Tartar sauce, which is often served alongside dishes like fried fish or fish and chips, is a staple in many seafood restaurants.
Its rich, creamy taste and texture can complement a variety of other dishes as well.
Despite its widespread popularity, you may still be unsure what it’s made from and whether it’s healthy.
This article explains what tartar sauce is, how it’s made, and how it could affect your health.
Tartar sauce is a popular condiment that’s usually made with mayonnaise, pickles, capers, lemon juice, and herbs such as dill or tarragon.
Some variations may also contain ingredients like olives, apple cider, parsley, onions, or shallots.
Although the flavor varies slightly depending on the ingredients, tartar sauce generally has a rich, tangy taste and creamy texture.
It’s usually served with seafood dishes, such as fish and chips, fried oysters, and fish sticks. However, it can also be used as a dipping sauce and makes a great addition to salads and sandwiches as well.
Tartar sauce is a condiment made with mayonnaise, pickles, capers, lemon juice, and herbs. It’s often served with seafood but can be a great addition to many other dishes too.
Tartar sauce is low in calories but contains several micronutrients, including vitamin K and sodium.
Two tablespoons (30 grams) provides (1):
- Calories: 63
- Protein: 0.3 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Carbs: 4 grams
- Sodium: 9% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin E: 3% of the DV
- Vitamin K: 13% of the DV
- Manganese: 1% of the DV
Notably, vitamin K is an important micronutrient involved in blood clotting and bone health (2).
However, tartar sauce is relatively high in sodium, containing 9% of the DV in a single serving. Consuming too much sodium can increase blood pressure levels and may also be linked to a higher risk of stomach cancer (3, 4).
Tartar sauce is relatively low in calories but contains a good amount of vitamin K in each serving. Still, you should be mindful of its sodium content.
Although it’s eaten in small amounts, adding tartar sauce to your diet may offer several health benefits.
May increase bone density
Tartar sauce is a good source of vitamin K, an essential vitamin that plays a key role in bone health.
Your body needs vitamin K in order to produce certain proteins involved in bone metabolism, such as osteocalcin (5).
Some research associates vitamin K deficiency with a higher risk of fractures and osteoporosis, as well as decreased bone density (6, 7, 8, 9).
What’s more, studies show that vitamin K supplements may help prevent bone loss and improve bone density when used alone or taken with vitamin D (10, 11, 12).
May support heart health
The vitamin K in tartar sauce may also support heart health.
That’s because this vitamin is necessary for the function of a specific compound called matrix Gla protein (MGP), which blocks the buildup of calcium in your blood vessels (13).
One study in more than 53,000 people linked an increased intake of vitamin K to a lower risk of atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in your arteries that can lead to heart disease (14).
Tartar sauce is also a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, a type of fat that may aid heart health. In fact, some research suggests that replacing saturated fats or refined carbs in your diet with polyunsaturated fats may decrease your risk of heart disease (15).
Tartar sauce is high in nutrients like vitamin K and polyunsaturated fats, which may support bone and heart health.
Although tartar sauce may offer a few health benefits, there are several downsides to consider.
High in sodium
Tartar sauce is relatively high in sodium, with 200 mg — about 9% of the DV — in just 2 tablespoons (30 grams) (1).
Research links high sodium diets to increased blood pressure levels and a higher risk of stomach cancer (3, 4).
Therefore, it’s best to read the label carefully and pick a product that’s lower in sodium, especially if you’re watching your sodium intake.
May interfere with blood thinners
Tartar sauce contains a sizable amount of vitamin K, which may interfere with certain blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin.
As such, if you are taking blood thinners, it’s important to maintain a consistent intake of vitamin K to ensure that your medications work effectively (16).
If you’re taking blood thinners, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
Tartar sauce typically contains mayonnaise, which is made with eggs.
Therefore, regular tartar sauce is unsuitable for vegans and people with an allergy to eggs. Some people may also be allergic to other ingredients found in tartar sauce, such as lemons, dill, or mustard.
If you’re allergic to any of these items, you may need to avoid tartar sauce or choose an allergen-free variety.
Keep in mind that commercial varieties of tartar sauce made with mayonnaise use pasteurized eggs, meaning that they’ve been treated to destroy bacteria. Thus, they’re safe for those who need to avoid eating raw eggs, including young children, older adults, and pregnant people.
However, these populations may need to avoid homemade tartar sauce that contains mayonnaise made from raw or unpasteurized eggs, because this ingredient may increase the risk of foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella poisoning (17).
Tartar sauce is high in sodium and vitamin K, two micronutrients that some people may need to limit. It’s also generally unsuitable for vegans and those with an allergy to eggs.
Traditionally, tartar sauce is made using ingredients like mayonnaise, capers, lemon juice, pickles, and herbs such as dill or tarragon.
However, you can also give tartar sauce a healthy twist by trading the mayonnaise for plain Greek yogurt, which is high in protein, calcium, and potassium (18).
Here is a simple recipe to get started making healthy tartar sauce at home.
- 1/2 cup (143 grams) plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp. (5 grams) Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. (5 mL) fresh lemon juice
- Pinch of dill
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp. (10 grams) finely chopped dill pickles
- 1 tbsp. (8 grams) diced capers
- Combine yogurt, mustard, lemon juice, dill, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
- Add pickles and capers to the mixture and stir.
- Cover and refrigerate for 30–60 minutes.
- Stir and serve with your favorite sandwiches, salads, or seafood dishes.
To make a healthy version of tartar sauce at home, try swapping the mayonnaise for Greek yogurt using the simple recipe above.
Tartar sauce is a condiment often served with seafood dishes, salads, and sandwiches.
Each serving contains a fair amount of polyunsaturated fats and vitamin K — an important nutrient involved in bone and heart health.
However, this sauce is also relatively high in sodium and may not be a good option for everyone, including vegans, those with certain food allergies, and people who need to limit their vitamin K intake.