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Homemade Japanese Tartar Sauce: A Creamy and Tangy Delight

by Assessor
Homemade Japanese Tartar Sauce (タルタルソース)

Japanese style tartar sauce in a glass jar

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What is Tartar Sauce?

Tartar sauce is a popular condiment that’s rich and tangy. It’s made primarily of mayonnaise, pickles, and seasonings. This versatile sauce pairs perfectly with deep-fried foods, cutting through the grease to provide a lighter taste. Originating in France, tartar sauce has since gained popularity worldwide, including in Japan!

Tartar sauce made its debut in the Japanese market in 1966 and quickly became a staple with the rise of Western cuisine (yoshoku) in the country. It is commonly served with ebi fry (deep-fried breaded prawns), kaki-fry (deep-fried oysters), and chicken nanban (fried chicken cooked in a sour sauce), among other fried dishes.

How is Japanese Tartar Sauce Different?

Japanese tartar sauce shares many ingredients with its Western counterparts, but it has its own unique twists. In true Japanese fashion, it has been adapted to use local ingredients and cater to the Japanese palate.

Firstly, Japanese tartar sauce is made with Japanese mayonnaise, which consists primarily of egg yolks. This gives the mayo a thick and creamy texture, as well as a golden appearance, setting it apart from the white mayonnaise used in other countries that is made with whole eggs. Japanese mayo also incorporates rice vinegar, adding a mild sweetness and subtle sourness to the sauce.

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In addition to the mayo, Japanese tartar sauce often includes finely diced boiled eggs and sometimes incorporates Japanese pickles like rakkyo (sweet pickled Japanese scallions) and shibazuke (pickles made with eggplant, shiso, and ginger).

Japanese style tartar sauce in a glass jar with an onion

Ingredients to Make Japanese-style Tartar Sauce

To make Japanese-style tartar sauce, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Japanese mayonnaise: For an authentic Japanese taste, it’s important to use Japanese mayonnaise. I always keep a bottle of Kewpie Mayonnaise in my refrigerator! Of course, if you can’t find it, regular mayonnaise works too.
  • Hard-boiled eggs: Boil them for 9-10 minutes to ensure the yolks are fully cooked. Finely chop them to create a chunky texture.
  • Sweet onion: Preferred for its mild flavor, but white onions work in a pinch. If using white onions, soak them after dicing to soften their harsh taste and dry them thoroughly before adding to the tartar sauce.
  • Pickles: I usually stick to using gherkins (dill pickles) for accessibility. However, if you have access to them, try using Japanese pickles such as rakkyo or shibazuke!
  • Lemon Juice: Freshly squeezed or bottled, both work here.
  • Ketchup: Adds depth and sweetness to the sauce.
  • Sugar: Since this sauce isn’t cooked, use a sugar that dissolves easily, such as caster or granulated.
  • Salt: Regular cooking salt (sea salt/table salt) works well.
  • Black pepper: Freshly ground black pepper adds a nice touch.
  • Dried parsley: You can use fresh if you want a stronger parsley flavor!

Japanese style tartar sauce in a glass jar with spoon

How to Make Japanese-Style Tartar Sauce

Storage

Homemade Japanese-style tartar sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 5 days, depending on the freshness of your ingredients. Unfortunately, this recipe cannot be frozen.

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Japanese style tartar sauce on a silver spoon

Serving Suggestions: Enhance These Dishes with Homemade Tartar Sauce

Japanese-style tartar sauce is an excellent accompaniment to seafood and deep-fried dishes. Whether drizzled over the top or served on the side for dipping, the creamy and tangy flavors of the tartar sauce create a delightful combination with the following dishes.

Ebi Fry (Japanese Fried Shrimp)

Ebi Fry (Japanese fried shrimp) served with tartar sauce, salad and lemon wedges

Ebi fry is a beloved dish made with juicy tiger prawns coated in a crunchy golden panko breadcrumb crust. Pairing it with tartar sauce enhances the crispy texture of the ebi fry, creating a harmonious fusion of tastes and textures.

Chicken Nanban

A piece of chicken nanban with tartar sauce picked up with wooden chopsticks closeup

Chicken nanban is a delightful Japanese dish consisting of crispy deep-fried chicken marinated in a sweet and sour sauce. This dish is simply incomplete without a generous helping of tartar sauce.

Chicken Katsu (Deep Fried Chicken Cutlet)

4 pieces of crispy Japanese chicken lined up on a white rectangular plate with small sauce jug in the background

Japanese-style tartar sauce offers a fantastic alternative to traditional katsu sauce when it comes to enjoying chicken katsu. The zingy nature of tartar sauce brings a unique and refreshing twist to this beloved dish.

What is your favorite dish with Japanese tartar sauce? Let me know in the comments below! And if you try out the recipe, I’d really appreciate it if you could spare a moment to let me know what you thought by giving a review and star rating. Thank you!

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