Lemon-Garlic Butter Sauce for Seafood

SauceButterFish and 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.

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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22 Comments / Reviews

No ImageLemon-Garlic Butter Sauce for Seafood

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. 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!


  2. Safira

    Can we substitute the wine with any others?

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Roy

    Question . What’s the thickness of this sauce ? Grade from 1 out of 5 (1 being thickness of melted butter, 5 being the thickness of ketchup) . And I f it’s a 1 or 2 . Do you know a possible way to thicken the sauce a little more.

    Show Replies (1)
  4. Karla

    Perhaps because I am from the south, we make a lemon garlic butter just with those ingredients. I did try this tonight for my sons 29th Birthday, along with my own that I normally make. It was okay, mine was wonderful. No matter what, thank you for making me try something different!


  5. Ann

    I didn’t even use all of the ingredients and it was STILL spectacular! Thanks for this recipe!!


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