Pan-Seared Scallops with Lemon Butter Recipe

4.78 from 9 votes
Jump to Recipe

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

Pan-seared scallops with lemon butter is my favorite method to prepare sea scallops. Scallops are the perfect elegant meal or appetizer for date night or special occasion, yet they’re super easy to make and only take about 5 minutes to cook.

Perfectly caramelized seared scallops in a cast iron skillet topped with lemon butter and parsley sauce.

I prepare my scallops in a cast iron skillet right on the grill or stovetop. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, I highly recommend you pick one up. Cast iron is inexpensive and it can be used on the grill, stove, or in the oven. It’s the perfect pan for searing scallops, steak, and much more.

Why I Love This Recipe

This recipe is delicious because the scallops feature a nice caramelized exterior and tender interior. The scallops are finished with a simple and delicious lemon butter sauce that brings out the delicate and fresh flavors of the dish.

Make this recipe a complete meal with my scallops over risotto recipe or pair it with my lemon butter couscous recipe. If you’re looking for other date-night-worthy seafood dishes, try my bacon-wrapped scallops, baked lobster tails, or pair this with pan-seared filet mignon for surf and turf.

Ingredients

Raw pan seared scallops ingredients laid out on a cutting board.
  • Large/jumbo sea scallops: get the largest scallops you can find. Baby scallops will shrink and is much harder to get a good uniform sear.
  • Oil: canola, vegetable, or grapeseed oil works best thanks to their high smoke points. You can also use olive oil if that’s all you have.
  • Butter: you can use salted or unsalted. You may need to add a pinch more salt if using unsalted butter.
  • Fresh parsley: both flat leave and Italian parsley can be used interchangeably. Always use fresh herbs!
  • Garlic: mince the garlic as fine as possible or use a microplane for even better results. Always use fresh garlic for the best flavor.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities below.

How to Prep Sea Scallops

Most scallops will have a chewy side muscle that resembles a rectangular tag of tissue on the side of the scallop. Rinse scallops under cool water and then get them as dry as possible. pat scallops dry with a paper towel or a clean dish towel. Remove the side muscle by simply pulling it off with your hands. The side muscles may not always be as obvious as the ones pictured below.

How to Pan Sear Scallops

Step 1.

Rinse scallops under cool water and remove the side muscle if still intact. Pat scallops as dry as possible using two sheets of paper towel or a clean dish towel. Season all over with salt and pepper. Mince the parsley and garlic and set aside.

A hand holding a raw scallops with the side muscle exposed.
Seasoned raw sea scallops drying on paper towel.

Step 2.

Add the oil to a 12-inch cast iron skillet and bring to high heat. Once the skillet is hot and starts to smoke, add the scallops to the pan and sear for 2 minutes per side, undisturbed, or until a golden brown crust forms. It helps to arrange the scallops around the perimeter of the pan if possible as it’s usually the hottest part of the pan.

Heating oil in a cast iron skillet.
Raw scallops searing in a cast iron skillet.
Perfect seared scallops cooking in a cast iron skillet

Step 3.

Remove scallops from the skillet and set them aside on a plate. Remove the skillet from heat and let cool for 2 minutes. Add the butter, garlic, lemon, and fresh parsley to the skillet, stirring occasionally until fully melted. Cook on low heat if needed.

Quick Tip

You can optionally cook the lemon butter sauce in a separate saucepan to decrease darkening due to the crust developed in the pan. Drizzle over scallops at the very end.

Melting butter with in a cast iron skillet with fresh lemon juice and fresh parsley.

Step 4.

Return the scallops to the skillet on low heat and cook for an additional 30-90 seconds. Use a spoon to spoon the butter over the scallops. Place on a serving dish and drizzle with extra lemon butter sauce as desired. Sprinkle with a pinch of leftover fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Seared scallops cooking in a lemon butter and herb sauce in a cast iron skillet.

Expert Tips

  • Getting the scallops as dry as possible is critical to getting a good sear. Do not skip this step.
  • It’s important to get the skillet smoking hot before adding the scallops. This ensures a good caramelized sear.
  • Use canola, vegetable, or grapeseed oil for searing because they have higher smoke points.
Perfectly caramelized seared scallops in a cast iron skillet topped with lemon butter and parsley sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to pan-sear scallops?

On high heat, scallops will fully cook in 1 1/2-2 minutes per side.

What is the secret to searing scallops?

Always start with a thin layer of oil in a very hot skillet on high heat. Arrange scallops around the perimeter of the pan and sear undisturbed for 2 minutes per side.

What is the best oil to sear scallops in?

