Seared Scallops with Asparagus Sauce

Low CarbScallopShellfish

Seared thick sea scallops served with a simple asparagus and butter sauce.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

A few years ago my father discovered scallops, not that he didn’t know about them before, it’s just that some light bulb went off in his head one day and he decided that he had to cook them. So for a time he would madly attack any scallop recipe that seemed half-way interesting.

The problem was that he just couldn’t get them right. He had a hard time getting them browned, and more often than not, they were overcooked.

So when the-man-who-knows-more-about-seafood-than-I-ever-hope-to Hank Shaw was here the other day cooking scallops, both dad and I circled Hank like hawks, watching to see how he did it. Here’s what we learned.

Sear scallops in a hot pan

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Sear scallops in a hot pan

You need a screaming hot pan! Scallops have a lot of moisture in them, which means you have to get the pan really hot to dry the outer edge of that moist scallop so that it can actually get hot enough to brown.

When the scallops brown, the meat pulls back a bit (contracting proteins) making them easier to turn. Now theory doesn’t always translate to practice, you might still have some sticking. But when the scallop is seared enough, it should move more easily.

Easy asparagus sauce

An asparagus sauce is an excellent way to complement the scallops.

While it looks fancy, it’s really just boiled asparagus, chopped then tossed in a blender with some chicken stock and then reheated with butter and salt. Any leftovers can be used as a sauce for pasta.

Seared Scallops with Asparagus Sauce Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2

Plan on 3 sea scallops per person for a light dinner or appetizer, 5 scallops for a full main course.

Many sea scallops come with a tough flap of meat attached to them. Just pull it off and either discard or use in a seafood stock.

The asparagus sauce is a great way to use the spears of asparagus in case you’ve chopped off the tips for use in another recipe. You’re just puréeing them here, so you’ll never see the tips.


  • 6 sea scallops*
  • Salt
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1/2 cup warm chicken broth (if cooking gluten-free use gluten-free stock)
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or canola oil

*Sea scallops are the big scallops, about 1 1/2-inches wide, as opposed to bay scallops which are small, about 1/2-inch wide. Look for “dry pack” scallops, as they are not treated with chemicals to keep them fresh; the chemicals are not overly harmful, but they change the texture of the scallop and make them harder to sear properly.


1 Salt the scallops: Salt the scallops well and set aside at room temperature while you make the asparagus sauce.

2 Cook the asparagus for the sauce: Use a potato peeler to shave the outer layer off the asparagus spears, up to about three-quarters of the way up the spear. This part is more fibrous and will not break down as well in the blender. Chop the asparagus spears into 2-inch pieces.

Boil the asparagus in a pot of salted water for 5-8 minutes. This is longer than you’d normally cook asparagus, but you want the spears to blend well later.

Remove the asparagus from the pot. If you want to retain that vibrant green color, shock them in an ice bath.

scallops-asparagus-1.jpg scallops-asparagus-2.jpg

3 Make the asparagus sauce: Put the cooked asparagus in a food processor or blender. Add half the chicken stock and purée until smooth. (If you want an even smoother texture you can push the purée through a fine mesh sieve or a food mill.)

Pour the sauce into a small pot and add the butter. Heat over very low heat until the butter melts, but do not let it boil, or even simmer. The sauce should be warm, not hot. If the sauce is too thick you can add more chicken stock. Add salt to taste.

4 Sear the scallops on one side: Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel. Heat a sauté pan on high heat. Add your cooking oil, and let it heat up for 2 minutes. The pan should be very hot. If it starts to smoke, move the pan off the heat. Lay in the scallops in the pan, well separated from each other. You might need to sear in batches.

If your scallops are thicker than 1 inch, turn the heat down to medium-high. Most sea scallops are about an inch. Let them sear without moving for at least 3-4 minutes.

Keep an eye on them. You will see a crust beginning to form on the outside edge of the scallop, and the meat will begin to whiten upward. A good time to check the scallop is when you see a golden brown ring at the edge of the scallop.

Try picking it up with tongs, and if it comes cleanly, check it – you should see a deep golden sear. If not, let it back down and keep searing.


5 Sear the scallops on the other side: When the scallops are well seared on one side, turn them over and sear on high heat for 1 minute (give or take). Then turn off the heat.

The residual heat will continue to cook the scallops for a few minutes. Let the scallops cook for at least another minute, or more if you like your scallops well-done.

turn seared scallops over in pan

6 Serve: To serve pour a little sauce in the middle of the plate, top with the scallops, the more browned side up.

Serve at once. Garnish with a little chopped parsley if you want, and maybe with a wedge of lemon.

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Seared Scallops with Asparagus Sauce

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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12 Comments / Reviews

No ImageSeared Scallops with Asparagus Sauce

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Andrea

    Fantastic! I’ve also had trouble searing scallops properly, but following your instructions on drying them out and the high heat in a cast iron skillet worked beautifully. These tasted like they would in a restaurant. Loved the asparagus sauce, so simple but tons of flavor. Will make this again for sure.


  2. Jerome

    I had a left over of asparagus, and scallops in the freezer, so I decided to try mixing my usual scallop recipe with this one. I usually grill some orange, yellow and/or red bell peppers along with my scallops in olive oil, with Sel de Guérande and lots of ground black pepper. I saved the tips of the asparagus and threw them in at the end to grill (fry?) them a bit. I sprinkled the scallops and asparagus with a bit of lemon juice at the end.

    For the sauce I used a bit of oyster sauce and a bit of water to blend, because I didn’t have any chicken stock offhand. I also added pepper, salt and thyme for a bit more taste.

    The asparagus sauce was separating a bit, even though I boiled the asparagus for quite long… And I always have the same trouble with the scallops moisture coming out before it grills, because I use olive oil and I don’t want to ruin the oil so I’m afraid to put the heat too high.

    But in the end it was all very delicious!!

    Here’s what it looked like:


  3. Sara

    I have never made scallops but my boyfriend bought some frozen and on a day we didn’t want to go to the grocery store he said why don’t you make the scallops with a white sauce. He has good ideas but I have to figure out how to make them happen. More times then not, Simply Recipes has the answer. I followed this one for the scallops and made the white sauce from the creamy shrimp and broccoli. Darn it was good.. I added some sugar peas for sass. Your site is one of my favorites. Thanks

  4. Hai

    Thanks for the recipe. My boyfriend and I both enjoyed it.


  5. Pappa Grande

    I use grape seed oil exclusively for searing, scallops, beef etc. It is on the expensive side and a little goes a long way when using with high heat cooking. The secret is to not disturb the protein you are using until you see the color deepen along the edge after 3-4 min, the flip side does not need as long. Dry scallops are the only way to go, look around!

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