This homemade tartar sauce recipe with capers, mayonnaise, and a splashy tang of pickle juice is the perfect topper—and dipper—for fish fillets of every flavor.
Homemade Tartar Sauce
A naked fish fillet is exactly that: naked. Whether it’s a healthy-ish fried fish sandwich, every kid-at-heart’s favorite fish stick, or a more adult-ish grilled salmon fillet, fish is meant to have a saucy topper, and there’s no more classic a dipping sauce for fish than a tangy tartar sauce.
I’ve shared plenty of times here on the blog that my husband and I met as servers at a seafood restaurant. You could say our fate was sealed while falling in love with each other and the best clam chowder, steamed clams, and tartar sauce we dished out daily to the hungry crowds.
This easy tartar sauce recipe is the same they still serve at our old stomping grounds of Market Street Grill, and it’s the one we find ourselves lavishing on fish dinners time and time again.
Tartar Sauce Ingredients
While most believe tartar sauce is a condiment that always comes from a jar, it’s actually snap-of-your-fingers easy to make homemade. Tartar sauce is made of a few basic ingredients you likely already have in your fridge.
Here’s what’s in tartar sauce that makes it so dang good:
- Mayonnaise: use a high quality, creamy brand and skip the low-fat versions —you want all the flavor (just use less on your fish)
- Onion: minced white onion adds a subtle heat that onion always does
- Capers: capers are pickled flower buds, and along with a bit of their juice, add a unique zest to the sauce you won’t want to leave out
- Pickles: both diced pickles and pickle juice add this sauce’s signature zingy pucker
- Fresh parsley: less pronounced than dill, parsley adds that speck of fresh
- Lemon juice: the bright bite in this sauce
- Buttermilk: a dash rounds out the flavor so this sauce isn’t too mayo-heavy
- Kosher salt and ground white pepper: add more pepper to your liking for more heat
How to Make Tartar Sauce
This homemade tartar sauce recipe calls for a minimum amount of mincing, then it’s all about the mixing. Basically it comes together faster than a teenager replying on Snapchat.
I find it therapeutic to spend quality time with my cutting board and knife so I’m happy to do the fine mince. But if you prefer, break out the food processor to do the work for you.
To make tartar sauce in the food processor: Pulse the pickles, onion, capers, and parsley first to mince, then add in the rest of the ingredients and whiz to mix.
How Long Does Tartar Sauce Last?
This homemade tartar sauce will last up to a week in the fridge.
What’s the Best Pickle for Tartar Sauce?
I’ve made this tartar sauce with kosher dills, regular dills, and cornichons, too. But the original tartar sauce from our restaurant days that I’m using as my guide here has a distinctively pickled zing. It’s the reason we have a hard time falling for any other. After several rounds of taste testing I’ve narrowed down that particular tang to the type of pickle used to tartar the sauce.
What I’ve deduced is that just like in my classic Best Garlic Burger recipe, it’s the ultra vinegar flavor that comes from the pickles and juice of low-brow hamburger pickle chips to deliver the best zingy pucker pow. Or, you could use a dill pickle relish if you prefer.
Feel free to play with your pickles, but for me, I’m going with my chips all the way.
Tips for the Best Tartar Sauce
You’ll want to use real mayo in this easy tartar sauce recipe and not Miracle Whip or another mayo alternative. Also note that full-fat mayo works best in tartar sauce.
I’ve seen some tartar sauce recipes use other fresh herbs in place of the parsley, such as dill. However, I prefer the fresh flavor of parsley better since it doesn’t overwhelm the other ingredients.
This tartar sauce recipe makes enough for 8 servings. You can easily double this recipe to feed a crowd, or scale it down for a smaller group.
More Fish Recipes to Sauce
If you happen to have leftover sauce, use it as the base for tuna fish sandwiches, a dip for french fries, or use as a topping for burgers. Or, eat more healthy fish with it like those below:
- The Best Grilled Salmon
- Blackened Fish Tacos With Creamy Avocado Sauce (mash avocado into this homemade tartar to make the creamy avo sauce)
- How to Make a Healthyish Fried Fish Sandwich
- Crab Cake Poppers
- Almond-Crusted Cod with Coconut Rice and Ginger Spinach
- Grilled Halibut With Tomato Avocado Salsa
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Homemade Tartar Sauce
- 1 cup mayonnaise (not salad dressing)
- 2 tablespoons dill pickle , minced
- 2 tablespoons dill pickle juice
- 2 tablespoons buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons yellow or white onion , minced
- 1 tablespoon capers , drained and minced
- 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley , minced
- 1/2 lemon , juiced
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- In a small mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well to blend.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
- Mince the tartar sauce ingredients finely for the best melding of the flavors.
More Sauces and Dressings You’ll Love
- Homemade Ranch Dressing
- Easy 3-Minute Blender Hollandaise
- Easy Coleslaw Dressing
- How to Make Authentic Enchilada Sauce
- Simple Roasted Tomato Sauce
- Greek Salad Dressing
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