Lemon-Garlic Butter Sauce for Seafood


Lemon-garlic butter sauce, perfect for fish, shrimp, scallops.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Years 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, a simple pan fried haddock with this lemon-garlic butter sauce was the most delectable.

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To make the sauce first you combine clam juice (can sub chicken stock), milk, dry sherry, shallots, and garlic. Bring it all to a simmer and let it boil until it has reduced by half.

In a separate pan, make a roux with a tablespoon each of butter and flour. Then add the reduced clam juice sherry mixture to the pot.

It’s all about the butter

After that comes the butter. There’s a lot of butter in this sauce which is why it tastes so good! But to incorporate the butter without having the sauce break, you have to do it slowly. Just whisk in a couple tablespoons at a time.

Then stir in some lemon juice, add some salt and white pepper, and you are ready to serve!

The sauce is perfect for fish and seafood, or simply tossed with pasta.

Need to make ahead? Just chill until you need it, and reheat on the stovetop or heat in the microwave for a few seconds until it loosens and warms up.

Lemon-Garlic Butter Sauce for Seafood Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Makes a little more than 1 1/2 cups

Use whole milk or cream with water. Do not use low-fat milk or the sauce may curdle.


  • 1/2 cup clam juice (can substitute chicken stock)
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (OR 3 Tbsp cream with 5 Tbsp water)
  • 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 Simmer and reduce the liquids, with garlic, shallots, and bay leaf: Place first six ingredients (clam juice, sherry, whole milk, garlic, shallots, bay leaf) in a small saucepan.

Heat on medium high heat and let simmer until the liquids have reduced by about half.

2 Make a roux: 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 liquid mixture to roux: 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 Slowly incorporate butter, 2 Tbsp at a time: Lower the heat to low. Remove the bay leaf. Slowly whisk in the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time. Let the butter tablespoons fully melt and be incorporated into the sauce before adding more tablespoons.

5 Stir in lemon juice, salt, and white pepper. Add some more clam stock or water if the sauce is too thick.

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Lemon Garlic Sauce for Seafood

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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26 Comments / Reviews

No ImageLemon-Garlic Butter Sauce for Seafood

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Jay

    This sauce is now a staple here at our home.. It goes on EVERYTHING.. Chicken, Broccoli, and of course FISH.. We have a lot of Mahi Mahi and it’s amazing.

    For the single dads out there who are like me and not gifted cooks. Let me share something with you about the sauce: BE CAREFUL HOW YOU RE-HEAT IT! If you throw it in a pot and turn it on the butter will liquefy and separate from the mixture, and then you are screwed. I’m sure others will have better ideas, but we pull ours out of the fridge and into a steamer on REHEAT (140 degrees) and it only takes about 5 min for it to soften. Just whip it back up and you are good to go. We ruined our first two batches cause we tried to warm it in a sauce pan and got it WAY too hot. If you melt the butter too much.. You’re history. Or you could just leave it out for a while and it will soften that way as well. WE LOVE THIS SAUCE!


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  2. Sacha

    It was everything I dreamt it would be!!!! I’ve been making this sauce wrong for so long.


  3. Diana Bernier

    This was delicious! I substituted the bay leaf for fresh dill and white wine instead of the sherry. I also kept tasting it at the end and used half the amount of butter (to be healthier?lol) incredibly yummy. Thanks for the recipe.


  4. Jan

    Just made this tonight. We had it over a mix of shrimp, scallops and mussels and angel hair pasta. Delicious! Will definitely do this again!


  5. Safira

    Can we substitute the wine with any others?

    Show Replies (1)
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