Scallops, a classic staple of any seafood platter, can be served a myriad of ways. Scallops might be one of the more expensive seafoods on the market, but their unique flavor and distinctive texture combine to make a meal that can’t be missed.
While pan-seared might be the most common cooking method spotted on any restaurant menu, scallops can also be served baked, grilled, stuffed, fried, broiled, or even wrapped in bacon. But beyond these cooking methods, there’s a wide assortment of side dishes, sauces, and even other meats that will go perfectly with your next scallop meal.
Curious as to what to serve with your scallops? Read below for recommendations on what goes best with this seafood specialty.
Though the best way to serve scallops is to feature them solely as the main dish, many recipes recommend pairing them with either another type of seafood, or with bacon.
For seafood pairings, stick with something simple: a classic scallop dish is to combine shrimp and scallops together. The light flavor of the scallops goes well with the often more intense flavor of the shrimp, and the two can be either pan-seared individually or placed on a skewer and grilled together.
Be sure not to overcook either one, or you’ll risk the texture becoming rubbery and ruining the meal.
To pair scallops with bacon, the most common suggested method is to wrap each scallop in bacon, secure with a toothpick, then bake in the oven. However, consider thinking outside of the box for your scallops; If you intend to serve the scallops with a leafy vegetable like spinach, kale or collard greens, the sweetness of the bacon can help offset the bitter of the vegetables.
Scallops also pair nicely with tomatoes; by combining the scallops with spinach, tomatoes and bacon, you can recreate the notes of a classic BLT in one tasty dinner dish.
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While scallops themselves are a notable main dish, many recipes call for scallops to be served in, or with, a grain or pasta. Whenever you choose to serve a carbohydrate with your scallops, ensure that the flavors are supporting the taste of the scallops, and that the seafood is not getting lost in sauces or under a plate of pasta.
For pasta, spaghetti or carbonara both make wonderful accompaniments to a scallop dish. Try to serve with a white sauce of some kind as opposed to a red sauce; tomato sauce will often cover up the flavor of the scallops (and not in a good way). Consider coating the scallops with a light breadcrumb topping when serving; the breadcrumbs will add some much-needed crunch in the softer textures of the pasta and the scallops themselves.
The one grain to stay away from when serving scallops is traditional rice; a better flavor and texture substitute would be to pair the scallops with a hearty risotto, or a lemon orzo. Or, if you are interested in a healthier option, the light flavors of both quinoa and couscous pair very well with a seared scallop main course.
If you would like to have a simple, easy to make meal with scallops, consider pairing them with something as easy as a steamed or sautéed vegetable.
Many green veggies, such as asparagus, green beans, and broccoli, accompany scallops nicely and can benefit from whatever sauce you might be serving with your scallops.
As mentioned earlier, you can also serve scallops on a bed of fresh spinach, kale, or with cooked collard greens.
Zucchini noodles (or “zoodles”) as they’re often called, are a great way to incorporate a healthy alternative to pasta, while still serving a noodle-style dish.
Potatoes are not traditionally a classic scallop side dish, but they definitely have a well-earned place on this list.
Small red potatoes, baked potatoes, or even slice au gratin potatoes are an excellent companion to home cooked scallops. Like pasta, their flavor won’t overpower your main dish, and the firmer feel of these starches is complementary to the scallop’s often soft texture.
Rosemary herb potatoes, quartered and served baked from the oven, go very well with any type of lemon or butter sauce you might serve with your scallops.
While you might already have the vegetables, starches, or complex carbohydrate picked out that you’d like to serve with your scallops, it’s also important to choose a sauce that will properly support your dish. The most common sauce is a lemon butter sauce. Lemon is a classic seafood accompaniment, and it can do wonders to really bring out the flavors of the scallops. It also goes well with many starches or pastas, especially orzo or risotto.
Don’t be afraid to pair a distinct sauce with your scallops either. Spicy curry, lime and cilantro, or even a fruity salsa or chutney all can bring a different element of the scallops to light.
For a unique flavor, try whipping up a honey Dijon avocado sauce, or a bourbon jalapeno sauce for something with a kick. Intense flavors or spicy flavors pair very well with scallops, due to the scallops neutral or slightly sweet flavor profile. For best results, pan-sear the scallops, then add the sauce on top once they are perfectly cooked.
When in doubt, or if you’re looking to keep it simple, a brown butter sauce or a simple white wine sauce will make for a delicious scallop topping, and will pair with many of the vegetables you might choose.
Whether you choose to serve them with lemon and butter, with pasta or with a vegetable, there’s hardly a wrong thing to serve with scallops. Just remember to feature the scallops as a main dish, and plan any side dishes to support their unique flavor, texture and taste.
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