The Best Pan Seared Scallops with Garlic and Lemon Recipe

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The Best Pan Seared Scallops with Garlic and Lemon Recipe is the secret to perfect pan seared scallops in a lemon garlic butter sauce, bursting with lemon and garlic butter flavor!

picture of a scallop on a seashell plate

This post is sponsored by the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel and the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau.

I was recently invited to visit Fort Myers and Sanibel for a couple of days of delicious food, gorgeous white sand beaches, and fun in the Florida sun!

picture of a beach at sunrise

Scallops are one of my absolute favorite things to make, hands down. They are rich, buttery, slightly sweet – and surprisingly easy to pan sear to perfection in no time.

I love scallops for romantic dinners, quick weeknight meals, dinner parties – or just a simple and easy lunch in summer.

Scallops are one of my absolute favorite things to make, hands down. They are rich, buttery, slightly sweet – and surprisingly easy to pan sear to perfection in no time.

I love scallops for romantic dinners, quick weeknight meals, dinner parties – or just a simple and easy lunch in summer.

Scallops are springy, soft, slightly sweet, buttery, and rich – decadent without feeling heavy.

I could eat scallops for every single meal – they are one of my favorite seafood dishes to make, and the dish I’m always going to gravitate towards when I’m out at a nice restaurant.

There is just nothing better than a perfect pan seared scallop!

Just take me to The Best Pan Seared Scallops Recipe!

If you’d rather skip my (very helpful, i think) tips and tricks and get straight to this deliciously easy best ever lemon garlic butter pan fried scallops recipe – simply scroll to the bottom of the page where you can find the printable recipe card. 

Where to Order Scallops on Sanibel

For this dish, I am using  sea scallops, similar to the absolutely amazing scallops from Trader’s on Sanibel.

Sanibel actually has 5 types of scallops that are found often – the Calico Scallop, the Bay Scallop, the Rough Scallop, the Zigzag Scallop and the Lion’s Paw.

With such an abundance of inspiration from nature, Traders on Sanibel is known for delicious scallops, and the influence for this dish!

I actually ate scallops at Traders on Sanibel one night, and then headed over to Jerry’s Food Market for some gorgeous fresh scallops to try my own hand at pan searing some scallops.

Jerry’s is one of Sanibel’s best food markets – a small chain with a phenomenal selection and very knowledgeable fishmongers and meat department staff who helped me learn some great secrets to picking perfect scallops for a seafood dinner!

What are Scallop Sizes

Before picking out what type of scallop to buy for a dish, or buying based on how the scallop was harvested, it’s important to understand the somewhat confusing method used to label scallops and their size.

What Does Scallop Number Mean

Scallops carry numbers on their labeling – and are categorized with numbers.

These numbers signify how many scallops it would take to make one pound of meat – so when you see 15-20, it means it would take 15 or 20 scallops to make one pound of meat – whereas one labeled 10 would mean it would only take 10 scallops to make up one pound.

While it might be confusing, the smaller the number is on a scallops label, the bigger the scallops are – because it takes far less of them to make up one pound of meat.

What is “U” On Scallop Label

U on a scallop weight label, simply means Under.

This is to signify it would take under a certain amount of scallops to make a pound of meat – for example a scallop rated U/13 would mean it takes less than 13 scallops to make one pound.

This measuring system is actually incredibly helpful to help you plan the perfect amount of scallops to buy per person based on how much meat you’d like to serve per person.

What Type of Scallops to Buy

When it comes to picking scallops for a dinner, it can get confusing quick. There are a ton of different names for scallops that don’t always give a good clue to their size – and it can be a bit overwhelming to know which is a perfect type of scallop for a certain dish.

For people near me in landlocked states (I am in Northern Colorado – strictly frozen scallop territory) we don’t have a ton of options – whereas in other places there are multiple types of scallops to pick from.

What Are the Different Kinds of Scallops

Bay Scallops

Bay scallops are among the smallest of the scallops, usually measuring 70/120 scallops per pound of meat as measured by your fish monger. Like the name implies, bay scallops are harvested from bays and calmer bodies of water and tend to be much smaller.

Bay scallops are sweet and rich – but aren’t great for pan searing since they are so small.

Try Bay Scallops in soups, omelettes, or seafood boils – any recipe that doesn’t require flipping to build up a crust.

Sea Scallops

Sea scallops are usually the big, meaty scallops you think of when pan searing or frying scallops – they are large, meaty, and have an excellent buttery sweet flavor.

Sea scallops can range anywhere from 40 to 10/15 per pound – making them perfect for pan searing just like you would a perfect juicy steak.

Jumbo Scallops

Jumbo scallops are sea scallops that tip the scales in the 10/15 range – but this can vary quite a bit.

Diver Scallops

Diver Scallops are also sea scallops (instead of bay scallops) – but are harvested by hand by divers.

Most sea scallops are harvested by boats who drag a chain along the ocean floor and then sorted by size – whereas many people view diver scallops as being more ecologically friendly and sustainable as divers usually go for the biggest scallops they can, meaning more mature scallops are chosen and smaller/younger scallops are left to mature and help improve the population.

Next time you’re at the store looking for the perfect scallop to pan sear, ask your fishmonger for jumbo or diver sea scallops when pan-searing scallops!

