Everybody needs a universal sauce for drizzling over roasted vegetables, tossing with finely chopped kale, or marinating meat. This creamy sauce is such a workhorse in my kitchen, I thought it deserved to be moved to the front of the blog with a new video.
When people see and taste this pale yellow sauce, they often assume it contains dairy or that it’s complicated to make. That’s the simple science of an emulsion. It’s just garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and red pepper flakes whipped into submission.
Since I’ve been making this sauce for a decade, I often just make it to taste. Regardless of the exact number of garlic cloves you use, I’ve found that the absolute best way to prepare it is in the blender after you’ve really mashed or chopped the garlic. Otherwise, the garlic has a knack for avoiding the blender blades, and then you end up with a slightly less creamy sauce (and we can’t have that).
Just a quick note on blending, I use a bullet style blender for small quantity sauces, like this one. If you find that your liquid sits below the blades of your regular blender, you may want to finely mince or paste the garlic instead (watch how in this garlic knife skills tutorial) and then whisk.
What I love about this particular sauce is the balance of acidity, heat, and richness. It’s acidic enough to compliment chopped kale and delicate enough to finish fresh seafood (thank you lemon, I worship you). It’s especially tasty drizzled over roasted broccoli or as a marinade for roasted lamb ribs.
What’s an emulsion and how does it work?
An emulsion is where you force two ingredients to combine that normally don’t. Often, an emulsion is the unification of oil and water-based substances. Mayonnaise, hollandaise, and salad dressings are all emulsions of fat and acid. In this case, we use garlic and a blender to bind olive oil and lemon juice for a luxuriously creamy, smooth texture. It may look like it contains dairy, but that’s the power of an emulsion.
Making and Storing Salad Dressing
You can blend this sauce ahead and refrigerate for about 1 week. Separation is normal – just give it a good shake before using. If the olive oil solidifies in the fridge, you can run the container under warm water or let it sit on the counter for a bit to melt. Squeeze bottles are a convenient storage solution because you can easily drizzle and shake right out of the fridge.
Recipes that Use This Lemon Garlic Sauce
Tuscan Kale Salad with Grilled Chicken
Irresistible Lemon Roasted Lamb Ribs
Kale Salad with Pan-Seared Salmon
There’s so much potential for this sauce, and I can’t wait to see how you end up using it.
Essential Lemon Garlic Sauce
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice from 1 1/2 large lemons or 4 small, depending on the juiciness
- 2 large cloves garlic smashed into a paste or roughly chopped
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Pulse on high for up to 1 minute until no garlic chunks remain and the dressing is very smooth and pale yellow. Use at room temperature or store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
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This is my second time making this recipe and it’s seriously amazing! It took 3 lemons this time and I blended it longer until the red pepper flakes were more incorporated. I’d give this 10 stars if I could!
I made it and used it in a one dish penne pasta with chicken and broccoli for my young adult son. He loved it and said that he wants it in everything.
This made me chuckle. Tell your son that we have that in common:)
This is the bomb and we put it with everything, quinoa bowls, antipasti platters and on occasion chicken. Great easy recipe and thank you for sharing!
Oh Wendy, yay! I’m so thrilled to hear that. Quinoa bowls and antipasti platters – What fun you’re having!
Can I used minced garlic instead of garlic cloves?
When you say minced garlic, are you referring to the stuff sold in a little jar? If so, I think you can use it, but you may need to increase the overall amount of garlic in the recipe because that pre-minced garlic is less potent.
I did , it was great. Mixed it in my magic bullet lol
This was a HIT! I served ut with fried fish and everyone loved it. I just added 2 tablespoons of chopped gherkins in it and cut down a bit on lemon juice. It’s a keeper and have added it to my recipe book. Thank you so much for sharing it…
Nice! Love the idea of adding the gherkins to go with the fish. Another thing I love to do is add a dash of cayenne (if you like a little heat).
Looks yummy. Am trying this tonight with my lamb ribs!!!
The tube is for allowing the gas to escape. If you leave the lid ajar, that works, too. Any time you ferment, the bacteria tends to push the food and liquid up so you have to play with how much room you leave in the jar. I’ve had jars filled halfway overflow before, so I like using the tube to allow air to escape. Adding some water to that tube prevent flies and other bacteria from coming in.
Great with lobster ravioli
Oh wow! Lobster ravioli? Sounds decadent. I’ll have to try that one.
I was hoping someone would say “ravioli” because I want to use a vegan ravioli with a vegan sauce (other than a marinara) at my anniversary party. Hopefully this will work on a buffet in a chafing dish. I will have to try it ahead of time to see if the ingredients separate…hopefully not because this would be so elegant and unusual.
The garlic acts as an emulsifier so as long as you blend it thoroughly, you shouldn’t have any separation.
If, however, you refrigerate the sauce, separation will occur and you will have to blend it again. Good luck. Let us know how it works for you!
Thank you for this very helpful advice!!! I am going to make this within the next few days
Is it 112 Cal per serving? Or for the entire amount?
The nutrition info is servings divided by overall recipe calories. So the 112 is per serving, assuming you divide it as the recipe suggests.
Delicious! Makes a great sauce for a chicken or shrimp pizza. I keep a jar of it in my fridge for pizza emergencies!
Genius! I would love to try it as a pizza sauce.
Super easy and a great way to use up the lemons and garlic in my garden! Love it!
This is my new favorite thing! And so easy. I’ve added it to pasta with some capers and olives with rosemary, thyme and crushed fennel seeds. So good. And used it as a salad dressing. Very versatile.
That sounds amazing! Thanks for the inspiration!
This sauce was a little bitter for my liking. Too much lemon.
If the sauce is too bitter, you might try adding a half teaspoon of honey at a time or tasting your individual ingredients. You might have an extra bitter batch of lemons, garlic, even olive oil.
Can you heat it to mix with hot ravioli?
It would be best to just warm it a bit on low heat because heat will cause the consistency to thin out a smidge but it should be delicious.
I don’t know what I did wrong but it didn’t taste as I thought it would and it was too runny. I tried putting cornstarch but it didn’t really help. I was wanting it to be more of a gravy consistency but it was definitely ok for pasta.
If you want it to be like a gravy, I’d definitely recommend a recipe that uses a roux. A cornstarch slurry will thicken it if heated to a simmer.