Perfect Seared Scallops with Citrus Butter

Learn how to make perfectly seared scallops- it’s easier than it seems- served with a tangy citrus butter and fresh herb sauce.

A white ceramic plate with seared scallops topped with citrus butter.

Today I’m going to show you how to make the best pan seared sea scallops, and I promise it’s easier than you think!

 Close up of a seared sea scallop with citrus sauce

Even if you’ve made scallops before, I’m sharing some helpful tips to make sure they’ll turn out perfectly every time from here on out, and pairing them with a sweet and tangy citrus butter accented with my favorite clementines from Darling Citrus. You’re definitely going to want to bookmark this recipe for your next fancy dinner party or date night in.

A stick of butter, parsley, chives, clementines and raw sea scallops on a marble table.

Lemon butter is a pretty traditional sauce to serve with seared sea scallops, but I couldn’t resist switching things up a bit and adding freshly squeezed Darling Clementines to the mix for a pop of bright sweetness.

Hand-squeezed clementine halves on a white cutting board and a white bowl filled with clementine juice.

At 70 calories per serving and a great source of both potassium and Vitamin C, there’s no shortage of good reasons to incorporate Darling Clementines into your everyday dishes. As you may know I’ve been collaborating with them on recipes for the past year or so and have been amazed at all the ways there are to use them in cooking, baking, and even cocktail making! Click here to check out all the clementine recipes I’ve created with them so far!

Pan-seared sea scallops in a white Staub cast iron skillet.

Here are my top tips for perfectly seared scallops every time

  • Make sure to pat the scallops dry all over with a paper towel. Excess moisture will interfere with the caramelization process and your scallops might not brown if they’re too wet. I like to use fresh rather than frozen scallops as they are typically less wet as frozen ones when thawed. If you’re using thawed frozen scallops just make sure to really blot them dry.
  • Make sure the oil in the pan is pretty hot before adding the scallops. You want to hear a sizzle when you add the scallops to the pan, and the oil should be shimmering, but not smoking, which means the oil is burning.
  • You only need to flip the scallops once! This is true of any protein you are searing. Just have patience and allow that beautiful crust to develop. This will make the scallops easier to release from the pan and flip, too.
Citrus butter sauce in a cast iron skillet with a wooden spoon.

How to make the citrus butter pan sauce

The citrus butter sauce cooks quickly in the same pan as the scallops. After they are done cooking, remove them from the pan and transfer to a plate. Cover it to keep them warm, Turn the heat down a bit to medium and add two tablespoons of butter, scraping up the yummy browned bits that developed while the scallops were cooking. Add the shallots and cook until softened. Add the wine (or broth) and bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes to reduce by about half. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter, clementine juice and lemon juice. Cook for another minute or two until the sauce has thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in some fresh chopped parsley.

A plate of seared scallops with citrus butter garnished with chives.

What to serve with seared scallops

There are so many options when it comes to side dishes for these scallops. My favorites:

Scallops with citrus butter on a white plate with a silver fork and a woven placemat on a marble table.

FAQ

What is the best oil to cook scallops with?

Since the scallops are cooking at a higher heat, A neutral oil with a fairly high smoke point is best, such as avocado oil or safflower oil. I actually like to combine half butter and half and oil. I like the browned bits that develop in the pan while cooking from the butter caramelizing as it contributes depth to the citrus sauce, but adding a higher heat friendly oil keeps the butter from burning.

What is the best type of pan to use for cooking scallops?

You can cook scallops on just about any type of pan with good results, as long as it’s hot enough and you don’t flip the scallops too soon (see the next question). However, my favorite is a large, heavy cast iron pan, which allows you to cook all of the scallops in one batch, and provides a nice, even heat which will help the scallops to caramelize evenly.

Why did my scallops stick to the pan?

If scallops are sticking, they are not ready to be flipped yet because the golden crust has not developed enough. It’s also possible that your scallops are too wet or your pan is not hot enough, so make sure to pat the scallops dry and season them just before cooking (adding salt too early can draw out moisture). Also check that the oil in the pan is sizzling but not smoking (that’s too hot) before adding the scallops.

How to tell when scallops are done cooking

When the scallops are done cooking, they should have a beautiful golden brown crust on both sides, and the interior should be opaque. They should feel tender and bounce back slightly when touched. If they feel tough and rubbery, they’ve been overcooked.

Scallops with citrus butter on a white plate with a silver fork and a woven placemat on a marble table.

If you make these Seared Scallops with Citrus Butter, leave a comment and rating below, and share it on Instagram with #LePetitEats!

This post is sponsored by Darling Citrus. As always all opinions are my own.

A plate of scallops with citrus butter, chives and clementine wedges.
5 from 1 vote
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Seared Scallops with Citrus Butter

Learn how to make perfectly seared scallops- it's easier than it seems- served with a tangy citrus butter and fresh herb sauce.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Gluten-free
Keyword citrus, scallops, seafood
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 4
Author Denisse

Ingredients

for the scallops:

  • 12 sea scallops
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil
  • butter

for the citrus butter:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • shallot minced
  • white wine or broth
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed clementine juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives chopped

Instructions

  1. Remove the side muscle from the scallops if attached. Pat dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat vegetable oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the scallops in a single layer. Do over crowd the pan and cook them in batches if necessary. 

Cook for 2-3 minutes without flipping, until a golden crust forms. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side, until the outside is browned and the scallops are opaque throughout. Remove from skillet, transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium and add 2 tablespoons of butter, scraping up any browned bits. Add the shallots and cook until softened, 1-2 minutes.



  4. Add the wine (or broth) and bring to a simmer for 2 minutes or until reduced by about half. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter, clementine juice and lemon juice. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until sauce has thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper; stir in parsley.

  5. Spoon the sauce over the scallops and garnish with chives.

More healthy fish and seafood recipes from the blog: 


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