Sea Scallops With Brown Butter, Capers and Lemon Recipe (2024)

By Alex Witchel

Sea Scallops With Brown Butter, Capers and Lemon Recipe (1)

Total Time
15 minutes
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This bright yet rich treatment for scallops came to The Times in a 2009 article about Kevin Zraly, the wine director of Windows on the World from 1976 to 2001. Mr. Zraly turned the restaurant into an international wine mecca: at the time it was destroyed, when the World Trade Center fell, its cellar held close to 100,000 bottles of 1,500 labels. Mr. Zraly and Michael Lomonaco, the chef at the restaurant (both of whom were not at work on Sept. 11 when the planes hit), worked together on hundreds of wine and food pairings throughout the years. This was Mr. Zraly's favorite of Mr. Lomonaco's creations. With it, he recommends a Puligny Montrachet, Olivier Leflaive.

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Yield:4 appetizer servings

  • 12fresh sea scallops
  • Sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼cup olive oil
  • 3tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1tablespoon finely chopped shallot
  • 2tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed of excess salt
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • cup (packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (4 servings)

255 calories; 23 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 12 grams monounsaturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 4 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram dietary fiber; 0 grams sugars; 10 grams protein; 400 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Sea Scallops With Brown Butter, Capers and Lemon Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Pat scallops dry with paper towels, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat a large sauté pan or nonreactive skillet over medium-high heat, and add oil. After 30 seconds, add scallops; do not crowd pan, work in batches if necessary. Sauté until well browned, about 2 minutes, then turn and cook other side. When second side is dark golden, transfer scallops to a platter; cover and keep warm.

  2. Return sauté pan to heat, add butter, and cook until it begins to foam and turn golden. Add shallot and capers, sauté for 1 minute, then add lemon juice (being careful to avoid sputtering butter) and chopped parsley.

  3. Step


    To serve, place 3 scallops on each of 4 warmed plates. Spoon butter, shallots and capers over scallops, and serve.



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Cooking Notes

brian barnes

I should know better, but it doesn't say remove the oil before you return the pan to the heat. You should because butter doesn't brown with the oil.


Instead of putting the oil directly into the pan, I'd toss the towel-dried scallops in a plastic bag with a 3-4 tbsp. of olive oil. Use tongs to place the lightly coated scallops on a plate, season with salt and pepper, then place in hot skillet to carmelize. That prevents the sputtery mess, and cuts down on fat. When melting the butter for the sauce, you can add a bit more olive oil (and even a smidgeonette of dry vermouth). Then finish the recipe as written


I've been cooking this since it first appeared with No changes (unless I'm out of salt cured capers) since it's perfect as is, though I do reduce the amount of olive oil because the scallops spit furiously. I treat it as an entree, doing 4-5 scallops per person, and usually accompany it with basmati rice and petite peas, but it's also fabulous with parsnip puree. This recipe was my daughters' very happy introduction to sea scallops.


Restaurants mostly seem to use grapeseed oil for searing scallops and I was taught that way years ago in culinary school. At the heat required, olive oil is likely to break down. Have always used GS oil and the results are great.


I cook up a couple of slices of bacon, drain of most of the oil, cook as directed and crumble the bacon on top at serving.

Suzan Wentworth

Used 1/2 the oil to pan fry. Could have used even a drop less. Otherwise perfect


Made this last night. Used less oil, and deglazed the pan with dry vermouth. Scallops were cooked perfectly and a piece of bread to soak up that delicious sauce made it. Served it with fresh asparagus - very quick, easy and delicious home cooked meal.


Half as much oil, dry scallops thorough and put in refrig another 30 mins. before cooking. Deglaze with dry vermouth before making/finishing sauce. 5-6 scallops per entree serving.


Just want to say, that I worked at Windows and was friends with Kevin and I ate in the Cellar in the Sky every two weeks where the chef and Kevin prepared pioneering tasting and pairing menus. Seven courses, five wines. I've eaten this dish and am so happy to be able to recreate it on my own.


Quite simple, with excellent directions. Definitely a recipe that benefits starkly from high-quality ingredients.

Goes well with fried lemons.


