What do Scallops Taste Like? Will I Like Them?

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Last updated on July 29, 2022


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Seafood is a delicious and healthy part of any diet, but it's hard to know which kinds to try, especially if you're just starting out. 

If you're a novice when it comes to the world of seafood, scallops are definitely something worth trying.  

For many, scallops are delicious addition to palate expansion. To help you get a better sense of what scallops have to offer, we've put together this guide on the tastes and texture of this delectable seafood.


What are Scallops?

Scallops are a type of bivalve mollusk that live in saltwater and are harvested from the ocean. They come in a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes, and can grow up to 9 inches long.

They can literally be found anywhere below the sea, throughout the world, and in every ecosystem imaginable.

These guys are also excellent swimmers! In order to sense movement, they have dozens of tiny eyes positioned around their shells.

They are wide-ranging, free-swimming, and active. They seek hiding places among rocks, reefs, and seagrasses but will migrate to a new location if disturbed.

Are They Safer to Eat than other Seafood?

question mark in rocks

Because you aren't eating any portion of a scallop that filters seawater, scallops are considered to be considerably safer than other shellfish.

This is because other filter- feeders may accumulate pollutants that they remove from the water, but when you eat scallops, you only consume the muscle and not any of the filtering body parts.

That being said, scallops are a delicious seafood option that can be enjoyed by everyone. They’re healthy, affordable, and easy to cook – making them the perfect meal for any occasion.

What do Scallops Taste Like?

scallop flavor infographic

Scallops have a flavor that can be described as "light" and "rich." They are not fishy tasting (unless left out for extended periods of time) but do have a briny, saltwater essence.

Scallops taste similar to lobster and crab, but with a firmer texture.

The adductor muscle of a scallop is what is eaten, unlike clams and mussels. The adductor muscle controls the shell's opening and closing.

Scallop Texture

scallop texture

Scallops texture is quite unique, as it can be described in a myriad of ways. Chewy, yet firm. Springy, yet juicy. Soft and buttery. Because their texture is firm, it makes them an excellent choice for any meal.

Scallop Flavor

scallop flavor

The truth is, scallops can taste quite different depending on where they are sourced and how they are prepared. Typically, scallops are sweet and nutty in flavor.

Their flavor profile can range from delicate to strong, and is pretty unique. There is really nothing quite like a scallop! 

If your scallops taste fishy, they have not been stored properly or prepared in the right way, and should not be eaten. 

What Do Scallops Look Like?


They have two shells and a central muscle that helps them swim. The outside shell is a light brown, white or pinkish color (but these colors vary widely), and the inside is varying colors of bright pink, red, orange and white.

When fresh, they will have a rough, sand-like substance on their shells which is to prevent slime from forming.

When cleaned and ready to be eaten raw or cooked, a scallop looks like a small, white cylindrical shape with a shiny sheen. They also range in size and shape. 

Scallop shells, which have radiating and often fluted decoration, are treasured by shell collectors because of their bright colors and symmetrical form.

What do Bad Scallops Taste Like?


Bad scallops will smell and taste very fishy and have a slimy texture. If you're thinking about trying some, make sure to smell your scallops before buying or eating them to check for any signs of fishiness.

What do Fried Scallops Taste Like?

Frying scallops changes the taste and texture, but in the best way! It makes the seafood crispy and gives it a savory flavor. A fried scallop will taste similar to a piece of very juicy fried fish. The downside is that it also increases the calorie and fat content. 

What do Bay Scallops Taste Like?

Bay scallops are the most prized type of scallop due to their sweet and delicate flavor. They are slightly more rare due to being wild, and only available during the winter months.

They are typically chewy in texture, and they can be either white or brown in color. 

Bay Scallops vs Sea Scallops vs Calico Scallops


The most common type is the bay scallop, which is harvested from the eastern seaboard of the United States. Bay scallops are the smallest, but have a sweet and delicate flavor that is highly prized in the seafood world.

They are fairly rare, and can only be found fresh during the winter months. 

If you're looking for something a little bit stronger, you might want to try the sea scallop. They are the meaty and larger variety that come from the North Atlantic.

They can be identified by their brownish coloration, plump appearance, and distinct rings on the side. The sea scallop is more readily available and can be found fresh year-round. 

