Almost Tartar Sauce

by Jane Wangersky | April 25th, 2014 | Recipes, Simple Solutions, Spreads & Sauces

ref=””>fried-fish-287136_640Tartar sauce is one of those sauces whose names give you no idea what’s in them; for the record, it contains no cream of tartar. Most people have no idea what’s in it, but most people expect to see it on the table, or in a little packet on their fast food tray, when fish is served. So it’s a good thing to have around, but what exactly is it?

Tartar sauce is based on mayonnaise, another wildly popular sauce with an uninformative name. (There are different stories about where the name came from; anyway, mayonnaise is made of egg and oil.) Almost always, it includes pickles of some kind, varying by region. After that, there’s a lot of variation.

Fresh tartar sauce made from scratch can get pretty elaborate, with capers, fresh parsley, olives, chopped hard boiled egg, and more. Ready made tartar sauce in a jar tends to be a faintly spiced white spread with green flecks. What I’m offering here is something in between: a basic fish sauce you can make from ingredients you’re likely to have already, especially in summer. If you want to add any of the extras I’ve mentioned above, go ahead – but this is all you need to make something better than commercial tartar sauce:


Almost Tartar Sauce


  1. 1/4 cup mayonnaise (four tablespoons will be easier to get out of the jar)
  2. 1/4 tsp dry mustard (use prepared mustard if that’s what you have, but the sauce will be a little thinner)
  3. 1 tsp pickle relish
  4. 1 tsp chopped green onion
  1. Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in a covered container in the refrigerator. Keeps for about a week.
  2. This is also good as a sandwich spread when you want something with a little more taste than mayonnaise. You could also try making tuna salad with it.
  3. I came up with the green onion, which I had in a glass of water on my kitchen windowsill, as a cheap substitute for capers.
  4. These, by the way, are pickled edible flower buds from a plant that grows around the Mediterranean and other warm places. In not-so-warm places, like where I live, they’re seriously expensive.
  5. It’s no wonder more people don’t try to make their own tartar sauce when a jar of one ingredient costs more than a jar of ready made sauce.
  6. If you’ve got capers already, or if you can get them affordably, again, go right ahead and use them.
Think Tasty

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