What Do Scallops Taste Like? – The Complete Guide

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In the world of food, you get so many different flavors. No matter what it is you are making, you will find that sometimes the taste can vary greatly just because of the spices and seasonings you used.

The cooking method, as well as the quality and type of item you purchase, can always have some bearing on the flavor. 

If you’re one of those people that sometimes struggles to try new things, it’s always a good idea to have some expectation of the flavor that you’re going to experience when you do taste it.

Scallops, and other forms of seafood, tend to fall into the category of foods that people are always asking “what does this taste like?”

So, what do scallops taste like? Scallops are very similar to crab and lobster in flavor. The taste itself is subtle, light, and sweet with a small hint of nuttiness, akin to almonds or hazelnuts. There might also be some saltiness or brightness from the brine the scallops may have come in.

In this guide, we will walk you through a comprehensive overview of what scallops taste like.

We will cover some different options and details that can also have a direct effect on the flavor of your scallops and let you know just what you can expect if you decide to try them. 

Stick with us to learn what scallops taste like and more! 

What Do Scallops Taste Like?

A lot of people turn up their noses to any type of seafood because they assume that if it’s from the sea or the ocean, it’s going to taste fishy.

While some things certainly can be fishy in flavor, you might be surprised to find that things like scallops and other food from this same category typically are not fishy in flavor. 

One of the really unique things about scallops is that they have a really light flavor.

In addition to the light flavor, they easily absorb flavor so if you cook them in butter or sauce and spice, they are going to quickly and easily pick up those flavors. 

You might get a slight hint of saltwater or briny flavor but just know that the actual flavor of scallops is fairly mild overall. It can be incredibly challenging to describe a flavor without having something to compare it to. 

However, if you can picture flavors in your head, you’ve come to the right place as we’re going to completely break down the flavor of scallops for you but also maybe answer some questions and misperceptions about the flavor of scallops. 

So, what do scallops taste like? The easiest way to explain the flavor is to simply say that they are mild in flavor and comparable to the flavor and texture of seafood like crab or lobster.

Of course, that isn’t helpful if you haven’t tried crab or lobster, is it? 

The flavor itself is not something that will stand out drastically. The mild flavor gives you a lot of leeway in preparing scallops and really trying to get the flavor that you want from them.

In general, the flavor is just slightly nutty, with a hint of flavor like an almond or a hazelnut

Now, if you pop a scallop in your mouth expecting it to taste like an almond, you will be disappointed. It just has a note of this nutty flavor as part of the overall flavor.

Just keep in mind that the flavor itself is pretty mild but it can totally be spruced up in many ways. 

Almost more important than the initial flavor itself is the texture. The texture is buttery and tender, which makes it enjoyable as part of a dish or simply cooked and eaten on its own as well.

Again, if you have ever tasted or even seen cooked crab and lobster, the texture is very comparable. Scallops are slightly more firm but still very tender. 

Many people say that scallops taste a lot like shrimp or lobster. The flavor is mild but succulent and even a tad bit sweet as well.

A scallop is a mollusk, part of the shellfish family so it is most easily relatable to other members of the shellfish family, as far as describing the flavors goes. 

However, in addition to the qualities that make scallops similar to things like shrimp or lobster, they tend to be slightly sweeter, which is where that hint of nuttiness comes into play.

They are sometimes referred to as the “candy of the sea” because of that sweet flavor in them. 

Types Of Scallops

Not every scallop will taste exactly the same because there are actually different types of scallops.

Every type has a little something unique to it that changes the flavor and the appearance so this can easily become confusing to people if they were expecting a specific flavor and then ended up with a different flavor in the end. 

The 3 main types of scallops are as follow:

  • Bay scallops
  • Sea scallops
  • Calico scallops

Bay scallops are perhaps one of the most popular varieties. These scallops are known for their sweet flavor and are the sweetest of the scallop options.

These particular scallops are seasonal and have unique migration patterns that leave them harder to get at times. 

Bay scallops migrate and are mostly caught between October and March each year. This isn’t to say you won’t be able to ever buy them in off months but if you want them fresh, these are the ideal timeframes.

This type of scallop is most commonly found in the bay, as opposed to the sea-like sea scallops. Bay scallops are also known for being fairly small in comparison to other types of scallops.

Bay scallops can be cooked quickly and are absolutely delicious when you sauté them in butter or poach them. They should be treated gently. 

Then, there are sea scallops. While a lot of people love bay scallops, sea scallops are the most common kind and the most readily available as well. These are found at sea and are not seasonal like the bay scallop. 

Sea scallops tend to be quite a bit larger than bay scallops as well, sometimes almost three times larger in total size. These are not quite as sweet as bay scallops but the flavors are similar overall. 

Sea scallops tend to be stronger and more durable so they don’t have to be treated quite as gently for cooking purposes or even for harvesting purposes.

They are not quite as tender as bay scallops and may be slightly chewy as well. The meat is slightly sweet but less so than bay scallops. They do cook quickly and easily as well. 

Finally, the least common type of scallop is the calico scallop. These are also very seasonal and can be rare and hard to find. They herald from the South Atlantic area and traditionally are best found from December to May.

They are much harder to harvest and much harder to obtain the meat from as well. 

