Pan-seared scallops with a lemon butter sauce on a white plate.

Pan-Seared Scallops with Lemon Butter Recipe

Pan-Seared Scallops with Lemon Butter makes an impressive yet simple meal when you feel like cooking something really, really special. You’ll fall in love with this classic preparation, which uses a brown butter lemon sauce that makes the sweet ocean scallops sparkle.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword scallops
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 235kcal
Author Meggan Hill


For the scallops:

  • 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops 10 to 20 per pound, preferably dry, small side muscles removed (see notes)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter

For the lemon butter sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 small shallot minced (1-2 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


To make the scallops:

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees (to keep cooked scallops warm for a few minutes while preparing lemon butter sauce).
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet or plate with a clean kitchen towel. Arrange scallops in a single layer on towel, then cover with a second clean kitchen towel. Press down gently to blot liquid.
  • Let scallops rest at room temperature until towels have absorbed most of their moisture, about 10 minutes. Season both sides of scallops with salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a large skillet over high heat, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until just smoking. Add half of the scallops in a single layer, flat-side down. Cook, without moving, until well-browned, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
  • Add 1 tablespoon butter to the skillet. Using tongs, flip scallops. Continue to cook, using a large spoon to baste each scallop with butter until the sides of scallops are firm and centers are opaque, about 30 to 90 seconds longer (tilt skillet to one side so the butter pools and is easier to scoop). Remove smaller scallops as they finish cooking.
  • Transfer scallops to a large plate and tent loosely with foil. Wipe out skillet with paper towels and repeat with remaining vegetable oil, scallops, and butter. Transfer to oven to keep warm while preparing lemon butter sauce.

To make the lemon butter sauce:

  • In a small, heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Cook, swirling constantly, until butter turns dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Stir in shallots until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat and stir in parsley, thyme, and lemon juice.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper). Serve immediately with scallops.


Scallops have a square-shaped tag of tissue on the side called a side-muscle. The muscle fibers run in a different direction than the rest of the scallop and it feels thick and tough. You can remove the side-muscle by pinching it and tearing it away. 


Calories: 235kcal