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Low-Carb Fennel-Seared Scallops on Creamed Spinach

Low-Carb Fennel-Seared Scallops on Creamed Spinach
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My low-carb recipes focus on creating or adapting recipes that meet three criteria: 1) they must pack a lot of flavor, the more intense the better; 2) they must be adaptable to a low-carb or keto diet; and 3) they must be quick to prepare. These low-carb seared scallops and creamed spinach met all of the criteria in spades!

Seared scallops on a bed of creamed spinach with onions.
Seared scallops on a bed of creamed spinach

Jump to: RECIPE | Keys to Perfectly Seared Scallops | Seasoning the Scallops

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The richness of large buttery scallops with a crisp sear is hard to beat. The perfect side dish is a robust creamed spinach seasoned lightly with caramelized onions, garlic, dry sherry, and heavy whipping cream.

Secrets for Perfectly Seared Scallops

Four tips will go a long way to getting seared scallops that can compete with a five-star restaurant:

  1. Get the scallops as dry as possible before seasoning or searing. This is particularly important if you are using frozen scallops. I live in Minnesota and buy my scallops from Costco. They are frozen and when thawed they are quite wet. It is important to dry them thoroughly with paper towels and let them air dry for a bit.
  2. Get the oil smoking hot in the skillet before placing the seasoned scallops in.
  3. Sear the first side for 1-2 minutes and don’t move them around while they are getting the sear.
  4. Cook them quickly. 1-2 minutes on the first side; flip and cook 1 more minute on the flip side.

Seasoning the Scallops

I love freshly ground fennel (along with salt and pepper) as my seasoning of choice.

If you don’t care for fennel, paprika is a nice spice. Just know that Hungarian paprika, Spanish paprika, smoked paprika, and hot paprika are all quite different. I like this mildly spiced smoked paprika.

Whatever spice blend you use make sure and add some salt to bring out the subtle flavors of the spice blend and the seafood.

Is Creamed Spinach Slow Carb?

The cream in the spinach does not follow a slow-carb regimen, but it is fine for low-carb or ketogenic lifestyles.  

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Body and creator of the slow-carb diet, always tells you to experiment, and adding cream to otherwise slow-carb compliant ingredients is an experiment with dairy that works for many people.

My daughter did her study abroad in Spain, which gave my husband and me a great excuse for an overseas visit. My husband got hooked on creamed spinach dishes while there, so I’ve been re-creating creamed spinach in a variety of dishes ever since.

A slight variation on this dinner is this Spanish Creamed Spinach and Scallops, which seasons the spinach with smoked paprika and uses no wine or sherry. They are both delicious, creamy, and as easy as you can get!

4 seared scallops on a bed of creamed spinach on a white plate
Seared scallops and creamed spinach

For another uniquely delicious scallop dish, check out this Scallops in Grapefruit Butter recipe.

Seared Scallops with Grapefruit Butter Sauce
Seared Scallops with Grapefruit Butter Sauce

Grow Your Own Spinach or Other Vegetables

Did you know? You can easily grow your own veggies and herbs in a container (or of course in your garden). As a long-time gardener growing both ways, my post below can inspire you to try it yourself!

If you have never gardened, (or even if you have), growing vegetables in containers on your deck, balcony, or patio can be surprisingly fun, rewarding, and even meditative.  You just may get hooked!

Balcony garden with container-grown vegetables.
Balcony vegetable garden

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Low Carb Seared Scallops with Creamed Spinach

Seared scallops on a bed of creamed spinach with onions.
A step-by-step on how to get perfectly seared scallops with a fennel crust and a creamy low carb spinach side dish.
4.86 from 14 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 341



  • 16 large sea scallops
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter unsalted
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup dry sherry Or dry white wine
  • 12 ounce spinach Frozen in bag
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ Tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp ground fennel optional: can use smoked paprika


  • Drain the scallops, pat them as dry as you can with paper towels and set them aside to dry out further.
    16 large sea scallops
  • Melt 1 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onions to the skillet and saute for about 5 min. Or until light brown and caramelized. Once onions are caramelized, add the minced garlic for about 30 seconds (do not burn).
    4 teaspoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons butter, 1 large onion, 3 cloves garlic
  • Add wine to deglaze the skillet and cook over med-high for a minute or two to blend. Add the spinach, cream, salt and pepper and nutmeg to the skillet and cook over med-low heat for about 5 minutes or until thoroughly blended. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Fold in the cheese and remove from heat.
    1/2 cup dry sherry, 12 ounce spinach, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 Tsp nutmeg, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Pat the scallops dry again with paper towels, getting them as dry as you can to take a good sear. Season them with salt and pepper and ground fennel (sometimes I use smoked paprika).
    1 tsp ground fennel
  • In a clean, large skillet,heat 2 Tbsp of oil over high heat until shimmering hot. Place half of the scallops in the skillet, starting with the 6:00 position and moving clockwise around the skillet. Cook them, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom (resist the temptation to pick them up and look or move them, they will come away from the pan easily once they are seared). Flip them (after about 2-3 minutes and continue to cook about 1 minute longer. Repeat with remaining scallops, adding (and heating)more oil to the skillet before searing if needed.
  • Serve over the spinach and enjoy.



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Calories: 341kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 13gFat: 27gSugar: 1g
Did you make this recipe?If you tried this recipe, please give it a star rating! To do this, just click on the stars above. Comments are always helpful also and I respond to all of them (except rude ones)
Recipe Rating

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Monday 19th of February 2024

Delicious! I didn't use the cheese, but followed everything else to the T. Perfect!


Monday 19th of February 2024

So glad you liked it Becky! Scallops can get spendy, but I love this dish and make it for special occasions a lot


Saturday 7th of January 2023

We were celebrating having a night with no children and I just started low carbing, and dh had gotten scallops, a real splurge. This recipe was just perfect. Delicious, decadent, rich but still on plan for me. Thank you ❤️ you made our evening.

dorothy stainbrook

Saturday 7th of January 2023

I’m so happy to hear that! Low carb can be delicious actually. Best of luck and progress on your journey.


Thursday 22nd of December 2022

I am going to try this recipe, however I will substitute low fat sour cream for the heavy cream. Wish me luck!

dorothy stainbrook

Thursday 22nd of December 2022

Let me know how it turns out. I would think it should work fine.


Wednesday 7th of December 2022

Absolutely delicious and very well written recipe. For the spinach, I modified because I had only half and half; added 1/4 cream cheese bar. The addition of sherry was new to me but it added more depth. The details for cooking the scallops were thorough and user friendly and the end product was perfect- best scallops I have prepared and my dinner companion gave the meal 5 stars. Thanks again; I will check out your site more thoroughly.

dorothy stainbrook

Thursday 8th of December 2022

Thank you so much for commenting Roberta! It really helps me to know whether I need to make changes to the recipe for folks. So glad you enjoyed it!


Wednesday 20th of April 2022

Can I use something to replace the sherry or wine.

dorothy stainbrook

Wednesday 20th of April 2022

If you want to substitute for the wine, look for something with a bit of acid like a mild vinegar, lemon juice or even apple juice. Chicken stock or vegetable stock will work to add some liquid and a tiny bit of flavor but it doesn’t add the acidity. Here is a link to some other alternatives:

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