Tender, sweet Grilled Scallops are a healthy dinner option that’s bursting with flavor! The blended basil dressing with garlic and lemon makes the meal unforgettable. Best of all, it’s easy to make in just minutes!
The Easiest Grilled Seafood Dinner
You’ve probably heard of throwing some shrimp on the barbie, but what about some scallops? That’s right! These buttery little shellfish are just perfect for a quick, flavorful grill-up. Maybe even better than shrimp! And it’s so easy, you’ll want to have them every night.
This easy prep method gets an extra flavor boost from the homemade basil dressing. Sweet, herbal basil just adds the perfect touch to naturally sweet scallops. A little garlic and lemon? Yes, please! Grilled scallops with basil dressing are similar in freshness and zesty flavor to shrimp scampi. This may just be the ultimate warm-weather dinner idea, you guys.
What Are Scallops, Exactly?
Like oysters and clams, scallops are a type of shellfish that live in saltwater. While there are many varieties of scallops, the kind you usually find in stores are either small (bay) scallops, which are good for throwing in a pasta or chowder, and larger (sea) scallops like the ones we’re cooking here. These sweet and tender little shellfish have a pleasant texture that’s delicate but still firm, like a cross between lobster and fish.
What Does a Scallop Taste Like?
Scallops have a unique flavor that is mild and versatile. Their pleasant, briny taste definitely calls the ocean to mind, but scallops are most famous for their buttery sweetness which makes them ideal for simple cooking methods. The flavor of the scallop should be the star of this show! In addition to this recipe, I also love cooking scallops in garlic butter.
The Ingredients You’ll Need
Let’s talk ingredients, shall we? For the actual scallop and zucchini skewers, you really only need salt and pepper. The rest of the ingredients will be blended up into the dressing. Here’s the scoop:
For the Skewers
- Sea Scallops: Remove the tough tendon before cooking the scallops.
- Salt and Pepper: To taste.
- Zucchini: Wash the zucchini, and slice them into thick rounds.
For the Basil Dressing
- Fresh Basil: About half a cup, gently packed into your measuring cup for good measure.
- Garlic: Peel the garlic cloves, and roughly chop in a few pieces.
- Lemon Juice: If you can juice a lemon fresh, that will give the best flavor – but bottled lemon juice is also fine in a pinch.
- Sugar: Just a small amount, to balance the flavors. Honey or maple syrup would also be good.
- Salt and Pepper
- Olive Oil: Some for the dressing, and some for brushing on the grill.
How to Make Grilled Scallops and Zucchini
Once you’ve read the recipe, you’ll see how easy and quick this recipe is! Blending up the dressing and grilling the skewers for a few minutes each is fast and flavorful – pretty much the perfect combination, right?
- Drain the Scallops. Set a rimmed sheet pan out on your work surface, and line it with a layer or two of paper towels. Place the scallops on the paper towels in a single layer, cover with more paper towels, and press down gently. Let them sit for 10 minutes.
- Make the Dressing. While the scallops are draining, add your basil, garlic, lemon juice, sugar, and some salt and pepper to your food processor. Pulse these ingredients five or six times, and then continuously process while you drizzle in most of the olive oil. Scrape down the sides of the processor, and process gain to make a smooth dressing.
- Make the Zucchini Skewers. Toss the cut zucchini with a spoonful of the dressing (set the rest of the dressing aside for serving). Thread the zucchini pieces onto skewers.
- Preheat the Grill and Make the Scallop Skewers. Next, preheat your grill to HIGH. Gently peel the paper towels off of the scallops, and thread them onto skewers as well, brushing them lightly with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper.
- Grill! Brush your grill grates with oil, and lay the zucchini and scallop skewers right on the grates. Let them cook for about 3 minutes, or until lightly charred on the bottom, and then flip them. Cook for 3 minutes or so on the second side. The skewers are done when the zucchini is tender, and the scallops are firm and opaque.
