Is tartar sauce usually gluten-free?

Quick Answer

Tartar sauce is usually gluten-free, but it’s important to check the ingredients since some brands may contain wheat, barley, rye or malt ingredients. The key is to look for tartar sauces made without added thickeners like flour or fillers that contain gluten.

What is Tartar Sauce?

Tartar sauce is a condiment typically made by combining mayonnaise with ingredients like dill pickles, capers, onions, and lemon juice or vinegar. It has a creamy, tangy flavor and is often served with seafood dishes as a complement to the flavors.

Some of the most common ingredients in tartar sauce are:

– Mayonnaise – The base of most tartar sauce recipes. Mayonnaise is made by emulsifying egg yolk and oil, and also contains lemon juice or vinegar.

– Dill pickles – Finely chopped dill pickles help give tartar sauce its signature tang.

– Capers – Briny capers add a burst of flavor.

– Onions – Minced onions provide crunch and pungency.

– Lemon juice or vinegar – Help balance out the richness of the mayo.

– Dill – Fresh or dried dill offers an aromatic note.

– Salt and pepper – Season to taste.

So classic tartar sauce contains no gluten-containing ingredients. But some versions add thickeners like flour to modify the texture, which can introduce gluten.

Why Check for Gluten?

For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an autoimmune reaction that damages the small intestine. This can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue and more. The only treatment is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet.

For those who need to avoid gluten, it’s important to check labels carefully and look out for additives that may contain gluten. Tartar sauce is generally safe, but some brands add thickeners like wheat flour. Other potential sources of gluten include:

– Malt vinegar – Distilled from barley.

– Textured vegetable protein (TVP) – May contain gluten as a binder.

– Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) – May contain gluten from the hydrolysis process.

– Modified food starch – Can be made from wheat.

– Dextrin – May be derived from wheat.

– Stabilizers or emulsifiers – Sometimes contain gluten-based ingredients.

So while traditional tartar sauce recipes don’t contain gluten, it’s always wise to verify the ingredient list or look for a trusted gluten-free brand when avoiding gluten.

Are Mainstream Tartar Sauce Brands Gluten-Free?

Many of the most popular tartar sauce brands are gluten-free, though ingredients can vary slightly between products. Here are some of the major gluten-free options:

Hellmann’s Tartar Sauce

Ingredients: Soybean Oil, Water, Relish (Pickles, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Vinegar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Algin, Calcium Chloride, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate), Egg Yolks, Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate and Calcium Disodium EDTA (as Preservatives), Onion, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Spice, Natural Flavor.

Kraft Tartar Sauce

Ingredients: Soybean Oil, Water, Relish (Pickles, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Vinegar, Corn Syrup, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Algin, Calcium Chloride, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate and Calcium Disodium EDTA), Egg Yolks, Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Onions, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Spice, Calcium Disodium EDTA.

McCormick Tartar Sauce

Ingredients: Soybean Oil, Water, Relish (Cucumbers, Vinegar, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Algin, Calcium Chloride, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate), Egg Yolk, Distilled Vinegar, Contains Less than 2% of Water, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Onion, Potassium Sorbate and Calcium Disodium EDTA (as Preservatives), Propylene Glycol Alginate, Spice.

Legal Sea Foods Tartar Sauce

Ingredients: Soy bean oil, pickle relish [cucumbers, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, distilled vinegar, salt, calcium chloride, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate (preservative), spice extractives, polysorbate 80], egg yolk, water, distilled vinegar, onion, salt, mustard flour, potassium sorbate (preservative), xanthan gum, celery seed.

So the major brands use egg yolk, oil, and relish/pickles as the main ingredients. None have gluten-containing additives. But always check just to be safe in case the recipe changes.

Homemade Tartar Sauce

Making your own tartar sauce at home is an easy way control all the ingredients. Here is a simple gluten-free recipe:


– 1 cup mayonnaise
– 1⁄4 cup dill pickle relish
– 1 tbsp lemon juice
– 1 tbsp capers, drained
– 1⁄2 tsp dried dill (or 1 tbsp fresh dill)
– 1⁄8 tsp garlic powder
– Salt and pepper to taste


1. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, relish, lemon juice, capers, dill, and garlic powder. Stir until evenly mixed.

