Bay Scallops vs Sea Scallops

Despite having a similar appearance, bay scallops and sea scallops differ greatly from one another. If you enjoy seafood, it’s crucial to understand the distinctions between these two varieties in order to make educated decisions while cooking and placing restaurant orders.

Grilled Sea Scallop with Soy Sauce and Vegetables.

Compared to its larger sea scallop relatives, bay scallops are both smaller and sweeter.

Along the Atlantic coast, they can be found in bays, estuaries, and harbors with shallow water.

Bay scallops are ideal for pasta dishes, salads, and stews and are typically less expensive than sea scallops.

In contrast, sea scallops are bigger and meatier than bay scallops.

They have a chewier texture and are found in deeper areas including the Atlantic and Pacific.

Restaurants frequently serve seared or grilled sea scallops, which are a favorite seafood dish.

Bay Scallops: An Overview

There are two primary types of scallops to choose from: bay scallops and sea scallops.

Grilled Scallops dinner in restaurant setting

Due to their smaller size and sweeter flavor compared to their larger siblings, bay scallops are a common ingredient in many cuisines.

From Maine to Florida, the eastern coast of the United States is home to milder waters where bay scallops may usually be found.

They can frequently be discovered in the Gulf of Mexico. When they are at their best in terms of size and flavor, these scallops are often picked in the fall and winter.

The small size of bay scallops is one of their key advantages.

They are great for use in pasta dishes, salads, and other recipes where a smaller size is needed because they are normally about the size of a dime.

The sweet, delicate flavor of bay scallops is also well-known; it blends beautifully with a range of herbs and spices.

It’s crucial to choose firm bay scallops with a somewhat sweet aroma when purchasing them.

Scallops with a strong fishy smell or that feel slimy should be avoided.

You can buy bay scallops frozen or fresh, so make sure to read the packaging to make sure you’re receiving the best possible quality.

All things considered, bay scallops are a tasty and adaptable seafood choice that can be employed in a variety of ways.

Bay scallops are certain to bring a hint of sweetness and taste to your meal, whether you are creating a straightforward pasta dish or a more complicated seafood preparation.

Sea Scallops: An Overview

In comparison to bay scallops, sea scallops have a greater diameter, which is typically between 1 1/2 and 2 inches.

Raw scallops on wooden Board on wooden background

They are fished all year round and can be found in deeper waters than bay scallops.

Comparatively speaking to bay scallops, sea scallops are less sweet and have a chewy texture.

They still retain a delicate flavor, are sweet and tender, and go well with many different sauces and seasonings.

It’s crucial to choose sea scallops that are solid and have a fresh, sweet scent while shopping for them.

Scallops that are slippery or smell strongly of fish should be avoided.

Due to their larger size and the fact that they are taken in deeper waters, sea scallops cost more than bay scallops.

They may still be found in many restaurants and seafood markets and remain a preferred option for seafood enthusiasts.

Sea scallops are frequently used as an appetizer or a main dish and can be prepared in a variety of ways, including searing, grilling, and baking. They go nicely with a variety of side dishes, such as pasta, rice, and vegetables.

In general, sea scallops are a tasty and adaptable seafood choice that may enhance any cuisine.

Sea scallops are definitely worth tasting, whether you’re an experienced seafood eater or a beginner to the scallop world.

Size and Appearance

Sea scallops and bay scallops differ significantly in size. The diameter of a bay scallop ranges from 1/2 to 3/4 inches, making them little and delicate.

seared bay scallops with garlic butter soy sauce

Sea scallops, on the other hand, have a diameter of roughly 1 1/2 inches, making them significantly bigger.

Because sea scallops are often found in deeper seas than bay scallops, there is a size disparity between the two.

Sea scallops are easily distinguished by their vast size and fan-shaped shells in terms of appearance.

They are a creamy white tint, and the orange roe is frequently still attached while being sold.

The small, spherical, often brown or gray shells of bay scallops, on the other hand, have a more delicate appearance.

It should be noted that sea scallops frequently have the huge, rough muscle still attached, which must be removed prior to cooking.

Contrarily, bay scallops do not require the removal of a muscle, making them simpler to prepare.

Overall, there are significant differences between bay scallops and sea scallops in terms of size and appearance.

