This recipe for Pan Seared Scallops features a cream sauce with a touch of dijon mustard and a hint of tarragon. Drizzle the creamy goodness on top, or use it as a dipping sauce for the scallops. This gourmet scallop recipe is easy to make at home. These scallops can be part of a low-carb, keto, Atkins, gluten-free, or diabetic diet. 

Pan Seared Scallops with Tarragon Cream Sauce-overhead shot with some on a plate with sauce on it.

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The recipe

In this recipe, the scallops are seared to perfection. Searing the meat creates a dark coating on the outside of the scallop that is bursting with flavor due to the maillard reaction. 

 

The sauce adds flavor without overpowering the sweet meat of the scallops. There is just enough mustard to provide some interest for the tastebuds. The tarragon adds a hint of licorice-like flavor. If you’re not a tarragon fan, you may want to substitute a bit of fresh thyme instead. 

 

Pan Seared Scallops with Tarragon Cream Sauce-overhead shot without showing sauce container.

 

The inspiration

This recipe was inspired by a recipe I used to make years ago from Faye Levy’s cookbook, Fresh from France. It was one of my favorite cookbooks when I was just learning to cook.

 

One of my favorite recipes in the book was her recipe for scallops with a mustard sauce. This recipe is a much simplified version of hers.

 

How to prepare scallops for cooking

If using frozen scallops, be sure to defrost them completely in the refrigerator.

 

If necessary, remove the small side muscle from the scallops. Most scallops I have purchased in the grocery store already have had this removed. 

 

Next, rinse the scallops under cool water, then dry thoroughly. To dry the scallops, I place them on a clean paper towel, then cover with another paper towel and gently press down. I repeat this process until the scallops are completely dry.

 

The drying step is extremely important. If the scallops are not entirely dry, they will steam instead of fry and will not attain that gorgeous and flavorful caramelized coating.

 

How to sear scallops

In order to sear scallops correctly, three things are necessary–dry scallops, a hot pan, and not over-crowding the scallops.

 

First, as mentioned above, the scallops must be completely dry. Also, if they are not completely defrosted, water will come out in the cooking process and make the scallops steam instead of brown. 

 

Next, the pan must be hot. You should hear a sizzle when you add the scallops to the skillet. If you don’t hear the oil hiss, the pan is not hot enough and you should remove the scallop and wait for the skillet to heat up more.

 

The third necessity to develop that gorgeous sear is that the scallops do not touch each other. If they touch each other, they will steam instead of sear. If you don’t have a large enough skillet to cook all of the scallops without them touching, cook them in small batches. 

 

Pan Seared Scallops with Tarragon Cream Sauce-Before sauce is added.

 

How do you know when a scallop is done?

Fortunately, it is easy to tell if scallops are done cooking. 

 

Before they are cooked, scallops have a translucent appearance. They are like a frosted window that light can pass through, but you can’t see through. They may also appear slightly pink or beige.

 

After they are cooked, scallops become white and opaque. This change in their appearance all the way through the meat means they are completely done.

 

In this recipe, the scallops should ideally also be browned on both sides at the end of the cooking process. If your scallops are completely dry and your skillet is hot, the scallops will brown before they are cooked through.

 

If your scallops are opaque, but have not browned, it means that you did not have the skillet hot enough, they were crowded in the pan and were touching each other, or were not completely dry when you added them to the pan. 

 

Any of the situations above would cause the scallops to steam instead of brown. Once they are cooked through and opaque, do not continue to try to brown them because, more than likely, you will just overcook them and they will become rubbery.

 

Pan Seared Scallops with Tarragon Cream Sauce-after turned in the pan.

 

What to serve with scallops

There are plenty of low carb choices to turn these scallops into a meal. First of all, my low-carb sour cream biscuits or some Mashed Cauliflower with Mushroom Gravy would make an ideal accompaniment with this recipe.

 

If you don’t feel that you need a “carb replacement,” you may just want to serve them with a simple salad or a vegetable.

 

What vegetable goes well with scallops?

While I think a simple salad makes an excellent addition to this recipe for scallops, some asparagus, sliced cucumbers, or green beans would be lovely served on the side.

 

You could probably even get away with serving some broccoli, cauliflower, or roasted brussels sprouts–especially in the winter months.

 

 

Final words

Whatever you decide to serve with these scallops, I hope they are a hit with your family like they have been with mine. Enjoy!

-Annissa

5 from 7 votes
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Pan Seared Scallops with Cream Sauce

This recipe for Pan Seared Scallops features a cream sauce with a touch of dijon mustard and a hint of tarragon. Drizzle the creamy goodness on top, or use it as a dipping sauce for the scallops. This gourmet scallop recipe is easy to make at home. These scallops can be part of a low-carb, keto, Atkins, gluten-free, or diabetic diet.

Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine American, French
Keyword keto scallops, low carb scallops, mustard tarragon cream sauce, scallops with cream sauce, sea scallops, seared scallops
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 3
Calories 282 kcal
Author Annissa Slusher

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces sea scallops (completely defrost if using frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard (preferably whole grain)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh tarragon (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
  • Additional tarragon for garnishing (optional)

Instructions

  1. Rinse the scallops and remove the small side muscle if necessary. Place the scallops on a paper towel, then cover them with another paper towel. Gently pat dry. Repeat, if needed, to dry them completely.  Lightly salt scallops, if desired.

    Pan Seared Scallops with Tarragon Cream Sauce-Dried scallops ready for searing.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. I used a PFAO-Free non-stick skillet like this one, but a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, or stainless steel skillet would work as well.When skillet is hot, add the avocado oil then the butter. 

  3. When the oil is hot, place one of the scallops in the pan. If you do not hear it sizzle, the oil is not yet hot enough, so remove the scallop and allow the oil to heat longer. If you do hear the scallop sizzle, continue adding scallops to the pan, making sure they do not touch each other.

  4. Allow the scallops to fry for 3-5 minutes, or until the first side is golden brown. Flip the scallops and all them to brown on the other side. When scallops are opaque throughout, remove them to a plate and set aside.

    Pan Seared Scallops with Tarragon Cream Sauce-before removing from pan.
  5. Pour the heavy whipping cream in the skillet and place over medium-low heat. Stir in dijon mustard and any liquid that has accumulated under the scallops. Bring mixture to a simmer and simmer until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the tarragon and sea salt.

    Pan Seared Scallops with Tarragon Cream Sauce-Making the sauce
  6. Serve the scallops with the sauce. Garnish with additional tarragon, if desired.

    Pan Seared Scallops with Tarragon Cream Sauce-recipe photo.

Recipe Notes

Serving size= 4 ounces of the scallops and 1/3rd of the sauce.

Nutrition Facts
Pan Seared Scallops with Cream Sauce
Amount Per Serving (4 ounces)
Calories 282 Calories from Fat 198
% Daily Value*
Fat 22g34%
Saturated Fat 11g69%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 8g
Cholesterol 86mg29%
Sodium 272mg12%
Potassium 359mg10%
Carbohydrates 4g1%
Fiber 0g0%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 16g32%
Vitamin A 1600%32%
Vitamin C 0%0%
Calcium 50%5%
Iron 0%0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.