Tartar sauce

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Not to be confused with cream of tartar.
Tartar sauce
Tartar Sauce.jpg
Tartar sauce is often served with fried seafood.
Alternative names tartare
Type Sauce
Place of origin Europe
Main ingredients mayonnaise, capers, gherkins, lemon juice, and tarragon
Cookbook:Tartar sauce  Tartar sauce

Tartar sauce (tartare in the UK, New Zealand and Australia) is a mayonnaise-based sauce, typically of a rough consistency. It is often used as a condiment with seafood dishes.[1]


It is based on mayonnaise (egg yolk, mustard or vinegar, oil) with some extra ingredients. In the UK recipes typically add to the base capers, gherkins, lemon juice, and tarragon. US recipes may include chopped pickles or prepared green sweet relish, capers, onions (or chives), and fresh parsley.[1] Chopped hard-boiled eggs or olives are sometimes added, as may be Dijon mustard.[2] The icon of French nouvelle cuisine Paul Bocuse describes sauce tartare explicitly[3] as a sauce remoulade,[4] in which the characterising anchovy purée is to be substituted by some hot Dijon mustard.

History and etymology[edit]

The sauce and its name has been found in cookbooks since the 19th century. The name derives from the French sauce tartare, named after the Tatars (French spelling: Tartare) from the Eurasian Steppe, who once occupied Ukraine and parts of Russia. Beyond this, the etymology is unclear.[5]

An idea of what people in the nineteenth century meant by nameing something "tartar" can be found in a recipe of famous Mrs. Beeton in "The Book of Household Management" of 1861, recipe no. 481, "Tartar mustard", made of horseradish vinegar, cayenne and ordinary mustard. On the other hand, in her recipe no. 503, "Remoulade, or French Salad-Dressing", she describes a curious preparation with a familiar ingredient that can hardly be identified with a Remoulade as standardized by Ecsoffier forty years later or as it is considered today. But in a sidenote to the subordinated variation she explains that the tarragon for her recipe of "Green Remoulade" comes originally from Tartary. In the days of Tsarism, the Russian properties in Asia south of Siberia were frequently called Tartary, especially when an exotic undertone was intended. This might be a hint that Sauce Tartare is a descriptive term for a tarragon mayonnaise named after the origin of the so-called Russian tarragon, which actually is rarely used for culinary purposes.

In 1903 Auguste Escoffier gave a recipe for Sauce Remoulade (Rec. No. 130[6]) with both mustard and anchovy essence but he used in the rest of the book only the term Sauce Tartare for it. This is still common use in Austria and former Austrian regions like Bohemia, where Sauce Remoulade and Sauce Tartare are synonyms on restaurant's menues. The German dictionary "Langenscheidt, Maxi-Wörterbuch Englisch, 120.000 Phrases of 2002" identifies Tartar(e) Sauce as Remouladensosse.

In the early era of the Haute Cuisine from about 1890 to the outbreak of WW1 in 1914 minced filet of beef was dressed with Sauce Tartare and served raw as Boeuf Tartare or steak tartare[7] with regard to the sauce's name.[8] Between the World Wars, until today, it came into fashion to serve the dish with regard to the raw unprocessed meat just with the unprocessed ingredients of the sauce, from which we learn, what the ingredients of a Sauce Tartare should be.

The popular legend, that the name of the beef dish refers to the ancient Tatars who rode with beef steaks under the saddles of their horses to tenderize it, so that it could be eaten raw, is just a tale to reassure people who are afraid of eating raw meat and raw eggs. Also wrong is the explanation that tartar sauce is named after the beef dish, frequently told by people who believe in the previous legend about the Tatarian riders. The famous Tatarian riders[9] typically never rode in saddles at all.

In fact, the Tatars have nothing to do with the sauce or raw beef steaks. Especially in the Haute Cuisine era, dish names were frequently selected from contemporary, fashionable, public issues to gain attention.

Maybe[10] the reports about the Crimean War of 1853 to 1856 gave the spark for the name idea or some Russian sword swallower and balalaika players were hired by a hotel for the summer season to entertain the guests in the restaurant and an amended mayonnaise named Sauce Tartare was just one item on a Russia themed menu accompanying Moscovian vodka eel and fresh "Baikal trouts" from a local brook.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Isabella Graham Duffield Stewart, Mary B. Duffield (1878). The Home messenger book of tested receipts. Detroit: E. B. Smith & Co. p. 31. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Louisette Bertholle, Julia Child, Simone Beck (1961, 1983, 2001). Mastering the Art of French Cooking 1. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-307-95817-4. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  3. ^ Paul Bocuse, La cuisine du marché,1976
  4. ^ Bocuse describes the Remoulade just previous Sauce Tartare as a standard mayonnaise (egg yolks, vinegar, oil) with additional chopped capers, gherkins and herbs and some anchovy purée
  5. ^ "tartar". Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper. 2001–2002. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Auguste Escoffier, A guide to modern Cookery, English 1907 from french origin of 1903
  7. ^ Craig J. Smith (6 April 2005). "The Raw Truth: Don't Blame the Mongols (or Their Horses)". New York Times. Retrieved 3 June 2012. 
  8. ^ Many dishes of that time were named after Sauce Tartare, just because a basic preparation of a meat is accompanied by it, e.g.: Lobsters, Shrimps or Crabs tartare, Poulet a la tartare (Escoffier's recipe no. 1645), Chicks tartare (Escoffier's recipe no. 1649). Other dishes like Salmon Hollandaise or Tournedos Béarnaise (Escoffier's recipe no. 1081) were composed similarly and their names were created by the same system.
  9. ^ Tatarian saddles are reported to be safer and more comfortable than modern saddles for western riding
  10. ^ This is a speculation to demonstrate how far we must think to reveal the creation of names for traditional dishes and preparations. Most of the presently known names were given, documented and published in the early Haute Cuisine era before 1900 just by fantasy or a minor inspiration, even for older recipes without well established names. By this renaming not only the original names and their explanations (if any) got lost, by the sophisticated revision of the recipes their original compositions got lost, too. Very few names with dedicated names were coined in the time of the introduction of the recipe; e.g. Duxelles (Marquis d’Uxelles), Bismarck herring, Cumberland sauce, Pêche Melba or Cesar salad (critical). In 1903 Escoffier tried to establish a first system of attributes to make culinarian names more meaningful. By this he introduced about 3000 names for culinarian preparations of that time: e.g. Perigord with truffles, Burgundy with red wine, Normandy with apples, cider or calvados or Chantilly with whipped cream. Older or randomly given names are hard to reveal: e.g. what does Sauce Bechamel mean or to what do Sauce Espagnol, Hollandaise, Bearnaise or somewhat a l'Americain refer to?

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