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Serve Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Butter over a bed of nutty arugula in this magically delicious appetizer recipe. Sea scallops cook in an almost-smoky hot pan to create a slightly crisp, caramelized crust while maintaining the delicate, silky texture inside.

Ready in under 10 minutes, this easy pan seared scallops recipe definitely makes it worth splurging at the seafood counter. Serve Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Butter as a seafood appetizer or double up the recipe to make it the main entrée.

SPOILER ALERT: You don’t have to be a 5-star chef to create this dish!

With only four main ingredients (plus salt and pepper), this seafood recipe is so simple to prepare anyone can master the secrets to perfectly cooked scallops every time.

pan-seared scallops on a bed of arugula on a white plate
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Freaky Friday blog hop

Today is FREAKY FRIDAY, y’all! That may not mean a thing to you, but it’s pretty exciting for me. Freaky Friday is a fun blog project (the brainchild of Michaela from An Affair From the Heart) where a group of food bloggers secretly cook or bake a recipe from another blog they were assigned, then reveal the recipes at the same time on one Freaky Friday morning — that’s TODAY!

Pan Seared Scallops recipe with lemon butter

Just in time for a special Valentine’s Day dinner at home, your Valentine will love these scallops and the silky lemon butter sauce! My Valentine was swooning over them during our taste testing last week!

That’s one reason I’m so excited to share the recipe with you and to introduce you to the recipe’s creator, Angela from Lemoine Family Kitchen.

Meet Angela from Lemoine Family Kitchen

Like me, Angela married her high school sweetheart and her passion for cooking stems from deep family roots and spending time in the kitchen with her grandmother. (Some of my favorite childhood memories, too!)

Angela’s grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Italy and I for one would love to be invited to one of their authentic Italian family dinners complete with antipasti, struffoli, and homemade pasta. Just thinking about it makes me wish for a return trip to Italy!

So if you are a fan of Italian food, you MUST check out Angela’s blog and the many delicious, authentic recipes like Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi, Homemade Pappardelle Bolognese, and Classic Chicken Marsala.

It was really difficult choosing which of her recipes I wanted to feature for the Freaky Friday Blog Hop, but I finally settled on Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Butter, the first course of her At Home Valentines Day Dinner. They were fabulous!

My previous Freaky Friday recipes!

ingredients for pan-seared scallops with lemon butter sauce

Ingredients

  • Sea scallops — get the largest scallops available at the seafood counter
  • Lemon — for the sauce
  • Unsalted butter — to add flavor and silkiness to the sauce
  • Italian parsley — adds freshness to the dish
  • Arugula — the nutty flavor complements the sweetness of the scallops
  • Kosher salt — or sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
pan-seared scallops on a blue plate

How to pan sear scallops

STEP 1 | Dry and season the scallops

  • Use paper towels to thoroughly pat the scallops dry. If there is any water left on the scallops, they will steam rather than sear.
  • Sprinkle each side of the scallops with kosher salt or sea salt and add a generous twist of freshly ground black pepper.

STEP 2 | Heat the pan

  • Add extra-virgin olive oil to a sauté pan over high heat.
  • Watch carefully, and as soon as you see the first wisp of smoke, add the scallops to the pan flat side down.

STEP 3 | Sear

  • Cook the scallops, without moving them, for 2 minutes, until browned.
  • Slide a fish turner under the scallops and gently wiggle to release them from the pan. Flip and cook on the other side for 1 to 2 minutes, until nicely browned.
pan-seared scallops, lemon butter sauce, and a plate of arugula on a table

Cooking tips

  • Hot, not smoky. It’s important to start with a hot pan, but be sure not to let it start smoking otherwise the scallops will burn instead of searing. Heat the pan just until you notice the first wisp of smoke or the oil starts to shimmer.
  • Seared, not steamed. Allow space between the scallops when cooking so that they brown evenly. If you overcrowd the pan, the scallops will boil or steam instead.
  • Use cast iron or stainless steel. For the best results in searing, start with the right pan.
  • Don’t overcook. Too long in the hot pan and the scallops will become rubbery. You know the scallops are done when the second side is crusted and they are opaque throughout.
pan-seared scallops on a bed of arugula on a white plate

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between bay scallops and sea scallops?

Bay scallops are smaller (about a half-inch in diameter), sweeter, and harvested in the Fall from bays along the East coast. Sea scallops are harvested year round in the deep ocean waters and can be up to 2 inches in diameter.

What kind of oil is best for searing scallops?

I like the flavor of cooking with extra virgin olive oil, although it has a slightly lower smoke point (under 400 degrees). You may wish to use another oil with a higher smoke point like avocado oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, or safflower oil.

Should you thaw frozen scallops before cooking?

If you purchase frozen instead of fresh scallops, always thaw them overnight in the refrigerator before cooking to be sure any excess water is released before cooking. Always remember to dry with paper towels, too.

Why do my scallops stick to the pan?

If your scallops stick to the pan after cooking for a couple of minutes, the pan wasn’t hot enough and the scallops may not have been dried enough when you started cooking.

