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Learn how to sear scallops with this easy pan fried scallops method! Just like coq au vin or grilled lobster, this seared sea scallops recipe is elegant enough for special occasions, but also comes together so fast that you can make it easily when a craving strikes. These garlic butter scallops are seared on a hot pan until a crust forms and then flipped over. Then, we baste them with garlic herb butter (or you can use a simple compound butter as well). It’s as delicious as it sounds.
I love bacon wrapped scallops, but this one is the most basic of scallop recipes. It has the most delicious, simple pan sauce — garlic butter!
Why You’ll Love This Pan Seared Scallops Recipe
- Mild and sweet with a garlic butter finish
- Tender and buttery texture
- Super easy recipe – just a few steps
- Ready to eat in less than 15 minutes
Ingredients For The Best Seared Scallops
This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for simple pan fried scallops, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
How to choose scallops:
- Sea Scallops vs. Bay Scallops – Sea scallops are larger, higher quality scallops, and often what you will get at a restaurant. Bay scallops are sweeter and more tender and also much smaller, so often used in seafood stews, etc.
- Wet vs. Dry Scallops – Wet scallops are preserved in a solution and frozen which makes them hold on to water during cooking. Dry scallops are not preserved in this way, making them the preferred option. It’s harder to get a nice sear with a wet scallop.
- Appearance – Sea scallops should be fairly firm and cream or light pink in color.
- Smell – Fresh scallops will smell like the sea (briny and like seaweed), but should not have any sharp odors.
- Scallop Size – Scallops are labeled with a range, so there can be 10 to 40 sea scallops per pound. They are most often sold in 10 to 20, 20 to 30, 30 to 40 ranges. Large sea scallops are considered to be more premium.
- Wild Caught vs. Farmed – While wild caught seafood is typically preferred, when it comes to sea scallops, farmed is best as there simply aren’t enough wild scallops.
- Fresh vs. Frozen – Most scallops found at the store will have been frozen at some point, even if they are sold thawed. You can buy either at the store, but thawed scallops should be eaten within a day.
Ingredients for pan searing scallops:
- Sea Scallops – Look for large scallops, you’ll want about a pound.
- Cooking Oil – Use olive oil or avocado oil for searing.
- Sea Salt & Black Pepper
- Salted Butter – I prefer grass-fed butter for best flavor and nutrition, but any salted butter will work. If the butter you have is unsalted, add a pinch of sea salt to it.
- Lemon Juice – Fresh lemon juice has the best flavor, but bottled is also fine. Lime juice will also work. If you like extra citrus flavor, you can add a teaspoon of lemon zest or lime zest as well.
- Garlic – Fresh minced garlic is best, but you can use the kind from a jar if you need to.
- Fresh Herbs – Thyme and parsley.
How To Sear Scallops
This section shows how to pan sear scallops with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Mix garlic herb butter. In a small bowl, mash together the butter, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, and parsley. It’s okay if the lemon juice doesn’t fully incorporate, because we’re going to melt this later, anyway.
- Prep scallops. Use paper towels to dry the scallops on all sides. Season scallops with sea salt and black pepper right before cooking.
TIP: Dry your scallops thoroughly, or you won’t get a good sear and that nice golden crust.
- Sear scallops. Heat oil in a medium to large skillet (preferably a cast-iron skillet, but a stainless steel or nonstick skillet will also work) over medium-high heat, until shimmering. Place scallops in a single layer onto the hot oil and sear, without moving, for 2-3 minutes, until a crust forms on the bottom.
- Sear on the other side. Flip the scallops and add garlic herb butter, basting the scallops with the butter. Cook for another 2-3 more minutes, or until scallops are cooked through.
- Serve. Drizzle this healthy recipe with garlic butter and serve with lemon wedges.
How Long To Pan Sear Scallops?
Scallops cooked in a pan will take about 2-3 minutes per side.
Can You Sear Frozen Scallops?
You can sear frozen scallops, but you need to thaw them first, or they won’t cook evenly. Because they only need a few minutes on each side, cooking them directly from frozen would result in uneven cooking.
- Store: Store sautéed sea scallops in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
- Reheat: Reheat scallops in a hot skillet just until warm, so you don’t overcook them.
- Freeze: Freeze scallops for 2-3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
What To Serve With Pan Seared Scallops
Serve up these easy pan fried scallops with a healthy side dish:
More Easy Seafood Recipes
If you like this pan seared sea scallops recipe, you might also like some of these other seafood recipes:
Pan Fried Scallops Recipe
Pan Seared Scallops Recipe With Garlic Butter
Learn how to sear scallops in just 10 minutes! This EASY pan fried sea scallops recipe has a perfect golden crust and savory garlic butter sauce.
Recipe VideoTap on the image below to watch the video.
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Garlic herb butter:
Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
In a small bowl, mash together the butter, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, and parsley. (The lemon juice may not fully incorporate, which is fine.) Set aside.
Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat olive oil in a medium cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, until shimmering. Keep the garlic herb butter nearby.
Add the scallops in a single layer, without touching. Sear, without moving, for 2-3 minutes, until a crust forms on the bottom.
Flip the scallops and immediately add the garlic herb butter to the pan around the scallops in pieces. Sear the scallops for 2-3 more minutes, basting them with the butter occasionally, until a crust forms on the other side and scallops are cooked through.
Last Step: Leave A Rating!
Serving size: 4 large seared scallops with lemon butter
Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.
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