Canola oil, vegetable oil, or grapeseed oil have higher smoke points and are best suited for searing in a hot pan.

More Seafood Recipes

Enjoy this recipe? If you made this recipe, please leave a ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ star rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments!
4.78 from 9 votes

Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Butter Recipe

Servings: 2
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Sea scallops pan-seared in a cast iron skillet with a lemon and herb butter sauce.

Ingredients 

  • 8 large sea scallops, side muscle removed
  • 1 tablespoon canola, vegetable, or grapeseed oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon Butter Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice of half a lemon, squeezed

Instructions 

  • Rinse scallops under cool water and remove the side muscle if still intact. Pat scallops as dry as possible using two sheets of paper towel or a clean dish towel. Season all over with salt and pepper. Mince the parsley and garlic and set aside.
  • Add the oil to a 12-inch cast iron skillet and bring to high heat. Once the skillet is hot and starts to smoke, add the scallops to the pan and sear for 2 minutes per side, undisturbed, or until a golden brown crust forms. It helps to arrange the scallops around the perimeter of the pan if possible as it’s usually the hottest part of the pan.
  • Remove scallops from the skillet and set them aside on a plate. Remove the skillet from heat and let cool for 2 minutes. Give the pan a quick wipe if you prefer. Add the butter, garlic, lemon, and fresh parsley to the skillet, stirring occasionally until fully melted. Cook on low heat if needed. 
  • Return the scallops to the skillet on low heat and cook for an additional 30-90 seconds. Use a spoon to spoon the butter over the scallops. Place on a serving dish and drizzle with extra lemon butter sauce as desired. Sprinkle with a pinch of leftover fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Notes

Getting the scallops as dry as possible is critical to getting a good sear. Do not skip this step.
It’s important to get the skillet smoking hot before adding the scallops. This ensures a good caramelized sear.
Use canola, vegetable, or grapeseed oil for searing because they have higher smoke points.
You can optionally cook the lemon butter sauce in a separate saucepan to decrease darkening due to the crust developed in the pan. Drizzle over scallops at the very end.

Nutrition

Serving: 4scallopsCalories: 282kcalCarbohydrates: 6.8gProtein: 20.9gFat: 19.6gSaturated Fat: 8.4gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 356mgFiber: 1gSugar: 0.8g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @kitchenswagger or tag #kitchenswagger!

About Shawn Williams

My name is Shawn, author behind Kitchen Swagger. I'm a food & drink enthusiast bringing you my own simple and delicious restaurant-inspired recipes.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




30 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    These were excellent! I loved them! I served them on a bed of lightly sautéed spinach with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper that a friend taught me about. They are a great meal with crust bread or can be an appetizer. Thank you!

  2. 5 stars
    Those look delicious! I will be making these for dinner tonight. I’m sure my family would absolutely love these awesome looking scallops. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Easy and delicious!! Gourmet meal at home! I served it with Jasmine Rice and Brussel sprouts sautéed in a little olive oil and about a tablespoon of bacon fat with onion and ribboned collard greens. Finished with a sprinkle of sea salt, Plate the scallops over the rice with lemon butter and sprinkle of parsley and a twist of lemon. You look like a gourmet Godess and the best part is that it is SO easy!

  4. 5 stars
    My husband thought this was the best scallops he has ever had. Cool pan before adding garlic. Delicious and easy to make. Cast iron skillet is a must.

    1. I like to cook pasta on the side. After searing the scallops, I remove them to the side and remove the cast iron skillet from the burner to cool a little. Then drain my pasta, prepare the garlic lemon sauce, and pour it over the pasta and scallops. You may wish to grate fresh parmesan at the table. Serve with a green vegetable of your choice. Easy and delicious.

  5. Absolutely delicious and easy to make! I used a stainless skillet and it turned out perfectly. Best scallops I have had in years!

  6. 4 stars
    I’ve made this twice now. Both times the flavor was great. The first time the sauce was dark because the pan was too hot and the butter browned. The second time I seared the scallops in cast iron. But, melted butter and herbs in a non stick pan. Presentation was much better this time.

  7. Can’t wait to try this recipe, I love scallops but have always been intimidated by cooking them myself, but this sounds almost fool proof!

  8. Just had your recipe over cous cous.
    I like the other people should have let the pan cool down first before making the sauce.
    It was still good though for my first time making scallops. The scallops were cooked perfectly.
    I will definitely try again.

  9. Special Christmas dinner tonight. It was delicious! Served with brown rice and roasted mixed vegetables; broccoli, Brussels sprouts and carrots. Lemon butter served on the side, for “dipping.”