Air Fryer Scallops

Air Fryer Scallops

Scallops make for an extremely easy seafood dish that you can whip up within 10 minutes. It’s flavorful and easy to season, and when pan-fried, they take on a beautiful golden color.

The good news is that you can also cook this incredibly tasty seafood dish in an air fryer! But there are a few things that you need to keep in mind beforehand. 

How do you make scallops in an air fryer? To make scallops, simply spray the air-fryer basket with cooking spray, place the scallops in the basket, season with salt and spices, and cook at 400°F for 3 minutes on each side or until they are golden brown at the top. 

Of course, this is a very basic and quick way of making scallops. There are other things that you can do to take the flavor and texture of this dish to the next level too, so read on!


Why Air Frying Scallops Is Better

Scallops are the meaty part of clams that have a distinct plump texture. They are usually moist and are sold frozen in supermarkets. 

The great thing about scallops is that it catches on an excellent sear when pan-fried which adds texture and flavor to this otherwise soft seafood ingredient. 

Thankfully, it is possible to replicate these same characteristics when air frying scallops as well. 

This is due to how air fryers heat food using convection cooking. Convection cooking is an indirect way of heating food that utilizes hot air instead of direct flame to cook food from the outside-in. 

Air fryers can provide a similar cooking experience to pan or deep frying and may even be better in some cases!

For example, pan-fried scallops can be difficult to cook, especially if you are making a lot of scallops at a time. 

Keep in mind that timing is everything when making this particular seafood. If the scallops spend more time on the pan than necessary, they may overcook or worse, get burnt! This will completely ruin their delicate nutty and slightly sweet flavor and buttery texture. 

Air fryers solve this problem by equally and precisely cooking multiple scallops at the same time. This way, you can control the temperature and cooking time of the scallops without worrying about overcooking them.

Furthermore, scallops cook fast and don’t require a lot of time over the stove. The time that it does spend on heat is mostly focused on bringing on a sear or golden-brown color on both sides. 

When you air-fry the scallops, you will essentially cook all of them at the same time. For example, most modern air fryers have advanced circulation technology and dedicated fins at the top and bottom side of the basket which allows the hot air to circulate evenly across the chamber.

This means that you will only have to add 5-7 scallops in the basket, season them, set the timer, and let them cook at high heat! This will produce crisper and juicer scallops – which may rival or exceed the quality of pan-fried scallops! 

How to Cook Scallops In Air Fryers

Normally, scallops will fry well in any non-stick or heavy-bottomed fry pan. All you need to do is season them and cook them with oil until they are golden brown on each side.

However, in an air fryer, you might have to make some adjustments to get the same effect. You also need to first decide why you would want to use an air fryer to cook scallops over pan-frying. 

Since air fryers cook food without needing them to be submerged in oil, they can help shave off a lot of excess calories. Air fryers can also easily cook food without the need for surveillance. Just set the timer and temperature and cook away!

If you value convenience and health benefits, then you should surely cook the scallops in the air fryer, otherwise, it would be just better if you stick to the typical stove method.

Also, if you just want to try cooking scallops in your brand-new air fryer and don’t have dietary restrictions, then we have the perfect way for you to cook scallops in a way that will match the flavor and texture of pan-fried scallops!

Frozen Vs. Thawed 

Before you get cooking, here is an important word of advice:

Scallops are just like any other seafood; they are required to be either refrigerated or frozen to prolong their shelf life and to keep them from going bad. 

Most people cook scallops right from the freezer, which is usually fine but may take longer and require some tweaking. 

However, if you want the best flavors and texture then we recommend that you allow the scallops to reach room temperature first. 

This will do two things:

  1. It will reduce the overall moisture in the scallops.
  2. It will reduce cold spots and perfectly cook the scallops from the outside in.

Think about it, when you add frozen scallops to a hot pan, they will quickly sear from the top but will remain cold in the center. 

Always remember, food is going to be the coldest at the center when frozen so your goal should be to cook it thoroughly without leaving any cold or uncooked spots. 

This is why we highly recommend that you thaw the scallops before cooking them. The best way to do this is to refrigerate the scallops overnight until they reach ambient temperature (40°F).

This will loosen up the meat and will allow the scallop to become spongey again. You can also use a microwave or the air fryer itself to thaw the scallops easily (more on this below).

Keep in mind: scallops already contain some moisture and you will need to remove the excess water from the seafood so that it cooks properly. 

The best cooking state for scallops is when they are spongey, soft, and completely thawed.

