Tartar Sauce (the Best Crab Cake Sauce Recipe)


Crab cakes deserve only the best when it comes to toppings. That’s where this tartar sauce really shines – lemony and tart but also slightly sour and sweet, when you need the best crab cake sauce recipe, this finger-licking-good sauce is it!


For more sauces you can spread on crab cakes, seafood, and more, check out my recipes for 5-Minute Fish Taco Sauce, BBQ Sauce, and Tzatziki Sauce.

When I created the recipe for the best-ever crab cakes, I knew I had to make a tartar sauce recipe to go along with it. That’s a no-brainer. I love my sauces, dipping or otherwise. But for me, I love a tartar sauce that’s tangy, sour, and sweet. I accomplished that by adding lemon juice for tartness, dill pickles and fresh dill for sour, and just a little bit of sugar for sweet. Add those ingredients plus onion powder, dijon, salt, and pepper to some mayo and you’ve got yourself all the makings for the BEST crab cake sauce you’ve ever sunk your teeth into!


Why This Recipe Works

Dill pickles – I’m a sucker for pickles. Adding dill pickles (and some fresh dill) makes this sauce a little bit mouthwatering and oh-so-tangy. Dill is a must-have flavor in my tartar sauce.

Lemon juice – Speaking of must-have flavors, another one is lemon. Lemon juice is great over everything seafood and should be a key component to any tartar sauce recipe.

Easy – This tartar sauce recipe only takes about 5 minutes to make – really!

Make ahead – The best part about this crab cakes sauce is that you can make it ahead and it’ll keep in the fridge till you’re ready to use it or for about 1 week. That means you can go ahead and double the recipe and make crab cakes once or twice this week.

How to Make The Best Crab Cake Sauce


This tartar sauce recipe is sooooo very easy! You ready?

  1. Mix all the ingredients together.
  2. Cover the bowl and pop in the fridge until you’re ready to use.
  3. Keep in the fridge up to one week.

That’s it!


What is a Good Substitute for Tartar Sauce?

I can’t imagine not loving tartar sauce, but I get that it happens. If you aren’t a fan, then I recommend the following ideas for skipping the tartar sauce on your crab cakes.

  • A cucumber-based sauce works great on top of crab cakes, like this Tzatziki Sauce.
  • Make a sauce out of sour cream or nonfat Greek yogurt. Add pickle relish, capers, lemon juice, dill, parsley, or red pepper flakes to create your own tartar sauce substitute.
  • Just a simple dollop of mayo might be enough for some people. If that is you, then give it a try – going simple on the sauce often lets the true star – the crab cakes – shine through.
  • Make an herby sauce by combining a few of your favorite fresh herbs (chopped) with mayo, plain yogurt, or a combination of the two.

Customizing this Recipe

  • Add capers instead of dill pickles (or in addition to).
  • For a more herby flavor, add fresh parsley with the fresh dill.
  • To up the lemony brightness, add a teaspoon of lemon zest to the final mixture.
  • A splash of Worcestershire sauce can add an unexpected hint of umami that your crab cakes might be calling for.
  • Rather than lemon juice, you could also add a tablespoon of white wine vinegar.
  • If you really love mustard, swap the dijon for some course-grain mustard. Extra flavor, extra texture.
  • Love heat? Add a splash or two of your favorite hot sauce to this recipe for crab cake sauce.
  • Up the texture and taste of this sauce by adding some diced shallots or green onions.
  • And, if you’re a big garlic fan, why not add a minced clove to this sauce while you’re mixing it together?

What to Serve with Tartar Sauce

You made the tartar sauce. Now what? Aside from eating it with a spoon (been there), here are my favorite ways to serve this delicious sauce.

  • Crab cakes of course! Not sure how to make them? I have you covered with the best crab cakes recipe around.
  • This sauce also goes great as a dip for grilled shrimp.
  • Dip your veggies into tartar sauce – why not?
  • This sauce is the perfect accompaniment to a summer clam bake.
  • Skip the butter and dip your lobster or crab legs into tartar sauce instead.
  • My kids love to dip chicken nuggets and tenders into tartar sauce. Such a fun treat and break from boring old ketchup.
  • When I make tuna salad, I often mix it up with tartar sauce rather than just plain old mayo. Try it – I promise you’ll never go back.

Expert Tips

  • If you’re in a hurry, you can use dill pickle relish instead of dicing up pickles yourself.
  • I like to keep my tartar sauce in a squeeze bottle for easy serving!

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Did you make this easy peasy Tartar Sauce recipe? YAY! Please rate the recipe below!