Seared Scallops with Apple Cider-Balsamic Glaze

With this heat wave, I needed something relatively light for dinner – so off I went to the seafood counter.  It just seems cooler over there, with the long display of sea creatures nestled in iced-down trays.  The scallops were calling my name, all sweetness and light in their plump milky-whiteness.  Ok, they didn’t really call me over…but they did look good and fresh!

Surveying the refrigerator back at home, there was still this bottle of apple cider taking up real estate.  I figured that an apple cider glaze would really bring out the natural sweetness of the scallops.  Add spinach and mushrooms to that for some earthiness, a bit of bacon to add a touch of saltiness, and I think you have a meal!


  • 10 jumbo sea scallops
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 4 ounces mushrooms (I used a mix of cremini, oyster, and shitake)
  • butter
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (or pepper blend)
  • ~3/4 cup unfiltered apple cider
  • ~2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ~1 tablespoon honey

Place sea scallops on paper towels and blot dry.  Lightly season with salt and pepper on both sides.  Set aside (keep on towels so they will stay dry, or they will not sear properly.)

In a large saute pan, cook bacon until crisp.  Remove bacon, chop into bits (when it cools off) and set aside.

Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan and reheat to medium-high.  Add mushrooms to pan and saute until mushrooms are soft and slightly browned.  Add additional butter to pan, if the mushrooms soak up all the fat.  When mushrooms are done, place them in a small bowl and set aside.

Add a couple more tablespoons of butter to the pan and reheat to medium-high.  Working in batches, saute the spinach until it is all wilted.  Add the mushrooms and bacon bits to the pan and stir to mix.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Set pan aside.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the apple cider, balsamic vinegar, and honey (amounts are estimated).  Set aside.  [Note:  Don’t despair, it’s all about to come together quickly!]

Using a large cast-iron skillet or heavy frying pan, heat pan over high heat until searing hot.  Add a thin layer of bacon fat and butter to the pan, then quickly place the scallops in the pan to sear.  Cook undisturbed for around 3 minutes, or until the bottom of the scallop is deeply browned/caramelized.  Turn the scallops over and sear the other side in the same manner.  Remove the scallops to a shallow bowl or plate – tent with foil to keep warm.  Carefully add the cider mixture to the hot skillet and stir to mix in any caramelized bit in the bottom of the pan.  (The fluids will boil and steam like crazy when they hit the hot pan, so be careful not to burn yourself.)  When the liquid has reduced and thickened some (1 to 2 minutes), pour over the scallops.

Reheat the spinach, briefly.  To serve, place scallops over a bed of the spinach and mushrooms, and spoon some of the apple cider glaze over the top.  Enjoy!

Some exotic musical offerings today, first up, Earthquake Island from Jon Hassell. His use of electronically treated instruments (including his trumpet), and experiments in world music make Hassell a unique listen. This one has elements of the work he did with Eno, while maintaining a solid groove throughout.

Next, an amazing collective of musicians from around the globe, PFC 2: Songs Around The World including Keb Mo’ and Taj Mahal from the US, Toumani Diabate from the Middle East, Stephen Marley, and the incredible Tinariwen from Africa. What makes this project so fascinating is, this music is performed in various places around the world, often simultaneously- on original material as well as “Gimmie Shelter”, the Bob Marley classic “3 Little Birds” and more. An uplifting experience indeed!


62 thoughts on “Seared Scallops with Apple Cider-Balsamic Glaze

  1. I think you’ve out-done yourself on this one! Okay, I’ve been saying this about all your recipes, but I need to try this one as soon as possible. You haven’t lead me wrong yet, haha.

    1. Thanks, Alex! This is a really good one, if I say so myself. It’s even better because it’s so quick! Hope you like it!

    1. The trick seems to be getting the pan to the “freaking hot” stage before dropping the scallops in. Thanks for the comments! This was about 10 NOMS on your NOM rating scale, I think.

  2. What a gorgeous meal. I love the idea of pairing the apple cider with the scallops to bring out the natural sweetness of the scallops. Really sounds wonderful.

    1. Thanks for visiting, and for the comments! These scallops were really lovely and sweet. I hope you try it!

      p.s. I love your blog – great recipes and beautiful photography!

  3. Your instinct to use that apple cider with these scallops certainly was spot on. You’ve got a winning recipe here and one that I’d love to try.

