Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Caper Sauce

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Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Caper Sauce is an elegant yet easy dish that is perfect for special occasions or any day of the week. The caramelized scallops and the delicious sauce is made all in one pan!

The tastiest pan-seared scallops that have a beautiful caramelized crust. It’s drizzled with a lemon caper sauce that makes each bite even more irresistible. Garlic Butter Herb Scallops or Honey Garlic Butter Scallops are other amazing scallop recipes to try!

Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Caper Sauce

Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Caper Sauce

Hi there! I’m Jessica Gavin, a Certified Culinary Scientist and cookbook author. I love to teach the science behind better cooking with my readers on

I’m so thrilled to now be a part of the contributor team here on The Recipe Critic, thanks Alyssa! This delicious recipe is a hit with my family when we’re craving an upscale meal made right at home.

Scallops may seem like an intimidating and fancy dish that’s reserved only for restaurants. I’m here to share my easy method for creating a beautiful crust every time right at home. There are three key steps to a achieve a golden exterior and tender texture.

After a few tasty test runs, you will nail the pan-searing technique, impressing your hungry eaters with your gourmet skills.

How Do You Make Scallops with Lemon Caper Sauce?

  • The first step is allowing the scallops to sit in a saltwater solution for about 10 minutes before cooking. The benefits of a brine are it delicately seasons the seafood, helps it retain moisture, and prevents the scallops from getting too tough as it’s cooking. If you’ve got a few extra minutes, it’s worthwhile to do.
  • The second step is to dry the surface of the scallops as thoroughly as possible. This process allows immediate searing and color development while preventing steaming in the pan. I just dry them in between paper towel until there is no residual moisture and they become slightly sticky when touched.
  • The third step is to choose the right pan and use very high heat when cooking. My go-to is a large cast iron skillet, I use it for spicy garlic shrimp and even skillet cornbread. Stainless steel will also work to get a caramel-colored surface too. The pan needs to be super hot so browning begins immediately as scallops can turn rubbery fairly quickly if overcooked. Once those scallops hit the pan, do not move them until you are ready to flip! I also use a little bit of butter to baste the scallops at the end of cooking to promote even more browning and flavor.
  • To complement the buttery scallops, a luscious and bright lemon caper sauce is made right in the pan that the scallops were seared. There is a lot of wonderful flavors retained in the pan, and you want to incorporate it in the sauce. Aromatic garlic, white wine, chicken broth, lemon juice and capers are reduced until a thickened sauce is achieved. A little bit of Dijon mustard is whisked in for a hint of pungency, creating a delicate savory citrus sauce to compliment to the crusted scallops.

Scallops with golden crust searing in a cast iron skillet

What is a Scallop?

Scallop is a common name that is primarily applied to any one of numerous species of saltwater clams or marine bivalve mollusks in the taxonomic family Pectinidae, the scallops.

What do Scallops Taste Like?

They are often described as similar to crab or lobster, but more firm. Their flavor tends to be sweet and delicate, but it’s the texture that really makes them interesting and enticing. When cooked correctly, they are soft and chewy but not rubbery or tough.

Are Sea Scallops Good for You?

Scallops are 80 percent protein. They are also a good source of magnesium and potassium.

How Do I Make Seared Scallops?

Add olive oil to a skillet and turn to medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the scallops and add to the heated pan. Sear the scallops 3-3 ½ minutes or until the sides are golden brown.

Can You Cook Frozen Scallops?

You will want to thaw scallops, if frozen. You can thaw them several hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Do not thaw scallops at room temperature. Rinse scallops and pat them dry with paper towels before cooking.

What Do You Eat with Scallops?

Many green vegetables, such as asparagus, green beans, and broccoli, accompany scallops nicely. You can also serve scallops on a bed of fresh spinach, kale, or with cooked collard greens. I recommend adding angel hair pasta or sautéed zucchini noodles to toss in the lemon caper sauce for a more filling entree.

What White Wine cooks well with Scallops?

For cooking, you will want a wine with a high acidity known in wine parlance as “crisp.” Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Sémillon, and dry sparkling wines are especially good.

Can I Leave out the White Wine?

Yes! This is just an option for those who lit the flavor and tasting of a white wine.

Whisk mixing a lemon caper sauce in a cast iron pan

Looking for More Seafood Recipes? Try these!

Golden brown scallops sitting in a lemon caper sauce

Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Caper Sauce

4.88 from 50 votes
Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Caper Sauce is a simple yet elegant dish that is perfect for special occasions or any day of the week. The caramelized scallops and sauce is made all in one pan.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 28 minutes
Author Jessica Gavin
Servings: 4 people


  • cup kosher salt plus more for seasoning
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 4 cups ice water
  • 1 pound large scallops 1 ½ inches wide, about 14 to 16
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup white wine optional
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon capers rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • Black pepper for seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chives
  • 6 lemon wedges


