Commercial tartar sauce tends to be crammed full of corn syrup and preservatives. Whereas this easy homemade tartar sauce recipe contains nothing but loveliness—mayonnaise, pickles, capers, parsley, lemon, and onion. So what do you dab homemade tartar sauce on? Well, fish ‘n’ chips, natch. Fish sticks, of course. It certainly wouldn’t be terrible with this baked fish with lemon breadcrumbs. A dab would be lovely with fish baked in parchment, too. We could go on, but it’s your turn.

A dollop of homemade tartar sauce on a piece of newspaper with fried fish and a lemon wedge beside it.

Homemade Tartar Sauce

5 / 9 votes
Once you’ve experienced homemade tartar sauce such as this, there’s no going back to the commercial stuff made with corn syrup and preservatives. No way.
David Leite
Servings10 Makes about 1 1/3 cups
Calories154 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes


  • 1 cup 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 flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion*


  • 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.)


*How To Grate an Onion

Grated onion is a wonderful way to add flavor to homemade sauces, dressings, and dips. 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.
The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook

Adapted From

The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 154 kcalCarbohydrates: 0.4 gProtein: 0.3 gFat: 17 gSaturated Fat: 3 gMonounsaturated Fat: 4 gTrans Fat: 0.04 gCholesterol: 9 mgSodium: 211 mgFiber: 0.1 gSugar: 0.2 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe © 2013 Erin Coopey. Photo © 2013 Rina Jordan. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

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, which were crispy and tasty! [Editor’s Note: You’ll find the link to the fish sticks recipe she mentions in the note above the recipe.]

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.)

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!

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.

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.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Your homemade tartar sauce recipe can also be done with either India relish or regular relish with mayo.

  2. In the restaurant, we made our tartar sauce. We used the machine grinder (like the type for grinding meat) and added chopped onion, dill pickles, and parsley, and then mixed it into the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. Never did like the grocery store bought tartar sauce. Personally, I like to add garlic powder instead of onion when making it at home.

    1. Homemade (or restaurantmade!) is always better than store-bought, isn’t it, June? Thanks so much for sharing this with us.