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Tartar Sauce

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This homemade tartar sauce is irresistibly creamy, herby, tangy and briny. Featuring fresh and vibrant coastal flavors, it’s the perfect condiment for a variety of seafood dishes. This quick easy recipe was inspired by a seafood restaurant on Pier 39 in San Francisco, California.

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French fries served in a small Staub baker with tartar sauce and ketchup.

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Why This Recipe’s a Keeper

  • Customizable: Homemade tartar sauce allows you to tailor the ingredients and flavors to your taste preferences. You can adjust the quantities of pickles, capers, herbs, and other seasonings to create a sauce that perfectly complements your seafood dishes.
  • Freshness: Making tartar sauce from scratch ensures that you’re using fresh ingredients, free from preservatives or artificial additives. This results in a sauce with vibrant flavors and a clean, homemade taste.
  • Versatility: Tartar sauce isn’t just for seafood! This versatile condiment can also be used as a dip for vegetables, a spread for sandwiches, or a topping for burgers. Its tangy, creamy flavor adds a delicious twist to a variety of dishes.
  • Cost-effective: Homemade tartar sauce is often more cost-effective than store-bought versions, especially when you already have common pantry ingredients like mayonnaise, pickles, and spices on hand. Plus, you can make just the amount you need, reducing waste.
  • Impress your guests: Serving homemade tartar sauce at your next gathering is sure to impress your guests. They’ll appreciate the effort you put into making a from-scratch condiment, and the fresh, flavorful taste will elevate any meal.
Homemade tartar sauce in a small glass mixing bowl with a mini spatula.

What is Tartar Sauce?

Tartar sauce is a tangy seafood condiment that originated in France. It’s a mayonnaise-based sauce featuring pickles, onion, capers, and spices.

Some versions include one more of the following: grated hard-boiled egg, chives, dried mustard, whole-grain dijon mustard, olives, granulated sugar, paprika, Champagne vinegar or malt vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, or anchovies in oil.

Fish and chips served on a metal tray with tartar sauce, ketchup and lemon slices.

🛒 Ingredients

Each ingredient plays a crucial role in creating the complex flavor profile of tartar sauce, combining creamy, tangy, briny, and herbal elements to complement seafood dishes perfectly. Feel free to adjust the quantity of each ingredient to tailor the sauce to your taste preferences.

  • Mayonnaise: Provides a creamy base and richness to the sauce.
  • Sour Cream: Adds tanginess and helps to balance the richness of the mayo.
  • Kosher Dill Pickles: Adds a crunchy texture and tangy flavor to the sauce.
  • Pickle Juice (from the jar): Enhances the pickle flavor and adds acidity to the sauce.
  • White Onion: Provides a mild onion flavor and a bit of crunch.
  • Fresh Italian Parsley: Adds freshness and a subtle herbaceous flavor to the sauce.
  • Fresh Dill: Infuses the sauce with a distinct herbal aroma and flavor.
  • Non-Pareil Capers: Contribute a briny and slightly tangy flavor to the sauce.
  • Lemon Juice: Adds acidity and brightness to the sauce.
  • White Pepper: Adds a subtle heat and peppery flavor without the specks of black pepper.
  • Kosher Salt: Enhances the overall flavor and helps to balance the other ingredients.
  • Garlic Powder: Provides a hint of garlic flavor without the texture of fresh garlic.
Ingredients for tartar sauce recipe laid out on a large wooden board.


🧅 Ingredient Substitutions

To save time and money, feel free to use the ingredients you have on hand. Here are some great substitutions for this tartar sauce recipe.

  • Sour Cream: To maintain this recipe’s beautiful tang, use 2 tablespoons buttermilk. Another option: plain Greek yogurt.
  • Kosher Dill Pickles: Good substitutes for this ingredient are cornichons, gherkins, or dill relish.
  • Lemon Juice: Lime juice is the best substitute.
  • White Onion: Use yellow onion, red onion or shallots. You can also use dried onion flakes.
  • Fresh Herbs: Use dried herbs instead. Refrigerate the sauce for 2 hours before serving to give the herbs time to rehydrate and bloom.
  • White Pepper: The best substitute is black pepper. But keep in mind, white pepper has more complexity with a mild, earthy taste. Black pepper has a different flavor profile. It’s also spicier! Start by adding a pinch of black pepper, then adjust to taste.
  • Garlic Powder: A great substitute is granulated garlic. Just crush it up. Or use a small amount of finely minced or pressed fresh garlic.

🔪 Recipe Prep

Everyone needs this easy recipe in their kitchen arsenal! It comes together with minimal work and chopping. It takes less than 10 minutes to prep the ingredients for this super tasty condiment!

