Pan-fried Scallops With Sesame Lime Sauce




About: I've been posting Instructables since the site's inception, and now build other things at Autodesk. Follow me for food and more!

Insanely easy and fabulously good.

Step 1: Prepare Scallops

Go hunt or gather some nice sea scallops. These are the big ones; you don't want the little bay scallops for this recipe.

Sea scallops tend to be expensive, so make sure you either have enough for your group or are prepared to preemptively divvy them up and provide enough other food to keep people happy. They taste fantastic when cooked properly, and I could easily eat a pound of these without help. However, we only have a pound of frozen scallops from Trader Joe's, so there's a big salad too.

Thaw the scallops if necessary. Give your scallops a quick cold water rinse, then lay them out on paper towels to dry, turning them over to dry both sides. You can leave them here for a bit if you need to; just don't forget about them.

Step 2: Prepare Seasoning

Mix ground pepper into either flour or starch, creating a nice mix as shown below. You can also use chili powder or other ground spices, but I prefer a simple mix to bring out that great scallop flavor without overshadowing it.

We usually use flour, but did a parallel run with potato starch today. The results were quite similar, but we slightly preferred the starch-dipped scallops. This preference might disappear in a double-blind experiment, but we can't be bothered when hungry.

Step 3: A Bit of Prep: Juice and Plate

Juice a lime, two if they're small. If you don't have a lime use a fresh lemon, fresh orange, or some bottled orange juice. Bottled lemon/lime juice is NOT an adequate replacement for the real thing, at least in this dish. (Ignore the rest of the items in the picture below- they're from another Instructable.)

Set the juice aside near the stove, ready for quick access after the scallops are cooked.

Meanwhile, put a couple layers of paper towels over a large plate. You'll be draining the cooked scallops on this shortly.

Step 4: Dredge & Send to Pan

Dredge the scallops in the flour/pepper mix, making sure that all surfaces are covered. You should get a very thin white coating all over the scallop- this is why you wan them dry.

Meanwhile, heat your pan (any flat-bottomed pan, regular or non-stick, will be fine) and give it a layer of canola or another high-heat oil. Make sure the oil is hot enough to sizzle before adding the scallops.

Work quickly, dredging scallops and adding them to the hot oiled pan.

Step 5: Pan-fry

The scallops should start sizzling madly as you put them in the pan. Quickly fill the rest of the pan, then get your tongs out to flip and check the first ones for browning.

As soon as you begin to see browning on the underside of the scallops, quickly flip them all over. This really should take about a minute on each side, maximum.

By the time you're done flipping all the scallops, it's almost time to remove the first few from the pan.

Step 6: Remove Scallops

Yank the scallops out of the pan, and set them on the paper towel-lined plate to cool. You may still see an uncooked band in the middle of the scallop, but this will cook through as the scallops rest.

Check the pan for adequate oil coverage, then dredge more scallops and repeat the process. Since cooking the scallops takes 2-3 minutes, doing them in batches isn't much of a hardship. It's certainly worth it to make sure the scallops come out nicely.

Cook the rest of the scallops, and remove the pan from heat when done.

Step 7: Make Sauce

Deglaze the still-hot pan with the lime juice. Just dump it into the pan (beware of steam burns!) and stir vigorously for a few seconds to melt off all the tasty brown bits (fond). Before the lime juice can cook down and caramelize or burn, use a heat-safe silicone spatula or wooden spoon to scrape the nice brown goo into a small bowl or ramekin.

Add some sesame oil, the sweetener of your choice (I like agave nectar for its mild flavor and ease in dissolving), and some salt and pepper. You should have a tasty, thick, dark brown syrup.

Options: use lemon or orange juice to deglaze the pan. Add some cayenne pepper or Sriracha (rooster) sauce to give the sauce a spicier kick.

Step 8: Serve

Scallops can disappear quickly, so make sure you've divided them equally to avoid poaching.

If you're being stylish, arrange a serving of scallops then drizzle them with the lime/sesame sauce. A sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds on top would look nice, but we forgot until after the photoshoot.

For buffets, dot each scallop with sauce and insert a toothpick.

Serve with a fruity salad with orange/sesame vinaigrette. (recipe soon)



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      13 Discussions


      11 years ago on Introduction

      WOW, WOW, WOW! Canida, this looks amazingly delicious, and easy too!
      Next time my mom buys scallops (hopefully soon, if you know what I mean), I will try this out, it looks really yummy.
      I just want to print out a picture of it, then eat it, but then ink could kill me, so I'll just have to wait until the scallops are bought.
      Great job!
      +1 rating.
      (added to favorites)


      11 years ago on Introduction

      This looks really delicious! Thanks! Also, I really like that dish from the completed/step 8 picture... which brand is it?

      1 reply

      Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

      Unfortunately I don't know- they were a gift. The only information on the back says "Made in Japan".


      12 years ago

      Yum, my mouth is watering already. I'm going to have to try this some day, now that I know how. I first tried fresh scallops at the Fisherman's Landing restaurant in Rocky Harbor, Newfoundland a few years ago, and after becoming a fan of them, I've yet to eat ones that are as good as those.


      12 years ago

      I just tried this recipe for lunch Christmas Eve. I actually had never tasted or cooked scallops before, so I was dubious as to whether this would be to my liking. It was wonderful. I made a substitution of honey for the agave nectar, but found that I had to add quite a bit to take the edge off the lime. We paired the scallops with a salad drizzled with sesame vinaigrette. This is usually how I come up with a new recipe - I get an idea and start modifying it for my taste (or what's in my refrigerator). Thank you for the great idea.


      12 years ago

      Sea scallops can be deceptively large. One gets used to a "serving" of half a dozen or so, and then you have these scallops weighing two ounces each, and it's too much; if not too much to eat, it's more than you're SUPPOSED to eat... Hmm. you cook like I do, without much (any?) exact measurement, but phrases like "Add some sesame oil, the sweetener of your choice, and some salt and pepper" can be frightening to the beginning cook (yea, I end up washing the 1/8t measuring spoons when my wife cooks...) In this case, even I am a bit worried about the relative proportions of pan juices, sesame oil, and other stuff. Approximate quantities might be helpful...

      2 replies

      Reply 12 years ago

      That's why most food should be portioned by weight, not that anyone ever bothers. Thankfully when eating lean protein (as opposed to fats, starches, and sugars) it's harder to overeat- you just get full.

      You do ask the hard questions, don't you? I don't measure, so when making things up on the fly I'm especially vague on quantities. I'll do my best estimate, though. I added about 3T lime juice to the pan, yielding about 2T pan juices as some of it steamed off. I then added enough agave nectar to take any bitter edge off and make it gently sweet, probably about 1/2-1t, then about 1/8-1/4t sesame oil, just enough to get the flavor through. A dash/pinch of salt and peppper. Taste after each addition, and modify accordingly.

      Does that help? Is there anything else I could say to clarify besides give hard numbers? (They would vary according to your particular lime, pan, sweetener, type of salt, etc.) I can modify the step above to take this discussion into account.


      Reply 12 years ago

      Yes, that helped; thanks. Mainly I was wondering whether you were going after lime-flavored sesame oil (more oil than juices) or sesame flavored juices; either might work...