This easy-to-make Asian scallop recipe has just the right mix of tangy, sweet, and salty flavors. Succulent sea scallops are sautéed and paired with a mix of grape tomatoes, chopped scallions, fresh cilantro, and a tomato butter sauce flavored with garlic, fresh lime, fish sauce, and a pinch of sugar.
To make sure you enjoy every drop of this yummy sauce, serve the scallops over pearl couscous (pictured), or steamed rice. Garnish with extra cilantro and a lime wedge.
Key Ingredients for This Recipe
In addition to kitchen staples like olive oil, butter, fresh garlic, and canned tomatoes, you’ll need a few specific ingredients to make this simple seared scallops recipe.
- Sea scallops: Sea scallops are always the best choice for pan-searing/sautéing. When you go shopping, look for ones that are labeled as dry for the best results. Find out more about dry pack scallops and why they’re preferable, and get some tips for making perfectly seared scallops in our recipe for Seared Scallops with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.
- Grape tomatoes: Grape or cherry tomatoes, cooked in the pan juices from the scallops just until softened have a subtle, sweet flavor and serve as a contrast to the tanginess of the lime flavor in the tomato butter.
- Scallions: Scallions are a classic ingredient in Asian cuisine and an important flavor in this dish. You’ll note in the recipe instructions that they’re added to the sauce last minute so they retain their sweet onion flavor and vivid green color.
- Fresh cilantro: Cilantro, also known as coriander, is another popular ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine. We happen to love its bright, citrusy flavor, but some people feel differently. If you fall into the “no cilantro” camp, try substituting a little fresh basil or parsley.
- Fish sauce: Made from salted, fermented anchovies, fish sauce is a staple ingredient in our kitchen. It can be used to add rich umami flavor to a wide variety of dishes that reach far beyond Asian cuisine. Hint: We use it to make a quick and easy Caesar salad dressing.
- Pearl couscous: Also called Israeli couscous, pearl couscous is a great ingredient to keep on hand for a quick and easy side dish. It’s lighter than pasta or rice, more satisfying than regular Moroccan-style couscous, and the perfect side for soaking up tasty pan sauces like the one in this recipe.
Seared Scallops with Tomato Lime Butter Sauce
- 1 lb sea scallops, dry or dry pack
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 small bunch scallions, sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
- 4 servings cooked pearl couscous, or steamed rice
For the tomato purée:
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce, or soy sauce
- Juice and zest of 1 lime
- Pinch of sugar
- Pat the scallops dry with paper towels, season both sides with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Make the sauce by pureeing the diced tomatoes, fish sauce, lime juice, lime zest, and sugar in a food processor or blender. Set aside.
- Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until foamy. Add the garlic and sauté until soft and fragrant, 1 minute. Add the prepared sauce, simmer for one minute and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Wipe out the pan, add the remaining tablespoon of butter along with the olive oil and place it back on the stove over medium-high heat.
- Add the scallops, one at a time, and cook for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes per side (depending on size). As the scallops finish cooking, use tongs to individually transfer them to a plate to avoid overcooking.
- Leave the pan on the stove, quickly add the halved grape tomatoes and combine them with the pan juices from the scallops. Continue cooking until the tomatoes have softened, about 4 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the reserved sauce and cook for 1 minute. Add the scallions, cook for an additional 30 seconds, then remove from the heat and add half the cilantro.
- To serve, plate individual servings of couscous or rice and spoon sauce and tomatoes over the top. Add a portion of scallops and top with more sauce.
- Garnish with the remaining cilantro and a lime wedge.