What Is Tartar Sauce?

And a step-by-step guide on how to make tartar sauce.

January 19, 2023

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Homemade white sauce tartar tartare with ingredients pickles, capers, dill, parsley, garlic, lemon and mustard on a light stone background. Horizontal image

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Homemade white sauce tartar tartare with ingredients pickles, capers, dill, parsley, garlic, lemon and mustard on a light stone background. Horizontal image

Photo by: losinstantes/Getty Images

losinstantes/Getty Images

By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen

Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.

Perhaps you know and love tartar sauce as an accompaniment for fish ‘n’ chips. But what exactly is it? Here, we discover what’s in tartar sauce, provide a step-by-step guide to making homemade tartar sauce and share our best tartar sauce recipes. Trust us, you’re going to want to serve it with more than just fried fish.

Food Stylist: Jamie Kimm
Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks

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Food Stylist: Jamie Kimm Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks

Photo by: Christopher Testani

Christopher Testani

What Is Tartar Sauce?

Tartar sauce is a mayonnaise-based condiment made with chopped pickles or relish, shallots and capers that's typically served with seafood. It’s often enjoyed as dip for fried fish, especially fish and chips, as well as other seafood dishes, such as our Best Crab Cakes, Perfect Salmon Burgers or Salmon Cakes with Salad (pictured above).

Homemade white sauce tartar tartare in a glass bowl on a light stone background. Horizontal image, copy space

886934756

Homemade white sauce tartar tartare in a glass bowl on a light stone background. Horizontal image, copy space

Photo by: losinstantes/Getty Images

losinstantes/Getty Images

What Is In Tartar Sauce?

Tartar sauce is made with three main ingredients: mayonnaise, shallots and capers. Tartar sauce can also include the following additions:

  • Pickles: finely chopped pickles, cornichons or sweet pickle relish
  • Mustard: Dijon or whole grain
  • Herbs: parsley, dill, chives or tarragon
  • Citrus: lemon juice and zest
  • Egg: chopped hard-boiled eggs
  • Aromatics: garlic, scallion
  • Condiments: hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce
  • Sweetener: some recipes call for a teaspoon or so of sugar

How to Make Tartar Sauce

  1. Add Ingredients to Food Processor: Place mayonnaise, small-diced pickles (or cornichons), white wine vinegar (or Champagne vinegar), capers, coarse-grain mustard, salt and pepper in a food processor or mini chopper fitted with a steel blade.
  2. Mix the Ingredients: Pulse several times until the pickles are finely chopped and all the ingredients are well mixed but not pureed.
  3. Chill the Tartar Sauce: Transfer the tartar sauce into a container, then cover and chill at least 1 hour or until ready to serve.
  4. Serve and Store the Tartar Sauce: Serve the chilled tartar sauce with fried fish, seafood dishes or vegetables. Store any leftover tartar sauce in a covered, air-tight container for up to 1 week.

How Long Does Tartar Sauce Last

Homemade tartar sauce will last for up to 1 week stored in the fridge. Be sure to store tartar sauce in an air-tight, resealable container and label and date the contents.

Tartar Sauce Recipes

As Ina Garten says, you can’t have fish ‘n’ chips without tartar sauce. This easy recipe calls for classic ingredients and lets a food processor do the work of finely chopping the pickles and incorporating the ingredients into a delectable dip.

Kardea Brown’s classic fried fish and dill tartar sauce is inspired by Friday fish fries after church and fashioned after the same recipes her mom and grandma taught her. The key ingredients here are Duke’s mayo, which gives the mixture a distinct tang, and fresh dill which adds an herbaceous pop.

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Ingrid Hoffann’s riff on tartar sauce includes smoky chipotle peppers, which makes an ideal creamy, smoky addition to fish tacos. Mayo still serves as the base, but in addition to chipotle, a medley of garlic, scallion and lime juice lends a zippy punch.

Food Stylist: Brett Kurzweil 
Prop Stylist: Meghan Guthrie

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Food Stylist: Brett Kurzweil Prop Stylist: Meghan Guthrie

Photo by: Levi Brown

Levi Brown

Chopped pickled jalapenos team up with scallions, cilantro, lime juice and Worcestshire sauce to create a zesty, spicy tartar sauce. Try it on shrimp tacos, as a dip for fish sticks or French fries or dolloped on baked potatoes.

This standard recipe deviates from tradition a little bit with the addition of chopped egg and a sprinkling of paprika. The egg gives the sauce a little more heft, making it a good accompaniment to hearty seafood dishes and crudité platters alike.

For her take on tartar sauce, Anne Burrell strives for an extra silky texture. To pull it off, she adds yolks and malt vinegar and emulsifies it with vegetable oil to create a homemade mayo base, then combines it with finely chopped shallots, chopped cornichons and capers.

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