  4. This is a really nice recipe! Doesn’t appear that you need to be a chef to prepare this meal (but I bet if you are …. well you know)

    I’m thinking I need to go check out my local fish market (they just moved closer to me) and see what their scallops look like – this could be on the table this weekend.

    Thanks so much for sharing. I will definitely be back often to see what else you come up with.

    1. Thanks, Kat! No, you certainly don’t need to be a chef to prepare these scallops. The only thing I’m professionally trained to mix together is plasma and red blood cells…and enough said about that on a food blog! [Laboratory training may help with cooking, though, now that I think about it.]

      Hope you have a chance to try out the recipe. Let us know how it went!

  5. Wow. I love scallops and this picture makes me want to eat my computer screen! I think I have to buy scallops the next time I’m at Whole Foods. I’ll just tell hubby they were on sale 😉 Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. Absolutely gorgeous. I agree with loving that natural sweetness in scallops – I adore any preparation of them that uses fruit to bring out that sweetness. Beautiful meal!

  7. This recipe was amazing! Thank you for making a gourmet, restaurant quality meal accessible to a non-chef like me!

    1. Hey, I like cooking in my “comfy pants” too (aka “drinking britches”)!

      I used actual apple cider in the recipe, not cider vinegar. You could probably use filtered or unfiltered apple cider. Hope it turns out well!

      Thanks for visiting! ~Nancy

  8. Made this today and it was awesome! I don’t eat meat, so I eliminated the bacon and used olive oil in place of the bacon fat. FABULOUS!

  9. Wow! awesome flavors; I subbed olive oil for bacon fat as well & it was great; keep more like these coming!

    1. This glaze doesn’t really thicken in the way that a gravy does, so perhaps I used the wrong word to describe it. If the pan is really hot, it reduces pretty quickly into just enough liquid to just glaze the scallops and give them some of that concentrated flavor from the pan. If you have a lot of liquid, continuing to cook it will reduce the volume. Sorry for the confusing directions! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  10. My first attempt at a recipe I “liked” on Pinterest……WOW!!! Simple and quick and tastes great….. Will definitely make this again and again…. Only change I will double the greens for sure….

    And now I have leftover apple cider to heat and sip on…another plus….thanks for recipe

  11. Love this one but I need some advice: when I put the scallops in the hot pan a lot of liquid is released and it’s almost like scallop soup! I followed the directions very carfully about patting the scallops dry with paper towels & I heated the pan (perhaps I need to heat it even more?) but a bunch of water was released shortly after the scallops hit the pan; the scallops boiled more than seared due to the liquid. I tried to pour out the liquid but this didn’t seem to help that much. Any tips?

  12. Hi Allison. I think the problem is with your scallops and not anything that you are doing. Scallops that have been treated with a preservative solution (sodium phosphate) will release liquid like that when they are cooked. The phosphate solution makes the scallops a bright white color, and causes them to adsorb liquid before they are marketed (also making them weigh more, so you pay more for water). These are known as “wet” scallops and there’s nothing you can do to make them sear. “Dry” scallops are not treated and will be darker, or even pinkish, in color. Unfortunately they are not going to be labeled “wet” or “dry” at the grocery – you may have to ask. If you get frozen scallops, check the ingredients for any added phosphates. The untreated scallops are going to taste a lot better too!

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  14. I made this last night – added onions while cooking the mushrooms – this might be my favorite scallop dish ever! Absolutely amazing and simple!

  15. I made these scallops and they were absolutely amazing. I love scallops and make them very frequently and I have to say that tis is my most favorite way to prepare them. Thank you for sharing!

  16. I’m a pretty good cook. I make things from peoples recipes online all the time. This is the first time I have ever written a review… but I had to let you know that this might be the best thing I have ever cooked!! Thank you so much! I put the spinach and scallops on top of a rice pilaf and it was heaven!

  17. Outstanding, and this is from a Marine Corps cook. Love ,love love, you choices. I served with a nice white wine. My wife is still amazed that I can really cook. Searing is the key, and the apple just amplifies the meal. Thank you so very much for sharing. Sgt. Bob Davis, USMC

  18. What an amazing recipe..Thank you so much for sharing. We at even put it on our facebook page and its performing better than 80% of our posts and we have almost 5000 followers on facebook alone.

  19. I made this amazing dinner tonight and served it with a butternut squash risotto, amazing!

  20. Very good, we will have it again. I did start the reduction at the beginning of the prep work so I wouldn’t have to wait once the scallops were done.

  21. My husband can be hard to please. He is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, but he loved this. So much healthier,

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