Garlic Lemon Butter Sauce
Try this easy garlic lemon butter sauce recipe with only 4 main ingredients: butter, garlic, lemon, and parsley! Serve it over crispy salmon filets to make lemon butter salmon, and you’ve got a quick weeknight dinner that tastes totally gourmet. Learn how to make lemon butter sauce for fish, shrimp, chicken, or any protein you like.
How to Make Lemon Butter for Seafood
- Keep it simple. The best lemon butter for seafood is the simplest: rich flavors, fewer ingredients, quick to prepare! While a thick and creamy sauce is the tastiest on pasta, a light yet buttery texture is best for salmon and other fish.
- Brown the butter. After melting the butter, continue cooking for just a minute or two until it begins to brown, releasing a toasty, nutty aroma. Brown butter has a deeper and richer flavor than melted butter, so it’s worth the extra minute!
- Serve it fresh. Once your garlic lemon butter sauce is done, it’s best to serve it within 20-30 minutes. It won’t store well, and the sauce can begin to separate if it sits for too long. The entire recipe takes 10 minutes or less, so you can easily prep the sauce while your fish cooks!
What is lemon butter sauce made of?
In its simplest form, lemon butter sauce is made with just butter and lemon, seasoned to taste. For the most flavorful sauce, use both lemon juice and lemon zest. To make lemon garlic butter sauce, simply combine butter and lemon with minced garlic—plus optional fresh herbs like parsley. For seafood dishes, I prefer to make my sauce without cream or wine, but feel free to customize your sauce.
What does lemon butter taste like?
This homemade lemon butter sauce tastes rich, savory, and deliciously tart. Browned butter gives it a comforting, toasted flavor, while the lemon juice and zest add a refreshing burst of bright citrus. Made with a bit of garlic, this sauce becomes even more savory, nutty, and satisfying! Lemon butter is a perfect pairing with fish, shellfish, chicken, and even vegetables.
Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce Ingredients
- Butter. The essential base ingredient for any lemon butter recipe—rich, creamy, and salty! And, butter melts to the perfect consistency for drizzling over fish, meat, or veggies. After melting, continue to cook for 1-2 minutes to make brown butter for an even more comforting flavor.
- Garlic. This is optional, but a great addition! Turn this into a savory lemon garlic butter sauce just by adding minced garlic and sauteing until browned. Or, you can also substitute for garlic with minced shallot instead.
- Lemon Juice & Zest. Use fresh lemons for the most flavorful juice, and don’t skip the zest! Adding a bit of lemon zest is a great way to intensify the bright citrus flavor with very little bitterness.
- Parsley. Another optional ingredient, but a delicious addition. Fresh parsley adds a refreshing herbaceous flavor that pairs perfectly with seafood. You can also use other fresh herbs like dill, rosemary, oregano—whatever you like.
- Salt & Pepper. Don’t forget to season your homemade sauce to bring out all of the rich, savory flavors!
What is brown butter?
Basically, brown butter is just regular butter that’s been melted, then cooked a bit longer until its milk solids are toasted. When those milk solids toast, the butter begins to turn brown, and it releases an incredible nutty aroma and flavor. Perfect for a rich seafood sauce!
- Capers. With their salty, briny flavor, capers are a popular pairing with salmon and seafood dishes. Instead of minced garlic, feel free to saute crushed capers as part of your sauce. Feel free to add crushed capers into your sauce instead of minced garlic!
- Cream. For a richer, thicker texture—perhaps to serve over pasta—you can make lemon garlic butter sauce with cream. When the sauce is nearly done, turn down the heat and slowly stir in a few tablespoons of heavy cream.
- Wine. If you enjoy seafood and lemon butter with wine, you’re welcome to add white wine or cooking wine to this recipe alongside the lemon juice.
How to Make Lemon Butter Sauce for Fish, Shrimp, Chicken
- Brown the butter. To start, melt butter over medium heat and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes, until it’s golden brown and has a nutty aroma.
- Saute garlic. If you’d like to make a garlic lemon butter sauce, add garlic now and cook for 1-2 minutes. (For a simple lemon butter, you can skip this step.)
- Add lemon and seasonings. Finally, add lemon juice & zest, season with salt & pepper, and add optional fresh herbs. Cook for 1 more minute, stirring to integrate.
- Serve as desired within 20-30 minutes of making. Drizzle ~1 Tbsp sauce onto a serving of seafood, white meat, or veggies!
Watch how to make this easy lemon butter sauce with salmon in my Crispy Salmon Dinner video!
How do you thicken lemon butter sauce?
When making lemon butter sauce for salmon and other fish, a thinner consistency is ideal because it will coat the food better. But, if you want to thicken lemon butter for a creamier consistency, try adding cornstarch. For this recipe, whisk 1½ tsp cornstarch with 2-3 tsp water to make a slurry. Before taking your sauce off the heat, pour in the slurry and whisk continuously, until thickened (1-2 minutes).
Why is my lemon butter sauce separating?
Generally, homemade lemon butter separates because the heat is too high. When overheated, the fat-rich butter will separate from the liquid, and your sauce won’t be as smooth or consistent. To keep your sauce from separating, keep the heat on medium to medium-low, and be patient as the sauce simmers and integrates.
What to serve with lemon garlic butter sauce
- Fish. Serve lemon butter with pan seared or blackened salmon, cod, tilapia, halibut, sea bass, sole, branzino—any fish you like, really!
- Seafood. Lemon butter is equally delicious with other types of seafood, like shrimp, lobster, and scallops.
- Meat. This is also a tasty sauce served on different cuts of meat, particularly chicken or pork.
- Vegetables. You can even use lemon garlic butter to elevate veggies like broccoli, asparagus, green beans, roasted potatoes, a kale salad, or just a simple bed of leafy greens!
Lemon Butter Sauce for Fish
- ¼ cup butter
- 2 tsp garlic, minced, (optional, or shallot)
- ½ tsp lemon zest
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1-2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped, (optional)
- ¼ tsp salt, to taste
- ⅛ tsp pepper, to taste
- In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, until lightly golden brown with a nutty aroma.
- Add garlic and saute 1-2 minutes, until garlic begins to brown.
- Add lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cook about 1 minute.
- Remove sauce from heat and set aside. Serve within 20-30 minutes of making for best flavor & consistency.
- Drizzle ~1 Tbsp lemon butter per serving of seafood, white meat, or vegetables!
- If needed, store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 1 week.
- Yields ~¼ cup lemon butter sauce.