Why Is It Called Tartar Sauce?

I know right, it’s so confusing why tartar sauce is named the way it is, when it has no traces, whatsoever, of tartar cream in it. 

As it turns out, there’s a bit of a story attached to the whole “tartar sauce” thing, albeit, not so clear!

In this article, we’ll tell you that story, and more!

What Is Tartar Sauce Named After?

The origin of tartar sauce’s name remains somewhat mysterious, but there are a few interesting anecdotes and theories that have gone the rounds. 

The most common association links the name to the Tatars – an ethnic group hailing from Western Russia and Turkey. This connection likely ties into the history of another widely known dish, steak tartare.

It is believed that steak tartare originated from a culinary practice popular in medieval times among the warring Mongolian and Turkic tribes who were known as Tartars. 

To make tough and rough meat from Asian cattle more palatable and enjoyable, these tribes were said to have shredded it into tiny rough pieces.

As time went on, this preparation eventually made its way to France, although precisely when is unclear. 

By the 19th century, this transformed into the beef tartare we’re familiar with today, which is a dish of raw ground beef decorated with raw yolk often served with onions, mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, other seasonings, as well as an accompanying sauce commonly known as tartar sauce. 

It’s quite probable that the sauce earned its moniker due to its pairing with steak tartare, which in turn was named after its presumed origins – tracing back to the Tartar people.

Why Is There No Tartar In Tartar Sauce?

Despite its name, tartar sauce doesn’t contain any traces of “tartar” as an ingredient, and that’s because, as we have already established, the name has nothing to do to with “tartar” as it associates with Cream Of Tartar — which is an acidic byproduct of winemaking rich in “tartaric acid”, where the name comes from. 

The name “Tartar” for the sauce, instead, is believed to have relations with the Tartar people of the medieval times.  

The sauce usually consists of mayonnaise combined with various seasonings such as chopped pickles, capers, onion and herbs like parsley or dill.

Tartar Sauce Ingredients

Here’s a breakdown of the key ingredients in tartar sauce:

Mayonnaise: It all starts with a good quality mayo, which serves as the base for tartar sauce. It can be a well concocted homemade Mayo or a trusty store bough variety like Kewpie Mayo.

Chopped Pickles: For that signature crunch and briny goodness, chopped pickles give your tartar sauce both texture and flavor.

Relish: Adding relish contributes sweetness and tanginess to the mix which works well with the richness and creaminess of the mayo.

Capers: These tiny, tangy buds pack a punch in flavor which serves as an excellent contrast to the creaminess of the mayo.

Tarragon: Fresh or dried tarragon adds an aromatic herbal touch to the sauce.

Dill: The subtle yet distinct taste of dill complements seafood dishes perfectly, making it an essential addition to any homemade tartar sauce.

Optional Enhancements: While these core ingredients are more than enough to create an outstanding tartar sauce, you can always up the ante by adding a squeeze of lemon juice for added brightness or stirring in some chopped olives for extra savory notes.

Tartar Sauce Recipe

This quick and easy recipe will leave you wondering why you ever bothered with store-bought varieties, really. 

Fresh ingredients, a delightful tang and a fantastic creamy texture make this homemade tartar sauce a must-try.


  • ½ cup mayonnaise (homemade is always better)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 small dill pickle, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon prepared Yellow mustard

How to Prepare Your Tartar Sauce:

Simply combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl until well blended. 

Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes so the flavors can meld together. The result? 

A deliciously rich and creamy tartar sauce that’s perfect for dipping or drizzling over your favorite fish dishes.

Serve alongside fish and chips, crispy fish fillets, or even as a tasty spread for your next seafood sandwich. 

You can store this homemade tartar sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week – if it lasts that long!

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