How to Defrost Scallops

If you were a fan of Season 4 of Top Chef, you’d know Spike had a bit of a kerfuffle because of some frozen scallops – and for good reason. I actually avoided frozen scallops for so long assuming they weren’t as good (and let’s face it, fresh IS always best) – but I don’t live close to a steady supply of fresh scallops unlike the great selection we saw in Southwest Florida.

If you’re craving that delicious Sanibel flavor though, don’t fret – you absolutely can use frozen scallops with these handy tips, until you’re ready to hit The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel for your next meal!

When not thawed properly, frozen scallops can take on a gummy and dense texture and fishy flavor since they cook unevenly – drying out the outside, while the middle is still frozen.

I find it is best to lay frozen scallops on a couple paper towels on a plate, with a couple more paper towels on top (like a blanket), and left in the refrigerator for a day or two so they can come to temperature naturally.

Scallops give off a lot of water as they thaw naturally – the paper towels help soak them up and get them ready  to be pan seared (if your scallops are too watery, they won’t get the lovely crunchy seared crust that bring out scallops rich and salty-sweet flavor.)

Thawing and prepping your scallops with plenty of time for them to defrost naturally makes them so much more delicious and appealing!

Visiting Sanibel Island Florida

This easy Pan Seared Scallops with Garlic Lemon Sauce is super simple and delicious – inspired by my trip to Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach Florida.

Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel are the perfect vacation destination if you’re looking for fresh, delicious, and beautiful seafood – especially scallops!

There are so many delicious options all over The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel – making it the perfect place to visit if you’re looking to spoil yourself with tons of great places to eat during a beach getaway.

To see my guide for visiting Sanibel – including what to do and where to stay, please click here: 

And to see my Foodie Guide to Sanibel, please click here: 

And of course, if you’re on Sanibel, be sure to pop in to Traders to try the dish that inspired this deliciously easy pan seared scallop dinner with a rich and salty garlic lemon sauce!

The Best Pan Seared Scallops with Garlic and Lemon Recipe

If you love this Lemon Garlic Butter Pan Fried Scallops Recipe as much as I do, please write a five star review, and be sure to help me share on facebook and pinterest!

A plate of food with seashells and scallops on it.

The Best Pan Seared Scallops with Garlic and Lemon Recipe

The Best Pan Seared Scallops with Garlic and Lemon Recipe is the secret to perfect pan seared scallops in a lemon garlic butter sauce, bursting with lemon and garlic butter flavor for a fancy seafood restaurant quality scallop dinner in under 15 minutes - from fridge to plate! Scallops are a great low calorie and low fat choice that are packed with protein for dinner, inspired by the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico seafood from Sanibel Florida. 
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine Seafood
Keyword garlic butter, lemon, scallop, seafood
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 190kcal
Author Courtney ODell


  • 3 tbsp butter grass-fed
  • 1 lb scallops defrosted, patted dry
  • 1 tsp salt celtic sea salt
  • 1 tsp pepper freshly cracked
  • 2 tbsp garlic diced
  • ½ lemon sliced into half-wedges
  • ½ cup white wine


  • Heat butter in pan on high heat until melted and lightly foaming. 
  • Pat scallops dry with paper towel and generously season scallops with salt and pepper. 
  • Add scallops into pan, with space in between so they can crisp. 
  • After about 4 minutes on one side, flip scallops. They should have a golden crust on the side that was face-down. (If not, increase heat, and let sear a bit more.) 
  • Add garlic and stir quickly, let lightly brown and become fragrant, do not let burn (about 2-3 minutes). 
  • Add lemon slices, wine, and stir. 
  • When scallops are still springy to the touch, but bright white and opaque and browned on both sides, serve and top with sauce. 


Calories: 190kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 14g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 50mg | Sodium: 1104mg

About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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Recipe Rating


  1. Jose says:

    Buenas tardes, encantado de saludarte. Soy Jose
    Quería escribirte porque me ha parecido interesante comentar contigo la posibilidad de que tu negocio aparezca cada mes en periódicos digitales como noticia para posicionar en los primeros lugares de internet, es decir, con artículos reales dentro del periódico que no se marcan como publicidad y que no se borran.
    La noticia es publicada por más de cuarenta periódicos de gran autoridad para mejorar el posicionamiento de tu web y la reputación.

    ¿Podrías facilitarme un teléfono para ofrecerte un mes gratuito?

  2. Jim says:

    Scallops were perfect. Nice crust on both sides. I used garlic salt instead of garlic and lemon juice for the lemon wedges. After flipping I cooked for three minutes in the wine, garlic salt and lemon juice.
    The scallops were fantastic.

  3. Ivory says:

    As I open each of my emails, and embark upon yours. I am about to burst, after eating dinner. Yet, your recipe looks mouthwatering.

  4. Charlie says:

    These look so good, I have to try them.

    I have to ask…. Where did you get the plates that the scallops are on?

    1. Courtney ODell says:

      They are actually shells I bought in Sanibel Florida (which aren’t actually food safe if you don’t put something under the scallop as well like I did). But they sure are pretty!

      1. Charlie says:

        Thank you.

  5. Monika @ says:

    5 stars
    i simply love this lemon garlic butter pan fried scallops recipe, thanks so much for sharing it!