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

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  • 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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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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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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Lemon Garlic Sauce for Seafood

15 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Corrie

    This is the most delicious sauce! We use it on seafood, chicken, egg noodles, etc. What a great addition to my culinary repertoire!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • 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?

  • Naz

    Hi Elise

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

  • 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.

  • 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!

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