How Do You Know When Scallops Are Done on the Grill?
There are two ways to test a scallop for doneness: cutting it open to check the inside, or using a meat thermometer to check the temperature. If you go with slicing the scallop open, look for the scallop to be firm and opaque, all the way through.
If you go with using a meat thermometer, look for a temperature of about 115 – 120°F (the scallops will come all the way up to their ideal temperature of 130°F after you take them off of the grill).
Such a quick, simple dinner doesn’t have much to get it wrong, so these tips are ultra-simple, too! Here’s how to make the most of your easy grilled scallops.
- Even Cooking: For easy, even cooking, make sure to choose scallops that are all about the same size and thickness. Smaller scallops will cook much more quickly than large scallops.
- Grill Options: If you don’t want to grill the scallops, you can use a cast iron pan and sear them the same way. Or, split the difference and use a well-seasoned cast-iron GRILL pan!
- Prevent Sticking: Always make sure to clean your grill grates well and oil them a bit before you preheat and grill. That will help keep the food from sticking.
- Prevent Burning: When cooking with skewers on the grill, I prefer the metal skewers that are flat, so that you don’t have to worry about the skewers burning or the ingredients slipping around. However, if you do use wooden skewers, just soak them for 20 minutes in clean water. That will keep them from burning on the grill.
Side Dish Ideas
Grilled seafood is great with all kinds of dishes. I like to serve these succulent grilled scallops with a crispy or carb-y side dish, for a little contrast.
- French Fries: Who doesn’t love a side of fries with their seafood dinner? And it doesn’t get any easier than making Crispy Air Fryer Frozen French Fries – so simple, and so good. Use your favorite frozen fries, and get ready for a treat!
- Sweet Potatoes: The sweetness of nutritious, colorful sweet potatoes brings out the best in sweet, buttery scallops. Try these Crispy Sweet Potato Wedges. They’re baked to perfection and utterly addictive.
- Cauli Rice: For a low-carb option, cauliflower rice is always welcome on my table. This simple tutorial for How to Make and Store Cauliflower Rice will give you all the details on this keto-friendly classic.
Storing and Reheating
- You can store leftover scallops and zucchini in shallow airtight containers. Keep them in the fridge for up to three days.
- To reheat, just place the desired portion in a covered skillet over low heat. Allow to cook just until heated through. Don’t overcook, or the scallops will be tough and dry.
Can I Freeze This Dish?
- While raw scallops are often sold frozen, I do not recommend freezing and reheating cooked scallops. Their texture and moisture won’t hold up well when frozen and reheated.
Grilled Scallops with Zucchini
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Cover a sheet pan or rimmed baking sheet with paper towels.
- Arrange scallops on top of the paper towels, in one single layer.
- Cover the scallops with a layer of paper towels; press gently on top and set aside for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime prepare the dressing; to a small food processor add the basil leaves, garlic, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and pepper. Pulse about 6 times.
- With the processor running, drizzle in 6 tablespoons olive oil and continue to process until emulsified. Scrape down the sides as needed.
- Reserve a tablespoon of the dressing in a mixing bowl; set aside the rest for serving.
- Add the zucchini to the mixing bowl with the dressing; toss to combine.
- Thread the zucchini onto skewers and set aside.
- Meanwhile, preheat the grill until hot, leaving all the burners on HIGH.
- Remove the paper towels from the scallops.
- Thread the scallops onto wooden or metal skewers.
- Brush the scallops with remaining olive oil and season them with a bit of salt and pepper.
- Brush the grill grates with olive oil to prevent sticking.
- Place the scallops and zucchini on the grill; cover the grill and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until browned on the bottom and lightly charred.
- Flip them over, cover, and continue to cook for 2 to 4 more minutes, or until zucchini is tender and scallops are firm and opaque.
- Remove from grill.
- Serve with previously prepared basil dressing.
- If using wooden skewers, soak them for 20 minutes in clean water, before using. That will keep them from burning on the grill.
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.