Homemade Tartar Sauce

tartar sauce with fried fish
The Spruce / Diana Rattray
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 14 servings
Yield: 1 3/4 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
108 Calories
12g Fat
0g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 14
Amount per serving
Calories 108
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 15%
Saturated Fat 2g 9%
Cholesterol 7mg 2%
Sodium 162mg 7%
Total Carbohydrate 0g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 5mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 11mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This classic tartar sauce may be simple, but it packs loads of flavor and is the perfect accompaniment to a seafood meal. Mayonnaise and dill pickles are the main ingredients, while chopped dill, capers, a bit of lemon juice, and a dash of mustard add complexity to the flavor. Feel free to add the minced onion or leave it out.

This tartar sauce is such an improvement over what you get in jars you may never buy it again! Plus, when you make your own tartar sauce from scratch, you know exactly what's in it. There are no preservatives, thickeners, modified starches, or high fructose cornstarch. If you need a small amount for a meal, it's easy to scale the recipe down. Or double the recipe if you're feeding a crowd.

It's an excellent side to serve with seafood, especially fried fish, shrimp, oysters, or clams, or serve it alongside homemade crab cakes, seafood fritters, or clam cakes. It's a great dip for veggies, too. Or spread it on a po'boy sandwich, salmon burger, or fish sandwich.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/2 cup chopped dill pickles

  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill, or 1 teaspoon dried dill

  • 2 teaspoons capers, chopped

  • 2 teaspoons minced onion, optional

  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients for homemade tartar sauce
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  2. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, dill pickles, dill, capers, minced onions (if using), lemon juice, mustard, and pepper. Stir to blend the ingredients thoroughly. Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.

    mixing the tartar sauce ingredients
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  3. Refrigerate the tartar sauce until serving time.

    homemade classic tartar sauce
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

How to Store

  • Refrigerate leftover tartar sauce in an airtight container for up to 5 to 7 days.
  • As with any refrigerated food, it should never be out of the fridge for more than 2 hours—no more than 1 hour if the ambient temperature is above 90 F.

Recipe Variations

  • Instead of chopped dill pickles, use dill pickle relish.
  • For a sweeter tartar sauce, replace the chopped dill pickles with chopped cornichons, gherkins, or sweet pickles. Or add some sugar or another sweetener to taste.
  • Add a bit of heat with a few drops of Tabasco sauce or Sriracha, or fold in 1 or 2 teaspoons of minced pickled or fresh jalapeño pepper.
  • Use a vegan mayonnaise for a vegan-friendly tartar sauce.
  • Add zesty flavor with a dash of horseradish.
  • Swap out the fresh chopped dill with 1 or 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley.

Why is it called tartar sauce?

The name, tartar sauce, is derived from the French sauce tartare, which was named after the Tatars, Turkic-speaking peoples living mainly in Russia. The sauce is known as tartare sauce in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

What is a good substitute for tartar sauce?

Instead of tartar sauce, use a garlicky aioli with or without a little dill or chopped pickle. Another good sauce option that goes well with seafood is a tomato-based cocktail sauce. Hummus, which is also slightly acidic with lemon juice, can also make a nice dip for seafood.