Homemade Tartar Sauce

Confession time. I am a lover of tartar sauce. I think the seafood eating world is divided into two camps, those who enjoy tartar sauce with their fish, and those who will have nothing to do with it. I am happily in the first camp and love nothing better than any fish fillet my dad buys (he can spot the freshest) and my mom prepares (she’s got the timing down), served with a slice of lemon, some tartar sauce, and of course, coleslaw. Not all bottled tartar sauces are created equal however. It’s really hit or miss out there in the prepared tartar sauce world. So, I’ve made my own. And you know what? It’s good! Really! (Assuming you like tartar sauce to begin with, otherwise move along, this one’s not for you.)

Homemade Tartar Sauce Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: Makes about a cup and a half of tartar sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup chopped dill pickles
  • 1 teaspoon capers, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons chopped shallots
  • 2 Tbsp chopped scallions
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 6 drops Tabasco sauce or more to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

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41 Comments

  1. Melanie

    Your recipe is probably much tastier than mine. But mine is easy, and I always have the ingredients on hand. I mix up mayonnaise, some dill pickle relish, a little lemon juice, a little garlic powder, and some Old Bay seasoning. My husband won’t have it any other way now!

  2. Strawberry CAKE

    Elise…I love me some tartar sauce too! My ratio is 2 parts sauce 1 part fish. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I am tucking this one away for our next fish fry.

  3. Lisa

    Why would anyone buy that stuff in a jar when it’s so easy, and so tasty, to make at home? Thanks for this recipe, I will try it soon. My usual calls for mayo, sweet pickle relish, dried onion, Dijon mustard and chopped parsley.

  4. Laura @ SweetSavoryPlanet

    I have never been a huge fan of mayo unless it is called tartar sauce. Growing up, seafood didn’t come without tartar sauce unless it was maybe raw oysters (I know, yuk). It is amazing how many different ways you can make tartar sauce and I seem to love them all.

  5. fish lover

    It is like cole slaw for me. I always hated cole slaw because my Mom made terrible cole slaw. As she was so good at most things I thought it was the dish itself. But when I discovered that no one else’s was so cloyingly sweet, I found out I liked it. She does tartar sauce from a jar, and I bought some (in a jar) last year that was redolent of tarragon and capers and cornichons. That was heaven. So it is not tartar sauce I dislike — it is my mom’s (from a jar) tartar sauce. I have never made my own from scratch, though. Should I use store bought mayo or make my own?

    I use Best Foods (Hellmans) mayonnaise and love it. ~Elise

  6. Three-Cookies

    Thanks for the recipe, tartare sauce sounds complicated to prepare but its not. The bottled stuff is hit and miss, though I must admit tartare sauce served with McFish is reasonably decent!

  7. Elrine

    Actually, it’s called “sauce tartare”…

  8. Earth Girl

    Thanks for the ideas to tinker with my own tartar sauce, e.g. capers, mustard and Tabasco. I use homemade relish (unlike anything in the store) and I grate an onion for intense flavor. Sometimes I add a finely chopped boiled egg. I’ve also found that it is better if you make it ahead of time and let the flavors meld. If there are leftovers, I use it as a base for tuna fish sandwich spread.

  9. Phoo-d

    It’s time to confess- not only do I love tartar sauce but I have found that it is addictive when used as a dip for thick cut french fry wedges. You’ll never use ketchup on fries again. =)

  10. Sara

    Coming from the land of the fish fry, I have to say that I adore tartar sauce. I’ve never used a recipe, however, I generally just mix the pickle relish my mom cans and mix with some mayo.

    Because my ‘recipe’ is so simple, I was speechless years ago when my roommate’s then-boyfriend (now husband) couldn’t believe that I knew how to make tartar sauce – he was actually excited when he found out and kind of followed me around, asking how I made it.

  11. Anna Lewis

    I love tartar sauce. Much more than I like seafood in fact. Is it blasphemous to eat it on french fries and hush puppies? But homemade is the way to go! My mom would always put a good helping of finely chopped onions. She had some theory about how it counteracted the ‘fattiness’ of the fried catfish we were usually eating. :)

  12. Michele

    I too love tartare sauce.
    If you like spicy, try adding a teaspoon of the chili garlic sauce (the one with the rooster on the jar) to your recipe. That’s some good stuff.

  13. Anna

    I love tartar sauce and make it often, as it’s fast & easy with staple ingredients I always have on hand. I always use homemade mayo with olive oil, as well as Bubbies lacto-fermented dill pickle relish (naturally probiotic).

  14. Christine

    As another tartar sauce lover, I’m eager to know how long one could store this sauce in the fridge? I’m guessing just a couple of days.

    I’d think 3-4 days would be safe.~Hank

  15. Chris at Lost Arts Kitchen

    I always thought tartar sauce was insipid, but my husband likes it so I decided to make it at home one night to go with pan-fried halibut. I used homemade mayo (which is worth the bother, IMO) and basically the same recipe (minus Tabasco, but I’ll try that next time). We ALL loved it and no one was more surprised than me.