Universal Method Of Cooking Scallops In An Air Fryer

  1. Wash the scallops under clean water and then dry them using a paper towel. Leave them on a dry paper towel for about 5 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, prepare the seasoning mix by combining a pinch of salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and chili flakes. You can work without exact measurements for the ingredients. Just sprinkle everything over the scallops (each side) until they are adequately seasoned. 
  3. Preheat the air fryer at 400°F. 
  4. On a plate, place the scallops and sprinkle the seasoning over them on each side. You can also do this step in the air fryer basket but we highly recommend that you don’t add seasonings to the basket as it may cause the base of the air fryer to deteriorate over time. 
  5. Spray cooking spray at the base of the basket and place the scallops in. Keep at least half an inch of space between the scallops so that the hot air can pass through them on all sides. You can place around 5-8 scallops at a time, depending on the size of the air fryer and scallops.OptionalAdditionally, spray the top of the scallops – this step is optional but will add more flavor and color to the scallops while cooking. 
  6. Set the air fryer to 3 minutes for room temperature scallops and 5 minutes for frozen scallops. Once done, take out the basket and inspect the scallops. Flip them and cook them for an additional 3 or 5 minutes to get the same color and texture on the other side too. 
  7. Carefully take the cooked scallops out of the air fryer basket, serve on a plate, and drizzle with sesame chili oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper! 

Air Fryer Scallops – The Best Go-to Recipe

Here’s a great go-to recipe for making the best scallops that you will ever have in an air fryer!


  • 6-8 fresh scallops
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped chives


  1. Clean the scallops under clear water and then pat them with a paper towel until dry. You can also thaw frozen scallops in the microwave until they are completely soft and plump. 
  2. Lightly season the scallops with salt and pepper on each side. 
  3. Spray the air fryer basket with cooking spray and put in the scallops. Make sure that there is some space between the scallops to allow the air to pass through. 
  4. Cook the scallops at 400°F for 10 minutes total. Flip the scallops at the 5-minute mark to get an even and crispy exterior coating. 
  5. To make the sauce: in a saucepan, add butter and garlic and cook until the butter is melted.Now add the lemon juice and garnish with chives. 
  6. Dish out the cooked scallops on a plate and serve with a drizzle of the butter sauce. Enjoy the scallops while they are hot!

Tips And Tricks

  • Scallops can cook very fast so you might need to adjust the temperature of your air fryer accordingly. For example, scallops can also be cooked at a temperature of 380°F for 5-6 minutes on each side. 
  • Lowering the temperature may help reduce the chances of cold spots, especially when using frozen scallops.
  • Most air fryers are designed to circulate air efficiently without needing to preheat or turn the food over. However, the undeniable fact is that it is better to move the food around at the halfway mark to cook it more evenly and to get an equal color. This is why you should seriously consider taking the extra minute to flip the scallops over as they cook. 
  • Using neutral oils is the best way to cook scallops. Canola oil is an excellent example as it doesn’t add a lot of overpowering flavors and since canola oil has a high smoking and heating point, you can easily char the scallops without adding a burnt aroma to them. 
  • You can also use extra virgin olive oil to cook the scallops, although it might not add the same flavor. Remember, the best way to get the most out of the naturally sweet, nutty, and tender flavors from scallops is to cook them in neutral oil.
  • If you do plan on using frozen scallops then we highly recommend that you first thaw them in the air fryer for 2-3 minutes. A great way to do this is to place a bunch of scallops in the air fryer and heat them at 400°F for 2 minutes or until thawed. Take them out of the basket, dry them using paper towels and then add the seasonings and cook as per the instructions above. 
  • Making a rice dish on the side for scallops is a great idea. The buttery texture and delicious umami-laden flavor from the seafood will mix well with the nutty and neutral flavor of fragrant rice! You can also make a butter sauce for the scallops that will mix equally well with white rice too. 

Related Questions

Scallops are an excellent source of protein and provide a refreshing flavor. 

They are one of the easiest seafood dishes to make at home and making scallops in air fryers will add a lot of health benefits too. Also, if cooked the right way, air-fried scallops will be indistinguishable from pan-fried scallops!

Now that you know how to cook this delicious seafood in an air fryer, here are some related questions regarding scallops:

What is the right internal temperature for cooked scallops?

When properly cooked, the scallops will have a golden-brown texture on both sides. It will look sort of like a sandwich with white meat in the middle and two browned sides (top and bottom). The scallops should be tender and not rubbery too.

Another way to make sure that the scallops are cooked is to use a cooking thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat. When cooked, the temperature at the middle of the food should read 140-150°F. 

Do not exceed more than 155-160°F or you might overcook the scallops – regardless of what method you use.

Can you sear scallops in the pan after cooking in an air fryer?

Yes, you can cook scallops in the air fryer and then separately sear them for color and flavor using a hot pan. But the important thing to keep in mind here is that scallops can cook very quickly and do not usually require a lot of cook time.

Cooking them in the air fryer and then the pan might cause them to have a rough rubber-like texture – which would indicate an overly cooked scallop. 

You will also end up losing some of the health benefits of using an air fryer as you would just end up frying the scallops in oil!

However, the best way to use both methods would be to first air fry the scallops for 2 minutes at 400°F and then continue cooking them by searing them on both sides on a hot pan. 

Can you fry pre-marinated frozen scallops without thawing them?

Yes, you can cook scallops directly off the freezer but you might not be able to get the same texture and flavor from them, even if you previously marinated them before freezing. 

To directly cook the scallops, just add them whole in the air fryer and set the temperature to 400°F.

Cook the scallops for 2 minutes and then separate them using a spoon when thawed. Then continue cooking them in the air fryer for 10 minutes – 5 minutes on each side.

Remember, the less moisture the scallops have, the better they will cook and taste after cooking!

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