One of our favorite easy seafood recipes is this Pan Seared Scallops recipe. This easy recipe only requires a handful of ingredients, resulting in buttery scallops that melt in your mouth. 

Scallops in a frying pan on the stove.

Perfectly caramelized sea scallops are just minutes away with an easy hot pan technique producing delicately crispy golden crust encasing tender, succulent centers thanks to a quick sear. Then, they’re tossed in a garlic butter sauce, like our garlic butter shrimp. Whether making them for special occasions or a quick seafood dinner, pan-searing scallops will become your new go-to recipe when you want to impress.

Colossal sea scallops on a white plate.

What Are Scallops?

Similar to oysters, muscle, and claims, scallops belong to the bivalve muscle group. They’ve got two shells that protect their inner muscle, and inside, there’s a tasty white part, aka the adductor muscle (that’s the part we eat), and a funky orange section called the coral. When you cook the white muscle, it becomes round and tender, with a hint of sweetness and a salty vibe.

There are two different varieties of scallops: bay scallops and sea scallops. For this recipe, we’re using sea scallops because they’re larger and not as sweet as bay scallops.

The best way to cook scallops is by pan-searing them on the grill or stovetop or smoking them like our smoked bacon-wrapped scallops. The key is to not over cook them, or they can become tough. Pan-searing gives the scallops a nice golden brown crust quickly and delicious flavor while leaving the centers perfectly done.

Sea Scallops on a piece of paper on a black table.

Garlic Butter Scallops Ingredients

  • Fresh scallops, colossal sea scallops: Buy good quality scallops. You can find them in the seafood section of your grocery store or purchase them online. 
  • Kosher Salt 
  • Oil: Use any oil with a high smoke point, like canola, vegetable, or avocado oil. 
  • Butter
  • Garlic 
  • Thyme
  • Black pepper 
  • Lemon zest
  • Parmesan cheese

How to Make Scallops in a Pan

Normally, we recommend cast iron skillets for just about anything, but we find that a quality non-stick skillet or a carbon steel skillet is ideal for scallops.

  • First, pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Then, season both sides with salt. 
  • Next, preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. 
  • Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Allow the oil to preheat until just starting to smoke. 
  • Now, place scallops in the very hot pan and let them sear for 60 to 90 seconds without touching until a golden brown crust forms.
Scallops in a frying pan on a stove.
  • Flip and continue cooking scallops for another 60 seconds until a golden brown crust forms on the other side. Immediately remove the scallops from the pan and place them on a paper towel-lined plate. 
Scallops in a frying pan on the stove.
  • Reduce the heat to low, add the butter and garlic, and swirl to melt. Add the thyme sprig and allow the foam from the melted butter to die down. 
A frying pan with oil and garlic on top of a stove.
  • Finally, immediately pour the butter and toasted garlic over the scallops. Sprinkle with black pepper, lemon zest, and a pinch of freshly grated parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.

Girl Carnivore Expert Recipe Tips

  • Let your scallops come to room temperature before cooking to help them to cook evenly. 
  • Use an instant-read thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the scallops reaches at least 125-130 degrees F. 
  • If using frozen scallops, let them thaw before cooking.
A frying pan with scallops and pine cones on a wooden table.

What to Serve With Butter Garlic Scallops

Our favorite side dish for these scallops is risotto and creamed spinach to create the perfect meal for date night. Or pair your delicious scallops with some air fryer vegetables and domino potatoes.

We also love serving these buttery scallops with a salad, like over a grilled corn salad and arugula. You can also serve them as an appetizer alongside some butter poached lobster tails and grilled king crab legs for the ultimate spread.

Wine Pairing:

These delicately seared scallops should be paired with a wine that is light and buttery, so it won’t overpower the flavor. If you’re up for it, serve this dish alongside an oaky white wine, such as Chardonnay or dry Sauvignon Blanc, to complement the flavor in the delicious sauce.

Leftovers & Reheating

Store leftover scallops in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. However, we recommend these be enjoyed immediately as they lose their texture and overcook when refrigerated and reheated.

To reheat scallops, place them in a large cast iron skillet on medium heat and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until warm. Serve with your favorite sides, or throw your scallops on a bed of pasta and make a summer scallop pasta!

Scallops in a frying pan on a wooden table.

More Seafood Recipes

This easy recipe is the perfect way to enjoy these little muscles. With a dreamy garlic butter sauce and golden brown crust, these pan seared scallops are your ticket to a delicious dinner.

Have you tried this recipe? Do us a favor and rate the recipe card with the  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ and drop a comment to help out the next reader.

Pan Seared Scallops

5 from 23 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings: 2
Scallops in a frying pan on a stove.
These restaurant-quality pan seared scallops use a hot skillet for quick browning and strategic pause essential for achieving a delicate crispy golden exterior around an ultra-tender and juicy interior before being doused in garlic butter.

Ingredients  

For the pan seared scallops

  • 1 lbs Scallops colossal sea scallops, thawed
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp Oil avocado, grapeseed, or an oil with a high smoke temperature
  • 4 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 4 Garlic cloves thinly sliced
  • 2 fresh Thyme sprigs

To garnish

  • Black pepper
  • Lemon zest
  • Parmesan cheese

Instructions 

  • Pat the scallops dry with paper towels.
  • Season both sides with salt.
  • Preheat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. W
  • Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan.
  • Allow the oil to preheat until just starting to smoke.
  • Add the scallops, and allow them to sear for 60 to 90 seconds, without touching as a golden brown crust forms.
  • Flip and continue to cook for another 60 seconds until a golden brown crust forms on the other side.
  • Immediately remove the scallops from the pan.
  • Reduce the heat to low. Use a paper towel held by long tongs to blot out any excess oil if needed.
  • Add the butter and garlic and swirl to melt.
  • Add the thyme sprig and allow the foam from the butter to die down.
  • Immediately pour the butter and toasted garlic over the scallops.
  • Sprinkle with black pepper, lemon zest, and a pinch of freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Notes

  • We love carbon steel or a high quality non-stick skillet for searing scallops.
  • Let your scallops come to room temperature before cooking to help them to cook evenly.
  • Use an instant-read thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the scallops reaches at least 125-130 degrees F
  • If using frozen scallops, let them thaw before cooking.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 429kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 115mg | Sodium: 2056mg | Potassium: 502mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 755IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Kita Roberts

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Recipe FAQs

What’s the difference between wet scallops and dry scallops?

Wet scallops are soaked in a solution that often contains water and chemicals, such as phosphates, to preserve them. They may appear plumper and whiter due to the added moisture. Some people find that the soaking process can affect the natural flavor, giving them a slightly different taste. We prefer not to use wet scallops as they take longer to cook because of too much moisture.  Dry scallops, on the other hand, are free from added solutions and are in their natural state. They tend to have a more natural color and are often labeled as “dry-packed. Because they aren’t treated with chemicals, dry scallops are said to have a purer and more concentrated flavor.

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Well, Hey, Y’all.

Kita is a multi-talented individual, boasting numerous accomplishments such as being an award-winning recipe developer, world-traveled professional photographer, and journalist. As the lead creative force behind Girl Carnivore®, she is widely recognized as an authority on all things meat.

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Comments

  1. Ohhhhh my! This recipe is amazing! For years, I prepared scallops the same way over and over again. Decided to give this recipe a try for a change. I don’t think I will go back to the old, original recipe of mine again. My guys requested I make this again. They said they look forward to eating scallops like this next time. Nothing difficult about the directions; pretty easy!

  2. 5 stars
    Hands downs, this is the only recipe to use for Seared Scallops! Straight forward, perfect, and absolutely delicious!!!