Do you enjoy fresh, flavorful seafood? You may have tried common seafood staples such as salmon, oysters, shrimp and calamari. But what about the unsung hero of the ocean – the scallop? Even if you’re just starting to experiment with seafood or you don’t really like the taste of fish, these tender chunks of bivalve goodness are worth trying for any palate.  

What do scallops taste like? Scallops are a unique little shellfish with a very signature flavor. The deliciousness and tenderness of scallops will depend on the way they're cooked and what they're paired with. Using simple, high quality recipes, scallops can become delicious delicacies for boosting the yum-factor on any dining occasion.

What in the World are Scallops, Anyway?

What do Scallops Taste Like

Scallops look like small, squishy white disks when they’re ready to be cooked. In their original form, they’re a marine bivalve mollusk. In other words, they’re small sea critters with hinged shells. Scallops are found all over the world and they can grow up to 9 inches in size. There are several different species of scallops, including the iconic large-sized sea scallop and the smaller, bite-sized bay scallop. Pro tips from other bloggers: for more information about live scallops, check out this article.

The part of the scallop that we eat is actually just the abductor muscle (the body part used for opening and closing the valves of a shell). Like any shellfish item, the process of breaking down the original form and extracting the delicious edible parts takes a bit of time and know-how.

What Scallops Cook Best With?

The following flavors are wonderful cooking partners for scallops to enhance your eating experience:

  • Butter. Butter adds a silky richness to many seafood dishes that is unparalleled with any other ingredient.
  • Garlic. Used in small amounts, the strong tang of garlic is a great way to appreciate the tenderness of the scallop.
  • Lemon. Fresh lemon juice is a common staple for any type of seafood, and it can help give scallops a wonderful, acidic jolt.
  • Wine. Some chefs cook scallops with wine, especially white wine, to bring out its delicate flavor and build a new dimension of taste.
  • Bacon. Bacon goes well with everything, right? The smoking saltiness of bacon is a fantastic pairing for the soft taste of scallops.
  • Steak and other proteins. While “steak and scallops” sounds like a complex, over-the-top dish, surf-and-turf combinations starring scallops make for juicy, mouth-watering entrees.

Different Ways to Cook Scallops Step-by-Step

Scallops can be cooked a number of ways, but the most common methods involve cooking them in a very short amount of time with very high heat. They’re also most commonly cooked with some type of fat because they are so lean.

Sautéed or Pan-seared

This is one of the most common methods of cooking scallops because it’s fast and convenient. Searing the scallops also gives them a golden brown crust, bringing an additional caramelized flavor. Check out these cooking steps courtesy of Alton Brown:

What You’ll Need:

  • Dry sea scallops (about 1 pound)
  • Unsalted butter, about 2 tablespoons
  • Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Step 1: Make sure the scallops are thoroughly rinsed. Pat them dry with a paper towel.

Step 2: Heat the butter and oil in a skillet or sauté pan on high (start out on medium high if needed to avoid burning the butter). You can choose to use butter OR olive oil if you wish.

Step 3: Season the scallops with the salt and pepper.

Step 4: Gently add the scallops to the sauté pan (don’t throw them in and don’t let them touch). Sear them for about 1 ½ minutes on each side until they develop a golden crust with a translucent appearance in the center.

Step 5: Serve immediate as an appetizer or main dish with a butter garlic sauce and your choice of side.  


There’s nothing like the smoky taste of grilled food. Scallops make for an excellent candidate for BBQ, as long as you’re careful not to overcook them. A popular way of grilling scallops is putting them on skewers along with other ingredients, such as veggies and fruit. Check out these cooking steps courtesy of Lan Chirico:

What You’ll Need:

  • Fresh large scallops (1 to 3 pounds)
  • Olive oil (about 5 tablespoons)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon pepper (1 ½ tablespoons)

Step 1: Make sure the scallops are thoroughly rinsed. Pat them dry with a paper towel.

Step 2: Coat the scallops with the olive oil and season them with the salt, pepper and lemon pepper. The seasoning should cover all sides of the scallops.

Step 3: On a hot grill, cook the scallops for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Step 4: Serve immediately as an easy appetizer or combine with grilled veggies for a healthy meal.


