Tartar Sauce

Skip the jarred stuff; this savory sauce is not only easy to make but also worlds above in flavor.

a bowl of tartar sauce beside fish
Photo: Emily Laurae/Southern Living
Active Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
5 mins
Yield:
1 1/3 cups

Creamy, zesty, tangy tartar sauce simply completes a fish fry. Sure, cocktail sauce is tasty, but there is nothing like the combo of crisp fried fish (especially catfish) dunked into tartar sauce. The acidity of the sauce balances the richness of the fried crust while smoothing out the fishy flavors. If you've ever been burned by store-bought sauce that was more gloppy than creamy, more blah than snappy, rest assured that you can easily make your own tartar sauce that beats the socks off anything you can buy at the store.

How to Make Easy Tartar Sauce

In five minutes or less, you can whip up the freshest, most savory tartar sauce recipe.

Step 1. Grate a shallot

Start by grating a shallot. This gives the tartar sauce a bit of oniony flavor without any crunchy raw bits, which tend to taste harsh.

grating a shallow onto a small plate
Emily Laurae/Southern Living

Step 2. Combine ingredients

Then simply stir that together with mayonnaise, chopped pickles, a splash of pickle juice, and a good bit of black pepper.

making tartar sauce
Emily Laurae/Southern Living

The finishing touch is a little chopped fresh dill.

stirring fresh dill into tartar sauce
Emily Laurae/Southern Living

Ingredients for a Tartar Sauce Recipe

You'll only need five ingredients to make your new favorite tartar sauce. Mayonnaise serves as the creamy base, so be sure to use a good brand that you love.

A shallot offers allium punch, and a good bit of black pepper brings bright pungency. Dill pickles—in the form of the chopped pickles themselves and their juice—contribute the briny notes that are classic in tartar sauce. Many recipes for tartar sauce call for lemon juice, but we use the pickle juice for a more savory sour note; besides, you're already using chopped pickles, so why not make the most of that ingredient instead of calling for an additional one?

The last ingredient is fresh dill, which mirrors the pickle flavor but in a fresher, herbier way.

tartar sauce ingredients
Emily Laurae/Southern Living

Tartar Sauce Tips

- While you can serve the sauce immediately after whipping it up, the flavors develop more if you chill it for 30 minutes or so before dipping in.

- We like the savory, tangy flavor of dill pickles. If you'd like more sweetness, use half sweet and half dill pickles. We don't recommend going all in on sweet pickles, as that will make the sauce veer too sweet. For the pickle juice, stick with dill instead of sweet.

- If you'd like even more briny, salty flavor, stir in some capers, too; start with a tablespoon and see if that suits your taste. You can always add more if you'd like.

How to Store Tartar Sauce

Spoon the sauce into an airtight container (a jar works well) and refrigerate for up to one week. This means it's a great make-ahead component for your next fish fry.

What to Serve with Tartar Sauce

This tangy, creamy, piquant sauce pairs perfectly with fried catfish, baked breaded fish, fish sticks, and chicken nuggets. It's also delicious with crab cakes, salmon croquettes, fried oysters, fried shrimp, fish tacos, French fries, and tater tots. It's also awesome to swipe onto a bun, making for killer fried chicken sandwiches, burgers, or any fried or grilled fish sandwich.

Ingredients

  • 1 small shallot (1/2 to 3/4 oz.), halved lengthwise

  • 1 cup mayonnaise

  • ½ cup finely chopped dill pickles

  • 1 ½ tsp. dill pickle juice

  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh dill

Directions

  1. Grate the shallot halves on a Microplane-style grater or the smaller holes of a box grater. Stir together grated shallot, mayonnaise, pickles, pickle juice, and pepper in a medium bowl. Fold in dill.

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