2. Season with salt and pepper. For best flavor, let chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving to allow flavors to blend.

3. Store leftover tartar sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.

With this easy homemade recipe, you can customize the flavor to your liking and ensure it’s gluten-free. Swap the regular mayo for a gluten-free brand if needed.

Gluten-Free Brands of Tartar Sauce

Here are some recommended gluten-free brands of tartar sauce:

– True Tartar by TrueLemon – Made with lemon juice and dill pickle relish. Gluten-free and Non-GMO Project Verified.

– Catch Tartar Sauce by Catch Foods – Uses olive oil mayo and gluten-free ingredients.

– Tessemae’s Tartar Sauce – Organic and made with olive oil mayo. Certified gluten-free.

– Primal Kitchen Tartar Sauce – Uses avocado oil mayo. Whole30 Approved.

– Sir Kensington’s Tartar Sauce – Non-GMO and certified gluten-free. Uses sunflower oil mayo.

– Bubbies Tartar Sauce – Dairy-free option made with plant oils. Gluten and top 8 allergen free.

– Mikel’s Foods Tartar Sauce – Family-owned brand that states all products are gluten-free.

– OliveNation Tartar Sauce – Commercial kitchen brand. Product info states gluten-free.

Always double check the label and look for a certified gluten-free logo or call the manufacturer to confirm if unsure. Homemade is foolproof.

What About Restaurant Tartar Sauce?

If eating out and wanting tartar sauce, be sure to ask about the ingredients. Many seafood restaurants prepare their own tartar sauce in-house. Here are some tips when ordering:

– Ask your server if the tartar sauce contains wheat, barley or rye ingredients.

– Request plain mayo or olive oil if the tartar sauce is not gluten-free.

– Clarify that no breadcrumbs or binders are used.

– Ask if there is a dedicated fryer if the tartar sauce accompanies fried seafood.

– Check sauce ingredients if ordering from a chain or fast food spot.

– Bring your own gluten-free tartar sauce to be safe.

– Stick to dishes with plain grilled, broiled or poached seafood.

With some attention to ingredients, it’s often possible to enjoy tartar sauce safely at restaurants. But home prep removes any guesswork.

Should Tartar Sauce be Refrigerated?

Yes, tartar sauce should always be refrigerated for food safety and to maximize shelf life. The mayonnaise and egg yolk in tartar sauce can be prone to spoilage if left at room temperature too long.

Refrigerating tartar sauce is important for a few reasons:

– Slows bacteria growth – Cold temps below 40°F inhibit rapid bacteria overgrowth.

– Prevents food poisoning – Refrigeration prevents harmful pathogens that could cause illness.

– Extends shelf life – Properly stored tartar sauce keeps for up to 4-5 days, or up to the expiration of the mayonnaise used.

– Maintains texture – Cold temps help tartar sauce retain a thick, creamy consistency.

– Preserves flavor – Refrigeration slows potency loss of fresh ingredients like lemon juice.

– Avoids separation – Chilling helps keep the emulsion stable and prevents separating.

For optimal freshness and food safety, prepare tartar sauce right before serving and refrigerate any leftovers immediately in an airtight container. Never leave tartar sauce unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours. Discard if smell or appearance is off.

Does Tartar Sauce Need to be Refrigerated After Opening?

Once a jar or bottle of tartar sauce has been opened, it also needs to be refrigerated. Exposure to air and higher temperatures will shorten its safe usable life.

Follow these tips for storing opened tartar sauce:

– Transfer to a sealed container – This minimizes air contact to avoid oxidation.

– Refrigerate after use – Keep stored tartar sauce chilled at 40°F or below.

– Use within 4-5 days – Consume within a few days for highest quality and safety.

– Don’t double dip – Use a clean utensil each time to prevent bacteria transfer.

– Check for signs of spoilage – Discard if you see mold, off-colors, or an unpleasant sour smell.