  • In a medium-sized bowl combine salt and hot water, stirring to dissolve the salt. Add ice water to cool the brine. Add scallops to the brine and let stand for 10 minutes. Line a sheet pan with paper towels, set aside.
  • Drain the scallops, rinse under cold water, and then arrange in a single layer on the paper towel-lined sheet pan. Place another paper towel on top of the scallops and gently pat scallops. Remove as much surface moisture as possible for the best browning results when cooked.
  • Allow scallops to sit for 10 minutes at room temperature before cooking.
  • In a 12-inch saute pan or cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until oil ripples and just begins to smoke.
  • Sprinkle scallops lightly with salt on both sides.
  • Place scallops into the hot pan without crowding. Gently press scallops with a spatula to make direct contact with the pan.
  • Sear scallops without moving them, continuing to cook until bottoms are a rich golden brown, 3 to 3 ½ minutes.
  • Add butter to the pan. Turn the scallops over and cook the second side. Use a spoon to baste the scallops with the butter, tilting the pan to collect the butter as needed.
  • When the scallops are opaque in color and firm to the touch, about 1 to 2 minutes, turn off heat and transfer to a plate, do not discard pan.
  • In the same pan used for cooking the scallops turn heat to medium. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant but not browned.
  • Increase heat to medium-high and add wine. Simmer wine, stirring as needed until the wine is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
  • Turn heat to high and add the chicken stock, lemon zest, lemon juice and capers to the pan. Cook until sauce is reduced by half, about ½ cup, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and whisk in Dijon mustard.
  • Turn heat to medium and add scallops back to pan, cook until warm, 2 minutes.
  • Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Garnish scallops with chopped dill, chives and serve immediately with lemon wedges.


Alyssa Also Recommends:
Want to make this even easier? Here are a few products that I LOVE:
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Serves: 4

Calories242kcal (12%)Carbohydrates9g (3%)Protein15g (30%)Fat14g (22%)Saturated Fat3g (15%)Cholesterol35mg (12%)Sodium10263mg (428%)Potassium353mg (10%)Fiber1g (4%)Sugar1g (1%)Vitamin A87IU (2%)Vitamin C23mg (28%)Calcium40mg (4%)Iron1mg (6%)

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.

Course Appetizer, Dinner, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Caribbean, Mediterranean
Tried this recipe?Mention @alyssa_therecipecritic or tag #therecipecritic


Jessica Gavin

Jessica is a Certified Food and Culinary Scientist. She’s also a culinary school graduate and a teacher at heart. Jessica loves nothing more than unraveling the science behind better, healthier cooking and sharing that know-how with her readers at

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  1. Sauce tasted good, but was too heavy for scallops IMO. The title of the recipe should be “Lemon Dijon Sauce with Capers”. The mustard is what put it over the top for me. I used the wine, but if I make this again I will ditch the dijon. Lemon, garlic, capers & wine would suffice. I like tasting scallops, not sauce.

  2. 5 stars
    So it’s the time of lent for me and the hubby, so I decided to try this since I had some scallops and shrimp in the freezer. I’ll admit I skipped the mustard, but did everything else, and OMG, will definitely be doing this again. I’m not a big scallop eater, but thought maybe I hadn’t been making them wrong previously. I also added some vegetarian mushroom ravioli while the sauce was simmering. It was delicious, and now I will try scallops a bit more often. This was a great recipe, thank you so much.

  3. 5 stars
    This is one of my sbsolute favourite recipes. So briney delicious with the capers and lemony notes with dill and the brightness of the dill. Absolute gorgeous meal. Even great day 2 and 3. 😍

  4. I haven’t made this yet but plan to. Is there any of this that can be done ahead of time, like the briningJ

  5. 5 stars
    Make sure you use scallops that have NOT been treated with STP (Sodium tripolyphosphate). A scallop will absorb water when processed with STP and when you cook it release the water. That makes it harder to sear the scallop. Instead it will end up poaching in the released water.

  6. 5 stars
    I really appreciated the detailed instruction on how to brine, prepare, and sear the scallops. They were perfect! I think I will cut down the fresh lemon juice next time – it was a little overpowering.

  7. 5 stars
    This recipe is really good. This time I omitted the mustard and it was perfect. I think the listed prep time at 20 minutes should be the cook time and the prep time 8 min. Just noticed this today. Thanks for the recipe.

  8. 5 stars
    Great recipe. My family ate it up! Very tasty; however, I am going to tweak the Dijon mustard next time. They said it seemed to take over the entire dish. Will definitely use this again!

  9. 5 stars
    I LOVED this recipe. I’m a good cook and enjoy dishes with lots of flavor. This one has it all. I could lick the pan!

  10. 5 stars
    Delicious! I left out the dill because I’m not a fan of it, but next time, I’ll try substituting tarragon. I loved how the mustard brought out the sweet, subtle flavor of the scallops. I cut the recipe down to one portion because I’m eating alone, but I seriously wish I made more. I would eat it all right now.

  11. 5 stars
    EZ and Delicious! First time I brined scallops; they were wonderfully tender and plump! Didn’t have wine on hand, but everything else we followed to a T. Thank you.

  12. 5 stars
    Turned out amazing! I was looking for a recipe that had fresh dill and scallops, I had just been at the store looking for seafood for NYE. Large Sea Scallops were on sale and they has fresh dill.

  13. I just made this for my 2020 New Years dinner! So good! The only thing I changed is I did not use dill. I love dill pickles, but not crazy about it as a spice. I only used 1/2 of the dijon mustard, and next time I make this, I’m mot goi g to use it at all. I served it over fettuccine. Omg. Well, I guess I chamged more than one thing!

  14. 5 stars
    Love this recipe, I have made it twice, once as per the instructions and on Christmas day I barbecued the scallops in their shell and then spooned the sauce over them, great either way. Tried it with the prawns and it was really lovely too. Someone mentioned salmon, I think it would be a brilliant combination

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