This easy homemade tartare sauce recipe takes the classic tartare sauce and gives it a spicy little twist. Tartare sauce is essential for your fish and chips, but it’s a perfect accompaniment to all kinds of seafood and fried foods, such as potato chips. It’s also a condiment of culinary legend with an extraordinary history.
You have to make this easy homemade tartare sauce recipe if you’re going to make my beer battered fish recipe and my hand cut crispy potato chips. It’s not only super simple to prepare, it’s incredibly delicious with that combination of creaminess, tanginess and sourness that you want in a great tartare sauce. I guarantee that you won’t go back to the commercial brands after making your own.
Unlike the recipes for crunchy beer battered fish and restaurant-style crispy potato fries that I’ve been experimenting with in recent months – one of the many cooking projects that have kept us focused while we’ve been staying at home and self-isolating – my easy homemade tartare sauce recipe has been a staple in our kitchens for many years, wherever we’ve made fish and chips wherever we were in the world.
But before I tell you a little about my easy homemade tartare sauce recipe and how it came about, let me tell you a little about the origins of tartare sauce and how it was named, as it’s the stuff of culinary legend.
Easy Homemade Tartare Sauce Recipe for the Condiment of Culinary Legend
Before I tell you a bit about my easy homemade tartare sauce recipe, let me share a little about the history of tartare sauce, which is incredibly fascinating. There’s no doubt that the name tartare sauce comes from ‘Tatar’, which refers to Tatar horsemen, often referenced in relation to the Tartar-Mongol raids within the long history of the Mongol Empire in Russia and Central Asia.
Lara recalls that when she was a child her Russian grandfather, who came from a village near Kiev, would share post-dinner tales of the fierce Mongol-Tartar invaders, describing how they’d devastated Kiev and the Crimea, where Lara’s Odessa-born grandmother and her family used to take spa treatments and holiday in summer.
Lara says her grandfather spoke so vividly and with such immediacy of the Mongol-Tartar raids by horseback, and their ferocity – he would hang his head in sadness, wiping away tears as he raised a vodka in the air, calling for his family to toast the brave martyrs who fought them off – that she grew up mistakenly thinking that the invasion must have been in the late 19th century, and not in December 1240.
Her grandfather also spoke with equal passion but also reverence of the Cossack rebellions of the 1600s, that Lara said she grew up with a very confused sense of history, as if all those events had happened in recent times. Lara’s grandfather was a poet as much as a historian and musician – the piano accordion would come out soon after his stories – and we called his homemade vodka (that was best accompanied by Lara’s babouskha’s dill pickles) ‘firewater’.
But back to the medieval origins of my easy homemade tartare sauce recipe. The myth was that the Tatar horsemen placed raw horse meat under their saddles and then ate it after a hard day’s riding. If this story was true, there would not have been enough Tatar horsemen left to make history.
The connection between this legend and the dish of raw meat that would become the Hamburg steak is a mystery – although not without a few theories that I don’t find convincing enough to cover.
But what about the actual tartare sauce that inspired my easy homemade tartare sauce recipe? Well, tartare sauce as we know it comes about through variants of a raw minced beef dish, the Hamburg steak. This dish became popular in the late 1800s, served with raw onions, bread crumbs, and an increasingly popular addition of a raw egg – as if the chance of a bout of a food-borne illness wasn’t enough with raw meat.
By the early 1900s, this dish had grown in such popularity that by 1921 the groundbreaking French chef and food writer Auguste Escoffier made mention of ‘Steack à l’Americaine‘ in his Le Guide Culinaire. His version, ‘Steack à la Tartare’, was served with no egg on top of the raw beef (as we currently know Steak Tartare) but with tartar sauce on the side.
What would become known as tartare sauce was simply mayonnaise with chives and shallots, as per the recipe in Larousse Gastronomique. Later French cookbooks – just to confuse things – wrote up Sauce Tartare as a ‘Hard Yolk Mayonnaise’ consisting of a base of three hard-boiled egg yolks mixed to a fine paste with a tablespoon of mustard and a little salt. To this a cup of oil is slowly added, along with wine vinegar or lemon juice. To that mixture, pickles, capers, and chopped mixed green herbs are then added.
What’s actually closer to the tartare sauce that the English, Australians, New Zealanders, and South Africans consume with their fish and chips is a sauce rémoulade, based on mayonnaise, not boiled eggs. This is sometimes why some tartare sauces include a little mustard.
It’s from this base that my easy homemade tartare sauce recipe developed and it’s now been a staple in our kitchens for many years. The reason being… well, we get a little homesick for fish and chips back in Australia where you get battered fish and (usually greasy) soft chips, a wedge of lemon, and a little container of tartare sauce that is purchased separately. This is best eaten on a bench at the beach with an afternoon sea breeze and dive-bombing seagulls who love to steal both fish and chips, but leave the condiments behind.
Note that there are some ‘creative’ versions of homemade tartare sauce recipes that substitute yoghurt for the mayonnaise (no, thanks); and many versions that include a lot of mustard (we like just a little, as explained above); some that use parsley instead of dill (no, no, no; dill is a much better match with the pickles and fish). Our easy homemade tartare sauce recipe makes a version that is lighter on the pickles and adds some pickled jalapeños for a little sting in the tail. Let us know what you think.
Homemade Tartare Sauce Recipe
- 130 g mayonnaise whole egg
- 15 g capers drained and chopped finely
- 15 g gherkins drained and chopped very finely
- 10 g pickled jalapeños chopped finely
- 15 g red shallot chopped finely
- 1 squeeze fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp dill fresh and chopped finely
- 1 tsp flaked sea salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl and serve immediately, or store in the fridge until required.
- Add extra dill for presentation when ready to serve.
Do let us know if you make our easy homemade tartare sauce recipe as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.