Peruvian Scallops

These sweet, succulent Peruvian Scallops are a perfectly elegant appetizer, and easily scaled up to serve as the main dish. With not one but two simple Peruvian-inspired sauces, they’re sure to impress at your New Year’s Eve or cocktail party. You may want to consider serving this Peruvian scallops recipe as a first course for your “stay in” Valentine’s Day dinner too!

4 small paella pans with Peruvian scallops, passion fruit sauce and avocado sauce, and air fryer plantains.

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – Recipe Inspiration

Keyword research is the foundation of a successful blog, and in the last year I have made good keyword research a priority. In the process of looking for new keywords that fit my “healthyish Latin with emphasis on Peruvian and Mexican” niche, I came across “Peruvian scallops” as a high volume, low difficulty keyword phrase. I immediately got excited about working on a Peruvian scallop recipe.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the top ranking posts for the keywords “Peruvian scallops” were related to the Peruvian scallop fishery, not scallop recipes with a Peruvian twist.

You’ll find a number of recipes that feature scallops on Beyond Mere Sustenance, including the always popular Irish scallop bisque and seared scallops with mushroom risotto, along with the somewhat more obscure but equally delicious scallop shooters and seared scallops with beer and chorizo.

Given the emphasis on seafood in Peruvian cuisine, I have long anticipated working on a Peruvian-inspired scallop recipe. These Peruvian scallops are served with two simple sauces – an ají amarillo and passionfruit (aka maracuya) sauce and a quick avocado (Peruvians call it “palta”) sauce. I served my seared Peruvian-inspired scallops and their accompanying sauces with air fryer plantains. They turned out to be the perfect dipper. Fried yuca or even tortilla chips would be great as well!

About Peruvian Scallops

Nicknamed “golden nuggets of the Peruvian sea,” Peruvian scallops – Argopecten purpuratus – are a relatively new (about 15 years) export. The Sechura Bay on Peru’s north coast is now known as one the major producers of scallops in the world. France is the leading consumer of Peruvian scallops, followed by the United States.

So how do Peruvian scallops differ from the large sea scallops shown in my photos? They are bay scallops and tend to be small to medium-sized. The flavor is similar, but aficionados prize them for their sweet flavor. I highly recommend them for pasta dishes and stir fries. If they’re farm-raised (bottom or off-bottom method) in Peru, they’re likely sustainably raised and have FOS approval. If you follow the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, they may be a “best choice” option.

When I’m doing a dish that truly features scallops (like this one), I tend to look for the largest scallops I can find. I cannot get dry scallops, but I can get really good, fresh wet scallops. See the Tips section for pointers on dealing with wet scallops.

Seared Scallops

A clear glass bowl of sea scallops soaking in salted ice water with lemon juice.
I always take the time to do a salt and lemon juice soak when preparing “wet” sea scallops. It’s totally worth the effort!
  • scallops – I buy the largest, freshest scallops I can find. It is important to note whether they’re “wet” or “dry” scallops, and prepare them accordingly.
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • sea salt

Passionfruit Ají Amarillo Sauce

Ingredients for a passionfruit and aji amarillo sauce for the Peruvian scallops.
  • butter – Either salted or unsalted butter is fine. Just remember to check seasoning before adding any additional salt!
  • shallot – Red onion is the best substitute.
  • garlic
  • passionfruit purée – By all means use fresh passionfruit if you can find it (or want to spend the money!). I keep Goya passionfruit purée in my freezer, and it works very well.
  • dijon mustard
  • lime – Fresh lime juice is a must!

Avocado Yogurt Sauce

Ingredients for an easy avocado sauce for the scallops - Greek yogurt, avocado, cilantro, lime, chile pepper.
  • avocado
  • plain Greek yogurt
  • lime juice
  • cilantro
  • fresh chile – On photo day, I used half of a fresh Fresno chile. Red or green jalapeño, serrano, or habanero are good as well. Keep in mind the heat level!

🔪 Instructions

Before getting started, I want to clarify a couple of things. If you’ve purchased “wet” scallops (see Tips below), the very first thing you want to do is soak the scallops. The soak requires 30 minutes, and you can prepare both sauces, and possibly even your chosen dipper, during that time.

Passionfruit Ají Amarillo Sauce

Step 1 - Saute butter, shallot, and garlic for the passionfruit and aji amarillo sauce.
  • Sauté the aromatics – Add butter, shallot, and garlic to a sauté pan over medium heat. Let the mixture sizzle until the onion is transparent but not browned.
Step 2 - Add the aji amarillo paste and dijon mustard.
  • Add the dijon mustard and ají amarillo paste. Stir to combine. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
Step 3 - Add the passionfruit puree and lime juice to the pan.
  • Finish the sauce – Add the passionfruit purée and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh lime juice. Scrape into a small food processor, and pulse until smooth. Taste and season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. NOTE: If the sauce is too tart for your palate, add a little of your favorite liquid sweeter. We like it tart, and the avocado sauce and scallops mellow it out…
  • Put the sauce into a pourable container until ready to serve.

