While many people like cocktail sauce on their crab cakes and other seafood, I often opt instead for tartar sauce. I love a creamy sauce and I can never get enough pickles, so it’s the perfect pairing for me. I also like the fact that tartar sauce has far less sugar than most cocktail sauces.
So what’s in tartar sauce? It only has a few ingredients — mayonnaise, pickles, dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, and salt and pepper — but when combined they create layers of flavor to slather on your seafood.
It also couldn’t be easier to whip up. All you have to know about how to make tartar sauce is that you are simply combining the ingredients together in a bowl. It’s likely one of the simplest sauces you’ll ever make, and you probably already have most, if not all, of the ingredients in your pantry or refrigerator.
What is Tartar Sauce?
The modern day version of this mayonnaise-based sauce originated in France and is often seen alongside seafood dishes, particularly those that are fried. While it’s most typically served with the likes of crab cakes and fried shrimp, tartar sauce also pairs well with baked fish like haddock or pollock.
The sauce itself is a blend of mayonnaise, chopped pickles, white wine vinegar, and dijon mustard (with a dash of salt and pepper). The base of mayonnaise makes it creamy while pickles pep iti up with their zesty flavor. Dijon lends a light tang to the sauce while white wine vinegar takes the flavor to the next level.
While plenty of people use this sauce on seafood, it’s also a good accompaniment to raw or cooked veggies. You can use it as a salad dressing or a sandwich spread, or even dip those fries that come with your crab crake into it.
- Mayonnaise – you can use your favorite brand or you can easily make your own mayonnaise at home.
- Pickles or cornichons – dill pickles are the way to go with this recipe, but if you really enjoy the sweetness of bread and butter you can substitute them.
- White wine vinegar – be sure to grab white wine vinegar and not just white vinegar (which is not a suitable substitute). The fermented and oxidized white wine elevates the flavor of this tartar sauce.
- Dijon mustard – mustard adds a little tang and spice to the sauce. Be sure to use dijon instead of yellow – it imparts earthy flavor.
- Kosher salt – be sure not to be heavy-handed with the salt since the pickles will add an element of saltiness as well.
- Ground black pepper – you can used freshly ground pepper or your table pepper – either will do in this recipe.
How to Make Tartar Sauce
- Add all ingredients to a small bowl.
- Mix the ingredients together until completely combined.
- Cover with plastic wrap or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate.
How To Use Tartar Sauce
Tartar sauce is a perfect pairing for seafood dishes. I love to use it with crab cakes (or a vegetarian version, hearts of palm cakes) or with fish and chips. It’s also fantastic with fried shrimp or calamari and you can dip your ahi tuna in it, too.
However, tartar sauce is versatile and can work well with a variety of other foods. It’s an easy dip to whip up for a crudite platter or you can simply dip your favorite bread (particularly pita), chips, or pretzels in it.
Just like it pairs well with fried seafood, it’s also a great sauce for fried (and baked) veggies. Dip your zucchini fries or fried green tomatoes in it. You can even use it in place of (or in addition to) sour cream for your baked potato or in fish tacos.
I also like to use tartar sauce as a spread on my sandwiches. The obvious choice is on a fish sandwich, but it can add some extra flavor to anything from a simple turkey or chicken sandwich to a burger or po’ boy.
Pickle juice- if you can’t get enough pickle flavor, add a little juice from the jar.
Dill- adding some fresh dill will impart fresh flavor to your tartar sauce.
Lemon- squeeze a little bit of lemon to brighten up this sauce.
Capers- chop up some capers and toss them in to infuse some brininess.
You can store homemade tartar sauce in the refrigerator for up to a week. Be sure to stir it well before serving.
More Homemade Condiments
Tartar Sauce Recipe
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons pickles or cornichons minced
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- pinch kosher salt
- pinch ground black pepper
- Combine the mayonnaise, pickles, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk until combined.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was the comment or star ratings!
pimento (minced roasted red peppers)