Homemade Tartar Sauce

Commercial tartar sauce is often full of sugar and corn syrup. This tangy homemade tartar sauce will add zip to your fish.

[Editor's Note: The following advice from the author sorta merits a subtitle along the lines of "Ode to Grated Onion." Just wait. You're gonna be woo'd.] Grated onion is a wonderful way to add flavor to homemade sauces, dressings, and dips. I first learned about using grated onion from my friend and former instructor, Jean-Marie Rigollet, of the Bohemian Club. Jean-Marie told me his secret to good coleslaw dressing was just a little bit of grated onion. People don’t even know it’s in there, but it really enhances the flavor. Grating an onion is as simple as it sounds. Simply peel the skin from an onion. Trim away the stem end, but leave the root intact. Hold the stem end of the onion against the fine side of a box grater or cheese grater and grate over a bowl. You may need to scoop the pulp off the inside of the grater with your fingertips. You can store grated onion pulp, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. The flavor and pungency will diminish over time.–Erin Coopey

LC Go Fish Note

What sorta fish do you dab homemade tartar sauce on? Well, fish ‘n’ chips, natch. Fish sticks, of course. It certainly wouldn’t be terrible with baked fish. A little dab would be quite lovely with fish baked in parchment, too. Your turn. Go fish.

Homemade Tartar Sauce Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 10 M
  • Makes about 1 1/3 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup homemade or store-bought mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons minced dill pickles (in a pinch, you can swap in bread-and-butter pickles)
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion (see preceding headnote)

Directions

  • 1. Mix the mayonnaise, pickle, capers, parsley, lemon juice, and onion together in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled through, at least an hour and preferably overnight. (You can stash the tartar sauce in the fridge for up to 1 week.)
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Testers Choice

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Sita Krishnaswamy

Mar 05, 2014

Oh my, this homemade tartar sauce recipe has to be one of the most flavorful, fresh-tasting sauces I've ever come across. The recipe is perfect in that I didn't have to adjust any seasonings. The salt, tang, and sweetness were equally balanced, and it's a cinch to make. The dill pickles I used were homemade from this past summer and I made my own mayonnaise from the recipe on this site. I refrigerated the sauce for about an hour before serving it with the Pan-Fried Fish With Cauliflower.

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Helen Doberstein

Mar 05, 2014

Why buy tartar sauce when it can so easily be made from pantry ingredients? The homemade tartar sauce recipe is easy to pull together and quick to make. With just a few minutes grating and chopping, there you are, done. I liked the idea of grating the onion in and it was undetectable in the finished sauce. I was a little pressed for time, so I used a good store-bought mayonnaise this time. I would shy away from the mayonnaise-type dressings for this as I think the taste might not be as good. I will say that this sauce does get better with age. It was tasty after half an hour, but it was so much better the next day. The only thing preventing this from being a perfect 10 in my book is I wanted a little more lemon zing in the final taste. I'll certainly make this again and again, but next time I'll grate a little lemon zest into the sauce to give it a little more zing, and maybe make my own mayonnaise.

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Kate S.

Mar 05, 2014

I haven't purchased tartar sauce from the store in a long, long time, so I can't say how this compares to the jarred stuff, but I can say that it's far superior to anything I've ever been served in a restaurant. Whenever I used to make tartar sauce at home, I used to just throw this and that into some Hellmann's mayo. It was always fine, but I'll never stray from this recipe. It's not sweet, which is what most people expect from a tartar sauce; instead, prepare yourself for the delightful combination of salty capers, sour pickles, and grassy parsley. I did stick to Hellmann's as the base, although maybe I'll try homemade mayo next time. The lemon juice and grated onion balanced everything perfectly, although I don't think you could pick out the flavors if you didn't know about them ahead of time. I'd definitely suggest making this at least 4 to 5 hours ahead of time to let the flavors marry—a perfect make-ahead item! I must insist that you really finely mince the capers and pickles so the resulting sauce is still smooth and not crunchy. After tasting the recipe as is, I mixed in some fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper and achieved what I deemed to be the perfect tartar sauce.

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Sue Epstein

Mar 05, 2014

Wow! I've always purchased store-bought tartar sauce, but never again. I've already made this recipe three times. It's simple, straightforward, and delicious. I've made this recipe with the mayonnaise recipe on the site (my go-to recipe) and with store-bought mayo. Both were delicious. One night I served grilled salmon for dinner just to have an excuse to eat this sauce!

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Larry Noak

Mar 05, 2014

This is a very simple solution for all your tartar sauce needs. The addition of capers is absolutely FABULOUS. It takes only a couple of minutes to put this together. Honestly, the possibilities are endless in terms of what you can dice and add to your mayo but this recipe is perfect as written.

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Robert McCune

Mar 05, 2014

This is my new standard for tartar sauce. For some reason, tartar sauce always ends up being a last-minute, thrown-together thing at our house. We go through the entire process of preparing the fish and cooking it, and then suddenly we realize that we don't have any tartar sauce. I refuse to use the commercial stuff and I like for the sauce to be as fresh as possible, hence, the last-minute scramble. I usually throw the sauce together without really measuring, and it is very much "to taste." But this recipe caught my eye because of the specific ingredients and amounts—no more guessing and tasting along the way. The ingredients are pretty much what I've used in the past, except for the fresh parsley, which adds a very nice touch. However, the standout in this recipe is the grated onion. I was afraid that grating it may enhance the flavor too much and make it overpowering, but I think that 1 teaspoon is just the right amount. It brings up the flavor of the tartar sauce without dominating it. I used store-bought mayonnaise, but will try it later with homemade, or may even try using milk mayonnaise. The amounts of pickle, capers, and lemon juice are just right. No more last-minute guessing!

