This easy-to-make scallop dish has a distinctively Southeast Asian flair, with just the right mix of tangy, sweet, and salty flavors.
The dish consists of succulent, pan-seared sea scallops paired with wilted grape tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, and a buttery tomato purée 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 are always the best choice for pan-searing. When you go shopping, look for ones that are labeled as dry or dry pack for 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 (or cherry tomatoes), cooked in the pan juices from the seared scallops add a burst of sweetness and a tasty contrast to the tanginess of the lime.
- Scallions are a classic 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 fresh flavor and vivid green color.
- Fresh cilantro (also known as coriander) is a 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 fresh basil or parsley.
- Pearl couscous (sometimes called Israeli couscous) is a versatile ingredient that we always keep on hand. It’s lighter than pasta or rice, yet more satisfying than regular couscous, and makes a quick side for soaking up tasty pan sauces like the one in this recipe.
- Fish sauce is a staple seasoning ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine, and it’s gained a lot of popularity in the US in recent years. Made from salted, fermented fish (usually anchovies), fish sauce adds rich umami flavor to all sorts of recipes. Red Boat Fish Sauce, a high-quality brand produced in Vietnam, is our favorite.
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.