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When dinner needs a little something extra (but you don’t know what), try Lemon Butter Sauce. A professional chef’s secret weapon, this nutty brown butter sauce is ready in mere minutes and works citrusy magic on fish, chicken, or vegetables.
Lemon Butter Sauce ingredients:
- Shallots. The mildest of the onion family, minced shallots add lovely flavor to the butter sauce.
- Lemon juice. Freshly squeezed, please.
- Parsley. However, you can use chopped chives, marjoram, tarragon, or almost any fresh green herb in this sauce.
- Salt and freshly ground pepper.
How to make Lemon Butter Sauce:
- First, find a small saucepan with a sturdy bottom and melt the butter over medium to low heat.
- As the butter cooks, gently swirl the pan to keep it moving without scorching. Keep your eye on the heat—beurre noisette can burn in seconds, if you’re not careful.
- Over the next 4 to 5 minutes, (keep swirling!) the butter should turn a deep, golden brown and take on a nutty aroma.
- As soon as that happens, stir in the minced shallots and let them cook in the butter for 30 seconds or so.
- Next, remove from the heat and immediately stir in the thyme, parsley, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.
- Give the butter sauce a final stir, and it’s ready to go.
Helpful tips for making the sauce:
- Smaller is better. Use a small saucepan to make this sauce, instead of a wide skillet. It may be tempting to use the same pan as the fish, but it’s too big to be able to notice the butter transform. You want to be able to really see the butter as it gently browns.
- Stay at the stove. Brown butter can go from toasty to burned in seconds, so stay present, watch the heat, and keep swirling.
- Use your nose. Beurre noisette is directly translated to “hazelnut butter.” This refers to the distinct change in aroma as the butter browns. When ready, the butter should smell nutty.
- Make ahead. You can make brown butter lemon sauce up to 30 minutes ahead, as long as you keep it warm. If needed, gently reheat over low heat.
- A little goes a long way. This is a rich sauce with a lot of flavor. A tablespoon per serving is usually enough.
Serve brown butter lemon sauce on:
A lemony sauce so good, it’s almost drinkable.
- Fresh seafood. A perfect fit. Any fresh fish you happen to bring home: salmon, cod, halibut, tuna, swordfish, walleye, or trout.
- Shellfish. Scallops, lobster, shrimp, prawns, or crab legs. Even filled pasta, like lobster ravioli, would be unbelievable.
- Vegetables. Lemon sauce breathes new life into green vegetables, roasted or steamed. Think broccoli, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, green beans, or artichokes.
- Chicken. Simple poached or grilled chicken breasts become a lot more special with homemade lemon sauce.
Lemon Butter Sauce
- 4 tablespoons butter ½ stick, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 small shallot minced, about 1-2 tablespoons
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a small, heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Cook, swirling constantly, until butter turns dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Stir in shallots until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat and stir in parsley, thyme, and lemon juice.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper (I like ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper). Serve immediately.
Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.
The Lemon Butter Sauce was GREAT! Works very well with broil seafood
This one is going in my repeat recipe file. I almost could eat it like a soup. Not kidding!
It is a splendid recipe Meggan. Thank you for sharing it with us.
I made this to coat some ricotta & lemon zest ravioli with roasted asparagus for a summery pasta and it was delicious! Next time I make shrimp or salmon, I’ll definitely pull this recipe out.
Delicious! I give this recipe a 5 out of 5.
It worked great on salmon.
So good. Would be great on any seafood. I had it on salmon.
I wanted a quick, yummy and lemony sauce for sauteed chicken. This was easy and delicious!