Eastern Mediterranean Lemon Garlic Sauce

Eastern Mediterranean Lemon Garlic Sauce


As promised, here is my recipe for a Zankou Chicken’s famous secret lemon garlic sauce. By no means their secret recipe, but a garlic lemon sauce which is made all over the Eastern Mediterranean where lemons are plentiful. Similar to Greek Skordalia, garlic and salt are ground into a paste in a mortar. Lemon juice is then worked into the garlic paste. Once relatively smooth olive oil is slowly worked into the paste until incorporated and the sauce is viscous. To bind the sauce mashed potatoes are then worked into the sauce until smooth and creamy, with a final seasoning with salt and pepper.

The recipe can be made in a food processor, but I much prefer the traditional mortar and pestle method which produces a smoother silky texture. Processing potatoes into the sauce tends to turn the potato starch into a thick glutinous paste which is not the texture you want for this sauce.

Eastern Mediterraneans like assertive flavors, as do I, but feel free to reduce the amount of garlic and lemon juice used if you prefer a more subtle sauce, particularly for fish dishes.


Eastern Mediterranean Lemon Garlic Sauce     makes 4 servings/ 1 ½ cups


  • 1 small potato
  • 3 to 5 plump garlic cloves
  • 1½ teaspoons flaked sea salt + more to taste
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons cold water for thinning

Boil the potato with skin on in salted water. When very soft remove from the pan and set aside until cool enough to handle. Slip the skin off the potato and break the potato apart and place in a bowl. Lightly mash the potato using a fork, or pass the potato through a potato ricer, and set aside.

Easter Mediterranean Lemon Garlic Sauce

Eastern Mediterranean Lemon Garlic Sauce

Peel the garlic and slice the cloves in half lengthwise. Remove the center green parts and discard. Finely mince, or microplane, the garlic and place in a mortar. Add the salt and half of the lemon juice you intend to use. Using the pestle grind the ingredients in a circular motion into paste. This may take a few minutes, but well worth the effort. The smoother the paste the better the results.

Increase the speed of your circular motion and begin adding the olive oil by the tablespoon full and the remaining lemon juice you intend to use in a slow steady trickle. Continue working the ingredients together until the texture thickens and is emulsified.

At this point begin adding the mashed potatoes a tablespoon full at a time and working them into sauce until completely incorporated, before adding the next tablespoon of mashed potatoes. I found that 4 to 6 tablespoons of mashed potatoes will be enough to make the sauce very thick.

Stir in the lemon zest, ground pepper and additional salt to taste.

At this point you can thin the sauce by adding cold water in a slow steady trickle while stiring until the sauce is the consistency you want for your application; thicker for dipping or thinner for saucing.

The sauce can be refrigerated for several days. Be sure to bring to room temperature before serving.

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