Scallops have not always been a favorite of mine.  In fact, for a long time I thought I hated them.  That was due primarily to a dish my mom used to make where she routinely overcooked the scallops so much that I felt like I was gnawing on little balls of rubber.  My mom was a great cook but apparently that meal was not one of her best because, man, the memories of those scallops are vivid.  I have since learned to appreciate how truly wonderful scallops can be when they are fresh and cooked properly.  The best preparations are very simplistic allowing the flavor of the scallop to shine and are cooked just right so that they practically melt in your mouth when you eat them.  This version, my friends, is scallops done right.

I have been so, so excited to share this dish with you.  This meal was knock-your-socks-off good.  So good that the whole time I was eating it, I felt a degree of disbelief that it had come from my own kitchen instead of a fancy restaurant.  The scallops are dipped in sugar and sautéed in clarified butter, literally creating a caramel coating on the outside.  The sweet caramel flavor is subtle and with the white wine pan sauce, it is a wonderful compliment to the scallops.  This is a recipe I’ll be glad to have in my pocket when I’m looking for a special occasion meal or a dish to impress.


12 large sea scallops
Pinch of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons clarified butter
½ cup white sugar, spread on a flat plate
½ cup dry white wine
Juice of one lemon, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp. finely chopped flat parsley
8 chives
1 tbsp. lemon zest


  • 01

    Rinse and dry the scallops well.  Season both sides of the scallops with salt and pepper.

  • 02

    Heat a skillet on medium-high for 2 minutes.  Add the clarified butter and swirl to coat the pan.  When the butter begins to foam, prepare the scallops quickly.  Working efficiently, coat one side of each scallop in sugar, grasping the sides and using a gentle twisting motion to help the sugar adhere.  Place the scallops sugar side down in the skillet and sauté for 2½ minutes.  If the sugar starts to brown too quickly, reduce the heat.  Flip the scallops over and cook for 1 minute more.

  • 03

    Add the white wine and lemon juice to the pan and reduce by half, about 1½ minutes.  Transfer the scallops to a platter or serving dishes.  Pour the pan juices over the top and garnish with chopped parsley, chives and lemon zest.  Serve immediately.


  • Riki-Tiki-Tembo

    Annie I kid you not Ive been sitting here this afternoon wondering what I can do with these beautiful scallops I have here and Voila this is what you post!! Thank you SO much. Do you think your Garlic Rice Pilaf would make a good side with this?

  • Funny how something as humble as a scallop can intimidate us until we learn to NOT do anything to it. Beautiful pix.

  • I’ve never had a scallop yet, I’ve recently become very interested in them. I can’t seem to remember what ATK says about dry or wet scallops – I tend to get hung up on little details. Love the photo too.

  • Those scallops look amazing and better than most restaurant dishes I’ve had!

  • I was going to say – your picture looks like something from a fancy restaurant! These sound fabulous. I keep seeing recipes from Christina’s book – and they all look great. Thanks for sharing this…might have to make these this weekend! I agree, bad scallops can bring back bad memories..

  • I don’t eat scallops but I know my fiance would LOVE this. I made scallops for the first time on the grill a few weeks ago.

  • I am always trying to convince my husband that scallops are delicious – but perhaps he had a bad childhood experience like you. This recipe might open a lot of doors for us!

  • I was always turned off by the texture of scallops until I had them prepared very well at a restaurant. Now, they are something I crave. This sounds like a fantastic way to prepare scallops; congratulations on preparing a restaurant-quality dish!

  • Gina

    This looks AMAZING! Scallops are one of my favorite foods and I’ve been looking for a good recipe to try out at home, thanks for sharing this!

  • Awesome! I love scallops and those look great. The recipe looks quick and simple! Thanks.

  • Annie, pan searing and caramelizing scallops is the best way to bring out their wonderful sweetness. I love them and have cooked them many ways, and searing is no doubt the best! Great picture!

  • Looks great!! I love scallops!

  • Annie I’m with you, pretty sure I hate scallops until I had a properly cooked one. Man it was GOOD!!! Much like these look. really they look absolutely delicious. Isn’t it fun to make something that you’re convinced came from a fancy restaurant? Nice job, they really look mouthwateringly good!

  • Sugar Doctor

    I wish I had had your post last night–I cooked pan seared scallops a la Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home. Keller adds a step of brining the scallops for about 10 minutes (but no longer) prior to cooking and I think this adds an extra something to the flavor. Will have to try your version next time.

  • Meredith

    Hi Annie! The scallops look delicious! What did you serve (or do you suggest) as a side dish?

  • Bravo–well done! As an Italian Bostonian (now living in Chicago), I give this 4 stars!! No one in the Midwest seems to know how to cook fish properly (should be fresh and fast). Other than the sugar, this is basically a scampi technique which works fantastically with shrimp, of course, as well as scallops. Make extra sauce and serve with a side of spaghetti, and you’ll have an Italian meal made in heaven. Kudos on the photos–they made me salivate! Now the only problem I have is finding fresh sea scallops around here…

  • YUM -these look delicious! Isn’t it funny how we get turned off to foods because they weren’t prepared well in the first place? Glad you’ve rekindled your scallop love : )

  • Absolutely gorgeous! It looks like a restaurant quality dish so if it tastes like one too them I am sold. Can’t wait to try the recipe!