Calico scallops have the most vibrant and colorful shells, but they aren't as sweet or succulent as sea or bay scallops, making them the least expensive.

They are somewhat larger than bay scallops, slightly darker in color, and have an earthy flavor with a crunchier texture. They are harvested in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic seaboard.

Scallops vs Clams

Both scallops and clams are bivalves, meaning they have two shells, but scallops taste sweet and nutty, while clams taste salty and fishy.

Scallops have a smooth, fan-like shell that is thinner and usually larger than clams, and can be found in both salt and fresh water. On the other hand, clams have a ribbed shell, and are only found in salt water. 

The difference in taste and texture is partly due to the way they move; scallops swim by quickly opening and closing their shells, while clams don't swim, but move by sucking in and pushing out water.

The adductor muscle of a scallop is what is eaten, unlike clams and mussels. The adductor muscle controls the shell's opening and closing.

Do Scallops Taste Like Shrimp?

Scallops have a sweeter, more delicate flavor than shrimp. They are often used in seafood recipes where their sweet flavor is highlighted.

To some people, scallops could taste similar to shrimp, but they still have a much milder flavor and firmer texture when cooked.

Scallops are usually used in lighter dishes and paired with flavors like lemon and butter or herbs like parsley and chives.

Why do Scallops Smell Fishy?


Scallops, like all shellfish, are delicate and require careful storage to preserve their delicate and sweet taste. When they're not handled or cooked properly, the scallop's natural flavor can taste quite fishy, and this is not a good sign.

Fresh scallops should give off a sweet, seaweed-tinted aroma. A fishy smell is definitely a bad sign when it comes to scallops, and if you encounter this, discard them.

How to Cook Scallops


Scallops can be cooked in a variety of ways. We love how versatile they are – you can use them as an appetizer, a main dish, for a casual lunch or a fancy dinner.

You can serve scallops raw, seared on the grill, baked, sautéed or fried. No matter how you cook them up, they will always be rich and flavorful. There really is no wrong way to prepare these succulent little guys.  

Our personal favorite is searing them on the grill with some butter and garlic. Quick and easy, with a huge punch of flavor. 

If you are going to eat raw scallops, make sure you trust the source they are coming from, and that they are as fresh as possible.

Scallop Pairings


Scallops have a mild flavor that works well with just about every dish. Salads, vegetables, mashed potatoes, or pasta are all good options.

When it comes to pairing scallops with bold flavors, be cautious. You don't want them to get lost in the mix; instead, you want them to stand out!

For example, you can pair scallops with other flavors such as lemon, butter, garlic, and parsley. They go well with many different kinds of dips and sauces, which makes for an easy meal.

Check out this great article for some inspiring recipes on what to serve with scallops. 

How to Try Scallops for the First Time


If you are keen to try scallops for the first time, make sure you are getting quality seafood that you can trust, either at a restaurant or from a shop.

You can find fresh scallops at your local grocery store or fish market. When you're buying them at the store, scallops are typically sold raw.

When buying fresh, make sure they are white in color and don't have a fishy smell, and get them into the fridge as soon as possible. 

Frozen scallops are also widely available in most grocery stores. 

Cook them when they are fresh (or from frozen). You can try a scallop simply by itself to see how you feel about the flavor and texture.

From there, go wild! Even a very basic recipe or pairing can make you fall in love with scallops.

Health Benefits of Scallops

Scallops are low in calories and cholesterol, and a very healthy mollusk, depending on how they are prepared (fried scallops will be less healthy).

One serving contains just 90 calories and over 100 mg of sodium. They are also rich in selenium and vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, protein, and zinc. 


If you’ve never had the chance to try this delectable seafood before, or you want to add a new seafood to your repertoire, we highly recommend heading to your nearest seafood restaurant or shop and cooking up a plate full of scallops. 

We hope you enjoyed this insightful look into the world of scallops.

Let us know if you have any questions or comments, or if you want to share one of your favorite recipes with us. 



Founder of Robust Kitchen 

About the author, Michael

Michael spends his days eating, drinking and studying the fascinating world of food. He received his Bachelors Degree in Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis and spent much of his time at the school brewery. While school proved to be an invaluable experience, his true passion lies in exposing the hidden crannies of food for the cooking laymen.