This Garlic Butter Sauce, also known as garlic herb butter, is the ultimate in silky and delicious compound butters. Using lemon, parsley, fresh garlic and salt, it is a verstile sauce that can be made ahead of time.
This post used to house my garlic sauce for pizza. The perfect easy sauce recipe to dip pizza, pizza crust and breadsticks, but so many people were angry telling me it wasn’t a real garlic butter sauce. In fact, it was, but not what they were looking for.
So I made this post an elevated herb garlic butter suited for seafood and other uses and new post for the pizza garlic sauce.
What Butter To Use
This delicious sauce is one of those times when the quality of butter is important. This garlic sauce is such a simple recipe, that choosing quality ingredients is very important and not all butters are created equal.
While it is fine to just throw a stick of butter in the pan, consider using cultured or European butter for a tangy, robust flavor. You can also use clarified butter, butter with milk solids and water removed.
Some mass produced brands supplement their butter sauces with vegetable oil or olive oil. To me, that is just greasy, so I stick with the basics.
Butter is required to have an 80% butterfat, but cheaper butters might also have more water.
American butter typically doesn’t have as much flavor either. Grades, ranging from the best grade AA to grade B, are based on flavor, body, color and salt and water content.
For just bread and butter, or something where the dish is butter-forward with uncooked butter, splurge for the AA grade. If you plan to mix it, clarify it or use it minimally, opt for a lower grade. I keep 3 types of butter in my house.
The good stuff for bread, toast and bagels. It is typically already salted. A middle grade for basic cooking, also usually salted. And unsalted middle grade for baking.
This recipe uses basic ingredients, but simmered together for a short period of time, they are pure magic.
- Unsalted Butter- The butter being clarified isn’t mandatory, but it is the only way to get that liquid gold look without the white froth. Unsalted is best so you can adjust the saltiness, but if it is salted, omit additional salt.
- Fresh Garlic Cloves– Again with the quality of ingredients, use fresh garlic and not the jarred stuff or garlic powder. It is the only way to get real garlic flavor and not sweet. Garlic can be amped up by finely mincing, grating or pressing and taken back a little by a coarse chop or even slices. It all depends on how many membranes and fibers are broken. So whole garlic if often less garlicky than juiced or migrated. Garlic lovers unite!
- Flat leaf parsley– Flat leaf is also known as Italian parsley and has the true parsley flavor. Curly parsley is used more for garnish than flavor. Other fresh herbs can be substituted or added in addition to, just make sure they are fresh. Chives, tarragon, thyme and rosemary are all winners, just make sure they are finely minced. Just don’t use any dried herbs.
- Lemon Zest– Zest will give the most pure lemon flavor. Many recipes also use fresh lemon juice, but this will separate in the sauce, so for recipes like seafood, you are better off giving a spritz right before serving in addition to the garlic butter sauce than stirring it in.
- Coarse Kosher Salt– Always my go-to, it is the least salty of the salts. If using a fine sea salt, reduce to just a small pinch and omit altogether if you use a salted butter.
This rich buttery sauce is so easy to make.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Don’t let the heat get too high.
- Add the minced garlic, lemon zest, fresh parsley and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine and heat for an additional 1-2 minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside so the flavors can marry.
- Butter will harden if it gets too cool, simply reheat until melted.
This easy sauce has so many ways to make it your own through easy customizations. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Ground black pepper
- Addition of more fresh herbs
- Dash of cayenne pepper or smoked paprika
- Dash of hot sauce
- Splash of white wine at the end
Ways to Use It
It’s a garlic butter sauce, so really what can’t you use it on?
- Grilled lobster or fish
- Shrimp or scallops
- Over your favorite pasta
- Spooned over steak frites
- Whipped into mashed potatoes
- Basted on easy breadsticks
- Baked chicken breast or pork tenderloin
- Drizzled on roasted veggies
- On garlic bread
Storage & Freezing
You can store this sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, but remember it will solidify so you’ll need to remelt it. Butter absorbs the flavors around it, so to preserve all of the deliciousness, make sure it is in well sealed container or topped with a piece of plastic wrap.
Can I freeze Garlic Butter Sauce? You can freeze butter, but you want to make sure it is a high quality butter with little to no additional water. You’ll see they are graded on the packaging. Clarified butter freezes better than straight butter with milk solids.
Some folks like to pour slightly cooked butter into ice cube trays, pop them out and then freeze them in airtight plastic bag. I like the silicone ones, they are easier to pop the cubes out.
More Homemade Sauce Recipes
Garlic Butter Sauce Recipe
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Add the minced garlic, lemon zest, parsley and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine and heat for an additional 1-2 minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside. Butter will harden if it gets too cool, simply reheat until melted.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.