This luxurious, creamy garlic lemon butter sauce is the perfect accompaniment to fish and seafood, chicken and pasta. It’s simple, yet decadent—a little bit of this sauce goes a long way. The acidic lemon zest and juice cut through the rich butter while fresh chives add both something fresh and savory.

Based off of the classic French beurre blanc sauce, this lemony version is ideal for fish and seafood. With a few more ingredients than a beurre blanc, our garlic lemon butter sauce still has the dreamy qualities of a beurre blanc; silky, decadent, rich.

Lemon and Garlic Butter Sauce Ingredients

  • Chicken broth: opt for a low-sodium chicken broth so you can control the seasoning to taste. If you need this to be vegetarian use vegetable broth.
  • White wine: dry white wine elevates the complex flavor of each ingredient in this sauce. It is best to use a wine you like to drink. A sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio are great options.
  • Whole milk: don’t use a low-fat milk here. Whole milk is key for achieving the right texture.
  • Garlic: as we always say, fresh garlic is best! And since it’s a lemon and garlic butter sauce, you want to make sure you use fresh garlic for ample amount of flavor.
  • Shallot: one of the tastiest ingredients in this lemon and garlic butter sauce is shallot.
  • Dried bay leaf: if you don’t have bay leaves on hand, that OK. Just skip it.
  • Butter: this is a butter sauce so we’re using a lot of butter (2 sticks!). Use unsalted butter so you can season it to taste. As it’s the base of the sauce, we recommend using a quality butter. We like Land ‘O Lakes, Organic Valley and Tillamook for this sauce.
  • Flour: just a dash of all-purpose flour is needed to thicken the sauce. To make this gluten-free, use a gluten-free flour blend of sorghum flour.
  • Kosher salt and black pepper: learn more about kosher salt and why it’s so important in cooking.
  • Lemon and vinegar: both ingredients add acidity to balance out the richness of the sauce. We like a combination of lemon zest, lemon juice and even a splash of vinegar. If you don’t have vinegar you can simply use more lemon juice.
  • Chives: fresh chives add fresh flavor. Feel free to use dill, parsley, scallions, or tarragon.
Side angle image of a white glass bowl filled with a melted butter sauce

How to Make Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce

This lemon garlic sauce is easy to make and uses a few classic cooking techniques to create a silky smooth and rich sauce.

  1. Infuse the milk with garlic, shallot and bay leaf in a saucepan.
  2. Start preparing a roux by melting a bit of butter in a saucepan then whisk in flour and cook until it’s tan.
  3. Slowly and gradually add the infused milk to the flour mixture, whisking to combine after each addition.
  4. Once all of the milk has been added, remove and discard the bay leaf.
  5. Add butter into the sauce by tablespoon, whisking to incorporate after each addition. This is called mounting the sauce with butter.
  6. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in lemon zest, lemon juice and vinegar. Stir in chives and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Test Kitchen Tips

  • To keep the sauce free of pepper flecks, use ground white pepper instead of black pepper.
  • Before serving, warm the serving bowl up with either boiling water or warm tap water. This will keep the sauce loose and luscious. If you pour the sauce into a cold bowl it will start to harden.
  • Store leftovers in a glass container with a tight fitting lid in the refrigerator. Gently reheat the sauce over low on the stove top; whisking to bring back together.

How to Use Lemon Butter Sauce

This sauce can be used in a variety of ways. We love tossing it with cooked spaghetti or linguine with seafood such as scallops, clams, and mussels. You could also serve it alongside this steamed mussels recipe.

We also recommend using it as a dip for all kinds of seafood including shrimp, crab legs and lobster.

Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce is great for drizzling over shrimp burgers, salmon patties, or any kind of fish sandwich or fish taco.

Spoon the sauce over our favorite Pan-Seared Salmon or Broiled Salmon and pair it with a simple side salad.

If you have leftover crab from making our Crab Salad, dip it in this sauce!

side angle image of a metal plate filled with ice, shrimp, and a butter sauce in a white bowl

What to Serve with Lemon and Garlic Butter Sauce

Get creative with what you serve with this sauce! Here are a few menu pairing ideas.

