This tried and true homemade tartar sauce recipe is adapted from a culinary school recipe for big restaurant flavors, but is so easy to make at home.

A basket of fried fish and waffle fries with ramekins of ketchup and a recipe for tartar sauce.

This Homemade Tartar Sauce Recipe is Perfect For Fish Fries!

Friday fish fries are common at Midwest Catholic churches and VFW halls during Lent.

The only thing I don’t love about the tradition is the tartar sauce. A few churches will make homemade sauce, but most of them serve pre-packaged tartar sauce, which is, frankly, underwhelming.

Is it crazy to make your own, better tartar sauce and sneak it in? Maybe. But is it also going to make your fish fry 100% more delicious? For sure!

Why You Will Love This Tartar Sauce Recipe

  • The tangy flavor complements the richness of fried fish so well!
  • It’s adapted from a culinary school recipe, which means it has all the big flavors of a restaurant condiment.
  • It keeps up to a week in the fridge.

What is Tartar Sauce?

Tartar sauce is a creamy condiment typically served with seafood, especially fried fish. The base of the sauce is mayonnaise, with mix-ins like herbs, pickles and capers.

Why is it called Tartar Sauce?

The exact origin of the name “tartar sauce” is a little murky, but some believe it to be derived from the word “tartare,” which refers to a raw meat or fish dish.

Tartare is typically seasoned with herbs and capers, so over time, the name “tartar” was associated with the sauce that used these same ingredients, thus, “tartar sauce.”

A small blue bowl filled with homemade tartar sauce garnished with chopped chives.

What makes this Tartar Sauce Recipe easy to make?

This recipe is adapted from the one in my culinary school textbook, with just a few changes to make it easier for the home cook.

I’ve substituted white vinegar for the white wine in the culinary school recipe, because who wants to open a bottle of white wine for 1 teaspoon? Not me!

I’ve also used Worcestershire sauce in place of the anchovy paste called for in the culinary school book.

Personally, I love anchovy paste and it’s usually in my fridge, but I’m willing to bet that more people have Worcestershire sauce around. And since Worcestershire is made with anchovies, good enough!

One last change I made was to omit the chervil called for in the culinary school recipe. Chervil is hard to find at most grocery stores, and I don’t think it’s integral to this recipe for tartar sauce.

Homemade Tartar Sauce Recipe Ingredients

  • mayonnaise – the creamy base of the sauce.
  • dill pickles – adds a crunchy texture and tangy flavor.
  • chives – introduces a mild onion flavor without being overpowering.
  • capers – contributes a briny and tangy flavor to this recipe for tartar sauce.
  • Dijon mustard – adds mild spiciness and depth of flavor.
  • tarragon – infuses the sauce with a subtle anise-like flavor.
  • lemon juice – contributes a bright and citrusy flavor that balances the richness of the mayo.
  • white vinegar – adds even more acidity.
  • Worcestershire sauce – introduces umami and adds depth of flavor.
  • yellow mustard – enhances the tanginess.
  • cayenne and black pepper – adds just a bit of heat.

How to make Homemade Tartar Sauce

  1. CHOP. Finely chop the herbs, pickles and capers and place them in a medium bowl.
  2. STIR. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until well combined.
  3. CHILL. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving, or up to 1 week.
A basket of fried fish and waffle fries with ramekins of ketchup and homemade creamy herb condiment.

Home Chef Tips for Homemade Tartar Sauce

  • Refrigerating for at least an hour before serving is key to allow the flavors to meld together for a more cohesive taste.
  • Taste and adjust the sauce before serving to see if it needs more lemon juice or salt for your taste.
  • Experiment with making it a bit spicy by adding a few dashes of hot sauce.

How to serve this Recipe for Tartar Sauce

While we typically associate tartar sauce with fried fish, it’s actually a pretty versatile sauce if you open your mind to the possibilities. Think about the ingredients – mayo, herbs, pickles, capers – and what other types of dishes those ingredients might pair with. Some ideas to get you started:

Storing Homemade Tartar Sauce

How long does tartar sauce last?

It will keep as long as the individual components stay fresh. If you start with nice fresh herbs, the prepared tartar sauce should keep about one week in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Can you put tartar sauce in the freezer?

Tartar sauce is best stored in the refrigerator rather than the freezer. Freezing tartar sauce may cause it to separate and become watery when thawed, so I don’t recommend it.

A basket of fried fish and waffle fries with ramekins of ketchup and  a homemade tartar sauce recipe.

Tartar Sauce Recipe FAQ

What is traditional tartar sauce made of?

Traditional tartar sauce is usually made with a base of mayonnaise combined with chopped pickles, herbs, capers, lemon juice, and sometimes Dijon mustard and onions. Exact ingredients and proportions vary based on regional and personal preferences.

What is cream of tartar vs tartar sauce?

Cream of tartar is a powdery white substance used for baking. It helps whipped egg whites hold their shape, and is often used to make French macarons. Tartar sauce is a creamy condiment served with fried fish.

What is the difference between tartar sauce and tartare sauce?

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they can have slight differences based on the region they are served in. Tartar sauce typically consists of mayo, pickles, capers and herbs. Tartare sauce is a sauce commonly served with steak tartare, and is similar but may have a different proportion of ingredients.

Why do you put tartar sauce on fish?

When eating rich, heavy foods like fried fish, our taste buds crave something light and acidic to balance that richness. The tanginess of tartar sauce adds a burst of acidic flavor to the fish, creating a delightful balance.

What is the difference between tartar sauce and remoulade?

I remembered that my culinary school made a delicious tartar sauce to serve with fish and crab cakes, so I dug out my old textbooks. But I noticed the recipe is technically for “remoulade sauce.

However, after much research on the difference between tartar sauce and remoulade sauce, I’ve come to the conclusion that the lines are very blurred.

Some sources say that remoulade sauce contains more herbs, but then a lot of tartar sauce recipes have herbs, too.

Both sauces usually contain mayonnaise, pickles and capers. Some sources even say that tartar sauce is a TYPE of remoulade.

Truthfully, I’m a bit confused, and I’m referring to this sauce as a tartar sauce, because I had to choose one or the other.

A small blue bowl filled with homemade tartar sauce garnished with chopped chives.

Homemade Tartar Sauce (Easy)

Yield: Makes about 1 cup
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

This tried and true homemade tartar sauce recipe is adapted from a culinary school recipe for big restaurant flavors, but is so easy to make at home.


  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped dill pickle
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons capers, drained and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Pinch ground black pepper


  1. Add all ingredients to medium bowl and stir until well combined. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving, or up to 1 week.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 143Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 198mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g

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