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This 15-minute seared scallops recipe is buttery and totally irresistible! These golden, plump scallops are bright, lemony, and low effort yet restaurant worthy.
Why you’ll love it
Juicy pan seared scallops are one of those fabulous simple recipes that require few ingredients to taste amazing. It’s all about technique when learning how to cook scallops, and fortunately it’s easy to master in your own kitchen!
Whether it’s for date night or guests or a treat just for yourself, this simple scallops recipe is a showstopper. Butter and olive oil, a little lemon juice, and you’re set. The combination of savory ingredients with the natural sweetness of scallops is so good.
What you’ll need
- Sea scallops – the star of the show. See my tips below for buying scallops.
- Olive oil and butter – for pan frying and making the buttery sauce
- Salt & pepper – to bring out the delicious flavors
- Lemon – fresh lemon juice give a pop of acidity to beautifully complement the scallops
How to Buy Scallops 101
- Scallop sizing can be confusing, so I recommend buying the largest scallops you can find at your store without worrying too much about what they’re called since it tends to vary. You will sometimes see scallops labeled with words such as “jumbo” or “colossal”. If you want to be more specific, U10 scallops are great for this recipe; that means you’ll find under (less than) 10 scallops in a pound. U12 and U15 scallops are slightly smaller as there’s more of them needed to make a pound. Any of these sizes would work!
- Sometimes scallops are packed with a solution that extends shelf life and plumps them up, but it’s best to avoid these. They don’t tend to sear as well since the water leaks out, and it can also impact their flavor. You want dry packed scallops that are chemical free.
- Scallops should feel firm to the touch and not smell particularly fishy.
- Use them within a day or so of purchasing them as they can spoil quickly.
How to sear scallops
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Dry the scallops. Heat up the oil until the pan is extremely hot. Add the scallops, and don’t move them around. Season with salt & pepper, and add the butter. Cook for a few minutes, then flip and baste them. Cook until golden, and remove from the heat. Plate them right away, squeeze the lemon juice, and serve with parsley if using.
- How to thaw frozen scallops: defrost them in the fridge overnight.
- Scallops should be at least 1 inch apart in the skillet so they get a nice sear and don’t end up steaming.
- Scallops sometimes come with a little side muscle that you’ll want to take off before cooking (I just pull it off) because it’s tough and can trap sand, not something you want to eat.
- Don’t worry if you can’t get a deep sear when making these! It’s more important that you don’t overcook them so they don’t go rubbery.
Leftovers and storage
- Leftovers will keep for 1-2 days in an airtight container in the fridge, but scallops can go off quickly, so I like to eat them the next day to be safe.
- Reheat slowly over a low heat in a saucepan.
- I don’t recommend freezing leftovers as the texture can change.
If you made this easy pan seared scallops recipe, please leave a star rating and review below! Let me know if you have questions. Follow along with us on Instagram.
- 1 pound sea scallops see note on sizing
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Fresh lemon juice to taste
- Chopped fresh parsley optional, to taste
- Pat your scallops dry with paper towel. They should be very dry to get the best sear you can.
- Add the olive oil to a large skillet (preferably cast iron). It's important the scallops aren't crowded so they sear properly. You may need to do two batches. Over medium-high to high heat, let the pan get screaming hot. On my gas stove, I use the largest burner, let the skillet heat up for 5 minutes, and the oil is lightly smoking.
- Add the scallops to the pan, and do not move them around. Season them with salt & pepper as they're cooking. Cook for 2-3 minutes, add the butter to the pan, and then flip them and cook them for another minute or so while basting the butter over top. Scallops are done when they're golden on the outside and the middle is slightly translucent. They're easy to overcook.
- Take the skillet off the heat and immediately remove the scallops so they don't continue cooking. Spoon the delicious browned butter mixture over top and squeeze a little lemon juice on. Enjoy immediately with extra salt & pepper if needed and some chopped parsley if desired.
- Don’t worry if your sear isn’t super dark – they will still be delicious! It’s more important not to overcook the scallops.
- This will serve 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer.
- U10 scallops are great for this recipe – that means you’ll find under (less than) 10 scallops in a pound, so they are very large! U12 and U15 scallops are slightly smaller, but usually easier to find. Any of these would work, and markets and stores vary in what they carry, so I would simply look for the largest scallops you can find. They’ll sometimes also be labeled as “jumbo” or “colossal”. Look for dry packed, chemical-free scallops for the best sear.
- See blog post for more tips if you’ve never bought scallops before!
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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