Air fryer scallops come out perfectly in just minutes with a slightly seared exterior and tender bite. Served with a quick and simple chive, garlic and lemon butter sauce, it’s a restaurant quality dish you can easily make at home!
The first time I used my air fryer was last Thanksgiving when it was just Ulysses and I at home.
I made a rotisserie chicken and while it completely sold me on the relevance of an air fryer (it was the best roasted chicken I’ve ever had), my entire house smelled like KFC for a solid day.
I got smart after that and now place the air fryer on top of my stove so I can turn on the vent hood above it.
And though it definitely helps with lingering food smells, I was still hesitant about cooking any seafood in it.
So, I held out. Until now.
And I have to say, I’m quite glad I caved because these air fryer scallops are the most perfectly cooked, tender scallops I’ve ever eaten.
That’s two home runs for the air fryer: chicken and now scallops.
Besides the taste and texture, what makes air frying scallops even more of a win is the simplicity of this recipe.
In fact, it’s barely a recipe and more a method.
The scallops need nothing but a spritz of olive oil cooking spray and some salt and pepper.
The air fryer does the rest of the work.
I served the air fried scallops with a simple butter sauce using ghee, chives, garlic and lemon zest but they can be seasoned or sauced with anything you like.
Once you get the method of air frying scallops down, the possibilities are endless for serving.
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE AIR FRYER SCALLOPS
To air fry the scallops all you’ll need is:
- 8-10 large sea scallops (easily scaled up if cooking for more than two people)
- extra virgin olive oil spray (or avocado oil)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
To make the butter sauce for serving the scallops:
- 1 tablespoon ghee (or grass-fed butter)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- zest of 1/2 a lemon
- 1/2 tablespoon minced chives
DO I NEED TO REMOVE THE MUSCLE?
Sea scallops often come with a small muscle on the side. It’s edible but a little tougher than the rest of the scallop.
If you prefer to remove it, simply do so by pulling it off with your fingers. It detaches easily.
I seldom bother doing this and just eat it along with the rest of the scallop.
HOW TO COOK SCALLOPS IN THE AIR FRYER
Scallops are not only good in the air fryer, they turn out just as delicious as a pan-seared method without any of the mess on the stove-top.
Preheat the air fryer to 400°F while you prep the scallops.
Since it’s a short cook time, it’s best the air fryer is hot and ready to go.
Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel then spritz with the cooking spray and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides.
Place the scallops in the air fryer on the mesh trays (for oven models) or in the basket making sure there is plenty of space between each scallop.
Air fry for 8-10 minutes. The scallops should start to turn lightly golden brown around the edges and the flesh will be cooked through but tender when done.
They’ll likely give off some moisture while air frying so you may want to line the bottom tray (for air fryer ovens) with aluminum foil to assist with clean up.
While the scallops are in the air fryer, make the butter sauce for serving.
Combine the ghee, garlic, lemon zest and chives in a small skillet over medium heat. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
Remove the scallops from the air fryer and transfer to a serving plate.
Drizzle the sauce on top and serve with some lemon wedges.
The scallops are best enjoyed straight out of the air fryer while hot.
From oil sprays to muffin cups and from pizza pans to racks, we've got them all, and they make fantastic Christmas presents, too!
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN SCALLOPS ARE COOKED?
I go by look and feel but if you’d rather a temperature to gauge by, the internal temperature of a cooked scallop should be 125-130°F.
Properly cooked scallops will look opaque when cooked through and have lost all the translucence they have when raw.
PAN SEARING VS. AIR FRYING SCALLOPS
I do love pan seared scallops.
These lemony herb tomato scallops are one of the old school recipes on this site, a recipe I still make but now that I have this air fryer method up my sleeve, I might have to switch up the scallop cooking portion of that recipe.
It’s worth noting, air fried scallops won’t get that deep golden brown color that a pan-fried scallop will.
Don’t let that deter you though because their texture is perfectly on point.
Superior even, in my opinion, in the air fryer vs. a pan.
You can also always grill scallops but that takes careful attention to not overcook on grill heat which can be erratic.
SEA SCALLOPS VS. BAY SCALLOPS
This recipe is for air frying sea scallops.
Sea scallops are the large ones seen here whereas bay scallops are the small ones.
I love using bay scallops in salads like this Bay Scallop Baby Kale Corn Salad or, in this simple summer recipe – Grilled Basil Butter Bay Scallops with Summer Vegetables.
But when it comes to the star of the show for a fancy, restaurant quality type of meal, sea scallops are what you want.
Their meaty texture and presence make them a warranted centerpiece in their own right.
I likely wouldn’t try cooking bay scallops in an air fryer as they overcook very quickly.
HOW TO THAW & AIR FRY FROZEN SCALLOPS
This recipe uses fresh sea scallops but if you have frozen scallops on hand you can air fry those too.
First, thaw the frozen scallops under refrigeration.
If you don’t have the time for that, place frozen scallops in a bowl with cold water. They will thaw in about 15-20 minutes.
Once thawed, it’s imperative to dry off the scallops completely so they’re not water logged.
After patting dry with a towel, follow the recipe to air fry as stated.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH AIR FRYER SCALLOPS
Keep things simple and cook up some rice and green beans as I did here.
Drizzle the extra butter sauce over the rice and green beans as well to pull the dish all together.
STORING AIR FRIED SCALLOPS
It’s best to enjoy scallops immediately when they’re cooked.
They aren’t a food that reheat well and tend to overcook quickly in the microwave.
If you do have leftovers, store in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days.
I suggest eating cold on a salad for leftovers rather than trying to reheat.
Overcooked scallops become rubbery and it’s really not an enjoyable texture.
MORE AIR FRYER RECIPES YOU MIGHT LIKE:
Air fryer tofu is one of my favorite plant based meals to create. It’s just so crispy!
And if you have a constant stash of Trader Joe’s frozen cauliflower gnocchi on hand like me, you have to try air fryer cauliflower gnocchi. It creates crispy little nuggets out of them and can be enjoyed as a fun appetizer!
Air Fryer Scallops
- 8-10 large sea scallops
- salt and pepper
- olive oil or avocado oil cooking spray
- 1 tablespoon ghee, or butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- zest of 1/2 a lemon
- 1/2 tablespoon minced chives
- Preheat the air fryer to 400°F.
- Pat the scallops dry using a paper towel then spritz with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper.
- Place the scallops in the air fryer on mesh trays for oven models or in the basket in a single layer.
- Air fry for 8-10 minutes until outside and edges start to turn a light golden brown and scallop is cooked through.
- Meanwhile, combine ghee, garlic, lemon and chives in a small skillet over medium heat. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
- Remove the air fried scallops once done cooking and drizzle the sauce over top to serve. Enjoy while hot.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.