As far as size and flavor, the calico scallop is comparable to the bay scallop, although not as sweet.

It’s small and the textures and sizes are almost identical. Calico scallops tend to be sweet but slightly less sweet, more comparable to the sweetness of sea scallops as a whole. These scallops come from offshore, deep waters in specific regions. 

What Do Scallops Look Like?

Scallops come from inside of a seashell. When you see those beautiful shells that come from the sea, consider that at one time, they held a living creature inside of them.

Seashells (not mussels) contain this meat at the heart of them and when opened up, you get a scallop from the center. 

Most of the time, when you purchase scallops, they are not in the shell. They were caught and harvested and you simply get the scallop meat that is safe and prepared for you to cook and eat. 

When the meat is removed from that fan-shaped shell exterior that protects the muscle and meat, you end up with a small, roundish piece of meat that we know and understand to be a scallop.

Scallop meat is pretty small, even for sea scallops. 

You will find that the meat piece from a scallop will be somewhere between 1-3 inches in diameter. They might also up to about 1 inch thick as well. So imagine the size of maybe a quarter but thick and almost fluffy as well. 

As far as the coloring of a scallop, you can expect to see a range of colors. There really is quite a range and they are all good colors.

The colors deviate because of things like whether the scallop is male or female but also where it is found and whether or not it is spawning as well

The range of colors include white, grayish-white, light tan, rosy pink, and orange. The orange will not be a bright shade of orange but rather just a hint of orange like you see with some shrimp or shrimp tails. 

In terms of appearance, one thing to watch out for is fraying edges around the shape. This can sometimes be a sign that they weren’t properly handled or that they are perhaps even going bad. 

What Is The Texture Of A Scallop?

Do you ever have problems with textures? Some people don’t eat certain foods more because of the texture of the food rather than the flavor of the food. In fact, we find that food dislikes are often more related to texture. 

So, what do scallops feel like? Are they slimy? One of the biggest things we hear is that scallops are slimy and that’s why people don’t like them. However, they really are not slimy.

When we think of slime in relation to food, we think of gooey or thick coatings that are just not appetizing. 

Scallops can be slightly slippery because of their smooth texture but they should never be slimy.

When you cook them, even the slippery nature of their meat changes so if you’re worried about a slimy piece of food, that should not be the case with a scallop. 

Raw scallops can be slippery to the touch but they shouldn’t possess any juices or anything that make them slimy to touch or see either.

They will be tender and soft, maybe just a bit chewy, but if they are slimy then something is wrong

Are Scallops Fishy?

It’s scary to eat things from the sea, particularly if you label yourself as an individual who doesn’t like seafood.

The thing is, this is such a broad label that it really shouldn’t be used. There are so many types of seafood and the term should never be all-encompassing. 

Maybe you simply don’t care for fish but don’t lump every single food from the sea into the same category. The thing about scallops is they really are not fishy in flavor at all.

They do sometimes have a mild briny flavor, which comes from the salt of the sea but they are not fishy and they shouldn’t even really smell fishy in comparison. 

If you are smelling fishiness from scallops, this could actually be a sign that they are old and might even be spoiled. Otherwise, there shouldn’t be a fishy flavor or smell to them.

Again, they could smell briny or salty and maybe even a tad bit sweet but this shouldn’t be fishy in smell or flavor. 

Do Scallops And Shrimp Taste The Same?

If you like shrimp, chances are you will like scallops. While they are most certainly not the same, this is the most relatable comparison we can make.

As far as both flavor and texture, shrimp and scallops both tend to be rich without being overwhelmingly rich in flavor. Again, it’s a light flavor and it easily absorbs things like spices and butter that really makes them delicious. 

Both of these have a soft texture that isn’t overly chewy and both of them have just a hint of sweetness in the flavor. They can be cooked and prepared in very similar ways and used in similar dishes.

If you’re looking for the closest food to compare or relate a scallop to, shrimp is probably the most fitting. 

What Do You Serve With Scallops? 

Scallops can be prepared in a lot of different ways. You can poach them or you can sauté them with butter and garlic and other savory seasonings. You can also grill scallops and they taste absolutely amazing. 

Apart from just preparing the scallop and serving it like this, you can also prepare them as part of a dish. There are some really great recipes out there and an endless array of options if you set out to give them a try. 

If you’re serving scallops and need a good side dish option, check out these. 

  • Green salad with vinaigrette dressing
  • Serve or prepare in butter or lemon juice
  • Serve with white wine
  • Add to surf and turf dishes
  • Serve a veggie like spinach or Brussels sprouts
  • Tuscan beans
  • Lentils
  • Pastas
  • Polenta
  • Summer squash or zucchini
  • Butter and seasoned asparagus
  • Wild rice
  • Mashed potatoes

Honestly, your options are endless but these should give you some great inspiration!

Knowing When Scallops Have Gone Bad

Scallops can go bad, much like any other food so we thought it also might be helpful to leave you today with a few tips for understanding or discerning whether or not your scallops have gone bad. 

  • Scallops have a brown hue or tint
  • Scallops smell pungent or fishy
  • Scallops appear sticky or slimy
  • Scallops smell or taste like ammonia
  • Scallops have frayed edges

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