Pan Seared Scallops with Creamy Garlic Sauce

Easy sea scallops sauteed with garlic and cream

Photo of pan-seared sea scallops with creamy garlic sauce
Pan seared scallops with creamy garlic sauce, garnished with fresh parsley and thyme

This recipe for pan seared scallops with creamy garlic sauce makes such an elegant dish that you'd expect it to be hard and tricky to prepare. 

But in fact, it's dead easy - almost foolproof - to make and best of all, takes only about 7 minutes.  It's one of our favorite sea scallops recipes.

First, you pan-sear the scallops quickly on each side, long enough to cook them through without making them tough - the key to successfully cooking sea scallops!  Making the creamy sauce with garlic, shallots, and white wine also takes only a couple of minutes.

This recipe calls for "dry" sea scallops, typically larger and more readily available here in the eastern U.S. than bay scallops.  "Dry" means no additives have been used to treat the scallops.  "Wet" scallops have been treated with a chemical such as sodium tripolyphosphate to make them to absorb more water when freezing. 

Although you can use either fresh or frozen scallops for this recipe, we usually buy fresh scallops for this recipe because they're readily available in our local market. 

Pan seared scallops with creamy garlic sauce

Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a first course

  • 1  pound large "dry" sea scallops
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (we use coarse-ground, but any type works)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2 medium shallots)
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or parsley (or both, which is what we do, as you can see in the above photo)

1.  Using paper towels, pat dry the scallops and put them on a large plate.  They need to be dry in order to brown well.  Season them with the salt and pepper.

2.  Heat the butter in a large 12-inch skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat for about 1 minute until melted and bubbling.  Tilt the pan to cover the bottom with the melted butter.

Photo of Italian shrimp in garlic sauce
These scallops have been pan-seared and browned on one side, and are now searing / browning on the other side
3.  Add the scallops in one layer to pan-sear and brown them.   Do not crowd or let them touch each other as that will cause them to steam.  After about 1 1/2 minutes, turn them over to sear on the other side.   Remove from heat, and use tongs to carefully move the scallops to a platter.

4. Return the skillet to the heat.  Add the scallops, garlic, and wine, and stir to deglaze the bottom of the pan by loosening the brown bits.  Add the cream and stir again.  Simmer for 1 minute, until the sauce begins to thicken. 

5.  Put the scallops and any accumulated juices back into the pan for about 30 seconds, stir gently, and then remove from the heat. 

6.  To serve, divide the scallops among small plates for a first course, or arrange on a platter or in a shallow bowl as a main course.  Spoon the sauce around the scallops, and sprinkle with the thyme and / or parsley.

Total cooking time:  about 7 minutes. 

Serving suggestions 

Long grained aromatic basmati rice pairs perfectly with these delicious scallops and garlic cream sauce. 

Alternately, serve the scallops and sauce over linguini or angel hair pasta.  Add a green veggie and perhaps red peppers sauteed in olive oil for a fabulous meal.

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