How to Make Lemon Sauce

Two Methods:Traditional Lemon SauceCreamy Lemon Sauce

Lemon sauce, a little like mildly jelled lemonade, is a lemony, sweet, clear, thick, mildly creamy cornstarch-based sauce for dry, spicy desserts such as cake-style gingerbread. It has much less fat and cholesterol than "real" cream and egg based (custard or curd) sauces - just a bit of sugar for flavor. We'll cover your traditional lemon sauce (smooth and light) and then a creamier counterpart (richer and thicker). See Step 1 below to get started!


Traditional Lemon Sauce

  • 1 cup (8 oz) cold water (cornstarch doesn't dissolve well into hot water)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Half a lemon or so of lemon zest (optional; the lemon will dry out if grated, so this is a nice touch if using a fresh lemon to be contemporaneously consumed for this recipe or otherwise)

Yields 4 servings

Creamy Lemon Sauce

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • Juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons or so)
  • Finely grated peel of half a lemon
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 113 g) butter

Yields 4 servings.

Method 1
Traditional Lemon Sauce

In the Microwave

Because this recipe's cooking simply involves uniformly heating a mass of liquid, the microwave method gives results just as good as the "traditional" stove-top method. Potentially even better, as all-around heating and less-energetic heating of low-water drying bits tends to prevent scorching.

  1. Image titled Make Lemon Sauce Step 1
    Combine all ingredients in a transparent microwave-safe bowl. Preferably it'll have a matching lid if you mean to save any for later. If it doesn't, you'll need to cover the top with a paper towel to keep the liquid from getting all over the place.
  2. Image titled Make Lemon Sauce Step 2
    Stir until the cornstarch is evenly dispersed, forming a cloudy mixture. The sugar and butter will not dissolve immediately. Once you have a uniform consistency, your bowl is ready for heating.
  3. Image titled Make Lemon Sauce Step 3
    Cover the bowl loosely to avoid spattering the microwave. Loosely though! You don't want any pressure to build up and the top be blown right off. You are bringing the contents to a boil, so make sure there's room for air to escape.
  4. Image titled Make Lemon Sauce Step 4
    Microwave at full power to heat but not boil. This should take about three minutes for a single batch. Give it a quick stir and return it to the microwave.
    • If it starts to boil, take it out of the microwave and let it cool down for about 30 seconds. Then stir it and place it back in.
  5. Image titled Make Lemon Sauce Step 5
    Microwave to bring to a boil, about two minutes. Watch carefully to avoid boil-over. When the mixture begins to bubble and rise vigorously, stir well and continue to microwave fifteen to thirty seconds at a time until it becomes uniform and translucent (though not transparent in depth) rather than powder-cloudy.
    • Microwaves differ. Keep an eye on it -- regardless of how long yours takes, if your sauce is uniform and translucent, it's done. Call it quits when you need to!
  6. Image titled Make Lemon Sauce Step 6
    Remove carefully and serve warm. Serve hot and you'll just burn your tongue! Let it cool for a few minutes before serving. Check the temperature before serving to little children.
    • Keep the leftovers in the fridge in a resealable container to use for later; it'll keep for a few weeks.

On the Stove Top

  1. Image titled Make Lemon Sauce Step 7
    Combine the cold water, cornstarch and sugar. Do this in a thick-bottomed pan to avoid scorching this viscous (sticky) mixture that does not convect (distribute heat itself well).
    • Make sure the water is cold! If it's not, it won't combine well.
  2. Image titled Make Lemon Sauce Step 8
    Turn the stove on medium-low and stir slowly. Stir it more speedily as the mixture begins to thicken. That's the cornstarch taking action.
  3. Image titled Make Lemon Sauce Step 9
    Add the lemon juice, butter, zest and serve. Give it another stir to make sure the butter (specifically) is combined. When the mixture is uniform and translucent, it's ready.
    • Recipes commonly call for the flavorings only added at the end, but combining them initially may be fine too. The mixture only gets hot at the end and isn't kept hot, so just take care, as always, to avoid scorching by stirring well.

Method 2
Creamy Lemon Sauce

  1. Image titled Make Lemon Sauce Step 10
    In a small saucepan, whisk together the egg, water, lemon juice and peel until thoroughly combined. You should have one uniform mixture with the peel evenly disbursed throughout.
    • When all is said and done, this recipe will yield about 1 1/2 cups of lemon sauce.
  2. Image titled Make Lemon Sauce Step 11
    Place the mixture on medium heat. Whisk in the sugar and butter as the liquids cook. Make sure to stir constantly until the butter is melted and the sauce comes to a full boil.
  3. Image titled Make Lemon Sauce Step 12
    Once boiling, remove your sauce from the heat. Let it cool slightly and serve warm. This creamy version is great on bread pudding, gingerbread, and even ice cream. And it's so easy to make!
    • This can keep in the fridge (in an air-tight container) for up to a month, though it's best served warm. And it probably won't last that long anyway!


  • Multiplying these recipes is acceptable; dividing, however, can make too little bulk to distribute heat evenly, risking scorching with stovetop method.
  • For a virtually calorie-free recipe or special diet, try an artificial sweetener such as sucralose (commonly sold under the name Splenda) in place of the sugar.
  • For a quick, exotic variation, replace the water with an equal quantity of non-alcohol-bearing margarita mix. For an even more exotic variation, try adding the alcohol too. Not if anyone will be driving, and too much could interfere with the cornstarch-water jelling.
  • Most citrus fruits are not nearly as sour as lemons, so balancing the sweetness of the sugar requires at least some lemon juice. For orange, try replacing half of the water with orange juice and using half as much lemon juice. And add grated orange peel for extra aroma (and a flecked appearance if you like).
  • Small-bottled flavors typically have only the essential-oil distinct flavors, not the acid, so complement them with the usual amount of lemon juice.
  • A little color can help the mind identify the flavor, in addition to being pretty. Pale yellow is fine for lemons, and strong yellow can be weird, but try a drop of orange food coloring with orange flavor from essence rather than juice, or green for lime sauce.
  • Non-sour flavors such as vanilla would be better than citrus to complement non-savory desserts such as chocolate cake (for which only a little frosting would be best to avoid a too-sweet sloppy mess). For them, omit the lemon juice.
  • Refrigerate the leftovers!


  • This becomes lumpy and unappetizing cold. Serve warm and flowing.

Things You'll Need

  • Saucepan (if on stovetop)
  • Microwaveable bowl with cover (if in microwave)
  • Spoon
  • Whisk
  • Measuring tools

Sources and Citations

  • Lemon Sauce, Diana Rattray,

Article Info

Categories: Desserts and Sweets | Sauces