If you’re a fan of scallops, then trust me, you NEED to make these Brown Butter Scallops with Tarragon. They are seared in nutty brown butter until ultra crispy, and then bathed in the same brown butter plus lots of lemon juice and plenty of tarragon. Even better? You only need five simple ingredients to make this restaurant-quality meal.
Brown Butter Scallops with Tarragon
Guys. These Brown Butter Scallops are TO DIE FOR. They’re perfectly seared and crispy on the outside, BATHED in nutty brown butter that’s been spiked with zesty lemon and fragrant tarragon and then they’re topped off with a sprinkling of briny capers.
And, they’re only five ingredients. FIVE.
And they take about 15 minutes to make.
These are a serious winner in the easy recipe handbook.
If you’ve ever been afraid to cook seared scallops, don’t be! I find them to be easier to cook than any type of shellfish out there because all they need is a nice sear and a quick 2-3 minutes to cook and you’re down. Scallops can even be slightly underdone and still taste delicious, however overcooking them, is a cardinal sin. With my tips and tricks below, you will be an expert scallop cooker in no time.
Let’s get started!
Ingredients in Brown Butter Scallops
Scallops. Duh. So you want to make sure to get sea scallops, these are the scallops that are super large, opposed to bay scallops which are much smaller and mostly just used in pasta and soup dishes. When you’re looking for scallops, you want to make sure they’re a good size, white or slightly pale pink and smell almost sweet. They shouldn’t have a strong fish odor to to them.
Butter. You can use salted or unsalted butter here.
Lemon. You’ll need about one whole lemon depending on how juicy they are. In this recipe, we only use the juice, but a nice touch at the end would be to also sprinkle the finished product with a little bit of fresh grated zest.
Tarragon. If you’ve never had fresh tarragon, you have to try it. It has an almost lemony anise flavor that I just adore. It’s my go-to herb in the summertime, whether I’m making our favorite Green Goddess Salad, ricotta dip or my famous lobster rolls.
Capers. These aren’t 100% necessary, but I do love the salty, briny bite they add to the nutty brown butter and lemon – it’s a really harmonious combination.
How to Sear Scallops
- DO make sure the scallops are VERY dry. I take them out of the butcher paper and dry them well with paper towels. If time allows, I also let them air dry in the fridge for an hour or so.
- Don’t season them ahead of time. If you salt them too far in advance they will release moisture which won’t let them sear properly.
- DO season them right before cooking. Salt not only seasons the scallops, but if done right before cooking, it also helps to make them super crispy.
- Don’t over cook them! Scallops quick very quickly. They only need about 1-2 minutes per side.
- Don’t turn them over too quickly. Once you put them down to sear, DO NOT TOUCH them for at least 1-2 minutes.
- The edges will be very brown while searing, so do not turn them until you see that crispy, brown edge.
- If you use a proper pan, the brown butter scallops will easily release on they’re own once they are ready to flip.
Let’s make Brown Butter Scallops!
Now that we’ve talked about all of our Dos and Don’t to scallops, let’s make our Brown Butter Scallops.
Clean the scallops. I use a paper towel to get an excess moisture off of the scallops.
Brown the butter. Add the butter to a large sauté pan. Once the butter turns brown on the edges, swirl the pan over the heat until the butter turns a deep brown color. It will smell very nutty and your house will smell like heaven. You’ll also want to drink the butter, but please avoid doing this as it could be detrimental to the roof of your mouth. 🙂
Sear the scallops. Once the butter is brown, season the scallops on one side and add them to the pan. DON’T move them. (See above tips!)
Make the sauce. Once the scallops are seared, add in tarragon, followed by the lemon juice and little bit more butter. Shake the pan and use a spoon to “baste” the scallops in the lemon butter. Add your capers and serve!
Substitutions and Tips and tricks for Recipe Success
- Feel free to use salted or unsalted butter.
- I highly recommend using tarragon, but if it’s the middle of the winter and you can’t find it, sage would be a good substitute.
- For a more pronounced briny bite, try using large caper berries instead of small capers.
- Grate a little bit of lemon zest on top of the brown butter scallops just before serving.
Other easy Shellfish recipes
- Our Lump Crab Cakes are some of the best! They’re packed with sweet crab meat, very little filler and served with an epic remoulade sauce.
- Another great five ingredient recipe are our Steamed Beer Mussels – you’ll want to drink the broth with a straw!
- This Maple Soy Shrimp is SO easy to throw together and flavor is unreal. Serve over stick white rice and garlicky spinach.
- 1 lb sea scallops
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves
- 1 tbsp capers
- Large skillet
- Remove the small muscle on the side of the scallop if they have one. Pat scallops dry with a paper towel. You want them to be VERY dry so they can sear properly.
- Heat a large skillet or cast iron skillet to a medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter. Let the butter melt and once it starts to brown on the edges, swirl the pan. Continue to swirl the pan until the butter turns a deep brown color and smells very nutty, it should take about 3 minutes.
- Season the scallops with salt (generously) and a little bit of pepper on one side. Reduce the heat on the stove to medium and add the scallops, seasoned-side down in the skillet. Do not overcrowd the pan. If needed, work in two batches, browing one tablespoons of butter at a time with half of the scallops. They need plenty of room, otherwise, they will steam and won't sear.
- Let the scallops sear for 2-3 minutes until golden brown and crispy on the bottom. Season the unseasoned side with salt and pepper. Once they are ready they should easily release from the pan with a spatula or tons. Flip the scallops over and repeat on the other side. They should need about 1-2 minutes on the other side.
- After the scallops sear for 1 minute on the other side, add the lemon juice, tarragon and remaining butter. Shake the pan to combine the ingredients. Use a spoon to baste the scallops in the lemon tarragon butter until cooked through. Sprinkle with capers. DO NOT OVERCOOK! Scallops only need about 3-4 minutes to cook fully otherwise, they will get tough.
- Remove scallops to a serving dish and serve with lemon brown butter and extra tarragon if desired.