Creamy Lemon Butter Scallops

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Sweet and tender fresh scallops are a seasonal delicacy! You’ll love how their delightful lobster-like flavor melds with a creamy, delicious lemon butter sauce in this Creamy Scallops recipe.

side shot of scallops cooking in a lemon cream sauce

Easy Lemon Butter Scallops

Scallops are like the roses of seafood: sweet, soft and luxurious. I absolutely love fresh scallops when they’re available, and I especially like the fact that they are so quick and easy to cook! Check out these awesome Garlic Butter Scallops.

In this recipe, I’m setting off the light, ocean-fresh taste of scallops with a creamy sauce. Is your mouth watering yet? It definitely will when you taste the lemon-butter-garlic combo of this dish!

If you like shrimp scampi, this one will be sure to please. Because it’s so special, I think it’s perfect for a romantic dinner, maybe a surprise date night in. Whatever the occasion, please promise you’ll try this easy (and fancy!) entrée. You’re gonna love these lemon butter scallops!

What You’ll Need

We’re keeping it simple with this one, to let the fresh seafood shine. All you need are scallops, cream, lemon and a few pantry staples.

  • Scallops: This recipe is for a pound of sea scallops, dry packed and thawed.
  • Salt & Pepper: To taste.
  • Butter: Have ready three tablespoons of unsalted butter, divided.
  • Garlic: Mince or press two cloves of garlic.
  • Broth: You’ll need half cup of chicken broth, preferably low-sodium.
  • Heavy Cream: To make the sauce creamy, you’ll need 1/3 cup of heavy cream.
  • Lemon Juice: I like to use a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, but you could also use lemon juice from concentrate.
  • Lemon Slices & Parsley: For garnish.
overhead shot of cooked scallops in creamy lemon butter sauce

Scallops 101

Maybe you’re not familiar with scallops, or you’ve eaten them, but never cooked them. Have no fear! Here you’ll find the inside scoop on all things scallop.

What are scallops?

Scallops are a type of shellfish, similar to clams, oysters, and other familiar shellfish. If you’ve ever seen a picture of a classic “clamshell” that was perfectly symmetrical and pretty (think the Little Mermaid’s bikini top!), it was probably actually a scallop shell! Scallops live in all areas of the globe, and unlike many shellfish, they don’t usually attach to anything as they grow and live. Instead, they use their shells like a fan to scoot them along the ocean floor. Cool, right?

What is the difference between wet vs dry?

The meat of a scallop is rich and light at the same time, so it’s very prized. They’re high in protein, low in fat, and delicious in flavor! But, they aren’t always in season, so most of the time, you have to buy them frozen at your local fishmonger’s or supermarket.

The difference between dry-packed and wet-packed scallops is that dry-packed scallops have no additives at all. Wet scallops are scallops that have been soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate, a preservative, which can affect their flavor and texture. Soaking also makes them absorb water, so that they appear larger, which means that if you purchase by the pound, you’re paying for that extra water.

If you’re not sure whether your scallops are dry-packed or wet, pay attention to the color. Natural, dry-packed scallops should have a creamy or pinkish color. Pure-white scallops look pristine, but they are almost certainly treated with sodium tripolyphosphate.

close up overhead shot of cooked scallops in cream sauce

How do you thaw frozen scallops?

Here are two easy food-safe ways to thaw frozen scallops. The first is just to thaw them overnight in the refrigerator. It’s best to place them on the bottom shelf, so they don’t leak on anything if they leak at all.

The faster way is to take your bag of scallops and hold it under cold running water in your kitchen sink. Turn the bag over frequently to allow the cool water to run over the bag evenly. The scallops should be thawed in just a few minutes.

Do you rinse them before cooking?

This is a tricky question! It really depends on who you ask. Most sources agree that it’s best to rinse scallops, in case they retain any grit or sand from the ocean floor. It’s no fun biting into food that has a gritty feel to it. Well, except for grits. But, that’s a different, delicious grittiness. 🙂

Other cooks, though, say that small and tender bay scallops can lose some of their juicy flavor if you rinse them, and that most scallops sold these days are well-cleaned before packing. The choice is really up to you.

cooking scallops in a skillet

How to Make Lemon Butter Scallops

Are you excited? I am! 🙌 Here’s my super easy method for making this scallops recipe.

  1. Prep Scallops: Pat the scallops dry with paper towels – don’t skip this step! Then, remove any attached side-muscle on the scallop by pinching and tearing it away. Season the scallops on all sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Cook Scallops: Set a large skillet over high heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter; heat until sizzling. Place the scallops in the skillet in a single layer. Do not overcrowd the pan! That will steam the scallops, instead of searing them. If your skillet is too small for all the scallops at one time, cook them in batches. Cook for 2 minutes, or until browned on the bottom. Do not move them around.
  3. Flip & Continue Cooking: Flip over the scallops, lower the heat to medium-high, and continue to cook for 1 ½ to 2 minutes, or until the second side is golden brown. Remove cooked scallops from the pan, and set them aside on a plate.
  4. Cook Garlic: Melt the remaining butter in the skillet, scraping up any browned bits left on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the garlic; cook for 15 seconds, stirring frequently. Do not burn the garlic.
  5. Reduce Chicken Broth: Add the chicken broth and cook for around 4 minutes, or until the broth is reduced.
  6. Finish Sauce: Whisk the heavy cream and lemon juice into the chicken broth mixture. Continue to cook for 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
  7. Serve: Spoon the finished sauce over the scallops. Garnish with parsley and lemon slices and serve.
cooking and whisking lemon butter sauce

Tips for Success

Need more advice to make sure this scallops recipe turns out perfect? Check out these handy tips and tricks.

