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Pan-Seared Scallops with Lemon and Brown Butter

  • All White Fish
  • Shrimp
  • Pan-sear
  • 20-minute meal
  • Entertaining
  • Active Time:15 min
  • Total Time:20 min
  • Servings:2-4
  • Difficulty:Easy
Photo by Grace Parisi

Sea scallops are luxuriously tender and sweet. Here, they’re seared to golden perfection and finished with lemony brown butter sauce. Olives add a mild brininess, but for more punch, add a tablespoon of drained capers.


  • 1 pound sea scallops

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped (about ¼ cup)

  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped pitted green olives

  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tender herbs such as tarragon, flat-leaf parsley, chives, or dill

  • Crusty bread for serving


Cook the Scallops

Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and remove and discard the connective muscle along the edge. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

In a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the scallops and cook without turning until deeply golden, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook just until lightly browned, 1 to 4 minutes, depending on the size of the scallop. Transfer the scallops to a plate and tent loosely to keep warm.

Make the Pan Sauce and Serve

Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter and shallot to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallot is softened and the butter is lightly browned and nutty, about 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and ¼ cup water. Increase the heat to high and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half, about 2 minutes, shaking and swirling the pan occasionally. Stir in the olives and lemon zest, then season with salt and pepper.

Return the scallops to the skillet, browned side up, along with any accumulated juices. Turn to coat in the sauce, simmering just until heated through. Sprinkle with the herbs and serve with crusty bread.

Premium Seafood Subscription Box delivery of halibut and sockeye portions
Premium Seafood Subscription Box delivery of halibut and sockeye portions

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Pro Tips

Pair it Up

Look for a medium-bodied white wine with some acidity to balance the richness of this herb-infused butter sauce. Sauvignon blanc from California or Argentina is always a great choice.

Change It Up

This preparation works well with halibut, sablefish, or salmon fillets. In step 2, sear the fillets for about 3 minutes per side until just cooked through, then proceed to step 3.


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