Lemon-Garlic Butter Sauce for Seafood

A few weeks ago I spent a morning with Chef David Lamonica of Scott’s Seafood in Folsom, California, learning all about preparing seafood and sauces that work well with seafood. Of everything we prepared that morning, simple pan fried haddock with this lemon-garlic butter sauce was the most delectable.

Lemon-Garlic Butter Sauce for Seafood Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Makes about 2 cups.


  • 1/2 cup clam juice
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp minced shallots
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice


1 Reduce first six ingredients (clam juice, sherry, whole milk, garlic, shallots, bay leaf) by half in a small saucepan, cooking on medium to medium-high heat.

2 In a separate saucepan (1-qt minimum) prepare the roux. Heat one tablespoon of butter in the saucepan on medium heat until it is foamy. Sprinkle in the flour, stirring a couple of minutes with a metal whisk until well mixed (tan, but not browned).

3 Slowly add the reduced mixture to the roux, stirring quickly to incorporate. When you first add some of the mixture, the roux will bubble up. Just keep adding the mixture and keep whisking to incorporate.

4 Lower the heat to low. Slowly whisk in the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time. Add lemon juice, salt, and white pepper. Add some more clam stock or water if the sauce is too thick.

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  1. debbie

    Thank you for this recipe! MMMMMMMM good! I used only 1 stick of butter and added canned fire-roasted tomatoes and it was creamy and delicious.

  2. king james

    I used a little less half & half instead of milk and added small shrimp & crabmeat plus an extra squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Excellent recipe. Thanks!

  3. Sara

    I’ve been perusing your website, and I’m really curious to try this recipe, as I’ve been looking for something like this. I have one question though: Could you provide a possible substitute for the sherry, as my family and I don’t drink alcohol? It would be much appreciated.

    This sauce is a classic sauce with the ingredients as is. Most of the alcohol burns off in the cooking. If you really must substitute, try swapping out the dry sherry for half white vinegar and half more of the clam juice. ~Elise

    • James Peacock

      Elise – Like you and your family- I do not drink — and thusly As much as love the taste of dishes cooked with wine — , when I really want that — There are several restaurants that I enjoy. I use the white vinegar and Two — TBS of White Grape Juice.

  4. Christine

    Hi Elise,

    If I want to use this lemon-garlic butter sauce for pasta, should I leave out clam juice from the ingredients? Thanks!

    Sounds like a good idea, unless you want your pasta to taste like clams. ~Elise

  5. Ronnie

    Regarding your comment about alcohol cooking off, be careful! The amount of alcohol left in the prepared food depends on the technique used in cooking. Reducing the sherry alone till it is almost evaporated, then adding the other liquids and reducing again would leave very little alcohol BUT combining the liquids and reducing them together does not cause the alcohol to burn off. Though governed by laws of chemistry, cooking chemistry was learned experimentally and handed down by word of mouth. That is why traditional French cooking always adds and reduces the wine before adding the other liquid.

    • James Peacock

      Yes, Ronnie – I just substitute the alcohol. I do not eat fish – I just don’t like seafood — I liked Shrimp until a couple of years ago – my taste changed again – and now – no seafood. So – I look for sauces or revise sauce for chicken. I also don’t eat much beef – but love pork – So – Elise – so I’m going to be thumbing through looking for Pork makes.

  6. Kathleen Smith

    Thank you for this sauce recipe. I am trying it tonight with Scottish Salmon….and once again having the converter on the page, for us American expats abroad! Thanks again, Kathleen

  7. Naz

    Hi Elise

    I cannot get clam juice where I live.. can you reccommend a substitute? Thanks

    You could use fish stock, but clam juice really is the best. ~Elise

  8. Rory

    Hi Elise. Just found your website today and have 3 or 4 “must makes” already! Question: Is there any way to make this sauce in advance and then reheat when needed? I’m thinking maybe I could do everything up to adding the butter and then reheat the sauce and add the butter right before I’m ready to serve. Your thoughts?

    Hi Rory, I’m guessing that this sauce may break if you make ahead. But if you try it, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

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