What's Really In Tartar Sauce?

Tartar sauce is the perfect companion for fish and chips. An unwritten rule is that fried fish should always be dipped into this stellar sauce — that is, only if you crave the ultimate, palate-pleasing flavor explosion. With a tart tang and comforting creaminess, this sauce is a staple condiment to have on hand. But have you ever thought about what's really in tartar sauce?

The origins of tartar sauce are murky. However, Know Your Pantry reports that the sauce was likely named after the Tartars, known to eat raw meat called tartare. Interestingly, the French used a mayonnaise-based sauce called remoulade to top the meat, which bears a striking resemblance to modern tartar sauce.

You probably have bottled tartar sauce somewhere in your fridge right now. Pre-made tartar sauce has a delicate balance of textures and familiar sweet and acidic flavors, notes Serious Eats. However, bottled sauces tend to have a long list of preservatives, which is why homemade proves better in this scenario. Since it's so easy and requires ingredients you're likely to have on hand, there are no excuses for not making your own tartar sauce.

It's all about mayonnaise and pickles

Tartar sauce is one of those recipes that everyone should know how to make. At its core, Allrecipes explains, tartar sauce is made by mixing two ingredients: mayonnaise and chopped pickles. But even the most basic recipes will often add a dash of lemon juice and some herbs for an additional dimension of flavor.

Though the principle of less is more is valid for tartar sauce, sometimes a dish calls for a little something extra. If you're looking to jazz up your tartar sauce, Kitchn suggests adding a touch of mustard or Worcestershire sauce or tossing in other ingredients like chopped capers, olives or onions. If texture isn't your thing, Ina Garten of Food Network recommends giving your sauce a quick pulse in the food processor before serving for a smoother consistency.

Struggling with ideas on how to use your freshly made sauce? Tartar sauce pairs stunningly with beer-battered fillets, crab cakes, fried clams, and many more seafood types. But it doesn't stop there; the sauce can be added to sandwiches and meats or even used as a zippy salad dressing. So now that you know what's really in tartar sauce, it's time to get cooking!