My earliest memory of garlic lemon butter sauce is probably as a dipping sauce with lobster, which was undoubtably rare in my life, but not as much as you might think since my dad’s from the lobster capital of the world: Prince Edward Island.
My 6-year-old self peered intently at the tall stockpot filled with boiling water on the stove as my dad’s relative began using giant tongs to pluck lobsters out of a 5-gallon plastic pail sitting the kitchen floor.
The memory—traumatic and clear as day—is of shiny, mottled chestnut and brick colored lobsters with stringy antennae flowing though the air one by one into the pot.
I remember feeling bewildered at the dinner table by the delicacy of the torn strips of lobster meat dipped in lemon butter sauce.
I thought to myself, “That must be some special sauce indeed!”
Since when did I ever get to dip things in hot butter? Like never.
My next experience with lemon butter sauce was of the gentle art of balancing temperatures while making the sauce at a fine dining restaurant I worked at.
Making it was my daily job, and if you know anything about this sauce, you’ll know that if you get it too hot, the butter will break out of its delicate emulsion. So it took some attention.
We used to cheat by adding full cream. It made the mixture more stable.
My, how I loved that tangy sauce with lots of seasoning. I always added plenty of salt and black pepper to complement the richness of the dairy.
My final memory is from cooking dinners at Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe. I used to make a killer potato-crusted salmon topped with made-to-order lemon butter sauce.
That sauce involved a spot of hot butter, then sizzle in some garlic, and deglaze with white wine. Finally, melt in more butter while stirring, and sprinkle in some salt, pepper, and fresh herbs.
Then, I’d top the perfectly cooked salmon covered in golden brown potato lattice-crust with the sauce, and serve.
So yes, you may have gathered from my trip down memory lane that garlic lemon butter sauce is commonly enjoyed with fish.
But since this is a vegetarian recipe blog, let’s dig into how to use lemon butter sauce for pasta and vegetables, cause it’s equally great.
Lemon Butter Sauce For Pasta And Vegetables
There’s something about a creamy sauce on pasta that satisfies one’s craving for decadent comfort food.
That’s why Alfredo sauce is so popular right?
Now, I think garlic lemon butter sauce is way better than Alfredo (which I love by the way).
Why? Because its got the digestive support built right in.
I am talking about the fresh lemon juice. Lemons encourage digestion by stimulating secretions in your GI tract that assist with digestion.
The sour taste of lemon also stimulates the flow of bile, which is what your body uses to digest fats. You see how this combo is pretty good now?
Lemon is what will help your body to digest the fats in the butter. Pretty cool right? Alfredo sauce just doesn’t have this.
That’s why lemon butter sauce won’t feel as heavy, even though it is just as rich.
Lemon butter sauce is the ideal sauce for a spring pasta made with vegetables like asparagus, green beans, fresh peas, fresh fava beans, radishes, and spring onions.
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The sauce is going to enliven the earthy flavors of the veggies and make sure that your pasta isn’t boring.
Shabang! That’s instant yum right there. And don’t forget to garnish your pasta with parmesan cheese, an umami-rich complement for this sauce.
For something different, consider dotting your creation with creamy ricotta cheese and plenty of fresh spring herbs.
Oh, and I'll just throw it out there that this sauce would be a great eggless substitute for hollandaise sauce.
How To Make Garlic Lemon Butter Sauce
Earlier, I mentioned the fiddly nature of getting the temperature right when making lemon butter sauce.
With this recipe it’s pretty easy.
Anyways, even if the sauce does break, nobody will really notice that after it’s mixed with the pasta and vegetables. The sauce is still going to taste delectable.
The basic process for making lemon butter sauce is to sauté finely chopped garlic and onions in a piece of butter that you melt first in a tiny skillet or pot.
You will have chopped up cold butter into six pieces, about a tablespoon each.
Next you add liquids—white wine vinegar, lemon juice, and water—and simmer to reduce them by half, which concentrates the flavors of the simple ingredients.
Next comes the fun part, where it all comes together.
You add in a few more pieces of the butter and whisk until smooth. Then you add the rest of the butter, and melt and whisk.
Remove from heat immediately and season with salt and pepper.
That’s it. You’re done. Now dip your finger in it to taste. Just kidding! Use a spoon.
Keep the garlic lemon butter sauce at room temperature while you prepare the rest of your meal.
If it thickens up and it’s cooling down, add a touch of boiling water.
Remember that temperature thing. Not too hot and not too cold. You need it to be just right.
Lemon Butter Sauce Without Wine
This is why I add water to dilute the intensity of the vinegar, and I do definitely recommend that you use a wine-style of vinegar for its robust flavor.
If you wish to use white wine, simply replace the water and vinegar part in the recipe with wine.
Use A Mini Skillet Or Pot
Here is where I go on about how much I love my mini skillets and pots. They are so useful.
I didn’t grow up with these in the house, so I am not sure how common they are.
I am talking about a skillet that’s 5 or 6 inches in diameter, and a pot that can hold a maximum of 2 cups of liquid.
I use these to roast a small amount of nuts, seeds, or spices, or to heat up leftovers, or to make a special hot drink.
Somehow using a tiny tool like this makes it feel like you aren’t cooking at all, however, the truth is, you are getting stuff done in an efficient manner.
You can use a mini skillet or pot to make garlic lemon butter sauce. If you don’t have one, use the smallest you’ve got, because the total yield from this recipe is about ¾ cup.
Keep the yield in mind in terms of how much you need for your pasta and vegetables. You can always double the recipe.
Recipe for Garlic Lemon Butter Sauce
Helpful Kitchen Tools:
- Slice butter into 6 pieces. Use your smallest skillet or pot, and place it on medium-low heat. Add 1 piece of butter, and after it melts add the garlic and onion. Gently sauté until translucent. It should not get too brown.
- Add white wine vinegar, lemon juice, and water, and reduce to less then a quarter cup of liquid.
- Reduce the heat even further. Add 3 more pieces of butter and whisk until smooth. Add the remaining 2 pieces and whisk. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately, or store sauce up to 2 hours at room temperature. Reheat gently. Do not bring to a boil or the butter will split from the emulsion.