Please share!

Your shares are how this site grows and I appreciate each one. Do you know someone who would enjoy this recipe? I’d love it if you would share it on Facebook or on your favorite Pinterest board!

Take a look at all of our 2021 Freaky Friday Winter Edition Recipes:

  1. An Affair from the Heart – Copy Cat Taco Bell Enchirito
  2. Aunt Bee’s Recipes – Three Cheese Jalapeno Poppers
  3. The Carefree Kitchen – Lemon Bundt Cake
  4. The Culinary Compass – Rotel Sausage Dip
  5. Devour Dinner – Cheese Enchiladas
  6. The Foodie Affair – Gluten Free Irish Soda Bread
  7. Fresh Cooky – Cranberry Bourbon Cocktail
  8. House of Nash Eats – Pineapple Casserole
  9. Kathryn’s Kitchen Blog – Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
  10. Lemoine Family Kitchen – Red Beans & Rice
  11. Life, Love & Good Food – Pan Seared Scallops 
  12. Lisa’s Dinnertime Dish – Weeknight Broccoli Shrimp Stir Fry
  13. Off the Eaten Path – Extra Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Wings
  14. Soulfully Made –  Stuffed Pepper Meatloaf
  15. The Speckled Palate – Pretzel Cheese Dip
  16. Sugar Dish Me – Cheesecake Brownies with Graham Cracker Crust
  17. Take Two Tapas – Buffalo Chicken Taquitos in the Air Fryer
  18. West Via Midwest – Frito Corn Salad
pan-seared scallops on a bed of arugula on a white plate

Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Butter

Serve Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Butter over a bed of nutty arugula in this magically delicious appetizer recipe.
4.85 from 19 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 4 mins
Total Time 9 mins
Course Appetizers
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2 servings
Calories 275 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 6 sea scallops
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley chopped
  • 1/2 medium lemon juiced

Instructions
 

  • Use paper towels to thoroughly pat the scallops dry. If there is any water left on the scallops, they will steam rather than sear.
  • Sprinkle each side of the scallops with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Place a mound of arugula on individual small serving plates; set aside.
  • In a sauté pan over high heat, warm the extra-virgin olive oil. Watch carefully, and as soon as you see the first wisp of smoke, add the seasoned scallops to the pan flat side down.
  • Cook, without moving them, for 2 minutes, until browned. Slide a fish turner under the scallops and gently wiggle to release the scallops from the pan. Flip and cook on the other side for 1 to 2 minutes, until nicely browned. Transfer the scallops to the serving plates, arranging 3 scallops on top of each mound of arugula.
  • Remove the hot pan from the heat and drop in the butter, stirring until just melted. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley. Ladle the lemon butter sauce over the scallops and serve immediately.

Video

Notes

Original recipe by Lemoine Family Kitchen
  • Allow space between the scallops when cooking so that they brown evenly. If you overcrowd the pan, the scallops will boil or steam instead.
  • For the best results in searing, start with the right pan.
  • Too long in the hot pan and the scallops will become rubbery. You know the scallops are done when the second side is crusted and they are opaque throughout.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 275kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 9gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 47mgSodium: 798mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1g
Keyword appetizer, arugula, easy recipe, scallops, sea scallops, seafood
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was.
sheila thigpen in her kitchen

About Sheila Thigpen

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

15 Comments

  1. We definitely eat on the light side in my house, so this meal is absolutely perfect for us! I also love how quick and easy it is to prepare, it’s perfect for a busy night.

  2. I cant believe how quickly this recipe was…. and I finally cooked the scallops perfectly with your instructions! THANK YOU!

  3. Oh Sheila, you did such a beautiful job with this simple yet delicious and elegant dish. I so appreciate all your kind words and am so happy you enjoyed these scallops. This one has become a family favorite.

  4. I am always afraid to make scallops, but I love what you said about not having to be a 5 star chef — so true, these were so easy and tasted so dreamy and restaurant like! Even better!

  5. Gosh. These scallops just look PERFECT! Also, thank you for the tips and tricks. I feel like scallops feel like a big deal to cook at home and you’ve really made them more approachable!

  6. I love these scallops because they make me feel so chef-y! My husband said they were better than any he has ever had at a restaurant!

  7. Scallops are one of my favorite foods! We haven’t planned our Valentine’s Day menu yet so I think we need to make these!

  8. I must love a great lemon sauce! I made this and decided I need to cook with scallops more often. This is delicious and definitely going on our menu again soon. Thanks for the great recipe!

  9. What a lovely dish. That peppery arugula with the lemon sauce over scallops is fine dining! Add this to the steak I have planned for Valentine’s Day dinner.

  10. These are hands down the more gorgeous scallops I have ever laid eyes on! My husband LOVES scallops and I now know what I am making him for Valentine’s day!! These are perfect — as are those cute plates with the hearts all over them!

  11. I love how easy you have made this recipe, I don’t make scallops often so your directions are perfect and so helpful.

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