Avocado Yogurt Sauce

A blender with the ingredients for the avocado yogurt sauce.
  • Make the avocado sauce – Add the ingredients for the avocado sauce to a food processor. Pulse until smooth; check and adjust seasoning to taste. Thin with a little buttermilk, milk, or water to make a thick but pourable consistency.

Seared Scallops

A glass bowl of sea scallops soaking in brine and lemon juice before searing the scallops for the Peruvian scallops recipe.
  • Are you using “wet” scallops? This 30 minute soak will improve your results. Add scallops to a mixture of 1 quart cold water, a handful of ice cubes, ¼ cup lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons table salt for 30 minutes.
The brined scallops on a paper towel with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
  • Prepare the scallops – Remove from the liquid. Pat dry, then season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. NOTE: The more dry you get the scallops, the better the sear you’ll achieve.
A cast iron skillet with 12 large scallops.
  • Cook the scallops – Lightly coat the pan with oil, then get your pan really hot. Place the prepared scallops on the hot surface. Resist the urge to check them too soon. After 1 1/2 to 2 minutes turn them. If they’re ready they should be fairly easy to turn. Reduce heat to medium. Cook an additional 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • To serve – Pour a little of each of the sauces on to the plate. Arrange 3 seared scallops on the plate, then garnish with chopped cilantro and your chosen dipper. Enjoy!
2 servings of Peruvian scallops with the two sauces, a black fork, linen napkin, and cilantro.

💭 Tips

If you’ve purchased “wet” scallops, it helps to soak in a mixture of 1 quart cold water, a handful of ice cubes, ¼ cup lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons table salt for 30 minutes. If you’ve purchased “dry” scallops, skip the brine.

A metal spatula or tongs works best for flipping the scallops.

Avocado Yogurt Sauce will need thinning. You can use buttermilk, dairy or non-dairy milk, or even water to get it to a thick pourable consistency.

For presentation purposes, put the hard sear side of the scallop face up.

What is the difference between “wet” and “dry” scallops?

“Wet” scallops have been treated with phosphates to preserve shelf life. The phosphates cause the scallops to absorb water, and may give them a bit of an off-taste. The liquid also inflates their weight, and once cooked, they’ll shrink. Dry scallops are simply scallops sold dry (not in liquid). See Tips above if you have “wet” scallops.

What kind of pan should I use to sear the scallops?

I always use a heavy cast iron skillet. I find it difficult to get a sear from a non-stick pan. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, use a pan with a heavy bottom.

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. This helps to offset the costs of maintaining my blog and creating awesome content! 😊

Metal Spatula Set
Ají Amarillo Paste
Cast Iron Skillet

This elegant appetizer may look “fancy,” but it really is very simple and quick to make. The active time is only about 15-20 minutes. Even with the 30 minute soak, you’re looking at about 35-40 minutes total. You can make the sauces while the scallops soak. I hope you’ll give them a try!

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

A mini-paella pan with Peruvian scallops, air fryer plantains, and 2 sauces.

Peruvian Scallops

Simple seared scallops with 2 Peruvian-inspired sauces… a quick, elegant appetizer for a holiday or dinner party!
4.34 from 3 votes

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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
optional salt water soak 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Appetizers
Cuisine Peruvian
Servings 4 servings
Calories 286 kcal

Ingredients
  

Scallops

  • 12 large sea scallops - about a pound
  • 1 lemon - juiced; optional
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt - optional
  • 1 quart water
  • ice

Passionfruit Ají Amarillo Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 shallot - minced
  • 1 clove garlic - minced
  • 2 teaspoons ají amarillo paste - more or less to taste
  • cup maracuya (passionfruit) pulp/juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice - about 1/2 of a juicy lime
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

Avocado Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 medium avocado - skin and pit removed
  • ½ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 lime - juiced
  • ½ cup cilantro - packed; young stems are fine
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • water, buttermilk, milk - to thin (see Tips in post)

Instructions

  • If you're using "wet" scallops – Add scallops to a mixture of 1 quart cold water, a handful of ice cubes, ¼ cup lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons table salt for 30 minutes
  • Add butter, shallot, and garlic to a sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté until shallot is soft (about 2-3 minutes).
  • Add the dijon mustard and ají amarillo paste. Stir to combine. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the passionfruit purée and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh lime juice. Scrape into a small food processor, and pulse until smooth. Taste and season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper as needed. Set aside.
  • Add the ingredients for the avocado sauce to a food processor. Pulse until smooth; check and adjust seasoning to taste. Thin with a little water to make a thick but pourable consistency.
  • Pat the scallops dry, then season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
  • Lightly coat the pan with oil, then get your pan really hot. Place the prepared scallops on the hot surface. After 1 ½ to 2 minutes turn them. If they're ready they should be fairly easy to turn. Reduce heat to medium. Cook an additional 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • Serve. Pour a little of each of the sauces on to the plate. Arrange 3 seared scallops on the plate, then garnish with chopped cilantro and your chosen dipper.

Notes

NOTE: If the sauce is too tart for your palate, add a little of your favorite liquid sweeter. We like it tart, and the avocado sauce and scallops mellow it out…

Nutrition

Calories: 286kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 17g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions: tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com

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