I added some chopped garlic with the lemon juice and it was perfect


Served this over pasta it was fabulous. I used Trader Joes frozen scallops and it turned out fine


Check the chicken francese recipe from Julia Morkin on 2 levels: I sauted lemon slices prior to the saute the scallops. Makes a difference in the flavor of the scallops and sauce. Also deglazed the pan w/white wine. Makes it yahoo. I agree with other notes that the amount of oil is too much; a few tbsp/a light layer on the pan is sufficient. I use cast iron. Added a few capers as my husband loves; but the recipe could certainly do without. Same with the shallots; this is a clean recipe.


A keeper. Sauce outstanding. Good bread sops up extra sauce. Used cilantro instead of parsley.


Followed the instructions carefully and, for the first time, ended up with scallops that were perfectly cooked...


I made this vegetarian by using thick slices of white radish instead of the scallops. Score the radishes on both sides and cook a little longer than the scallops, but otherwise i followed the recipe as written. I also missed the part about removing the oil before adding the butter, but wish I had removed it. Will do next time and maybe add some spice to it like chili flakes. Really good overall!


Note to self: Read others comments before making. Looked twice to see if I was supposed to drain oil. It was still very good with it, but probably better with less. Will try coating scallops with oil next time. I used to hate Fridays since I didn’t like fish and grew up Catholic. It almost feels like cheating eating these on a Lenten Friday. Served over a very lemony pesto pasta and it was a hit.


I made this for a Valentines Day dinner. For 2 entrées I used 6 large scallops and 6 large shrimp. I made the full recipe of sauce to spoon over thin spaghetti. Just divine!


Amazing! I’ve never had much luck with scallops but these were tender crisp and sweet in a short amount of time. Will make again for sure

Chad W. Eaton - Dallas

It was incredible and there were a few tips in comments that only made it better. First order from D'arg cannot pronounce or spell. Perfect.


Good stuff! Try to keep the scallops on paper towel for 30 mins or more. It gives them better ability to brown. Include some of the lemon zest.

Gail Blizard

Don’t forget to remove the small muscle on the side of each scallop. It always surprises me when recipes don’t mention this this. It makes a huge difference!

WillK, Arlington, MA

We followed the recipe pretty much exactly, with one modification: Adding the scallops back into the pan with the sizzling butter, lemon, parsley and caper sauce, before transferring them to plates.We did this to heat up the scallops that had been sitting out. We also like serving them on a small bed of angel hair pasta.


Followed the advice in the notes of just lightly coating the scallops in oil, and then placing in a nonstick pan without oil. Worked great. Sauce was delicious. Great recipe.


SO good! Best scallop preparation I've had. Didn't change much, just sprinkled the parsley on the scallops before spooning the sauce on (instead of mixing it in).

Sarah — Indianapolis

Fabulous!Doubled shallot; added thinly sliced mushroom; deglazed with white wineSauce was very nice, didn’t overwhelm scallops. Thickened with added butter and reduced. Served over rice, saved lemon for squirting on top. Great Christmas dinner with new bowls and chopsticks from Japan.

John Golden

It’s scallops season in Maine where scallops are from the cold waters of Penobscot Bay, which I look at all year long in the Camden area. I’ll make this recipe served with a cheese soufflé (Comte) and sautéed local spinach. My only dilemma is what dessert do I make?


Lovely recipe!


First off, let me say this recipe as-is is golden!We make weekly, with a few adjustments for our tastes.Use a mere spray of avo oil (no need for all the oil).Add a whole shallot, the capers, and some slivered sage leaves.Deglaze with the lemon juice and a half shot of vermouth, then add /- 3/4 cup of chicken broth/vermouth mix.Throw half pkg of gnocchi and some broccoli florets into broth, cook til done.Plate scallops, ladle gnocchi mixture over scallops. Amazing!


I used xl scallops and cooked them for 2.5 minutes to get the browning right. Important to heat pan for 2 minutes or more then pour in oil then wait until just before it smokes to get perfect temp.Family doesn’t care for capers, but I added garlic minced with shallots - very tasty

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Sea Scallops With Brown Butter, Capers and Lemon Recipe (2024)
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