You can deep-fry just about everything, and scallops are no exception. A batter mixture of flour, sugar, salt, egg, cooking oil and water can make for a crisp, golden deep-fried scallop. Forget fried fish– try scallops and chips instead! Check out these (healthy version) cooking steps courtesy of wikiHow:

What You’ll Need:

  • Scallops (¼ to ½ pound per person)
  • Eggs (1 or 2)
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • A slice of bread
  • Lemon wedges
  • Dipping sauces – tartar sauce or red cocktail sauce
  • A deep fryer or a deep fringe pan (it should be able to comfortably hold a couple inches of oil)

Step 1: Make sure the scallops are thoroughly rinsed. Pat them dry with a paper towel.

Step 2: Heat the oil. It’s going to get VERY hot, so be careful.

Step 3: Combine eggs and ¼ of water (for each egg) in a bowl to start the batter.

Step 4: In a pie pan or paper plate, spread out the breadcrumbs.

Step 5: Check the oil by inserting cubes from the slice of bread. If it turns gold quickly, the oil is ready. You can also use an oil thermometer. Be careful!

Step 6: Coat the scallops with the egg mixture and then the breadcrumbs.

Step 7: Using a spoon, carefully and gently put the scallops into the hot oil.

Step 8: The scallops should be done in 3 to 4 minutes.

Step 9: Serve the deep-friend scallops with your dipping sauce of choice.


If you’re looking for a healthier option, broiling scallops is a fast and easy way to cook them in about 10 minutes or less. Putting them on skewers and brushing melted butter and seasoning on them should result in very clean and delicious broiled scallops. Check out these cooking steps courtesy of allrecipes:

What You’ll Need:

  • Bay scallops (1 ½ pounds)
  • Garlic salt (1 tablespoon)
  • Melted butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Lemon juice (2 tablespoons)

Step 1: Make sure the scallops are thoroughly rinsed. Pat them dry with a paper towel.

Step 2: Turn on your oven’s broiler.

Step 3: Season the scallops with the garlic salt, butter and lemon juice.

Step 4: Broil the scallops for 6 to 8 minutes. They should just be starting to turn golden brown.

Step 5: Serve them with melted butter for dipping as a side dish. You can also combine them with veggies and rice for a main meal.

Ten of the Best Scallop Recipes with Pro Tips from Chefs and Kitchen Enthusiasts

What do Scallops Taste Like - Exactly?
  1. Easy Garlic-Lemon Scallops from Allrecipes. This is a very basic yet effective recipe combining the rich flavors of butter, garlic and lemon juice to make melt-in-your-mouth sautéed scallops in a relatively short amount of time (about 20 minutes). The steps are fairly straightforward: heat a skillet on medium-high heat, cook the garlic and add the scallops, cooking for a few minutes on each side. The key is to pay attention to the changes in texture as the scallops cook – they’re done when they become firm and opaque.
  2. Wine, Butter and Garlic Scallops by Chef William Oliva. In this video from eHow, Chef William Oliva shows viewers how to cook fresh sea scallops with roasted garlic, white wine, herbs and butter. He demonstrates the method for searing the scallops to achieve a caramelized, golden brown surface. He asserts that it’s important not to “play with” the scallops – just let them do their thing! He continues his demonstration by taking the brown bits from the scallops and making a flavorful sauce to drizzle over the final dish. 
  3. Bacon Wrapped Scallops by Chef Jason Hill. This video demonstrates how to create a mouth-watering dish of perfectly cooked scallops wrapped in bacon and topped with an apricot horseradish sauce for a dynamic flavor profile. By first sautéing the bacon-wrapped scallops in a skillet and then baking them at 500 degrees for 5 minutes, Chef Jason shows the viewers how to brown and crisp the bacon while keeping the tenderness of the scallops within. Combining the dish with the apricot preserve horseradish sauce gives the dish a pop of flavor.  
  4. Butter Smoked Sea Scallops from BBQ Pit Boys. If you love to BBQ with an indoor or outdoor grill, this recipe is a great option for cooking BBQ scallops. The butter sauce and sweet rub is the secret to making this grilled dish truly inspired. Paprika, brown sugar and dried basil add a smoky flavor to the scallops while the garlic-butter lemon zest sauce makes the dish rich and citrusy. According to the BBQ Pit Boys, using a special grate on the grill will help prevent losing any pieces of the fragile scallops and allow them to cook at the perfect temperature.
  5. Quick Stove-top Scallops by Faith Durand. This printable recipe from Kitchn will show you how to cook scallops in 5 minutes or less using an oiled skillet. This recipe is great for pre-cooking scallops to use in main course dishes, such as pasta. Another tasty way to serve these scallops is over a bed of rice or cauliflower couscous. Or you can just enjoy them by themselves!
  6. Hazelnut-crusted Scallops from Myrecipes. Love sweet crunchiness? The panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) and chopped hazelnuts in a combination with the heavy whipping cream, white wine, fresh thyme and ground nutmeg gives the scallops a rich and sweet crunch. Add it over cooked pasta for a luxurious evening meal.
  7. Deep-fried Scallops by Chef Thomas Duffy. If you love the rich, crunchy taste of deep-friend fish, you’ll love this recipe for deep-fried scallops. The scallops are soaked in buttermilk and then covered with a slightly spicy seasoned flour mixture. Depending on the frying device used, the scallops can be done in less than 5 minutes. Chef Thomas suggests serving them in a sandwich or by themselves with a sauce.
  8. Baked Scallop Gratin from Entertaining with Beth. This dish, properly called “Coquilles St. Jacques” uses shallots, leaks and mushrooms combined with scallops cooked in a lemon broth and a creamy sauce, topped with breadcrumbs and cheese. The yummy result is served in clean shells or ramekins. To serve, the scallop gratin is baked in a 400 degree oven until lightly golden.
  9. Scallop Scampi over Linguine by Laura Vitale. This recipe involves cooking seasoned scallops in a skillet and combining it with a buttery garlic white wine sauce. Fresh lemon juice and fresh parsley is added in with the sauce, along with cooked and drained linguine. After stirring everything together, you’ll have a simple yet luxurious meal for two.
  10. Shrimp and Scallop Louisiana Stew by the BBQ Pit Boys. If you’re looking for a spicy, flavorful twist on scallops, this seafood stew is a great recipe to try. You’ll be adding scallops with andouille sausage and shrimp for a protein-rich Louisiana dish. As part of any great gumbo, the dish also includes the “holy trinity” (celery, onions and green bell pepper) in a combination with diced tomatoes, chicken stock, fresh herbs, garlic and cayenne pepper for a dynamic southern twist on scallops.  

