Many special occasion meals fall into that category because of their inherent complexity.  Lots of steps, specialty ingredients or both may be involved.  One of my ultimate meals for a special occasion is seared scallops with a simple butter sauce.  It looks and tastes like it is involved and time consuming, but it truly could not be easier or faster.

Scallops take only a few minutes to cook.  Any more and they will be overdone and chewy.  This particular rendition includes a butter sauce that is both a little sweet and slightly spicy – so simple, and so very good.  Served with some wilted spinach or roasted broccoli and your favorite starchy side (perhaps a rice pilaf or au gratin potatoes), you have a meal that will be sure to impress.  If you are still looking for a last minute Valentine’s Day idea that won’t take a ton of time or ingredients, this is the answer.


  • 1½ lbs. sea scallops
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ tbsp. sweet chile sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. clarified butter*
  • ¼ cup white wine, such as sauvignon blanc


  • 01

    Pat the scallops dry on both sides with paper towels.  Season both sides of the scallops with salt and pepper. Set aside.

  • 02

    In a small bowl, combine the room temperature butter, chile sauce and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Mixed together until evenly blended.  Set aside.

  • 03

    Heat a large skillet on medium-high for 2 minutes.  Add the clarified butter and swirl to coat the pan.  Add the scallops to the pan in a single layer and let cook without flipping or stirring for 2 minutes. Flip the scallops over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, just until cooked through. Remove the scallops to a plate.

  • 04

    Add the wine to the now empty pan to deglaze any browned bits from the bottom.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  When the wine has mostly bubbled off, add in the chili butter mixture.  Stir just until melted.  Serve the scallops warm with a bit of the butter sauce drizzled over the top.

  • 05

    *To make clarified butter, let butter melt slowly in a small saucepan.  Once the milk solids have separated from the butter, carefully skim the solids from the top and discard.  The remaining liquid butter is what you will use.
  • Heather Koziarz

    Do you have a brand of sweet chili sauce that you recommend? I have tried one from the grocery store that wasn’t very good.
    This looks yummy! Can’t wait to try it and sub out the scallops with shrimp.

  • maidenmet

    We love seared scallops for easy/fancy dinners. Though the smoke I create wehn cooking them slightly fouls the romantic mood :P

  • Gorgeous. The scallop boats are running here on Chincoteague (nothing like buying scallops directly off a dirty scalloper!), so I’m always looking for new ideas. I love the idea of a garlic chile butter – I swear, I could eat sweet chile sauce with a spoon. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  • Melinda Z.

    Making these tonight, no question!!!

  • annieseats

    You know, I have not tried enough different brands to have a preference and I’m not sure which one we have. I hope you enjoy it!

  • Steph in Lex

    YUM!! Scallops are one of my favorite things but I have never bought them to make at home because of the cost. This recipe looks like it’s definitely worth springing for them!

  • These look amazing!

  • Sonja / A Couple Cooks

    This photo is GORgeous, friend! And it looks extraordinarily delicious (I love scallops) xo

  • annieseats

    Thank you dear!

  • Amanda M.

    Where would I find sweet chili sauce in a grocery store? I’m not familiar with it, but this looks delicious! :)

  • annieseats

    Every grocery store is different so I would just ask an employee, but the Asian section would be where most stores would probably have it.

  • Mary Ellen Smith

    My husband made this one for us the other night and it was great! We used Sriracha instead of sweet chile sauce and it gave it the perfect kick.

  • annieseats

    Great idea!

  • Cara

    Made this recipe last night and was a lil nervous because it was my first time cooking scallops. Awesome instructions and delicious recipe! Will definitely be making this again!

  • Lisa Aktug

    This was so good! We served it on a bed of wilted spinach. Simple, quick meal – cheaper and faster than a McDonald’s run!