Mastering Scallop Tempura: A Simple Guide to Perfecting the Dish

Imagine biting into a piece of scallop tempura: the exterior is light and crispy, yielding to a succulent, sweet scallop that melts in your mouth. This delightful dish combines the elegance of Japanese tempura with the rich flavors of scallops, creating a perfect appetizer or a star component in a sophisticated meal.

Scallop tempura, a beloved variant of the classic Japanese tempura, showcases the versatility of seafood in this cooking style. Originating from the fusion of Portuguese and Japanese culinary techniques in the 16th century, tempura has evolved into a quintessential Japanese dish. When you pair it with scallops, you get a taste experience that’s both refined and deeply satisfying.

Ready to dive into making your own scallop tempura at home? It’s easier than you might think, and the results are sure to impress your guests or add a touch of indulgence to your weeknight dinners.


Gather all the necessities to create your own exquisite scallop tempura at home. Each ingredient is carefully chosen to enhance the delicate flavor of the scallops and brings the traditional Japanese tempura technique to your kitchen.

For the Scallop Tempura

  • 12 large sea scallops, muscle removed and patted dry
  • 1 cup of ice-cold water
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • Vegetable oil, for deep frying
  • Sea salt, to taste

For the Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped green onion

For the Serving

  • Thinly sliced green onions
  • Grated daikon radish
  • Lemon wedges

Necessary Tools and Equipment

Before you dive into making your own scallop tempura, ensure you have the right tools and equipment to execute this recipe flawlessly. Here’s what you’ll need to gather:

  • Deep Fryer or Large Heavy Pot: For frying, a deep fryer is ideal, but a large, heavy pot such as a Dutch oven will work just as well. It’s crucial for maintaining consistent oil temperatures, which is key to achieving that light, crispy texture.
  • Candy or Deep-Fry Thermometer: This will help you monitor the oil temperature. Ensuring that the oil stays at the right temperature (typically around 350°F to 375°F) is crucial for perfect tempura.
  • Mesh Skimmer or Slotted Spoon: Use this to safely and efficiently remove the scallops from the hot oil and to drain excess oil.
  • Paper Towels or Cooling Rack: Prepare these for laying out the fried scallops which helps in absorbing any extra oil.
  • Mixing Bowls: You’ll need several sizes to mix your batter.
  • Whisk: Essential for creating a smooth, lump-free batter.
  • Kitchen Scale: Precision is key in tempura, so a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients can be very helpful.
  • Chopping Board and Knife: For preparing the scallops and any additional ingredients.
  • Flat Tray: Having a flat tray handy can be useful to spread out the battered scallops before they go into the hot oil.

Gathering these tools beforehand will streamline your cooking process and help assure the success of your scallop tempura, making the experience more enjoyable and less stressful.

Prep Work

Before you dive into the cooking process, preparing your ingredients and workstation ensures a smooth and enjoyable cooking experience. Let’s get everything ready!

Cleaning and Preparing the Scallops

First, rinse the scallops under cold water to remove any sand or grit. Lay them on a paper towel and gently pat them dry. It’s crucial that the scallops are dry to ensure they fry beautifully in the oil. Once dry, trim off the small side muscle if it’s still attached—this part can be tough when cooked.

Making the Dipping Sauce

For the dipping sauce, mix 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of mirin (sweet cooking sake), and a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger in a small bowl. If you like a hint of heat, add a few drops of sesame oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir all the ingredients until well combined. This sauce will complement the delicate flavor of the scallops, enhancing your tempura experience.

Batter Preparation

Gather Your Ingredients

To make the perfect tempura batter for your scallops, you’ll first need to collect the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 cup ice-cold water
  • 1 large egg, cold

Mixing the Dry Ingredients

Begin by sifting together the all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt into a medium mixing bowl. This step ensures that your batter is smooth and free of lumps, which is key for a light and crisp coating.

Incorporating the Wet Ingredients

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg. Then, add the ice-cold water to the egg and mix gently. The secret to a crunchy tempura is using cold water; it prevents the batter from becoming over-mixed and too glutinous.

Combining Wet and Dry Ingredients

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry mixture. Use a whisk to mix them slightly until just combined. It’s crucial to avoid over-mixing; the batter should be a bit lumpy. Over-mixing will develop the gluten in the flour, leading to a heavy and greasy end product.

Letting the Batter Rest

Let the batter rest while you heat the oil. This brief resting period allows the ingredients to meld together correctly and results in a better texture once the scallops are fried.

Now that your batter is ready, you’re all set to dip your scallops and move on to frying them to golden perfection.