Testers Choice
Erin W.

Mar 05, 2014

This is a super easy variation on a standard. It took me just 3 minutes to whip this up and it's so much better than what you can buy in the grocery store. If you have a few extra minutes, I recommend making this with homemade mayo. I served this with the Fancy Fish Sticks [Editor's Note: You'll find the link to the recipe in the LC Note above the recipe], which were crispy and tasty!

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Linda Pacchiano

Mar 05, 2014

I served this tartar sauce with pan-seared, wild-caught cod and all my tasters liked it very much. The sauce had a nice, fresh taste, which I think was a result of the fresh parsley. I've never included parsley in my homemade tartar sauce, but I thought it was a great addition and will definitely be doing so again in the future. I used sweet onions, and while the presence of the onions was not all that apparent, they gave the tartar sauce an extra note of complexity and a bit of sweetness, but not the sugary, corn syrupy flavor of commercially prepared tartar sauces. I used store-bought mayonnaise just to be on the safe side. (If I'd had pasteurized eggs in my pantry, I probably would have made my own mayo.)

Testers Choice
Gail Rueckl

Mar 05, 2014

I whipped up a batch of this tasty tartar sauce in less than 15 minutes. It had very good flavor with the dill pickles instead of sweet pickle relish—it was a really nice, fresh, and balanced savory flavor that complemented lightly battered baked haddock. I used a microplane to grate the onion. The little bit of tartar sauce that was left over went wonderfully on a seafood sandwich the next day. I have this one memorized and ready to use as a staple!

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Ralph Knauth

Mar 05, 2014

I especially like the addition of the grated onion in this tartar sauce. It really makes a difference. I use grated onion in my latkes, but never thought of adding it to tartar sauce. It's a great idea.

Testers Choice
Melissa Maedgen

Mar 05, 2014

[Melissa Maedgen] The author of this recipe makes two really good points with which I agree wholeheartedly. The first is that commercial tartar sauce is sweetened to the point of being unpalatable, not to mention being polluted with unwanted thickeners and other junk. The second is the power of grated onion, which is absolutely THE way to incorporate onion (or, for that matter, garlic, ginger, horseradish, etc.) into a dip. The flavor will be stronger grated than minced, so a little dab'll do ya, as they say.

Consider this recipe a launchpad. It's a solid template for a tartar sauce, but you can customize it as you see fit. Use tarragon instead of parsley. If you want it sweeter, use a sweeter pickle, like a bread and butter, or cheat and use sweet or dill relish. Want it a bit spicy? Dice up a pickled jalapeño. Make your own mayo to ensure it's over-the-top delicious, although the sauce is still head and shoulders above a bottled tartar sauce if you use a good-quality store-bought mayo (I'm in the Duke's camp myself).

Serve this with any fish, but especially fried catfish or flounder. Also, a good tartar sauce is a fantastic dip for french fries— my guilty pleasure.

Comments
Comments
  1. victoria2nyc says:

    Yes, yes, yes. I use the recipe for tartar sauce from Rebecca Charles of (the marvelous) Pearl Oyster Bar on Cornelia Street in NYC, the only restaurant it is guaranteed I will go to on a moment’s notice. It is a very similar condiment, but I don’t use parsley, and I use (only the brand) Maille Cornichons instead of dill pickles, which find superior and recommend trying.

    I was once in Fairway when a shopper couldn’t find bottled tartar sauce, and I stood there and told him how to make his own. I hope he did.

    • David Leite says:

      As long as we have people like you, victoria2nyc, in the world, there will always be restaurants and there will always be home cooking. Brava.

      • victoria2nyc says:

        And cookbooks! I had not heard of this cookbook, The Kitchen Pantry, but I just ordered it. In 2014 I am going to be moving from NYC to the country. I mean, really, to the country. Instead of walking 1 1/2 blocks to a supermarket, I will have to drive 35 minutes–on a good day. I think this book will be fabulous for me to mess around with. No high fructose corn syrup in sight. THANK YOU!

        • David Leite says:

          victoria2nyc, my condolences, er, congrats on moving to the country. I loooooove it, but I think you’re going to be in a much more rural spot than Roxbury, CT.

  2. Karel ter Kuile says:

    The recipe calls for either homemade or store-bought mayonnaise. Now, I’m Dutch and Tarantino says I know my mayonnaise. My advice: make it yourself. Really. If not for the taste and creaminess, just for the joy of seeing oil and egg yolk change into a thick and creamy sauce. It’s magic, honestly. Forget climbing Mount Everest, forget skydiving, making mayonnaise just tops it all.

  3. Steve f says:

    This recipe is really similar to mine but I like to use shallots instead of onion. Why would you ever buy something that is so simple to make yourself???

  4. Sue Wuest says:

    This is pretty much my standard tartar sauce recipe. I also include a teaspoon of prepared horseradish cream, teaspoon of chopped fresh dill, and a dash of Tobasco. This goes with me to the church-based fish fries of Lent. In fact I use fish as an excuse to eat tartar sauce. This is also great on a burger.

  5. Leia says:

    I add chopped green olives to the recipe for my tartar sauce.

  6. Anne says:

    While we have never purchased tartar sauce our (my grandmother’s; my mother’s; and now my) tartar sauce uses sweet relish. I can’t really call it a recipe because it has always been more of a toss-together of these ingredients until it tastes right affair. The rest of the ingredients are the same, except the onion was chopped and celery is in the mix. I tend to toss everything in the mini chopper then blend. I will have to try this with dill pickles or dill relish and for once actually follow a recipe.

    • David Leite David Leite says:

      Anne, I think your multigenerational approach seems to work! I like the additions. Please drop me a line when you’ve made the recipe as written. I’m curious to know what you think.

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