  • Pat Dry & Milk Soak Wet Scallops: If you do end up using wet packed scallops, try this simple trick! Press out excess moisture using paper towels, then give the scallops a quick soak in milk for about ten minutes. Pat them dry again, and then cook.
  • Circle Around: To get the best sear on your scallops, place them one by one in the hot pan, circling around in one direction until you get to the center, and keeping them a good distance apart to avoid crowding. When they begin to get dark brown on the bottom edge, flip them, starting with the same first scallop and circling around the same way, to the center.
  • Cook Times Vary: Keep in mind that smaller scallops need less cooking time! Very small bay scallops may cook in only a minute or two. Scallops are done when they’re firm, but not rubbery to the touch.

Serving Suggestions

To serve your scallops, you’ll probably want some tasty sides! Here are a few delicious ideas to get you started!

overhead shot of cooked scallops garnished with parsley and lemon slices

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

  • Store scallops in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Leftover scallops should be heated over low heat, in a covered skillet with a tiny splash of water to help keep them moist. Flip them once or twice to help them heat evenly without overcooking.

Can I Freeze Extras?

  • Yes, you can! Wrap the cooled scallops tightly in two layers of plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. Scallops will last in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • Thaw in the fridge before reheating.

ENJOY!

5 from 9 votes
overhead shot of cooked scallops garnished with parsley and lemon slices
Print

Creamy Lemon Butter Scallops

7 9 7
WW Freestyle: 7
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
Sweet and tender fresh Scallops served with a Creamy Lemon Butter sauce!
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 4
Calories: 230

Equipment

  • Stove

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh sea scallops, dry packed, thawed
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
  • cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  • Lemon slices, for garnish

Instructions 

  • Pat dry the scallops with paper towels.
  • Remove any attached side-muscle on the scallop by pinching and tearing it away from the scallop.
  • Season scallops on all sides with salt and pepper.
  • Set a large skillet over high heat and add 2 tablespoons butter; cook until sizzling.
  • Add the scallops in one layer; do not overcrowd the pan because that will steam the scallops. If skillet is too small for all the scallops, cook them in batches.
  • Cook scallops for 2 minutes, or until browned on the bottom. Do not move them around.
  • Flip over the scallops, lower heat to medium-high, and continue to cook for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, or until bottom is golden brown.
  • Remove scallops from pan and set aside on a plate.
  • Melt remaining butter in the skillet, scraping up any browned bits left on the bottom of the pan.
  • Stir in garlic; cook for 20 seconds, stirring frequently. Do not burn the garlic.
  • Add chicken broth, bring to a boil, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until broth is reduced.
  • Whisk in heavy cream and lemon juice; whisk until well combined.
  • Continue to cook for 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
  • Spoon sauce over scallops.
  • Garnish with parsley and lemon slices.
  • Serve.

Notes

  • NET CARBS: 4 g
  • WW POINTS: To reduce your points by two, use Half & Half in place of Heavy Cream. 
Nutrition Facts
Creamy Lemon Butter Scallops
Amount Per Serving
Calories 230 Calories from Fat 153
% Daily Value*
Fat 17g26%
Saturated Fat 10g50%
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 77mg26%
Sodium 462mg19%
Potassium 285mg8%
Carbohydrates 5g2%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 15g30%
Vitamin A 558IU11%
Vitamin C 2mg2%
Calcium 26mg3%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keywords: how long to cook scallops, lemon butter scallops, pan seared scallops

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17 Responses
  1. ShelBel

    Hi Katerina. I discovered your site yesterday when searching for a Keto Scallop recipe. I had just purchased a 2lb bag of frozen bay scallops from Lidl (and even though I didn’t know to look for it, it had NO preservatives!). After defrosting, rinsing, and patting dry the scallops I proceeded to cook them according to your recipe. OMG – this was SOOO delicious. I paired it with a cauliflower mushroom risotto recipe (which soaked up the extra sauce) and roasted asparagus. This meal was better than any restaurant could have served me! Your Creamy Lemon Butter Scallop recipe is the BEST and definitely a KEEPER. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Jo

    Why are these so addicting! Hehe Love all the flavors in these lemon butter scallops, It’s the star on our table!

  3. Lisalia

    That lemon butter sauce is EVERYTHING! The scallops tasted so delicious. It’s my new favorite seafood recipe. Thanks!

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Katerina of Diethood
Hey There!
I'm Katerina, a cookie-maker & picture-taker! For me, eating is a moment to share, an enjoyment, a passion. I hope you enjoy my recipes!

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