  • Any tips for purchasing the scallops? I’d love to make them at home, but I’ve always been intimidated to buy them? Did you purchase them at your grocery store seafood counter? Or somewhere special?

  • Annie

    I don’t trust the seafood from my usual grocery store so I go to Whole Foods or The Fresh Market. They know how fresh the products are, etc. When I inquired about these, they had just been flown in an hour before I purchased them.

  • Annie

    I honestly don’t remember what I served that night but my meals always include protein, starch and veggie so some combination of those. I often do rice and wilted spinach, but I don’t think that’s what I did this time.

  • I absolutely adore scallops. It’s probably one of my most favorite thing to eat. I usually sprinkle then with lemon juice and salt and pepper before sauteing them in butter and I love the brown crust on the outside, melt-in-your mouth creaminess on the inside. I’ve never thought to use sugar to help get that caramelized exterior. Going to try this recipe for sure!

  • I love scallops, but my husband has always been turned off by them and he is usually a pretty adventurous eater. However, your description makes me think I might need to give this one a go. Maybe I can change his mind.

    Also read your above comment about buying seafood at The Fresh Market. That is so good to know! Since The Fresh Market opened in our area, I always try to buy my seafood from there.

  • Dalia

    HI Annie,
    Are the scallops sweet tasting because of all the sugar?

  • Annie

    No. If you read the post and the recipe, you’ll see that there is only a light coating of sugar to caramelize them. The sweetness is subtle, as I mentioned.

  • These look amazing. I always order scallop when I eat out but seldom make them at home. Thanks for the lovely inspiration!

  • Laura

    Can I ask you what you paired this with (sides, etc.)?

  • I have never been a fan of scallops either, probably for the same reason, that the ones I have tried have never been made properly. I guess I will have to give them one more shot with this recipe!

  • Leslie

    Oh my! These look amazing! I’m drooling!

  • Annie

    Please see the previous comments, this has already been asked :)

  • We love love love scallops and the next time we’re at the grocery we’re going to have to splurge for a few to make this dish!

  • Admittedly I don’t like seafood but I saw this picture and nearly drooled. Wow, those look fantastic!

  • Oh boy .. this looks so appetizing! Scallops are probably my fav seafood and you made such an amazing dish with that.

  • Lizzie in LA

    Oh my goodness. I never would have thought about using sugar, but the caramelization that’s possible only WITH sugar is gorgeous. Off to Whole Foods tomorrow for sure!!

  • Kelsey

    Hess look unbelievable! I’m going to have to get that cookbook so I can make all the yummy recipes I’ve been seeing from it.

  • These are gorgeous! So much so that I might even try them! I have never had scallops before. :) I’m scared of the texture. :)

  • I love scallops but have only made them at home a couple of times… always afraid of over-cooking them (like you mentioned above, they are not so wonderful when that is done). This recipe may get me to pick some up soon and try again.

  • Oh my. These look fabulous. I never make scallops because I’m always concerned about over or under cooking them. Would you recommend only fresh scallops for this recipe?

  • OMG stunning photos!!! ummmmmm caramelised scallops!!! I love them med-rare, overcooked seafood are the worst and I don’t do them very well when I cook them at home, except for steam fish since I grew up helping my mother with that dish!

  • Annie

    To be honest, I only ever recommend fresh scallops. The few times I’ve tried frozen the outcome has just been mediocre. Since they are fairly expensive anyway, I figure if we’re going to splurge and buy scallops we should do it right :)

  • Neen

    Can I ask where you purchase your seafood locally? I have never been a big fan of seafood, but recently discovered that I like scallops. Unfortunately, I have no idea what I’m looking for when it comes to choosing good quality seafood.

  • I have GOT to make these! Talk about gorgeous seafood, these beauties rock.

  • Alicia

    I made these for dinner tonight and I must say they were amazing! Better then any scallops I have ever been served in a restaurant.

  • I made these recently with Annie’s Fresh Corn Risotto. Delicious! Highly recommend!

  • Caren

    wow.. this is one fabulous recipe! Where can I find the kosher salt? Can I replace the kosher salt with regular salt or sea salt?

  • Annie

    Kosher salt is in the spice section with all the other salts.

  • Kelley

    Just saw this on Pinterest! I have some frozen scallops from Trader Joe’s. I would love fresh but it’s not always in the budget. Sounds great with risotto. I usually have it with pasta and I was bored with that option.

  • Frozen is fine..but you have to make sure they have no additives like some have. Just defrost and press out the water from being frozen. We make sauteed and baked (coated in whole wheat and panko) all the time from frozen sea scallops.

  • Leah

    Made this tonight for our first wedding anniversary – it was spectacular! Thank you so much for a great recipe!!

  • Carlene Schwartz

    I made this dish last night and I loved it!!! I have never even tried scallops but the ingredients intrigued me! I’m sold!!