Both varieties of scallops can be utilized in a wide range of delectable meals, whether you favor the delicate flavor and beauty of bay scallops or the larger, more substantial texture of sea scallops.

Taste and Texture

Sea scallops and bay scallops differ significantly from one another in taste and texture, making them easy to distinguish from one another.

Close up of pan seared sea scallops

Bay scallops have a softer, more supple texture and a sweeter, more delicate flavor.

They are used frequently in meals where a more delicate flavor and texture are sought because of their tiny size, which is normally between 1/2 and 3/4 inch in diameter.

In addition to being less expensive than their larger cousins, bay scallops are a common option for cooks on a tight budget.

On the other hand, sea scallops have a meatier texture and a stronger, brinier flavor.

They are used frequently in meals when a more substantial texture and flavor are needed and are larger, typically measuring around 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.

Sea scallops are typically more expensive than bay scallops, but because of their bigger size, they are a suitable option for recipes where they will be the main attraction.

It’s crucial to keep these distinctions in mind when cooking.

Compared to sea scallops, bay scallops are more delicate and cook more rapidly, thus they work best in meals where they will be lightly cooked or introduced just before serving.

Contrarily, sea scallops may withstand more demanding cooking techniques like searing or grilling and can even be used in stews and chowders where they will maintain their form and texture.

Overall, your particular taste preferences and the meal you are creating will determine whether you choose bay or sea scallops.

Both kind of scallops are delectable in their own right due to their distinct characteristics.

Nutritional Differences

Both bay scallops and sea scallops are superior suppliers of protein, vitamins, and minerals when it comes to nutrition.

Steamed scallops from Mutsu Bay, Japan

There are, nevertheless, some obvious distinctions between the two.

Calories and Fat

In general, sea scallops are bigger than bay scallops and have more calories and fat.

While a 3-ounce meal of bay scallops only has 25 calories and 0.3 grams of fat, a 3-ounce serving of sea scallops has about 94 calories and 0.8 grams of fat.

Bay scallops might be a better option if you’re watching how many calories and fats you consume.


Bay and sea scallops are both great sources of protein. Comparatively, a 3-ounce portion of bay scallops has about 4.5 grams of protein while a similar dish of sea scallops has about 17 grams.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamin B12, magnesium, and potassium are just a few of the important vitamins and minerals that are abundant in scallops.

These nutrients are slightly more abundant in sea than bay scallops.

Approximately 18% of the daily intake for vitamin B12, 8% of the daily value for magnesium, and 5% of the daily value for potassium are found in a 3-ounce serving of sea scallops.

Approximately 15% of the daily dose for vitamin B12, 5% of the daily value for magnesium, and 3% of the daily value for potassium are all present in the same serving size of bay scallops.

Frequently Asked Questions

Raw scallops with herbs on frying pan

What is the difference between bay and sea scallops?

Bay scallops are smaller and sweeter than sea scallops, which are larger and have a meatier texture. Sea scallops are usually sold with the roe and muscle attached, while bay scallops are sold without. Sea scallops are also more expensive than bay scallops.

Can you substitute bay scallops for sea scallops in a recipe?

Yes, you can substitute bay scallops for sea scallops in most recipes. However, you may need to adjust the cooking time and temperature, as bay scallops cook faster than sea scallops. Bay scallops are also more delicate, so you need to be careful not to overcook them.

How do you cook bay and sea scallops?

Bay scallops are best cooked quickly over high heat, such as sautéing or searing. Sea scallops can be cooked in the same way, but they can also be grilled or broiled. Both types of scallops should be cooked until they are just opaque in the center.

How do you store scallops?

Scallops should be stored in the coldest part of your refrigerator, ideally at a temperature between 30-34°F. They should be kept in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Scallops should be cooked within 1-2 days of purchase.

Are scallops healthy?

Yes, scallops are a healthy source of protein and low in fat. They are also a good source of vitamin B12, magnesium, and potassium. However, scallops are high in cholesterol, so you should limit your intake if you have high cholesterol or heart disease.

Scallops on a dish. Fish restaurant

Key Takeaways

  • Bay scallops are smaller and sweeter than sea scallops and are found in shallow waters.
  • Sea scallops are larger and meatier than bay scallops and are found in deeper waters.
  • Bay scallops are generally less expensive than sea scallops and are perfect for pasta dishes, salads, and stews.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.