Lemon-Garlic Butter Sauce for Seafood

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

Lemon Garlic Sauce for Seafood
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

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Servings 12 servings
Yield 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 tablespoons cream with 5 tablespoons water)

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  1. Season and reduce the liquids:

    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.

    Elise Bauer
  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).

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  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.

    Elise Bauer
  4. Incorporate the butter:

    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.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  5. Finish the sauce:

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

    Lemon Garlic Sauce for Seafood
    Elise Bauer
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
160 Calories
17g Fat
2g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 160
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 17g 21%
Saturated Fat 10g 52%
Cholesterol 44mg 15%
Sodium 178mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 1mg 3%
Calcium 21mg 2%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 50mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.