Making scallops tonight? The side dish to serve with your scallops will depend the recipe. Whether pan seared with butter, nestled in cream sauce, simmered into spicy curry, part of a Mexican fiesta or Italian feast, I've got a wide variety of sides to pair with every delicious, fresh scallop recipe!
If you follow along, you may have seen my series of 5 scallop recipes recently, or maybe not. Either way, I've been obsessing over some local shellfish and have lots of opinions the best side dishes to serve with scallops.
You will find bread to risotto, salads to pasta and everything in between. (If you're looking for a recipe to use your scallops, try my Scallop And Bacon Pasta, Scallops Vongole Style, or Scallop Fried Rice which are equally good with large sea scallops or small swimming scallops in shell. For an appetizer, I've got Broiled Scallops In Shell )
Read along or use the table of contents to jump right to what you're looking for.
What Do Scallops Taste Like
Scallops are one of my very favorite seafoods. A bivalve shellfish, there are 2 main types. First and most well known are the large sea scallops that are shucked and just the large white muscle portion is eaten.
Next are swimming and bay scallops. These are small to medium and can be purchased live or frozen, in shell or shucked. When frozen in shell, they steam open and you eat them like you would a clam or mussel.
Both types of scallops have a wonderful, firm texture when cooked and a mild sweet, slightly nutty flavor. Scallops can be steamed, broiled, baked or pan fried. They can be cooked solo or part of a pasta, soup or other dish.
Scallops are extremely fast cooking and lend themselves well to creamy sauces which are terrific with a side of bread to mop up the sauce. Now, let's find you that perfect side dish.
Dry Versus Wet Scallops
Dry scallops are scallops that are shucked and sold fresh or flash frozen with no extra additives or preservatives. These are the best quality and the type of scallop I want to eat. Dry don't have any added water or brine so they are best for searing. They will give you that gorgeous and tasty caramelized outside. Creamy in color with a pale pink or coral colored tinge.
Wet scallops aka soaked scallops have been shucked and soaked in a mild chemical brine. This is usually done to help preserve them longer. They appear whiter and very plump but the extra water or brine cooks out leaving them less flavorful and tender that their dry counterparts. These scallops are best used in curries or soups where browning is not important.
What Wine Should I Pair With Scallops?
Sweet and luxurious, scallops are often served as a special occasion dish. Dry, lemon scented white wines like crisp, unoaked Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis or Vinho Verde pair well with most of the scallop recipes.
For richer, buttery dishes with cream, you can go a little heavier with a classic oaked chardonnay or pinot grigio.
If there is cheese in the scallop recipe, try serving a dry, fragrant riesling.
A dry to off dry riesling or gewurtztreaminer are the favorite pairings for the curried and spicy dishes.
Red wine lover? For any dishes except spicy scallops, try light reds like a fruity Beaujolais or gentle pinot noir. A slightly bolder choice with a bit of old world funk, would be a sangiovese or chianti.
Traditional Side Dishes
Pasta and risotto are always a lovely side that showcases steamed or pan fried scallops. Big, bright flavors including capers, feta cheese or pesto love love to be plated on top of a creamy sauce like pasta alfredo or parmesan risotto. Pairing these together is always makes a winning main course.
You might call these the fillers, the carb or the starch. But whatever you call them, just don't use the word boring. These side dish recipes are meant to complement but have big YUM factor on their own.
Risotto, pasta and bread are often the safest and best pairing for scallops across the board but read on to find a good flavor fit for your particular scallop recipe.
- Lemon Garlic Orzo Pasta - This looks like rice but its a small pasta. Lemon and garlic go well with piquant flavors like capers, anchovies, red peppers and Mediterranean herbs and spices.
2. Mushroom Risotto - Whether you use wild or store bought mushrooms, this rich and earthy risotto is always a favorite. Mushrooms add a great texture while a touch of cream enriches the risotto and plays off the creaminess of the scallops. Great for scallops seared in a large skillet until brown and caramelized. Yum...
3. Seafood Risotto - Yes, this pasta already has seafood in it but all the more reason to top it with pan seared scallops for the ultimate seafood feast! Hit those scallops with a squish of lemon or lime juice and spoon them right on top of the creamy pasta.
4. Light and Fresh Tomato Pasta - Just like the name, this is a light pasta with fresh burst cherry tomatoes. Looking for a side for scallop salad? This delicious recipe is it.
5. Rice Pilaf - The classic choice for many dishes. Indian flavored or Greek scallops pair particularly well with traditional, fragrant rice pilaf.
6. Spring Pea Risotto - Risotto is a lovely creamy foil for seared scallops with their lovely caramelized brown tops. This one adds in sweet peas to echo the sweetness of the scallops. A dish that is pure comfort food.
Bread is essential to mop up sauces or pan juices from scallop recipes with cream, butter, broth, or sauce.
Here are my top picks for a beautiful boule, shatteringly crisp biscuit and fluffy naan breads that will soak up every drop of your delectable scallop dinner.
- No Knead Bread - Yep, this is easy, chewy and crusty and begs to be eaten as soon as it's baked. The perfect hearty bread for a creamy scallop pasta or any other creamy or broth based scallop dish.