– Adhere to use by dates – Commercial products should list a use within X days of opening date.

Properly stored, opened tartar sauce will maintain its signature tangy creaminess for several days. Be diligent about refrigerator storage and use-by times for the best flavor and to avoid possible foodborne illness.

How Long Does Tartar Sauce Last in the Fridge?

With proper refrigerated storage, both unopened and opened tartar sauce can last between 4-8 days in the fridge before quality starts to decline.

Here are more details on tartar sauce fridge life:

Unopened Tartar Sauce
– Pantry – 2-3 months past printed expiration date
– Refrigerator – 4-8 months past expiration date

Opened Tartar Sauce
– Refrigerator – 4-5 days
– Freezer – 2-3 months (for best quality)

The shelf life of tartar sauce depends most on the expiration date of the mayonnaise used in the recipe. Mayo contains raw egg yolks and acidity levels optimized for safety up to a certain date.

So check the mayo expiration when gauging tartar sauce life. Also be sure to refrigerate after opening and monitor for signs of spoilage like changes in texture, color or odor.

Freezing can extend the life of tartar sauce for a few months, though some separation may occur after thawing. Commercial products lasting 6-8 months unopened are preserved for extended shelf stability.

For optimal tartar sauce freshness and eating quality, try to finish opened jars within 3-5 days. Discard if you notice any sour or ‘off’ smells after refrigeration.

Can You Freeze Tartar Sauce?

Yes, you can safely freeze tartar sauce to extend its shelf life beyond the typical 5-7 day fridge life. However, freezing may cause some textural changes once thawed.

Here are some tips for freezing tartar sauce:

– Store in airtight containers – Use freezer-safe plastic, glass or bags, leaving headspace to allow for expansion.

– Portion into single servings – Freeze tartar sauce in the amounts you typically use to avoid waste.

– Label containers – Mark with contents and freeze-by date so you know what it is and when it expires.

– Freeze right after making – Don’t freeze previously refrigerated tartar sauce. Freeze it fresh.

– Freeze for up to 2-3 months – Eat frozen tartar sauce within 2-3 months for best flavor and texture.

– Thaw in the fridge – Let frozen tartar sauce thaw slowly in the refrigerator overnight before using.

– Expect some separation – A watery or oily layer may form after thawing, so stir well before serving.

Freezing gives tartar sauce much longer shelf life than refrigerating, though the texture may be a little softer once thawed. Stir well before use and consume within a day or two.

Can Frozen Tartar Sauce be Refrozen?

Once thawed, it’s best not to refreeze tartar sauce if any of it has been exposed to air. Refreezing thawed tartar sauce can decrease its quality and safety:

– Bacteria risk – Thawed tartar sauce exposed to air may start growing bacteria again. Refreezing won’t destroy these bacteria.

– Texture changes – The texture often becomes more watery, grainy, or separates more each time it’s thawed and refrozen.

– Flavor fades – Notes like lemon, capers, and dill diminish in intensity after multiple freezes.

– Limited shelf life – Each refreeze shortens the remaining life left. Use within a few days once fully thawed again.

– Safety concerns – Multiple freezes increase risk of spoilage, off-flavors or possible pathogens.

For best safety and quality, refrigerate thawed tartar sauce leftover after serving and use within 3-5 more days. Only refreeze unthawed portions that still contain ice crystals and have never been previously frozen. Discard questionable tartar sauce rather than risk a poor experience or foodborne illness. Make and freeze smaller batches as needed to avoid waste.


Tartar sauce is generally gluten-free, but it’s always wise to check the label or recipe to ensure no ingredients containing wheat, barley, rye or malt are present. Major brands like Hellmann’s and Kraft are safely gluten-free, but homemade gives you full control over the ingredients. For safety and optimal freshness, refrigerate tartar sauce opened or unopened, use within 4-5 days, and discard if any spoilage signs appear. While you can freeze tartar sauce for longer storage, refrain from refreezing thawed portions to prevent diminished quality and potential bacteria growth. With some basic safety practices, tartar sauce can be enjoyed as the perfect gluten-free, tangy accompaniment to seafood.

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