Lemon Caper Sauce

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When life gives you lemons… What to make, sweet or savory? It’s back to classics time — Lemon Caper Sauce! Good friend, and Southern Italian culinary teacher and cookbook author, Rosetta Costantino* recently gave me over a dozen lemons from her trees. Time to get cooking…

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Bright, tart and briny, this lemon caper sauce is easy and quick enough for a weeknight go-to or elegant enough for guests. Unlike other classic sauces (Béchamel, I’m looking at you!), the portions of the liquid ingredients can be altered to your tastes. For example, if you like a lot of lemon, then increase the amount of lemon juice and decrease either the chicken broth or wine.  Just stick to the instruction steps and you’ll find that this is a forgiving sauce.

Lemon caper sauce isn’t just for chicken piccata anymore. It’s great on white fish or many vegetables, especially roasted cauliflower, sliced or baked tomatoes, or asparagus when in season.

Note: If you want a very clear sauce, omit the flour, corn or potato starch. Reduction time will take longer without the thickener, but it’s a cleaner looking, and ever-so-slightly purer flavor. I usually use flour because I prefer the sauce a bit thicker.

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Lemon Caper Sauce


  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (approximately two large or three small lemons) and zest of one lemon
  • 1/3 cup capers, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 teaspoon kosher (not table) salt
  • 2 teaspoons all purpose flour, if needed (Or corn or potato starch) mixed well with 4 teaspoons of cold water
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves


  1. Bring a 10-12 inch (25.5 – 30.5 cm) sauté pan to medium heat. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of butter. Add one peeled and smashed garlic clove
  2. Once the garlic has taken on a golden color, remove it and add the salt, chicken stock and white wine and bring it to a boil. CAUTION: The stock and wine will react with the hot olive oil. Pour it in quickly and have a lid nearby to minimize splattering. Once the spattering has stopped, remove the lid. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 3 minutes
  3. Add the lemon juice, zest, and rinsed and dried capers. Keep simmering until the liquid has reduced by 25%. This may take 7-10 minutes depending on your pan and heat level
  4. If you prefer a thicker sauce; or the rest of your dinner is done and you are starving, feel free to mix 2 teaspoons of flour with 4 teaspoons water and then immediately and vigorously whisk it into the pan (don’t let it sit, or it will turn into a bad dumpling). Simmer until desired thickness
  5. Turn off heat and whisk in the remaining two tablespoons of butter along with the chopped parsley

Serving suggestions: Pour sauce over poultry, white fish, or vegetables of your choice. Pictured with roasted cauliflower (one whole cauliflower cut into florets tossed in olive oil, sprinkled with Kosher salt and roasted on a baking sheet in the oven at 400F (204C) for 40 minutes).

*Check out Rosetta Costantino’s cookbooks, My Calabria and Southern Italian Desserts, both filled with stories, history, beautiful photos and accessible recipes. Also see her website at www.cookingwithrosetta.com.

Author: gregnelsoncooks

Visit weekly for original and adapted recipes as well as cooking tips to make your kitchen life easier — and more delicious! I’ll include simple, straight forward instructions along with recipes that are truly worth your time making. And, recipes that elevate the familiar and introduce you to the new and unexpected.

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