Tartar Sauce

Nothing accompanies fried fish better than a bit of tartar sauce.
Tartar sauce is a thick, mayonnaise-based sauce most popularly used as a dip for fried fish or French fries. The simplest tartar sauces include just mayonnaise and a single accompanying ingredient (usually pickles). Some combination of capers, horseradish, scallions, onions, mustard, lemon juice, olives, shallots, parsley, hard-cooked eggs and vinegar usually augments the sauce.


While the name tartar refers to the Tatars, Turkish-speakers who migrated to Mongolia in the 5th century, tartar sauce is not a Tatar recipe. Sauces akin to tartar sauce have been used in Europe since Medieval times.

Tasty Tidbits

Tartar sauce is so popular in Seattle, Washington that it is often served unrequested with French fries and is used by some restaurants, including the chain Dick’s Drive-In, as a staple burger ingredient. Some local restaurants even use a mustard-tartar sauce mix referred to as “goop.”

Tartar sauce has also made a splash in pop culture in the Nickelodeon cartoon series "Spongebob Squarepants," which is set on the ocean floor. The title character uses “Tartar Sauce!” as an exclamatory curse word when things go amiss.


Regular tartar sauce can be made to varying degrees of fancy-ness depending on the combination of ingredients. Check ingredients when purchasing, or just purchase the ingredients themselves to whip up your own tartar sauce.

Just as vegan mayonnaise is available, so is vegan tartar sauce. The mixture generally includes some variation of the following ingredients and can be store-bought or homemade: sunflower oil, water, plant protein, wine vinegar, raw cane sugar, sea salt, cornstarch, mustard, cucumber, onion, spices, dill.

Storage Tips

Keep tartar sauce refrigerated. If left at room temperature or warmer for several hours, it needs to be discarded.

Substitution Tips

Even if you don’t typically make your own tartar sauce, you can conjure a simple recipe when in a pinch: just mix mayonnaise and relish.

Try one of our favorite tartar sauce recipes:
Crawfish Cakes With Chipotle Tartar Sauce
Oven Fried Oysters
Baked French Fries