  16. Emily

    I love tartar sauce too and was AMAZED at how awesome it is homemade. Thanks for reminding me! And I just happened to discover the same thing about coleslaw this summer (and how easy it is), so I’m going to plan on a good meal soon!

    And I really like the comment posted by Strawberry CAKE — she likes 2 parts sauce, 1 part fish. ;) Yum!

  17. April

    Oh wow! What a coincidence! Just last night I prepared fish for dinner and realized as were about to sit down, that we were out of tarter sauce. I thought we’d just do without, but then my 8 year old fussed about it and I thought, what the heck, it’s just mayo and pickle relish, so I mixed some up. Yours is much more elaborate, but I bet it tastes a lot better too!

  18. Niedzwiedz

    I always make my own sauces and gravies etc.
    What I like about many sauces and toppings, most are easy when people figure them out. I normally mix enough for the meal and it cuts down on any extra we not need. Hearing others’ little twists gives reason to experiment and explore.
    Tomorrow (1/7/11) is our Fryday.
    I will pickup some fresh catfish and give this a try.
    May take some and sub extra sour cream for the mustard, add some blue cheese crumbles and see what I get? ;-P

  19. J Les

    Another really good Tartar Sauce:

    1 cup Miracle Whip
    2 Tbs Sweet pickle relish
    2 Tbs Onion, chopped very fine!
    1 Tbs Parsley Flakes, dried, crushed very fine!
    1 tsp Garlic powder
    Mix throughly, chill 3-4 hours. Mix once or more while chilling. May add a drop or two fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice to serving portions on plate if desired.

  20. Alan

    I love tartar sauce too. When making a sandwich, instead of spreading mayo on the bread, I go for tartar sauce. I also love tartar sauce with steak fries.

  21. Joanne

    I was never a big fan of tartar sauce UNTIL I tasted the Wharf Tavern’s (St. George’s, Bermuda). Seemed to me it was possibly made using cream because it was sooo rich and delicious ! Now I make my own, however I am also a big fan of Srirachacha hot chili sauce as well on seafood…. and many other dishes !

  22. PDK

    All of these ingredients are great, perhaps a little less dijon mustard as it can overpower. I also like to add some finely chopped cocktail onions for an extra added piquancy, for this amount no more than a tablespoon.

  23. Clark

    Nice recipe. But don’t just think of fish with tarter sauce. I use in on burgers, sandwiches and dip my french fries in tarter.

  24. Diane

    Regarding the question about how long it’s safe to store the sauce, to which someone replied “3-4 days”…honestly (if I can say this as respectfully as possible) we’ve gone a bit too far in our concerns about food safety in this country! Is there anything in that list of ingredients that wouldn’t be safe to store in the refrigerator or on the shelf (mustard doesn’t need to be refrigerated) for several weeks? Sure, there are fresh onions in it, but those would keep (unrefrigerated) for a long time, in their natural safe, and even when chopped, when they’re combined with all those acidic ingredients, it would be a very rare bacteria indeed that could thrive on the bits of onion in the refrigerated sauce. No way! If I made this sauce, I wouldn’t hesitate to eat it for several weeks. Even months old, I seriously doubt it would make anyone sick.

    Sorry–it’s probably no big deal, but I get SO tired of seeing people so paranoid about food spoilage that they throw tons of food away unnecessarily. Get real! =)

  25. Greg

    Awesome recipe for both this and the crab cakes. My 18 year old seafood hating son really enjoyed them!

    Instead of just pickles, I chopped up Bellview Fancy Hot and Sweet Cucumber Chips, which are packed with hot peppers in the jar. It added a nice pop to complement the hot sauce (I used Frank’s.)

  26. Doris

    Elise, thank you for this great recipe for tartar sauce. I made it last night to go with some fresh fillet of sole. This will be my go-to recipe for tartar sauce from now on. The only different thing I did was use half mayo and half yoghurt to lighten it up a bit but kept everything else the same. It is really tasty. We also really liked your fish cake recipe (which I’ll probably make with our leftover sole).

  27. Nana

    I like tartar sauce and always make my own, not only it is so much better, but it is so much more economical than those pricey little jars. I must confess that I have never eaten a crab cake as I live in landlocked SE Ohio and fresh seafood is not very popular or available here. In looking at your appetizing pictures, I have to say what I really want are the first two plates shown. Beautiful and presentation really adds appeal.

  28. Lin

    Tartar Sauce should last refrigerated as long as 2 weeks, if you have put freshly chopped grn onions, scallions, or herbs in it. If there are no fresh items, it will last much, much longer. Mayo has lemon juice and/or vinegar it it. Then you are adding lemon juice and pickles to the mix…..nothing there to spoil. Bacteria does not like this highly acidic atmosphere. Most food borne illnesses are a result of lack of cleanliness, rather than the food itself. It’s simple, both the *food preparer* and the *food consumer* need to wash their hands well!