2. Beer Bread - Got a bread machine? Make this easy loaf for delicious complex and tangy flavors that compliment your seafood dish perfectly. (Try the cheese topped variation for extra WOW factor!)
3. Beer Bread (Bread Machine Recipe) - Who doesn't love the rich and deep flavor of beer bread! Great for sauces with white wine and garlic or even scallops steamed in beer!
4. Have the time to make your own homemade bread from scratch? This ciabatta bread is a rich and chewy loaf that will sop up all the briny scallop sauce.
3. Cheesy Pull Apart Bread - An easy shortcut makes this bread fast! If you're looking for cheesy indulgence with your shellfish, this is it!
4. Naan Bread - This is the bread if you've got a scallop curry or other spicy saucy dish. An easy to make, unleavened bread that cooks up quickly.
The Salads And Veg
Fresh vegetables always have a place at the table. Crisp and crunchy salads are perfect side dishes alongside a pasta, soup or curry. They also make a great base for a main course by topping them with grilled, buttery scallops.
Cooked vegetables like collard greens or creamed spinach are great underneath spicy scallops.
For a fancy dinner, lightly steamed and buttered snap peas or green beans make an tasty and elegant side.
Although I personally prefer pasta or bread with my scallops, mashed potatoes have their place too. When the scallops are in a heavy gravy, potatoes will hold up.
A perfectly paired salad will refresh your palette and add some acidity to cut the richness of your scallop recipe. For lighter scallop dishes, choose a lighter salad and for richer or heavier scallop recipes, choose a more hefty salad to match.
- Garden Salad - A simple, crisp green salad with a citrus vinaigrette is a natural pairing. Never overwhelming,
2. Spinach Salad With Egg - Here's a more hearty salad with just a bit of Asian flavor to pair with stir fry, miso baked scallops on the half shell or other Asian flavored recipes. The orange juice in the dressing adds a natural sweetness that really makes the shellfish sing.
3. Beet and Orange Salad - The sweetness of fruit is amazing with shellfish poached in coconut or cream curries or cooked in heavily spiced preparations and this beet and orange salad is no exception.
4. Sprouted Buckwheat Salad With Basil Pesto - For a heartier salad that is excellent if you have guests with special dietary requirements, this buckwheat salad is a great choice. This one is full of healthful foods and makes a good pairing if you are looking for a vitamin rich side. Full of sprouts, sauerkraut and dulse, it's not for everyone but it makes a really healthy lunch topped with protein rich scallops.
5. Tomato Basil Salad - If your recipe has Italian flavors, a fresh tomato salad dressed with balsamic vinegar is a no-brainer. Fresh, bright and sweet, this one is always a crowd favorite.
6. Kale Parmesan Salad - While you can do the usual Caesar salad (and that is a great choice for a garlicky, crisp side salad) why not try this quick and easy kale version?! This will partner well with rich flavored baked scallops.
7. Brussels Sprout Salad - Here me out, these sprouts have been lightened up and given big flavor with goat cheese, apples, cranberries and nuts and pairs great with festive rich scallop dishes and even mild coconut curries. Bust this one out over the holidays and watch it disappear!
8. French Carrot Salad - Simple shredded carrots get the French treatment with a squeeze of lemon juice and some added sweetness from a little apple. This is a versatile veggie side that will compliment any shellfish course. With only 4 ingredients, this is a great recipe to keep handy.
Savory + Sweet Corn Sides
Last but not least, there is a whole section dedicated to corn recipes. Sweet corn goes especially well with delicate tender scallops. Choose from lighter corn recipes or decadent and rich ones.
Corn makes a sweet and savory side that is so complimentary. Simple steamed or grilled corn on the cob is wonderful. Try making homemade creamed corn or cut the kernels off for a salad. I promise you won't go wrong with any of these tantalizing corn recipes.
- Corn Bean And Avocado Salad - Having some scallop tostadas or tacos? Make this chunky and delicious jalapeno, corn and avocado salad and serve it alongside or top your tostadas with it!
2. Traditional Creamed Corn With Cream And Bacon - Bacon and corn are both classic pairings with scallops so this is a natural combination. Sweet and savory food heaven! Serve your scallops right on top for a restaurant style presentation. The first is made on the stovetop with fresh or frozen corn kernels.
3. Creamed Corn With Bacon - Here's an old school slow cooker version that uses canned corn from the pantry and bacon fat!
4. Corn Couscous Salad With Feta - Pomegranate or salsa verde dressed mollusks? Maybe seared with cumin, fennel or coriander? Couscous is a traditional Middle Eastern side dish that will make your meal next level delicious and this feta and corn version brings the WOW factor!
5. Mexican Street Corn Salad - All the flavor, none of the mess! This fantastic side goes with Mexican entrees as well as simple salt and pepper preparations. I love this spooned right onto grilled scallops on the half shell!
6. Smoked Corn On The Cob - A little extra effort makes for a stunning corn side dish. This recipe walks you through how to do it. If you've got a smoker, give this one a try.
Thanks for making it this far! I hope this helped you plan the best meal around the scallops. Such a variety of ways scallops can be prepared and so many tasty side dishes to make a complete meal. Feel free to drop me a line and let me know your favorite scrumptious dishes to serve with scallops or other shellfish.
Cheers and have a wonderful day, Friends!