Homemade Tartar Sauce

Some may think horseradish-infused cocktail sauce is the most obvious pairing for seafood, but I believe my plate is incomplete without tartar sauce.

Vertical top-down image of a bowl full of a creamy, liquidy condiment garnished with fresh herbs on a red and white towel, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

If you’ve ever tasted the store bought variety of this classic condiment, let me stop you right there. The gloppy, processed product tastes nothing like what you’ll get if you make the recipe I’m about to bestow upon you.

This homemade dipping accompaniment is velvety in consistency and explodes with a range of bright flavors. The base, of course, is mayonnaise. Whether you plan to use homemade mayo or store bought, we need to add a few things to spark our taste buds and balance out the richness.

With that being said, I’d like to present to you: the terrific tangy tartar trio.

Vertical image of a bowl filled with a white, creamy condiment with a spoon next to capers, a breaded cooked meat, fresh herbs, and pickles on a wooden table.

First, we have the pickles. Although I prefer tart chopped dill spears in my recipe, feel free to substitute the bread and butter variety for a sweeter flavor profile. To make things even easier, grab a jar of pre-chopped relish to save yourself some chopping.

Next in the lineup are the capers. These sassy little beads are the unripened flower buds of the caper bush. They’re a common ingredient in this kind of recipe, and in my opinion, the most important. They bring brininess and life in a way that other salty ingredients simply can’t mirror.

And last but certainly not least, the shallots!

I bet you thought I was going to say lemons, didn’t you?

There’s no question that citrusy lemon is a crucial element in any tartar sauce, but shallots bring an unexpected punch of flavor that makes this dip stand out from the rest. More pungent and garlicky in their raw form than red onions, shallots offer sharp background notes that will have everybody wondering what makes my version of the classic recipe so good.

Vertical image of a hand dipping a piece of breaded cooked meat in a white condiment garnished with deal on a wooden table with pickles, capers, and a red and white towel.

Floral, fragrant dill adds a fresh herbal note, and an umami-infused dash of Worcestershire sauce reminds everyone that you’re not messing around.

The last step? Be patient.

Okay, actually, the last step is smearing this creamy dreamy dressing over crab cakes or homemade fish and chips. But before that, it’s important to allow the flavors to meld for at least an hour in the fridge.

Vertical image of a dipped breaded piece of meat held by a hand over a bowl with a creamy white condiment on a white table with pickles.

Blending ingredients doesn’t immediately turn them into a flavorful substance, just as throwing like-minded humans together doesn’t instantaneously make them friends. Everyone needs time to get to know each other before coming together as a whole.

As soon as the tartar sauce transforms into the unified flavorful condiment it was always meant to be, it’s ready for its dunking debut.

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Horizontal image of a bowl full of a creamy white liquid toped with fresh herbs on a wooden table with a red and white towel and more fresh herbs.

Homemade Tartar Sauce


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1/4 cup (10 2-tbsp servings) 1x

Description

Looking for a lemony landing zone for all things seafood? This tangy tartar sauce with fragrant dill and tart pickles is a no-brainer.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise (homemade or good-quality store bought)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill pickles + 1 tablespoon pickle juice (or 4 tablespoons pickle relish)
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Instructions

  1. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the mayonnaise, pickles and pickle juice (or relish), capers, shallots, lemon juice, Worcestershire, dill, salt, and pepper. Pulse until the pickles and shallots are finely chopped, but not pureed. 
  2. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Leftovers may be stored in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the refrigerator.
  • Category: Dips and Spreads
  • Method: No-Cook, Food Processor
  • Cuisine: Condiment

Keywords: tartar sauce, mayonnaise, pickle, dill

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prep Ingredients and Add to Food Processor

Horizontal image of prepped ingredients added to a food processor.

Chop the pickles, shallots, and dill and add them to a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

You can also whisk the ingredients in this recipe by hand, if you prefer. Mince the pickles, shallots, and dill instead of chopping them if you go this route, since the food processor breaks them down slightly.

Add the mayonnaise, pickle juice, capers, lemon juice, the Worcestershire, salt, and pepper (go for freshly cracked!) to the food processor.

Step 2 – Pulse

Horizontal image of a food processor filled with a thick white liquid seasoned with fresh herbs.

Pulse until the pickles and shallots are finely chopped, but not pureed.

Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if necessary.

Step 3 – Refrigerate and Serve

Horizontal image of a bowl filled with a white liquid topped with green garnishes next to lemon slices, capers, a spoon, pickles, and a piece of breaded cooked meat.

Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. This allows the flavors to come together. The longer you refrigerate this recipe after it’s made, the more flavorful it will be.

You can also store any leftovers in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the refrigerator.

Not Just a Sidecar for Seafood

I know I made some strong points about how this particular recipe and ocean fare go together like no one’s business, but the dipping possibilities are practically endless. This tangy condiment works like a charm with all kinds of protein and veggies.

Looking for a snazzy new condiment to submerge your chicken strips in? Tartar sauce is the answer. Crispy zucchini fries in need of an awakening? Tartar sauce to the rescue!

Horizontal image of a bowl full of a creamy white liquid toped with fresh herbs on a wooden table with a red and white towel and more fresh herbs.

To lighten up the base, whisk in a few tablespoons of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. To amp up the spice factor, drop in a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce.

Are you as condiment crazy as I am? If even more varieties of tasty sauces and spreads are what you’re after, you’ll dig these other dependable dippers:

Where else will you slather this saucy creation? A soft-shell crab BLT? Roasted veggies? A meaty burger? Maybe even in a sushi bowl?

Share your thoughts on this creamy, tangy condiment in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

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