Variations

If you can, use what the recipe calls for—at least the first time you make it. The ingredient modifications below are intended to show the versatility of ingredients AND help you think creatively about this recipe!

  • Infuse the milk with a sprig of rosemary or thyme for a wintery touch.
  • Instead of chives, use fresh dill or tarragon.
  • Try vermouth or pernod in place of the white wine.
  • Swap out the broth in favor of clam juice for a buttery seafood pasta.
  • To make this gluten-free use sorghum flour instead of all-purpose flour.

FAQs

Does garlic lemon butter sauce need to be kept in the fridge?

This sauce should not be made ahead of time. If you must, reheat sauce in a saucepan over low heat; add additional milk or butter if needed to re-emulsify.

Why did my garlic lemon butter sauce separate?

As the sauce cools, it will begin to set up. You can reheat the sauce in a saucepan over low. Whisk until smooth; adding additional warm milk as needed.

How do you thicken lemon garlic butter sauce?

If you want a thicker sauce, use more flour to make the roux.

Garlic Lemon Butter Sauce

5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Yield 1 ½ cups
Category Side dish/sauce
Cuisine French
Author Lauren

Description

Silky, decadent, and bright with flavor, this butter sauce is perfect for seafood, vegetables and more!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and chilled
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar or more lemon juice
  • Chives, chopped

Instructions

  • Combine broth, wine, whole milk, garlic, shallot, and bay leaf in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by about half, 10–12 minutes.
    milk, bay leaf and shallot in a saucepan
  • Heat one tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foamy. Sprinkle flour over butter and whisk to combine.
    whisk whisking flour and butter in saucepan
  • Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is tan, but not brown, 2–4 minutes.
    whisk whisking flour and butter in saucepan
  • Slowly and gradually whisk reduced liquid into roux, whisking vigorously to incorporate.
    milk being added to creamy sauce in saucepan
  • Decrease heat to low and remove bay leaf. Gradually whisk butter into sauce 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each piece to melt before adding another (this is called mounting the sauce).
    butter in a saucepan of creamy sauce
  • Remove from heat and whisk in 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and vinegar; season with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir in chives and serve.
    lemon zest, salt and pepper in creamy sauce in a saucepan
  • Optional: thin sauce to desired consistency with warm broth as needed.

Notes

Sauce should not be made ahead of time. If you must, reheat sauce in a saucepan over low heat; add additional milk or butter if needed to re-emulsify.
To make this gluten-free: use sorghum flour instead of all-purpose flour.

Nutrition

Serving: 1tablespoonCalories: 76kcalFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 21mgSodium: 108mg
Like this? Leave a comment below!I love hearing from you and I want to hear how it went with this recipe! Leave a comment and rating below, then share on social media @zestfulkitchen and #zestfulkitchen!
Overhead image of a metal plate filled with ice, shrimp, and a butter sauce in a white bowl

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Other Sauce Recipes to Try

  • Our Mustard Sauce is a must-try with ham and pork tenderloin.
  • Herby tartar sauce pairs well with shrimp and other seafood meats.
  • Looking for something with a kick? Our chipotle sauce adds just the right amount of spice to our peel ‘n eat shrimp.
  • Make our Chicken Barbacoa using this easy homemade Adobo Sauce.
  • This red wine pasta sauce is not only quick to make—it also compliments a variety of pasta dishes.
  • Our Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce is one our favorite sauces to keep on hand in the freeze. Toss it with shredded chicken for a quick meal or make our Lamb Tikka Masala or Tofu Tikka Masala.

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious recipe! I substituted veggie stock and white onion (all I had on hand), and had the sauce on store bought spinach tortellini and sautéed kale. Thinned it out with a bit of pasta water. Loved it. Thanks!

    1. Yum, that meal sounds delicious! I’m so glad you enjoyed it Chris, and love hearing about your substitutions!