How to cook scallops when pregnant?

Pregnancy comes with a lot of dos and don’ts when it comes to food. Many pregnant women worry about eating scallops, as they are a common source of foodborne illnesses like norovirus. However, scallops can be a healthy and safe addition to your diet during pregnancy – as long as they are cooked properly and you take a few precautions.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about eating scallops while pregnant, including:

  • Are scallops safe to eat when pregnant?
  • Benefits of eating scallops during pregnancy
  • How to buy high-quality scallops
  • Proper storage and handling of scallops
  • The best cooking methods for pregnant women
  • Food safety tips and precautions
  • Delicious scallop recipes that are pregnancy-friendly

Follow these tips and enjoy the delicious taste and nutritional benefits of scallops while staying healthy and avoiding food poisoning.

Are Scallops Safe to Eat When Pregnant?

Many pregnant women are justifiably cautious about eating raw or undercooked seafood due to the risk of foodborne illnesses. However, properly handled and fully cooked scallops are considered safe to eat during pregnancy.

According to the FDA, scallops are low in mercury, which can be harmful in high amounts during pregnancy. They are also a good source of lean protein, vitamins, and minerals that help support you and your baby’s health.

The main risks of eating scallops while pregnant come from contamination that can lead to food poisoning, such as norovirus and Vibrio bacteria. However, there are steps you can take to greatly reduce these risks.

Here are some tips for minimizing the risks and eating scallops safely:

  • Avoid raw or undercooked scallops, only eat fully cooked scallops
  • Buy scallops from a reputable seller and check “sell-by” dates
  • Store scallops properly under 40°F and cook within 2 days of purchasing
  • Wash hands, utensils, surfaces after handling raw scallops
  • Cook scallops to an internal temperature of 145°F to kill bacteria

As long as you follow food safety guidelines, you can feel comfortable knowing cooked scallops are a healthy and recommended protein source in pregnancy based on current research and FDA guidance.

Benefits of Eating Scallops During Pregnancy

Scallops provide some great nutritional benefits for pregnant women and babies:

High-Quality Protein

Scallops are an excellent source of lean protein, providing around 20g protein per 3-ounce serving. Protein helps build important tissues in your growing baby and keeps your energy levels up.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Scallops contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids like DHA, which are vital for your baby’s brain, eye and nervous system development. Many pregnant women don’t get enough omega-3s.


Scallops provide high amounts of B-vitamins like B12, folate and B6. These support energy production and development of your baby’s cells, tissues and organs. Folate also helps prevent neural tube defects.

Iron and Zinc

Scallops supply iron and zinc, which help prevent iron-deficiency anemia and promote immunity. Anemia is common during pregnancy.


Scallops are high in selenium, an antioxidant mineral that supports your immune system and thyroid function during pregnancy.

So by enjoying cooked scallops in moderation, you can get excellent nutrition for you and baby!

How to Buy High-Quality Scallops

Buying high-quality fresh scallops from a trusted seller is key to reducing your risk of food poisoning. Here are some tips:

Look for “Dry” Scallops

The best scallops are “dry”, meaning they have not been treated with liquid preservatives like sodium tripolyphosphate. Treated “wet” scallops tend to taste worse and get mushy when cooked.

Choose Wild Caught or Sustainably Farmed

Opt for fresh wild-caught or sustainably farmed scallops when possible. They are more natural with superior flavor and texture.

Avoid Damaged Scallops

Do not purchase scallops with cracked shells or milky-colored meat, which indicate they may be old or spoiled. Scallop meat should look shiny and plump.

Check the Sell-By Date

Only buy scallops before the sell-by date and cook within 2 days for safety and freshness. Avoid old, smelly or slimy scallops.

Ask Questions at Seafood Counter

Inquire where and when the scallops were harvested. Reputable sellers will know details about the source.

Shop at high-end grocery seafood counters or specialty fish markets to find the best quality. With good scallops, proper handling is also key.

Proper Storage and Handling of Scallops

To keep scallops fresh and reduce bacterial growth, be sure to:

  • Keep scallops chilled at 32-40°F immediately after purchase
  • Place scallops in a container on ice during transport if not cooking immediately
  • Store scallops in the coldest part of the refrigerator if cooking the next day
  • Lay scallops flat in a single layer so air circulates – do not stack
  • Pat scallops dry with paper towels before cooking
  • Discard any scallops with off odors, stickiness or milky appearance
  • Cook or freeze scallops within 2 days of purchasing for best quality and safety

Proper chilling prevents scallops from getting too warm in the “danger zone” above 40°F where bacteria multiply quickly. Storing correctly helps scallops retain their texture and flavor.

The Best Cooking Methods for Pregnant Women

Cooking scallops thoroughly is vital to kill any potential harmful bacteria like Salmonella or Listeria and viruses that could make you sick. Here are the safest cooking methods:

Pan Sear

Pan searing involves using high heat to quickly brown the outside while cooking the inside. Use a non-stick pan with a small amount of high smoke oil over medium-high heat. Sear 1-2 minutes per side until opaque.


