Why you’ll love this recipe:
Don’t be intimidated by sea scallops! I know their price point is steep, but they’re quick and easy to prepare. When I need a fast, no-fuss dinner that’s melt-in-your-mouth delicious, seared scallops is my number one choice. They fully cook in a hot skillet in less than 5 minutes!
- No-fail scallops recipe
- Ready in 35 minutes
- Only 8 ingredients, plus seasoning
With a mild, sweet flavor, tender texture, and caramelized edges, this scallops recipe is simply irresistible! And it’s more affordable than ordering them at a restaurant.
Key Ingredient Notes:
- Sea scallops – Since scallops are the star, it’s best to purchase high-quality sea scallops. If possible, look for dry-packed scallops. This means they’ve been packed with no additives or soapy-tasting chemicals. They should look dry with a slightly pink hue and a pleasant smell. Wet-packed scallops release more liquid as they cook, making it harder to achieve that golden brown sear.
- Butter – Butter balances the zip of the lime juice and makes the sauce rich and creamy! Use unsalted butter, so you can control the quality and amount of salt in the sauce.
- Lime juice – Ditch bottled lime juice. Fresh lime juice is far brighter and better in flavor. I always keep limes in the fridge. They’re affordable and they last up to a month. They brighten up any dish, sauce, or dip!
- Tequila – There’s no need to use top-shelf tequila when you cook. The alcohol will evaporate, leaving a spicy kick to your sauce. Reposado or Blanco tequila both work great.
- Angel hair pasta – Angel hair pasta is similar to spaghetti noodles, but thinner. They’re perfect for light, seafood dishes and enable a good sauce-to-pasta ratio while you dig in!
How to make this recipe:
Here’s how to make restaurant-quality scallops in the comfort of your own kitchen!
- Prepare the scallops. Rinse the scallops under cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. A wet scallop will steam instead of sear. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Remove the muscle on the side of the scallops, if desired.
- Cook the scallops. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Transfer the scallops to the sizzling hot skillet. Be sure to give them space. Overcrowding causes steam, which prevents a golden brown crust.
- Sear the scallops for 2 minutes, without touching or moving them. If the scallops won’t release from the pan with a gentle pull, they aren’t ready.
- Flip the scallops. Use kitchen tongs to gently flip the scallops over and cook for 2 more minutes. The middle of the scallops should still be slightly translucent. Overcooked scallops taste chewy instead of succulent, so resist the urge to cook them a long time. Transfer the cooked scallops to a plate.
- Make the tequila lime sauce. Remove the same skillet from the heat and carefully add the tequila and lime juice. It’s very hot and will bubble and spit. Return the skillet back to medium heat, add the garlic, and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Let the mixture reduce by half.
- Stir in the butter and add the scallops with their juices. Warm the scallops for 30 seconds or so then serve over the cooked angel hair pasta. Enjoy immediately!
- Cook the pasta ahead of time! Cook the pasta until it’s al dente. Toss the cooked pasta with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, then let it cool for 15 minutes or so. Transfer the pasta to a zip-top bag and refrigerate until ready to use. To reheat, drop the pasta into boiling water for 30 seconds.
- Swap the pasta with microwaveable steam-in-bag rice. Microwaveable jasmine rice takes under 2 minutes, and it’s the perfect vehicle to sop up the zesty sauce!
- Store leftover scallops, pasta, and sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Do not reheat scallops in the microwave. They will overcook and taste rubbery instead of tender.
- Reheat the scallops in a large skillet over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of butter and toss with the pasta and scallops. Cover the pan cook for a few minutes until hot throughout.
Since scallops have a neutral flavor profile, they complement almost any dish! They do have a delicate flavor that can easily be overpowered by bold flavors. For this recipe, pasta, rice, or oven roasted vegetables make good sides because they soak up the flavor of the tangy sauce!
Not long! Scallops cook quickly in a hot skillet. They are fully cooked within 4 to 5 minutes. It’s important not to overcook them, or they will become chewy. Both sides should be golden brown, and they should look mostly opaque.
You can cook them the same way you do fresh, you just need to thaw them first. Frozen scallops will release too much liquid and won’t caramelize. Thaw frozen scallops in the refrigerator overnight, then pat them dry before you plan to use them.
Tequila Lime Scallops
- 1 lb sea scallops thawed, if frozen Note 1
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ cup lime juice
- ¼ cup tequila Note 2
- 2 garlic cloves pressed
- ¼ cup loosely packed cilantro chopped
- 8 oz angel hair pasta cooked according to box directions
- To prepare scallops, wash the scallops under cold water. Thoroughly dry the scallops with paper towel and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
- To cook scallops, in a large cast iron, or stainless steel skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. (I suggest using large 12-inch skillet to give plenty of room for scallops.
- Add the scallops to sizzling hot skillet making sure the scallops don’t touch each other. (Avoid over-crowding the pan. Work in batches, if needed.)
- Sear the scallops for about 2 minutes without disruption until golden crust forms. If the scallops are stuck to the pan, that means they are not ready. Don’t force it.
- Using kitchen tongs, flip the scallops and cook the other side for another 2 minutes. The center of the scallops should be slightly translucent. (Tip: Be careful not to overcook the scallops. Overcooked scallops are chewy and rubbery. Not good!) Remove the scallops onto a clean plate, cover and set aside.
- To make the tequila lime sauce, remove the skillet in which you cooked the scallops from heat and carefully add tequila and lime juice. (Be careful, as it will bubble up rapidly!)
- Return the skillet back to medium heat, add garlic and cook the sauce until it reduced by half, scraping up the browned bits from the scallops.
- Stir in the butter and add scallops with all its juices on the plate. Warm up the scallops for 30 seconds or so.
- Serve the scallops with cooked pasta.
– Store leftover scallops, pasta, and sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
– Do not reheat scallops in the microwave. They will overcook and taste rubbery instead of tender.
– Reheat the scallops in a large skillet over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of butter and toss with the pasta and scallops. Cover the pan cook for a few minutes until hot throughout. Note 1: Purchase high-quality dry-packed sea scallops. Never thaw scallops in hot water. Thaw them in the refrigerator overnight or in a sealed bag in a bowl of cold water. Note 2: Reposado or Blanco tequila both work great.
* Disclaimer: All nutrition information are estimates only. Read full nutrition disclosure.
Sharing of this recipe is encouraged and appreciated. Copying of full recipe to any social media is prohibited.