Oh my goodness. Let’s talk. Sit down and prepare yourself, because it’s about to be a game-changing kind of talk.
Let’s talk about how seared scallops are so buttery and when they’re pan-seared they get this beautiful golden exterior that is magically slightly caramelized and everything you could ever really want in a scallop and more. Then let’s talk about how there is no question about their destiny to be paired creamy coconut rice and bright, sweet, and spicy pineapple salsa.
The combination of all three is truly, truly out of this world as far as flavors and textures go. And how this is basically dinner on repeat for the rest of summer considering it’s an easy 30-minute meal making it perfect for a weeknight dinner vacation.
Yes, that’s right, even though there are three very distinctive parts to this recipe, they’re all still so dang simple.
How to Make Scallops with Pineapple Salsa
Those three simple steps? They’re as easy as this:
- Make the coconut rice.
- Make the pineapple salsa while the coconut rice does its thing.
- Pan-sear the scallops.
And then of course, devour.
How To Make Coconut Rice
Making homemade coconut rice is truly one of the easiest things you can make that takes dinner to the next level and provides all the Caribbean-like vibes, transporting you to a tropical island immediately. When I say easy, it’s no joke how easy it is. Coconut rice can be paired with so many dishes, it’s not even funny. And scallops with coconut rice? Get outta here.
There are two options for making coconut rice: on the stovetop or in an Instant Pot! Either works beautifully and you get to decide based on what you have, and your preferences.
To make the coconut rice, you need three ingredients. Yes, that’s it!
- Jasmine Rice – the floral accent of this long grain rice compliments the dish well; you could also use Basmati rice.
- Canned Coconut Milk – creamy and slightly coconuty. Use the liquid and the ‘cream’ part that are in the can.
- Pinch of Salt – for good measure!
If you’re using an instant pot to make the rice, add a little more rice since the liquid doesn’t evaporate as much. You could also add less liquid, but because we’re using the whole can it’s easier to add more rice. As always, be sure to see the recipe card for more detailed directions.
In both cases, combine the rice, coconut milk, and salt and stir to combine. Let the rice cook while you prepare the other parts of this recipe.
Next, Make the Pineapple Salsa
There is so much to love about fruit salsas, and I’m no stranger to pairing most of my summer meals with either pineapple, peach, or mango salsa. They all pair beautifully with fresh seafood and the brightness is unlike any other. With a hint of spice, the sweet-and-spicy combination can’t be beaten.
While the coconut rice cooks, prepare the pineapple salsa. You can also make it in advance and let it sit in the fridge. The flavors will continue to meld together.
Simply chop and dice pineapple, red bell pepper, red onion, jalapeno, garlic, and cilantro. Throw in a squeeze of lime juice and salt to taste, and you’re ready to enjoy!
Of course, you can mix and match, and adjust the ingredients of the salsa to your preferences or what you have on hand. One of the beauties of homemade salsa is that it is so customizable! Now that the salsa and rice are ready, it’s time for the final step: the scallops.
How to Pan-Sear the Scallops
If you haven’t pan-seared scallops before, be prepared for your life to change! When you sear juicy, jumbo sea scallops, their exterior becomes a deep golden brown and the slight caramelization provides flavor like no other that just melts in your mouth. With a few simple steps and points to note, you’ll be pan-searing scallops like a pro in no time!
What kind of scallops should I buy? Make sure you’re purchasing jumbo sea scallops. I also recommend purchasing “dry” scallops if you can, opposed to wet. This difference comes down to how the scallops are preserved. Wet scallops are preserved in a liquid and can sometimes have more of an aftertaste, and dry scallops are not treated with any solution. This means they’re also much better to sear with.
First, start by making sure the scallops are completely patted dry.
This is different than buying ‘dry scallops’, I mean actually use a paper towel and pat the scallops dry, removing any moisture that has accumulated. This will ensure they develop that golden brown exterior when pan-searing them; any moisture prevents that crisp crust.
Once the scallops are pat dry, generously coat the ends (the flat part of their cylinder shape) with salt and pepper.
Next, you need a hot pan. As when cooking anything you’re going to sear, a hot pan is the most important step to getting that perfect sear. Add butter to the hot skillet and let it melt. It will then begin to bubble, and it might lightly begin to smoke.
Place the scallops – flat side down – in the hot pan after the butter has bubbled and make sure you space them out evenly. Allow the scallops to cook for about a minute and a half on the first side without moving until it’s developed a golden brown exterior on that side. The scallop will come up easily if it’s ready to be flipped; if it sticking, then give it more time to cook. You likely don’t need long, so keep watch. It should easily come off of the pan to be flipped with tongs when it’s ready.
You’ll know they’re done after each side is golden brown and they are translucent. Do take not for how long the scallops sear on each side, because you don’t want to overcook them. Perfectly pan-seared scallops with melt in your mouth. The alternative is they become rubbery. Moral of the story: don’t take your eyes off of them!
Assemble the Dish
The only thing left to do is assemble and dig in! Layer down a bed of coconut rice, top it with the pineapple salsa, and then layer on those perfectly pan-seared scallops. I always garnish with more cilantro and serve with a glass of chilled white wine, but of course, you do as you wish. 🙂
Then dig in and immediately find yourself transported to a tropical oasis.
The coconut rice is heavenly creamy and pairs PERFECTLY with the sweetness of the pineapple salsa and scallops. The salsa also adds texture with the fresh crunch and a hint of spice. Not to mention the cilantro takes freshness to the next level. It all just works SO. WELL. together. Enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
I highly recommend giving the scallops a try, but if you can’t find them or simply can’t, then I recommend sautéing shrimp (or you could always do shrimp and scallops!). Cooking up some blackened Mahi Mahi would also be delicious.
Make sure you’re purchasing jumbo sea scallops. I also recommend purchasing “dry” scallops if you can, opposed to wet. See above post for the difference.
Yes, the coconut flavor will just be less pronounced and it won’t be as creamy.
Get the Recipe Seared Scallops with Coconut Rice and Pineapple Salsa
- Stovetop Directions: Combine jasmine rice, coconut milk, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir once. Cover with a lid (or foil) then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand (covered) for 5-10 minutes, fluff with a fork before serving. Stir in chopped cilantro, if desired.
- Instant Pot Directions: Add 1 cup of rice to the Instant Pot with the can of coconut milk and a pinch of salt. Cover the Instant Pot with the lid, closing it completely, and making sure the vent is set to sealed. Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes; release the steam carefully and fluff with a fork before serving. Stir in chopped cilantro, if desired.
- Mix together the pineapple salsa while the rice cooks, before making the scallops.
- While the rice is resting (or right before it's finished cooking), begin prepping the scallops. Pat the scallops dry, then salt and pepper the flat sides of the scallops.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the butter. When it is bubbly, add the scallops (giving them room between each other), flat side down. Cook for 1 to 1½ minutes on the first side until a golden brown "crust" forms and they easily come away from the pan. Flip and cook for another 1 to 1 ½ minutes until golden brown. The center will be translucent; be careful to not overcook!
- Plate the coconut rice, pineapple salsa, and the scallops together. Garnish with additional cilantro and serve.
- You can absolutely make as many or as few scallops as you need! 1 pound (16 scallops) is suggested for the serving size of 4.
- Dairy-free: use a high-heat oil in place of the butter.
- Cook time will vary depending on how you cook the rice; using an Instant Pot will be slightly faster.
This post was originally published in June 2015; in August 2019 the photos were updated, as well as the Instant Pot directions. No changes were made to the recipe otherwise.
This recipe is part of our Date Night Recipes to Love roundup. Check it out!