Baking scallops in the oven at 400°F for 10-15 minutes ensures they reach safe internal temperatures. Arrange scallops on a parchment-lined pan so they don’t stick.


Grilling scallops on high direct heat also creates caramelization and cooks fast. Use a grill basket and cook 2-3 minutes per side. Brush with oil to prevent sticking.


Saute scallops on the stovetop over medium-high heat in butter or oil for 2-3 minutes per side until fully opaque. Use a thin, wide pan for even cooking.

Stir Fry

Cut scallops into pieces and stir fry in a wok or saute pan with hot oil for 1-2 minutes until cooked through. This is a quick and healthy cooking method.

The key for each method is using high enough heat to quickly bring the scallops to an internal temperature of 145°F-160°F. Test doneness by cutting into the center of a scallop to check it is opaque inside. This kills potential bacteria and makes the scallops safe to enjoy.

Food Safety Tips and Precautions

While properly handled scallops are considered safe in pregnancy, a few precautions can further reduce your risk of getting sick. Here are important food safety tips:

  • Fully cook scallops to an internal temperature of 145°F
  • Use a food thermometer to check doneness if unsure
  • Wash hands and cooking tools thoroughly before and after handling raw scallops
  • Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw scallops separate from cooked foods
  • Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours and reheate to 165°F before eating again
  • Avoid eating scallops at high-risk restaurants with undercooked seafood
  • Notify your doctor if you experience any vomiting or diarrhea after eating scallops

Also, check with your doctor about any existing conditions like diabetes or immune issues that could make you more prone to foodborne illness when pregnant.

By taking some simple precautions, you can safely satisfy your scallop cravings!

Delicious Scallop Recipes for Pregnancy

Here are some yummy yet pregnancy-friendly scallop recipes to try at home:

Seared Scallops with Lemon Cream Sauce


  • 1 lb sea scallops
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Pat scallops dry and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large pan, heat oil over medium-high heat and sear scallops 2-3 minutes per side until browned.
  3. Remove scallops and set aside.
  4. Reduce heat and melt butter. Add shallots and cook 1 minute until soft.
  5. Deglaze pan with white wine. Allow to reduce by half.
  6. Add heavy cream and lemon juice. Simmer 5 minutes until thickened.
  7. Return scallops to sauce and simmer 1 minute to heat through.
  8. Stir in lemon zest and parsley. Serve warm over pasta or rice.

Baked Scallops with Crumb Topping


  • 1 lb bay scallops
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Toss scallops with lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl, mix panko, parmesan, olive oil, garlic and parsley.
  4. Arrange scallops in baking dish and top with panko mixture.
  5. Bake 15 minutes until scallops are opaque and topping is browned.
  6. Serve with rice or quinoa.

Scallop Fried Rice


  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 lb scallops, chopped
  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil


  1. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet or wok over high heat.
  2. Add garlic and scallops and stir fry 1-2 minutes until starting to brown.
  3. Push scallops to the side. Add beaten eggs and scramble until set.
  4. Add rice, peas, green onions, soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir fry 2-3 minutes to heat through.
  5. Remove from heat and serve.

Spicy Scallop Soba Noodle Bowl


  • 8 oz soba noodles
  • 1 lb scallops, halved
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 4 oz shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 baby bok choy, chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp sriracha sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Sesame seeds, chopped scallions and cilantro for garnish


  1. Cook soba noodles according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Add scallops and cook 1 minute per side until opaque.
  4. Push scallops to the side and add bell pepper, mushrooms, bok choy, garlic and ginger. Stir fry 2-3 minutes until tender.
  5. Add sriracha, soy sauce and lime juice. Toss to coat.
  6. Divide soba noodles, vegetables and scallops between bowls. Garnish with sesame seeds, scallions and cilantro.

Scallops make for easy, delicious weeknight meals during pregnancy! Remember to fully cook them and use safe handling practices to avoid foodborne illness. Enjoy scallops as a nutritious source of lean protein for you and your growing baby.


Pregnant women can safely enjoy scallops as part of a healthy diet if they take a few precautions. Cook scallops thoroughly to an internal temperature of 145°F, choose high-quality fresh scallops from reputable sellers, store and handle them properly, and adhere to basic food safety guidelines.

With some simple practices, you can gain all the nutritional benefits of scallops like protein, omega-3s and B-vitamins that support you and your baby’s health. Scallops make tasty, quick additions to seafood-based meals. Stick to recipes like seared scallops in lemon sauce, baked scallops with crumb topping or scallop fried rice for pregnancy-friendly options.

As always, discuss your diet with your doctor and report any concerning symptoms after eating. But in general, cooked scallops can be a lean, nutritious protein choice as part of a balanced prenatal diet. Take the right precautions for handling and cooking to minimize foodborne illness risks.

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