer for 2 minutes and pour it all over your cooked scallops!
Other easy ways to cook scallops
For this recipe I went with a pan-seared preparation but scallops are really versatile.
- Grill them: Toss them in salt, pepper and olive oil. Place them on skewers (like kabobs) and grill 2-3 minutes per side
- Since the scallops are delicate, you’ll want to use a skewer to keep the meat from falling through the grill grates
- Bake ’em: You can skip the pan altogether an bake these scallops on a sheet pan like I do with my Lemon Harissa Shrimp. You won’t get as nice a crust in the oven but if you bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes, the baked scallops will be nice and tender.
- Note: If you opt to bake them, wait until they’re done to squeeze on the lemon. That will keep the scallops from getting rubbery in the oven.
Are you ready to try these scallops?
- 6-8 fresh sea scallops (full size, not bay scallops) Opt for local scallops if that's an option;
- 1/4 tsp black pepper freshly ground is better
- 1 tsp salt I use fine sea salt
- 1 tbs olive oil I wouldn't recommend using a different type of oil for this one. Olive oil gives a nice flavor and helps build the crispy crust better than a lighter oil would.
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 tbs freshly chopped parsley
- Use a paper towel to pat dry each scallop; try to get them as dry as you can. Evenly sprinkle the salt and pepper on each scallop.
- Heat a non-stick skillet to medium high heat. Hover your hand over the pan to make sure that it's hot before putting the scallops in; if the pan is not hot enough they will steam instead of searing.
- Once the pan is hot, add the olive oil. Place the scallops in the pan one at a time. You should hear a sizzle when you put them in (if not, the pan isn't hot enough). Make sure to leave at least a scallop size amount of distance between each one. Note: If you crowd the pan or put the scallops too close to eachother they will steam, not creating that crispy crust. If your pan isn't big enough to make space, try cooking the scallops in 2 batches.
- Cook each scallop for 2-3 minutes per side. Use tongs to flip them over. Note: If you try to flip them and the scallop is sticking or pulling, it's not ready to be flipped. Give it another 30 seconds of cooking and try again.
- Remove the cooked scallops from the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and squeeze in the lemon juice. Use a whisk to scrape off any tasty scallop bits into the lemon olive oil sauce and simmer for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and add the scallops back to the pan. Top with fresh chopped parsley (optional). Enjoy!
Did you try this recipe? I’d love to see how it turned out! Snap a picture and tag @brightrootskitchen or use #brightrootskitchen on Insta.