One Simple Ingredient Gordon Ramsay Adds To His Tartar Sauce

Creamy yet tangy, tartar sauce is a classic accompaniment to fried fish dishes. It's not merely that the taste — which is bright with zingy lemon juice and sharp with pickles — complements the seafood so well; it also brings a unique piquancy that helps to refresh and ready the palate between each crispy bite. Essentially, it makes us hungry for another mouthful of food that could otherwise start to feel a bit bland or 'samey.'

In its most simple form, homemade tartar sauce consists of store-bought mayonnaise livened up with sweet or sour pickles, lemon, diced onion, and seasoning. But chef Gordon Ramsay has a secret ingredient that brings a tasty twist to the classic condiment: crème fraîche.

While it has some similarities, crème fraîche is different than sour cream and yogurt; it tends to be richer and creamier, thanks to its higher fat content. While it can taste lightly sweet and nutty, it also has a good level of tanginess, which makes the dairy product a great addition to a well-balanced tartar sauce. Adding just a little can help create an enriched condiment that's bursting with flavor.

Gordon Ramsay adds crème fraîche for a tangy tartar sauce

Made from fresh cream that has been soured with a lactic acid bacterial culture, crème fraîche has a wonderfully thick consistency that makes it a great addition to sauces and other dishes. Indeed, Bobby Flay adds the creamy ingredient to his scrambled eggs to enrich them. When used in tartar sauce, the thick texture lends a richer mouthfeel, creating a velvety sauce that would be great on sandwiches as well as fried fish or seafood.

Gordon Ramsay combines around three tablespoons of the dairy product with ⅓ cup mayonnaise for his tartar sauce, along with pickles, finely diced shallots, and a teaspoon of lemon juice. This gives it just enough tang and bite while still keeping the cool, creamy mayo base. But if you're a big fan of the milky-sweet-yet-tart dairy taste and want to try an exceptionally rich sauce, you could substitute all the mayonnaise for crème fraîche.

One of the ways crème fraîche differs from some dairy products is that it can handle heat without splitting or curdling, thanks to its higher proportion of fat. So it's possible to serve the sauce warm, as a luxurious dressing for delicate fish dishes such as poached cod or halibut, or scallops cooked in the air fryer. Simply mix ½ cup heavy cream with ¼ cup crème fraîche, and simmer over low heat along with lemon juice, pickles, and capers.

Elevate tartar sauce with a variety of other ingredients

While crème fraîche makes for a richer tartar sauce, there are several other ingredients that will introduce totally different taste combinations into the condiment. Gordon Ramsay likes to add hot sauce, such as Tabasco, for a touch of heat; if you're a fan of fiery flavors, then you could also try using cayenne, red pepper flakes, or chili flakes to ramp up the spiciness. Or go for spicy mustard or horseradish for a more piquant kind of heat.

Adding chopped herbs is another easy way to enhance tartar sauce with fresh, fragrant, and aromatic flavors — perfect for making a better homemade fish sandwich. Dill is a classic choice, but parsley also pairs exceptionally well with both the fish and the lemon juice in the sauce. Onion-like chives also make a tasty addition while tarragon, with its licorice notes, adds extra complexity and depth.

If you're a fan of bracingly tart tartar over the sweeter varieties, try switching the usual lemon for a little pickle juice; when combined with minced dill pickles, it makes for a superbly sharp sauce. Or add a few capers for a salty burst of tangy intensity that can stand up to even the most generous portion of fried fish, perfectly cutting through any greasiness.