  1. Dice the kosher pickles.
  2. Mince the white onion.
  3. Finely chop the Italian parsley and dill.
  4. Roughly chop the capers.
4-image collage showing how to make tarta

📖 Recipe Steps

  1. In a small mixing bowl, stir the mayo and sour cream together.
  2. Add pickles, capers and onion to the bowl.
  3. Sprinkle in the fresh parsley and dill.
  4. Squeeze lemon juice into the bowl. Add pickle juice and spices. Mix well. Refrigerate for 1 hour before use. This gives the mixture time to thicken, chill, and become extra flavorful.

Food Processor: If desired, this recipe can be assembled in a food processor. Add the pickles, capers and onion to the bowl. Pulse briefly to mince. Add the remaining ingredients. Pulse again until blended.

4-images showing how to make easy tartar sauce from scratch.

👩🏻‍🍳 Expert Tips

  • Use fresh ingredients: For the best-tasting condiment always use fresh ingredients to include firm crunchy pickles and un-wilted herbs.
  • Mayonnaise: Do not substitute low-fat mayo or dressing for this important ingredient. Your taste buds will notice the difference!
  • Tangy vs sweet: Kosher pickles give this recipe a delightful tang. But for a sweeter taste, use sweet pickles or sweet relish. Or add a teaspoon of granulated sugar.
  • For a kick of heat: Stir in a pinch of cayenne pepper.
  • How to store tartar sauce: Transfer to a glass salad dressing bottle or a small container with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.

🧑🏼‍🍳 Recipe FAQ

Yes, you can substitute mayonnaise with Greek yogurt or sour cream for a lighter alternative. However, keep in mind that this will slightly alter the flavor and texture of the sauce. Adjust other ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar to balance the tanginess accordingly.

Yes, you can use sweet pickles instead of dill pickles if you prefer a sweeter flavor profile in your tartar sauce. Just be aware that it will alter the traditional tangy flavor.

If you don’t have capers, you can omit them altogether or substitute with finely chopped green olives for a similar briny flavor.

While pickles are a key ingredient in traditional tartar sauce, you can experiment with other ingredients like finely chopped onions or shallots for a different flavor profile.

To adjust the tartness of the sauce, simply add more lemon juice or vinegar for a tangier flavor or reduce the amount for a milder taste.

Yes, you can use dried herbs as a substitute for fresh ones in tartar sauce. Just remember that dried herbs are more potent, so adjust the quantities accordingly.

Homemade tartar sauce typically lasts in the fridge for about 1 week when stored in an airtight container.

A small bowl of tartar sauce on a rustic white table with lemons and parsley.

🍽 Recipes to Pair with Tartar Sauce

There are so many ways to enjoy tartar sauce. Pair it with salmon, scallops, crab cakes, fried clam strips, fish sticks, hushpuppies, onion rings, and these time-tested favorites.

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Friends say this is the best tartar sauce recipe! It has the flavor profile of tartar sauce served with fresh seafood platters in restaurants along the California coast. If you agree, give it a 5-star rating in the comments. Then share it with friends. 📌 Pin it to Pinterest.

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Tartar Sauce


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Description

This is the best homemade tartar sauce recipe. Creamy and herby, this condiment boasts a fresh tangy flavor that pairs beautifully with seafood dishes and more. Make it in just 10 minutes.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (real mayo, not dressing)
  • 5 tablespoons sour cream
  • 5 tablespoons minced kosher dill pickles
  • 2 tablespoons pickle juice (from the jar)
  • 2 tablespoons minced white onion
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley (leaves, no stems)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced non-pareil capers
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 pinch garlic powder

Instructions

  1. In a small mixing bowl, stir the mayo and sour cream together.
  2. Add pickles, capers and onion to the bowl. Sprinkle in the fresh parsley and dill. Squeeze lemon juice into the bowl. Add pickle juice and spices. Mix well.
  3. Refrigerate for 1 hour before use. This gives the mixture time to thicken, chill, and become extra flavorful.

Notes

Food Processor: If desired, this recipe can be assembled in a food processor. Add the pickles, capers and onion to the bowl. Pulse briefly to mince. Add the remaining ingredients. Pulse again until blended.

  • Prep Time: 10 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 Minutes
  • Category: Condiments
  • Method: No-Bake
  • Cuisine: French
Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

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13 Comments

  1. When I was a kid tartar sauce was the only thing that could get me to try a new fish recipe…๐Ÿ˜‚ Now, it’s a life long comfort food; no fish & chips is worthy without it. Love the details of this classic sauce.