Frying the Scallops

Now that your prep work is done and your batter is ready, it’s time to dive into frying the scallops to golden perfection. This stage is crucial to achieve that crispy, light texture synonymous with an ideal tempura.

Heating the Oil

Before you begin dipping your scallops, ensure your oil is at the optimal temperature. Here’s how you properly heat your oil:

  1. Pour enough vegetable oil into your deep fryer or a deep, heavy-bottomed pan to submerge the scallops completely. Typically, about 2 inches of oil works well.
  2. Attach the thermometer to the side of the pan. Heat the oil over medium heat to 350°F (177°C). Monitoring the temperature is key to achieving the perfect fry, as too hot oil will burn the batter and too cool will make the tempura oily and soggy.
  3. Once the oil reaches the correct temperature, maintain that heat setting. It might require adjusting the flame periodically to keep the oil from overheating or cooling down too much.

Dipping and Frying

After your oil is heated, follow these steps to fry your scallops:

  1. Pat the scallops dry one more time to ensure no moisture interferes with frying. Moisture can cause the oil to splatter dangerously.
  2. Dip each scallop into the prepared batter, letting the excess drip off but ensuring each piece is well-coated.
  3. Carefully lower the battered scallops into the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan; fry in batches if necessary to maintain the oil temperature and ensure even cooking.
  4. Fry each scallop for about 2-3 minutes, or until they are golden brown and crispy. Use your skimmer to gently turn the scallops in the oil for even frying.
  5. Once done, remove the scallops using the skimmer and transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.
  6. Give the oil a moment to return to the ideal temperature before starting the next batch.

Assembling the Dish

Now that your scallops are perfectly crispy, it’s time to assemble the dish to highlight their delicate flavor and beautiful golden coating.

Arranging the Scallops

Place a warm, large, flat plate on your work surface to arrange the scallops. Lay each piece of fried scallop tempura on the plate in a single layer, ensuring they do not overlap. This arrangement allows each scallop to maintain its crispness by ensuring air circulates around them.

Adding Garnishes

Enhance your dish by adding a gentle sprinkle of finely chopped green onions and a light drizzle of the dipping sauce over the scallops. For a vibrant color contrast and fresh taste, add a few thin slices of red radish and a lemon wedge on the side of the plate. The acidity from the lemon brightens the flavors, while the radish adds a crunchy texture, complementing the soft and crispy tempura.

Serving Suggestions

After mastering the delicate art of making scallop tempura, presenting it in a manner that complements its elegance and flavor is crucial. Here are several ways to serve your scallop tempura that will not only appeal to the taste buds but also to the eyes, making your culinary creation a total feast.

Pair With Dipping Sauces

Elevate your scallop tempura by serving it with a variety of dipping sauces. A light soy sauce or a citrus-infused ponzu sauce can add a lovely tang, cutting through the richness of the fried scallops. For a bit of heat, try a spicy mayo or a dash of wasabi on the side. Arrange the sauces in small, attractive bowls around the scallops to encourage sampling.

Create a Bed of Greens

Place your crispy scallops atop a bed of lightly dressed greens such as arugula or spinach. The slight bitterness of the greens pairs beautifully with the sweetness of the scallops, and the cool crispness offers a textural contrast to the warm crunch. Drizzle a bit of sesame oil and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for an added Asian flair.

Offer a Side of Rice

For a heartier meal, serve your scallop tempura with a side of fluffy, steamed jasmine or sushi rice. The mild flavor of the rice makes it an excellent canvas, emphasizing the richness of the tempura. Consider molding the rice into small cups or balls for a more visually appealing plate.

Include Pickled Vegetables

Complement the flavors with a side of pickled vegetables such as daikon radish, carrots, or cucumbers. Their acidic sharpness and crunch provide a perfect balance to the soft and savory tempura. Plus, they add a burst of color to your dish, enhancing its visual appeal.

Presentation Tips

Serve your scallop tempura on a clean, minimalist plate to let the colors and textures of the food stand out. Use garnishes like finely chopped green onions, a sprinkle of nori strips, or lemon wedges to add color and enhance flavor. Arrange everything in a way that invites guests to dive in, creating an irresistible and impressive display.


Diving into the art of making scallop tempura at home is more than just a cooking venture—it’s an invitation to explore a rich culinary tradition that blends simplicity with elegance. Armed with the right tools and a bit of patience you’ll find that creating this dish is not only doable but genuinely enjoyable. Whether you’re looking to dazzle your dinner guests or just treat yourself to a delightful meal mastering scallop tempura offers a rewarding experience that goes beyond the dining table. So why not give it a try? You might just discover your new favorite way to enjoy scallops.

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