5 Reasons Why You Should Try Scallops

  1. Scallops are tasty. While everyone’s taste buds are different and some people may have various experiences with tasting scallops, a dish of well-cooked and well-seasoned scallops can be an exquisite meal.
  2. Scallops can be healthy. Seafood in general is usually a healthy addition to a clean, natural diet. In moderation, scallops can be eaten as a lean-protein and vitamin-rich dinner item.
  3. Scallops are unique. While chicken and white fish are common lean meats for cooking daily meals, sometimes you might get the itch for something a little different. Scallops are a great option if you have a little extra to spend for a truly interesting seafood dish that can still fill you up with satisfaction.  
  4. Scallops cook quickly. Want to whip up a decadent, fancy dinner in a matter of minutes? Scallops are your answer! The cooking time for scallops is incredibly short (generally 5 minutes or less) and yet they’re luxurious enough to make the meal truly decadent.
  5. Scallops can be sustainable. You may have heard that overfishing is a growing problem around the world. Unfortunately, unsustainable fishing practices have caused massive issues when it comes to harvest and sustaining populations of wild fish and shellfish. Pro tip from other bloggers: scallops are generally grown and harvested with little environmental harm.    

What do Scallops Taste Like - Exactly?

You’ve ordered or cooked your scallops. They’ve been cooked to perfection using appropriate seasonings and ingredients that make the scallop the star of the dish. The dish is right in front of you, and you’re really not sure what to expect. What are they going to taste like?

Scallops are often described as similar to crab or lobster, but more firm. They’re flavor tends to be sweet and delicate, but it’s the texture that really makes them interesting and enticing. When cooked correctly, scallops are soft and chewy but not rubbery or tough. Cooking them too long can make them have the hard texture of rubber. In general, scallops have a mild flavor which is not very fishy compared to other types of shellfish.

What Do Scallops Taste Like? Try a Yummy Recipe and Find Out!

Scallops are a lean, healthy protein shellfish with a delicate, sweet taste. While scallops can be fairly expensive depending on where you’re located, they’re a great option if you’re looking for a fast yet intimate meal to impress a loved one. Pair it with a rich fat (such as butter or bacon) and enjoy this seafood delicacy as a special treat. You can also broil it or grill it up and add some spice to give these tender morsels an extra kick without the added calories.

Did you enjoy this tutorial on discovering what scallops taste like and finding some of the best recipes for cooking them? Do you have any delicious scallop recipes of your own to share? Comment below and share this article if you found it interesting. Happy cooking!