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Scallops y Chile de Arbol

Scallops y Chile de Arbol

I love the sweet, meaty and briny taste of seared scallops.  In this recipe I serve them on a beautiful fresh and light tomato and lime sauce, flavored ever so lightly with a hint of charred chile de arbor.  In a previous recipe , “Sea Bass en Hojas de Maiz”, I prepared a chile paste of chile de arbor. Here I prepare a liquid extract.

Chile de arbol peppers are named for their woody stems attached to the pod. The Spanish translation of the name means “treelike.”  These beautiful red bright chiles register at 7-8 compared to 5.5 for a chile Jalapeño on a heat scale of 1-10.

Chile de arbol is too hot for most people. So not to overpower natural elegant flavor of the scallop, I created a dish that retains the sweetness and freshness of the scallop accompanied with a light but definite flavor of charred chile de arbol in a beautiful fresh tomato lime sauce.   For you international travelers – in Mexico the common name for scallops is “Callo de Hacha” ; in Spain it’s Vieras.


Scallops in Tomato/Lime Sauce



Makes 4 servings

1 – 1¼ lb fresh sea scallops (2-3 large scallops per serving)

2 large tomatoes

2 limes for juice

3-5 dry pods of chile de arbol

1 small clove garlic sliced

1/8 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon oregano powder

1 teaspoon canola oil or olive oil

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

Salt and pepper

Optional garnish

  • Dry pods of chile arbol
  • Sprigs of cilantro or parsley

Chile Arbol Extract

Quickly rinse the chile in water and dry them thoroughly with a paper towel. In a small sauté pan heat the olive oil to a moderate high heat, add the chile peppers with stems and roll them around so all peppers are coated in olive oil. Toast the peppers on both sides. They will turn from a bright red to a deep red color and crisp-up very quickly so turn them with tongs to toast both sides. In the same sauté pan, add the sliced garlic and brown the garlic for 30 seconds.   When cool enough to handle, remove the stems and manually break them up, place the peppers, garlic and 2 tablespoons of water in a spice mill or small blender and create a flaky chile / garlic watery mixture.  Strain the mixture and set aside the extract.


Chile de Arbol Extract


Tomato Lime Sauce

Add fresh tomatoes into 6 cups of boiling water and boil them for 2 to 5 minutes until the skins have parted or come loose.  Remove the tomatoes and when cool enough to handle, remove the skins.  In a blender, liquify the tomatoes, then pour out into a bowl.  Add the lime juice, cumin and oregano.  Carefully add small amounts of chile extract, enough to taste the flavor of chile de arbol but not so much to make this sauce too hot.  Salt to taste.


Tomato Lime Sauce for Mexican Dishes



Remove the small side muscle from the scallops, rinse with cold water and thoroughly pat dry.  Add the butter and oil to a 12 to 14-inch saute pan on high heat. Salt and pepper the scallops. Once the fat begins to smoke, gently add the scallops, making sure they are not touching each other. Sear the scallops for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes on each side. The scallops should have a 1/4-inch golden crust on each side while still being translucent in the center. Serve immediately.





In a pasta bowl add ⅓ cup of Tomato/Lime sauce, place scallops on the sauce and garnish with a whole dry chile pod and a spring of parsley or cilantro.

Seared Scallops


Caution,  the chile de arbol extract will be very “chile hot”.  Add small amounts of cumin and oregano to assure you do not overpower the subtle and fresh taste of the tomato lime sauce.

Buen provecho…..  Subscribe to notifications for new posts – go to the top and right side of the page and enter your email. Don’t forget to comment below.



  1. I am drooling at these photographs.

    • Thanks. I need to learn from you.

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