  29. Lauren

    I worked at my aunt’s and uncle’s Dairy Queen in the late 70s. They were an independent store and my aunt made the tartar sauce for the fish and chips-the best in town. I still make it: it has mayonnaise, vinegar, pickle relish or chopped pickles, and salt and pepper. Maybe a little sugar to get the balance of acidity and sweetness. And I loved it with the fries as well-my aunt’s DQ also featured handmade french fries. I’ve also added a little dill to it. Those were the days; now the local french franchise doesn’t serve fish and chips anymore, but I make them at home. Won’t do fish and chips any other way. People always asked for extra tartar sauce for the fries.

  30. M

    My Grandma’s special tartar sauce recipe adds Worcester sauce!

  31. Jessica

    When I was a kid, my mom asked me to make tartar sauce for a fish fry we were having. I added creme de tartar thinking it was the main ingredient. I wish I had this recipe back then.

    Too funny! ~Elise

  32. Sara F.

    This is THE BEST tartar sauce in the world! I have to keep a jar of it in the fridge at all times for my family. It goes on our sandwiches, we use it as a dip (goes great with steamed artichokes!), and of course with our seafood! Thank you so much, Elise for sharing!!

  33. Wayne

    Thanks for the all the great recipes, and all the wonderful ideas on this site.

    I haven’t bought tartar sauce in over 8 years since I took a crack at making my own. I always use sweet pickle relish, good mayo, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and don’t forget the DILL! Dill is so appropriate for fish, kind of like basil and tomatoes.
    And, as for fridge-shelf life, I haven’t had any issues keeping it ‘safe’ for 2+ months.

  34. p baker

    No fail tartar and is great & easy. onions,sweet,dill relish and lemon pepper add mayo to how you like it. Chunky is great.

  35. Andrew

    My Mom makes her own mayo and sauces. Hers is similar, using mayo made with xtra virgen olive oil, a garlic clove and lemon juice, with crushed tarragon along with the rest of the ingrdients. For fish tacos, she uses the garlic, lime juice, and 2 chipotle chiles along with some cumin, cilantro, and a touch of crushed oregano. We call it her secret fish sauce, and we use it on sandwiches too. Sometimes when we are in a spicy mood, she adds chopped pickled jalapenos to it. She sometimes whisks in yogurt (home made too) half and half. I like to wisk in more lemon or orange juice to thin it out and use for dressing on salad greens. Mom makes the best fish as it turns out perfect always! ( no matter what the sauce)!

  36. Denise

    This recipe was so easy to make that my 8 year old daughter whipped it up for our dinner tonight. We didn’t add the capers and we only put 2 drops of hot sauce but it still tastes great.
    Thanks for the recipe. We won’t be buying the store brought stuff anymore! ☺

  37. Joyce

    This really is a phenomenal recipe for tartar sauce; it beats, hands down, any of the other recipes I’ve read.

    Miracle whip? Sweet relish? No. Just….no. Tartar sauce is not sweet…it is tangy and complex, and sets off the taste of the fish exquisitely. Um…and french fries too, as I must admit I dip my fries in tartar sauce.

    The capers, hot sauce, shallots and scallions make the difference.

    Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  38. David Conditt

    I am crazy about a good tarter sauce. Store bought just gets you by. Years ago at The Big Time Diner in Mobile, AL, I tasted the best EVER! Because of me, they sell it by the pint! Have always wanted to make my own and now I will try. I also LOVE Worcester Sauce, so I know there will be some in mine. Tarter sauce is also good on a baked potato. The pints of tarter sauce I buy have never gone bad, even after 2-3 months. It turns yellowish at the fringes as it ages and I just stir it back in. Never a problem. Lemon juice is a preservative.

  39. Doc H

    I’m getting ready to make a gallon of tarter sauce for the church’s annual fish fry and was looking for hints so I am appreciating the comments on here. My dad always made tarter sauce whenever we had fish but he didn’t use a recipe so I have had to try and figure it out as an adult without him around any more. I use Miracle Whip, sweet relish, onion, lemon juice, sugar, and mustard. I have to do it by guess as to how much of each one and do a taste test until it is close enough. I may experiment and try a couple different things.

  40. speedwell

    Fabulous recipe. I didn’t have capers or scallions, so I used a bit of extra pickle and a half an anchovy along with a handful of minced sweet onion. Fresh lemon juice makes so much difference. My husband likes parsley so I added a little fresh parsley, minced. Tartar sauce should NOT be sweet. NOT NOT NOT. Ew.

  41. mick bax

    Thanks for this.I am making this tonight with chopped Silverstone onions and chopped chives.
    I will be using it with oven baked chilli wedges and ribeye steak.

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