Lemon-Garlic Butter Sauce for Seafood

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

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


  • 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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  • 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!


  • Ann

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


  • Corrie

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


  • 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?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Rory, I’ve made the sauce ahead of time and reheated it for a few seconds in the microwave, just enough to loosen and warm it up, and it worked great!

  • Naz

    Hi Elise

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

  • 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!

    • Alyce

      I would sub white wine!☺️

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Christine, with the clam juice the sauce is excellent for pasta, but it will give a taste of seafood. If that’s not what you are looking for, I would substitute the clam juice with chicken stock.

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Sara, dry sherry is one of those ingredients that is really hard to substitute. I’ve seen references to using unsweetened orange or apple juice in place of it, but I have no idea how that would work with this recipe. You might just sub it out with more clam juice and milk. For what it’s worth, most of the alcohol boils away when you make the sauce. I only keep dry sherry around for cooking and the alcohol isn’t remotely noticeable when the dish is done.

  • 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!


  • 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.


  • 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.