Breaded Sea Scallops Recipe: Crispy, Flavorful, and Easy to Make

Breaded Sea Scallops Recipe: Crispy, Flavorful, and Easy to Make

Sea scallops come in various sizes, typically measured by the number of scallops per pound. Larger scallops, often labeled U-10 or U-15, contain fewer pieces per pound. Smaller scallops, like 20/30, have more. For air frying, medium sizes (U-20 or 10/20) work best. They cook evenly and develop a crispy exterior with a juicy interior.

Fresh vs. Frozen Scallops

Both fresh and frozen scallops can be used for air frying. Fresh scallops, available at seafood markets, might offer a slightly sweeter taste. Ensure they have a translucent appearance and a briny scent. Frozen scallops, more accessible, should be thawed before cooking. Opt for dry-packed, which means no added water or chemicals, ensuring better texture and flavor.

Choosing the right sea scallops ensures your dish achieves the desired texture and taste. This careful selection enhances your air fryer breaded sea scallops’ final result.

Preparing Scallops for the Air Fryer

Thawing and Cleaning

Thaw scallops overnight in the refrigerator to maintain texture and flavor. Place scallops on a paper towel to absorb moisture during thawing if handling frozen ones. Gently rinse scallops under cold water, then pat them dry with paper towels. Remove the side muscle, a small rectangular tag of tissue, from each scallop to avoid a chewy texture. Ensure scallops are thoroughly dry before breading to achieve a crispy coating in the air fryer.

Marinating for Enhanced Flavor

Marinate scallops for 15-30 minutes to infuse flavor. Mix olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, and pepper for a simple marinade. Avoid marinating longer than 30 minutes to prevent the scallops from becoming too soft. Use a zip-lock bag or a shallow dish to coat scallops evenly. Before breading, drain and pat scallops dry to ensure an even coating and optimal crispiness in the air fryer.

Crafting the Perfect Breading Mix

Choosing Your Breadcrumbs

Selecting the right breadcrumbs is crucial for a crispy coating on your sea scallops. Panko breadcrumbs excel at providing a light, airy texture that crisps well in an air fryer. Regular breadcrumbs can work too, but they tend to absorb more moisture and may not crisp up as effectively. Choose plain or unseasoned varieties, allowing you to control the seasoning and flavor.

Adding Herbs and Spices

Enhancing the breading mix with herbs and spices elevates the flavor profile of the scallops. Incorporate garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper for a well-rounded base. Add dried herbs like parsley and thyme for a fresh, aromatic touch. For a hint of heat, include a pinch of cayenne pepper. Mix these ingredients with the breadcrumbs to ensure even distribution and flavor in every bite.

Air Frying Your Breaded Sea Scallops

Optimal Air Fryer Settings

Set your air fryer to 400°F for optimal cooking conditions. This temperature ensures that the scallops achieve a crispy, golden brown exterior. Preheat the air fryer for three minutes to stabilize the temperature before placing your scallops inside. Arrange the scallops in a single layer in the basket to allow hot air circulation, avoiding overcrowding to ensure even cooking.

Cooking Time and Temperatures

Cook your breaded sea scallops for 10-12 minutes at 400°F. Turn them halfway through cooking to ensure both sides crisp up equally. If you’re air frying larger scallops like U-10, adjust the cooking time to 12-15 minutes, checking for doneness at the thickest part using a food thermometer. Scallops are ready when the internal temperature reaches 145°F. This method ensures a well-cooked, flavorful result every time.

Serving Suggestions for Air Fryer Breaded Sea Scallops

Accompanying Sauces

Enhance the flavor of air fryer breaded sea scallops with a variety of sauces. Tartar sauce, made from mayo, pickles, capers, and lemon juice, complements the scallop’s crispiness. A garlic aioli, combining mayonnaise, minced garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil, provides a creamy and tangy taste. For a touch of heat, try a sriracha mayo blend by mixing mayonnaise and sriracha sauce. Cocktail sauce, with its mix of ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce, offers a zesty option. These sauces elevate the overall dining experience.

Side Dishes That Complement Scallops

Pair air fryer breaded sea scallops with sides that balance their rich flavor. Roasted vegetables, like asparagus and carrots, add a healthy element. A fresh green salad with vinaigrette creates a light and refreshing contrast. Consider serving with garlic butter pasta, combining cooked pasta, garlic, butter, and parsley, for a hearty accompaniment. Mashed potatoes, creamy and smooth, offer a classic pairing. Finally, quinoa salad with diced vegetables, olive oil, and lemon juice brings a nutritious and vibrant touch to the meal.


Mastering air fryer breaded sea scallops is easier than you might think. By carefully selecting and preparing your scallops, crafting a flavorful breading mix, and using the right air frying techniques, you can achieve a restaurant-quality dish at home. Pair your crispy, golden scallops with delicious sauces and side dishes to elevate your meal. Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or enjoying a quiet night in, these air fryer breaded sea scallops are sure to impress. Dive into this culinary adventure and savor every bite!

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