These Air Fryer Scallops are easy to prepare with minimal ingredients and work as an appetizer or as part of a main meal. They’re tender and succulent and served with garlic butter, fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice!
The air fryer is one of my favourite ways to prepare seafood. These mini air fryer crab cakes are the perfect appetizer for entertaining and this crispy breaded air fryer cod is a delicious alternative to deep fried fish!
If you’re looking for an easy recipe to add to your seafood line up or you’re just in need of an elegant appetizer for a dinner party, these air fryer scallops are a must try!
They take very little time to prepare and only 5-6 minutes to cook in the air fryer!
While I season them with old bay seasoning, you can change it up with different spices or keep it simple with salt and pepper.
Sea scallops vs bay scallops
The recipe calls for sea scallops, which are large scallops that come from deeper, cold waters. Sea scallops can range in size but usually measure about 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter. The sea scallops I used in this recipe were a little on the small side.
Bay scallops, on the other hand, are much smaller (about 3 times smaller) and harvested from shallow bays. They’re also a little more tender and sweeter.
Both types of scallops are delicate and cook quickly.
Given the size difference, sea scallops are ideal for serving as an appetizer and work well pan seared or in the air fryer. I prefer to use smaller bay scallops for stews and chowders like this dairy-free seafood chowder.
Details on the ingredients
Scallops: You’ll need 1 1/2 pounds of sea scallops for this recipe. They’re usually available year round, so you should be able to find them fresh at your local grocery store or fish market. If not, you can use frozen scallops and defrost them first.
Oil: My preferred oil is extra virgin olive oil but olive oil or avocado oil will also work in this recipe.
Old bay seasoning: This is a mix of different herbs and spices that’s mildly spicy with a salty flavour. I used 1 1/2 teaspoons to season the scallops but you can use more or less to suit your taste.
Butter: I used salted butter for the melted garlic butter, but if you only have unsalted, you may wish to add a dash of salt.
Garlic: Just one clove of garlic is minced and added to the butter for serving with the scallops. If you prefer extra garlicky melted butter, feel free to use another clove of garlic.
Lemon: You’ll need a few fresh lemon slices or wedges to serve with the scallops.
Parsley: To garnish, the scallops are served with some chopped fresh parsley. You can also use some fresh thyme, tarragon, dill or chives.
How to prepare scallops for cooking
Place the scallops in a colander and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.
Use a knife or your fingers to remove the side muscle. This is a small flap of tissue that can just be torn or cut off the side of the scallop.
How to cook scallops in the air fryer
Preheat your air fryer for 5 minutes at 400F.
In a large bowl, gently toss the scallops with oil and old bay seasoning.
Arrange the scallops in the air fryer basket in a single layer, being careful not to overcrowd them.
Air fry for 5-6 minutes, flipping the scallops halfway through cooking.
Repeat until all of the scallops are cooked.
Serve immediately with melted garlic butter, lemon wedges and fresh chopped parsley.
Served on their own, I suggest keeping it simple with a little melted garlic butter, some fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice.
As a main meal, scallops are delicious with steak and paired with side dishes like rice, risotto, salad, air fryer vegetables or air fryer corn on the cob.
You can also serve these scallops with pasta for a complete meal. We love them tossed with this lemon garlic pasta.
Frequently asked questions
I prefer sea scallops for this recipe, but if you only have bay scallops, just reduce the air frying time to about 3 minutes. Since bay scallops are much smaller than sea scallops, they will be ready in half the time.
The side muscle is edible, but it can get tough when it’s cooked, so I recommend removing it from the scallops before cooking. (It can be easily torn off the side of the scallops).
It’s not absolutely necessary, but I like to give them a quick rinse under cold water. You’ll definitely want to do this if you’re using defrosted frozen scallops.
Scallops are usually cooked over high heat, so 400F in the air fryer is the best temperature.
Scallops cook quickly, so at 400F, it will only take 5-6 minutes for the scallops to air fry. If you’re using bay scallops, they will cook in about 3 minutes. If your scallops are on the larger side, you may need to add another minute or two.
Scallops are fully cooked when they look opaque. Unlike pan searing, scallops do not get golden brown in the air fryer. So be careful not to use this as your cue for doneness. The scallops will dry out before they brown in the air fryer.
While I’m sure you can, I recommend defrosting frozen scallops in the fridge overnight before seasoning them and air frying.
Key recipe tips
- Type and size of air fryer. This recipe was tested in a Cosori 5.8 quart air fryer. If you have a different size, brand or model, you may need to adjust the air frying temperature and time slightly.
- Preheating your air fryer. Some brands of air fryers call for preheating. I prefer to preheat mine so the scallops hit a hot basket and start cooking right away.
- Non-stick basket. If your air fryer doesn’t have a non-stick basket, you may wish to spray your basket with oil or line it with foil or parchment paper to ensure the scallops don’t stick to the basket.
- Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. After you rinse the scallops, make sure they are dried before seasoning them. Excess moisture will affect how well they air fry.
- Air fry in a single layer. To ensure the scallops cook evenly, you’ll want to air fry them in a single layer and not overcrowd them. This will mean air frying in 2-3 batches.
More air fryer seafood recipes
- Air Fryer Salmon Patties
- Air Fryer Breaded Shrimp
- Air Fryer Fish Tacos
- Air Fryer Salmon
- Air Fryer Tilapia
If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!
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Air Fryer Scallops
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 12 minutes
- Total Time: 22 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings
- Category: Appetizer
- Method: Air Fry
- Cuisine: American
Air Fryer Scallops are tender, succulent and easy to prepare with melted garlic butter, fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice!
- 1 1/2 pounds sea scallops (fresh or frozen and defrosted)
- 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons old bay seasoning
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- lemon wedges for serving
- chopped fresh parsley to garnish
- Place the scallops in a colander and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Use a knife or your fingers to remove the side muscle on each scallop.
- Preheat your air fryer on 400F for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, gently toss the scallops with oil and old bay seasoning.
- Carefully arrange the scallops in the air fryer basket in a single layer, being careful not to overcrowd them.
- Air fry for 3 minutes, flip the scallops over and air fry for another 2-3 minutes, or until the scallops are opaque.
- Repeat with remaining scallops.
- While the scallops are air frying, mix together the melted butter and garlic.
- Serve the scallops with lemon wedges, melted garlic butter and chopped fresh parsley.
- This recipe was tested in a Cosori 5.8 quart air fryer. If you have a different size, brand or model, you may need to adjust the air frying temperature and time slightly.
- Some brands of air fryers call for preheating. I prefer to preheat mine so the scallops hit a hot basket and start cooking right away.
- If your air fryer doesn’t have a non-stick basket, you may wish to spray your basket with oil or line it with foil or parchment paper to ensure the scallops don’t stick to the basket.
- After you rinse the scallops, make sure they are dried before seasoning them. Excess moisture will affect how well they air fry.
- To ensure the scallops cook evenly, you’ll want to air fry them in a single layer and not overcrowd them. This will mean air frying in 2-3 batches.
- Be sure to check out the other sections above the recipe card for more detailed advice and suggestions for making this recipe.
Keywords: air fried scallops
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