The Tartar Sauce Alternative You Need For Fish Sandwiches

Delightfully tangy, rich, creamy, and savory, tartar sauce is a classic accompaniment to seafood and is especially good with fried fish sandwiches. With simple ingredients of cool mayo, sharp chopped pickles, and maybe some onion or a dash of brightness from lemon, it's incredibly simple to knock up a homemade tartar sauce. There are many ways to elevate a classic tartar, from adding Dijon mustard or dill to Worcestershire sauce, or cayenne pepper for extra spice. But if you want to make a better fried fish sandwich, it's worth considering an alternative condiment to shake things up a little. 

Aioli or remoulade sauce, whose robust flavors work especially well to complement the fish (as well as other elements of a sandwich, such as cheese or a crunchy-yet-creamy slaw) make equally great switches to replace tartar sauce. Both French in origin, the two sauces are traditional partners for seafood and shellfish, and they also pair well with fried foods.

Aioli adds a garlicky punch to crispy-crumbed fish whereas remoulade brings a rich mayo-based creaminess spiked with sharp pickles, capers, and perhaps anchovies. And so many variations exist for the two classic sauces that you're sure to find the perfect match for a next-level fish sandwich, no matter what style you're serving.

Garlic and lemon aioli is a flavorful alternative to tartar

In its most basic and stripped-back form, aioli consists of merely garlic and oil, though you're more likely to see it as a creamier mayo-like variation made with egg yolks. Preparing a classic homemade aioli means you're guaranteed a flavor-packed sauce that you can tweak as desired. Adding a squeeze of fresh fragrant lemon juice makes for a brighter-tasting condiment that balances the pungency of the garlic, for example. Paired with fish, the lemon provides that burst of freshness a fried sandwich needs.

It's easy to incorporate additional ingredients into a standard aioli to elevate the flavors even further. Add some zingy lemon zest as well as the juice along with freshly ground black pepper for an instant burst of citrus with a little heat. Or try aromatic and sharp lime juice, perhaps combined with a couple of minced chipotle peppers to bring a spicy element. Alternatively, add chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives, or dill, to aioli for an aromatic treat. Tarragon and chervil also work supremely well with fish — while stirring through pounded watercress or basil adds a beautiful vibrant green color to the sauce.

Want to make things even easier for a fish sandwich in a hurry? You can transform store-bought mayo into aioli with just two ingredients, garlic and lemon. Stir through any extra ingredients you fancy, from horseradish to hot sauce, if you want to ramp up the flavor another notch.

Try remoulade sauce for a zesty and customizable alternative

For an alternative to tartar sauce that is even bolder and zestier than aioli, remoulade sauce ticks all the right boxes. With so many different variations, from classic French or spicy Louisiana style to a yellow-hued Scandinavian spin, it's highly customizable, so you can adapt it according to your tastes and the individual ingredients of your fish sandwich.

The traditional French version of remoulade is all about mixing fresh aromatic herbs (think parsley, chives, or chervil) to a creamy mayonnaise, with diced cornichons and capers. These bring a burst of tangy, salty flavor and a touch of texture as well. Dijon mustard and lemon juice deliver extra zing, especially when paired with anchovy in traditional recipes.

To really bring out the fragrant herby element, try a licorice-scented tarragon remoulade sauce recipe, which pairs effortlessly with fish. Embrace the Danish style and switch garlic for minced cauliflower, cabbage, and pickles, with some turmeric or curry powder to give the sauce a sunshiny color; the piccalilli-like feel makes the condiment a natural fit for fried fish.

Alternatively, ramp up the heat and tanginess even further with a Louisiana-style remoulade made with a mayo or oil base and Creole mustard, green onions, celery, and fresh parsley. You might also find chopped hard-boiled eggs in New Orleans-style remoulade while lemon juice and cayenne pepper or hot sauce like Tabasco lend a sharp-spicy note that will transform fish sandwiches or shrimp po'boys in a flash.