Olive Oil Seared Scallops

Grilled scallops on bed of onion confit, close-up

Thomas Barwick / Iconica / Getty Images

Total Time: 9 min
Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 4 min
Servings: 4 (4-oz portions)

Nutrition Highlights (per serving)

185 calories
8g fat
6g carbs
23g protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 (4-oz portions)
Amount per serving  
Calories 185
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 46mg 15%
Sodium 1047mg 46%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g  
Includes 0g Added Sugars 0%
Protein 23g  
Vitamin D 0mcg 0%
Calcium 12mg 1%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 356mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Seared scallops are a great dish to prepare when entertaining but are also simple enough that they can be prepared for an easy weeknight meal. Sea scallops are a healthy, quick-cooking, and delicious seafood dish. The recipe is not complicated and focuses on proper technique to prevent overcooking the scallops which will make them rubbery. This version also uses olive oil instead of traditional butter basting in order to reduce saturated fat and increase monounsaturated fats.

Scallops, part of the shellfish family, contain many health benefits when integrated into a balanced diet. From omega-3 fatty acids to vitamin B12 they provide, scallops and other shellfish deliver health benefits for the heart, brain, and skin.


  • 1 pound sea scallops
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or enough to coat bottom of pan)


  1. If not done in advance, remove the small side muscle from each scallop. Rinse scallops under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

  2. Season with salt and pepper.

  3. Add olive oil to a large saute pan and heat on medium-high heat until the oil starts to shimmer but before it smokes. (It is important the pan is hot enough; otherwise, the scallops will not brown.)

  4. Carefully add scallops to the pan, making sure there is space between each scallop.

  5. Cook the scallops about 2 minutes, flip carefully to the other side and cook for another 2 minutes. They should have a nice golden crust and still be slightly translucent on the inside. Serve immediately.

Variations and Substitutions

The key to simple seared scallops is starting with scallops that are as fresh as possible without added preservatives. Sometimes scallops are treated with a solution of water and a chemical salt called sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) which makes them very watery when prepared and more challenging to get a proper sear and nice beautiful caramelization. Look for "dry" or "chemical-free" scallops when you purchase them. It is a good sign if scallops are sticky to the touch and should smell fresh like the sea.

When purchasing scallops, it is also important to understand differences in sizes. Scallops are labeled by the actual count of scallops per pound. For example, U10 scallops, which are the largest, contain 10 scallops per pound. Smaller ones such as U30 scallops would mean there are approximately 30 scallops per pound.

Once you have the basic technique down, try varying adding new flavors to your seared scallops:

  • Amp up the flavor with herbs and aromatics. Add a sprig of fresh herbs (i.e. thyme, tarragon, rosemary) or a few crushed fresh garlic cloves to the pan as you are searing the scallops.
  • Season with spices prior to searing for added flavor and nutritional value. A great combination is cumin and coriander or smoked paprika.
  • Add a squeeze of citrus to brighten up the flavor after they are finished cooking.

Cooking and Serving Tips

  • Scallops have a muscle attached to their sides that needs to be removed before cooking. These are also called scallop "feet" and are easily removed by hand.
  • The scallops need to be dry in order to get a proper sear so make sure they are patted dry if they have been rinsed or are wet from thawing out.
  • Choose a pan that is large enough to cook the scallops with space between each scallop. If the pan is overcrowded, scallops will steam rather than brown.

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1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Venugopal V, Gopakumar K. Shellfish: Nutritive value, health benefits, and consumer safety. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2017;16(6):1219-1242. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12312

By Laura Dolson
Laura Dolson is a health and food writer who develops low-carb and gluten-free recipes for home cooks.