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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 JessicaGavin.com.

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 1/2 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

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Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon Caper Sauce

4.90 from 55 votes
By: Jessica Gavin
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
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

Alyssa Also Recommends:
Want to make this even easier? Here are a few products that I LOVE:
•The Recipe Critic Measuring Cup
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Nutrition

Calories: 242kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 15gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 10263mgPotassium: 353mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 87IUVitamin C: 23mgCalcium: 40mgIron: 1mg

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

Additional Info

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

 

About 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 JessicaGavin.com

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Recipe Rating




119 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I had most of the ingredients except for the Lemons and Dijon mustard. But I had small oranges and a brown spicy mustard so I gave it a try. Wow! The flavor was subtle but delicious.

  2. 5 stars
    Amazing!! Changed it a bit due to food allergies so no butter, wine or pepper and it was still wonderful. Also made this as a sauce for fish and equally yummy. Thanks for posting.

  3. 5 stars
    This dish will be a repeat. We really enjoyed the full flavor of lemon and dill and the scallops were cooked perfectly. Served over pasta!

  4. I love scallops with lemon, butter and capers. My results with this recipe were disappointing. Either the cook time was too long or the heat too high but the scallops came out tough and chewy …
    Hope others had had more success!

  5. 5 stars
    The sauce was amazing even without the dill and chives. My freezer broke and I tried to use my thawed scallops over two days. This recipe was awesome. I actually cooked down the sauce and to make it thicker threw in some cooked pasta first, then added the scallops and topped with parmesan cheese. My husband thought the mustard added a nice punch. Will definitely make again.

  6. 5 stars
    Followed recipe exactly. Scrumptious. The second time we served it with orzo pasta to get every drop of sauce. And the third…

  7. Can you use dry vermouth instead of the white wine? I have heard the vermouth gives the scallops a great flavor.

  8. 5 stars
    First time making scallops and your step by step recipe was so easy to follow and they turned out great! Thanks for posting a great easy to follow recipe. I will be making this again and again!!

  9. Soaking calamari in milk overnight makes it more tender; so the milk soak may help wet scallops. Worth a try!

    1. I love all of your recipes! I use quit a few of them! I was wondering if that is the correct amount of sodium for the scallop recipe? 10263 sodium

      Thank you for sharing all of your recipes with us!

      1. Thank you! Yes, depending on the type of scallops and the amount of sodium in other ingredients plus the added salt onto the sodium it does add up quickly. I do not believe that this is that high of sodium but when I do the calculation that is what it is telling me. We just need to be our own judge of things though.

    1. Hi Alice!
      Brining the scallops will help to deepen the flavor on the inside of the scallop and enrich the taste. I hope you love it just as much as I do! Thanks for following along with me!