Grilled Scallops with a Cilantro Pesto and Grilled Asparagus

One of the best ways to make scallops is to traditionally sear them on each side in a pan to form a crispy crust. While those scallops are delicious, there are alternatives such as baking, frying, or grilling scallops that still deliver on great taste, but provide a different flavor profile. Anyone that has tried scallops knows that they are surprisingly filling, but also delicate in sweet ocean flavor. Despite this delicate flavor, the taste is distinct enough to hold up against some more aggressive seasoning approaches. That is one reason that scallops are so versatile. They tend to go well with a variety of flavor combinations, but still hold their own.

The idea for this recipe came not only from a burning desire to use my grill, but also from a trip to Smorgasburg in Brooklyn, NY where I tried a grilled scallop from Life Aquatic topped with some kind of baja herb salsa. The grilling allowed the flavor of the scallops to shine while still achieving that desired char. The most interesting part of the experience, however, was the fresh herb salsa puree. It provided a refreshing addition to the scallop that highlighted the flavors rather than covered them up. I thought that I could replicate something similar by creating a play on traditional pesto, but using cilantro and lime instead of basil leaves. Citrus goes extremely well with seafood and cilantro is a great summer time flavor. Not everyone likes cilantro, however, so I would suggest to those people that they at least try the pesto because it does not taste overwhelmingly of cilantro. Instead, the citrus, parsley, and toasted pine nuts all merge together with the cilantro to create an altogether unique flavor.

Lastly, the asparagus in this recipe is marinated using a similar approach to the scallops, so the flavors are tied together cohesively. The earthiness of the asparagus is a nice contrast to the scallops, but the cilantro pesto as well as the marinades create a kind of bridge between the flavors. All in all, I was especially pleased with the results of this recipe!

– 4 servings of scallops at roughly 100 calories each.
– 4 servings of asparagus at roughly 40 calories each.
– About a 1/4 cup of cilantro pesto at 51 calories per teaspoon

Scallop Ingredients

  • 1 pound sea scallops (about 280 calories)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (about 120 calories absorbed)
  • 1 crushed garlic clove (2 calories)
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Man Fuel - Food Blog - Sea Scallops

Cilantro Pesto Ingredients

  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro (about 4 calories)
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed Italian Parsley (about 4 calories)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (about half a lime) fresh lime juice (about 10 calories)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (about 110 calories)
  • 2 cloves of roughly chopped garlic (about 4 calories)
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (480 to 960 calories)

Asparagus Ingredients

  • 1 bunch (about 15 – 18 pieces) of asparagus spears (about 50 calories)
  • 2 tbs olive oil (about 120 calories absorbed)
  • 1 – 2 cloves crushed garlic (4 calories)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper


  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • 2 Large plastic zip bags (or two large bowls with lids or that you can cover with plastic wrap)
  • Grill
  • Flat tipped tongs
  • Food processor or blender
  • Measuring cup, tablespoon, and teaspoon measurements
  • Small saute pan
  • Spatula

Grilled Scallops and Asparagus Directions

  1. Place the scallops in a large plastic zip bag. Then add in the olive oil, garlic, black pepper, and optional onion powder to the bag with the scallops (don’t add the salt yet). Seal the bag with some air in it and toss the ingredients lightly to mix them well. Then carefully open and squeeze the air out of the bag before re-sealing it. Set the bag aside for about 20 min. to an hour before you want to cook them to let them marinate and get to room temperature.
    Man Fuel - Food Blog - Sea Scallops Marinating
  2. Rinse and dry the asparagus. Then chop the hard base off of the asparagus bottoms (about an inch or two from the bottom). Place the asparagus in a plastic zip bag along with the olive oil, garlic, black pepper, and salt. Seal the bag and toss the asparagus in the bag to mix everything really well. Set the bag aside until you are ready to grill.
    Man Fuel - Food Blog - Asparagus Marinating
  3. While the asparagus and the scallops marinate, you can get started on the pesto (recipe below).
  4. After 20 minutes, but no more than an hour, the scallops and asparagus are ready for grilling. Get your grill heated to about 550 degrees (high heat). Just before cooking the scallops add a pinch (1/8 teaspoon) of salt to the scallops and mix them well. You don’t want to add too much salt to the scallops because they already have some great salt water flavor.
  5. Once hot, start cooking the asparagus by laying the spears carefully on the grill. Be careful not to let the spears fall through the grates! I always lose one or two spears that way. The asparagus will take longer to cook than the scallops.
    Man Fuel - Food Blog - Grilling Asparagus
  6. After a few minutes, check the asparagus by rolling a spear or two over. If there are nice, light grill marks forming, then roll all of the spears over so that they can cook on the other side. When the asparagus has some nice color all over (not burned!) and just starts to wilt a bit, remove them from the grill onto a serving plate.
    Man Fuel - Food Blog - Grilled Asparagus
  7. At this point get the scallops going by placing them on the grill (away from the asparagus of course). Once you put the scallops down, don’t touch them for about 4 minutes. If you touch them before that, they might stick to the grill and tear. Just let them be on the hot grill for 4 minutes. If you are worried about space or contamination issues with the asparagus, then just completely cook the asparagus first.
  8. After 4 minutes, carefully flip each scallop over and let them sit for another 3 – 4 minutes without touching them. Please just keep in mind that cooking times may vary per grill, but for me, 3-4 minutes per side was perfect.
    Man Fuel - Food Blog - Grilling Scallops
  9. After cooking each side of the scallops, remove them to a plate and try not to stack them on top of one another if possible. They will continue to cook a bit and if you stack them they will steam and potentially become rubbery.
    Man Fuel - Food Blog - Grilled Sea ScallopsMan Fuel - Food Blog - Grilled Scallops
  10. That’s it! You’re ready to serve your grilled scallops and asparagus! If you prefer the scallops plain then just eat them as they are. If you want to add some of the cilantro pesto (below), then a little goes a long way, so try a little on a scallop.
    Man Fuel - Food Blog - Grilled Scallops with Asparagus and Pasta Salad

Cilantro and Lime Pesto Directions

  1. Place the pine nuts in a small saute pan and bring the heat up to medium high. Stir the pine nuts frequently so that they don’t burn, but they get a little bit of color. Be careful here because they go from nice toasted to burned very quickly! Once done, remove the pine nuts from the pan so that they don’t burn and add them to the food processor or blender.
    Man Fuel - Food Blog - Toasted Pine Nuts for Cilantro Pesto
  2. In a food processor place all of the pesto ingredients.
    Man Fuel - Food Blog - Cilantro Pesto Ingredients
  3. Chop everything until relatively smooth. If you start having trouble chopping everything, then make sure to stop, turn off of the power, and scrape down the sides of the food processor before continuing. You may need to add another 1/4 cup of olive oil to the mixture if there isn’t enough liquid, but that will depend on the food processor or blender. Then pour out the mixture into a small container and spoon out small amounts as needed. This amount is more than enough for 1 pound of scallops and you should have leftovers.
    Man Fuel - Food Blog - Cilantro Pesto
  4. Place a little bit on your scallops to change up the flavors and add a little bit of summer flavor.
    Man Fuel - Food Blog - Grilled Scallops with Cilantro PestoMan Fuel - Food Blog - Grilled Scallops with Cilantro Lime Pesto

10 thoughts on “Grilled Scallops with a Cilantro Pesto and Grilled Asparagus

Add yours

  1. Everything you post looks so good. I will try this pesto although I am not very fond of cilantro because of its overpowering taste. I will let you know what happens.

  2. I love pine nuts in anything.. You also it it the right way by roasting them first to bring out the flavor.. Smart.

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