The Ultimate Ranking Of Store-Bought Tartar Sauce

various tartar sauce bottles
various tartar sauce bottles - Wendy Hector/Daily Meal

Nothing complements fried seafood quite like tartar sauce. The combination of creamy mayonnaise and tangy pickles adds both richness and a zippy burst of acidity to everything it touches. Lemon juice and mustard are often added to give it a sharper zing, herbs like dill and parsley commonly make an appearance, and you'll see ingredients like onions, garlic, olives, and capers in the mix as well. Not just for fried fish, tartar sauce makes a great sandwich spread and a dip for vegetables and French fries too.

While tartar sauce is easy enough to make yourself, why not leave it to the professionals? There are a boatload of different tartar sauces just a grocery trip away, and we've compiled some of the most popular brands here, taste-tested and ranked by flavor and quality; check the end of this article for more info on our methodology. The ideal tartar sauce should have a texture that adheres to food without being too thick, a bright tang that's not too sour, and a flavor profile that enhances seafood without overpowering it. Read on to see which tartar sauces sank to the bottom of the list, and which one we crowned king of the seafood aisle.

Read more: 16 Tips To Make Your Shrimp Taste So Much Better

12. Primal Kitchen

Primal Kitchen tartar sauce jar
Primal Kitchen tartar sauce jar - Wendy Hector/Daily Meal

I'll give Primal Kitchen's tartar sauce one thing -- it's certainly unique. It's barely recognizable as tartar sauce at all with its thin, watery consistency. I had to shake it up quite a lot, because the avocado oil had visibly separated into a pool at the top of the container. I expected it to thicken, but it was still very runny, pouring out of the jar like soup. What struck me at first taste was salt, and lots of it. This is by far the saltiest sauce of the bunch. Now of course, sauce isn't meant to be eaten on its own, so I gave it the benefit of the doubt, thinking it might be more balanced with food.

But after trying it with fried shrimp, calamari, and fries, I was even more confused. The salad dressing-like texture dripped off of everything, so it doesn't work as a dip. You can't get enough to stick to really add any flavor, except for a bit of the aforementioned salt. There's a little bit of black pepper that showed up in a few bites, but other than that, it was like I didn't dip into anything at all. I suppose if this is your only option due to dietary restrictions (it's keto diet, paleo diet, and Whole 30-friendly) it may be worth checking out, but don't expect a traditional tartar sauce. Take note: You can get two or three of most of the better bottles on this list for the same price as this one.

11. Signature Select

Signature Select tartar sauce bottle
Signature Select tartar sauce bottle - Wendy Hector/Daily Meal

Signature Select's tartar sauce has a few things going for it that make it a serviceable, if unexciting, option. There's a vibrant tanginess, as well as a strong mustard flavor that many of the other sauces lack. It's got good texture too, with a nice dipping consistency. Unfortunately, these pleasant characteristics are overwhelmed by way too much sweetness that throws off the whole balance.

The sweetness came across so strongly that sugar was the last taste in my mouth with every bite, even when mixed with breaded and fried chunks of fish that had a pretty strong flavor of their own. The tang is nice, but gets overwhelmed easily. The flavor was particularly disagreeable with shrimp, which have a natural sweetness of their own, making each bite almost unbearably saccharine.

While Signature Select is the least expensive of all the tartar sauces on our list, for less than a dollar more, you can upgrade to a few better, yet still inexpensive options. Unless you've got a sweet tooth that extends to your seafood consumption, I'd skip this sauce.

10. Kraft

Kraft tartar sauce squeeze bottle
Kraft tartar sauce squeeze bottle - Wendy Hector/Daily Meal

Similar in flavor profile to Signature Select's option, Kraft's tartar sauce possesses a good sharp tang and a hefty dose of sweetness. It's slightly more balanced, with both components ramped up in intensity so that they play off of each other in every bite. But even though it works a bit better here, that sweet element still tends to take over and undermine the other, brighter tartar sauce flavors.

As I tasted this sauce, I imagined that it may work well with spicy food. If you've got Buffalo-style or spicy Sriracha shrimp, for example, or salt-and-pepper calamari that's heavy on the pepper, the sweetness here might have a purpose. To test this theory, I drenched a few popcorn shrimp in hot sauce, then took them for a dip in the tartar. The experiment was a success: When combined with spice, Kraft tartar sauce works pretty well as a heat dampener. The combination of heat, coolness, and sweetness made each bite pop. Even so, aside from said coolness and sweetness, there wasn't much in the way of tartar sauce flavor that made it through the spicy gauntlet. Using plain mayonnaise would have the same effect. Still, if I had spicy snacks and this bottle was around, I'd reach for it.

9. McCormick

McCormick tartar sauce squeeze bottle
McCormick tartar sauce squeeze bottle - Wendy Hector/Daily Meal

Another very thick, very mayonnaise-forward tartar sauce, McCormick's option offers classic vinegar tanginess and sweet pickles in a rich, creamy base. Unlike others with a similar texture and flavor profile, the sweetness present in McCormick's sauce is subtle rather than front-and-center. I also appreciated the squeeze bottle and the wide hole in the cap, which made this dense sauce easy to serve.

It's definitely one of the thicker sauces on our list; I suspect it's the thickest. It still kept its shape from the squeeze bottle even after several minutes in a serving bowl -- it may actually be more solid than liquid. This characteristic has its advantages and disadvantages. Its goopy density means it adheres perfectly to whatever you dip in it, even a slick French fry that has no nooks or crannies to speak of. You can get a sizable glob of sauce on anything without trying. But this means the sauce also comes off as heavy, and while tanginess is there, it's not quite vibrant enough to offset the fatty, rich density of the sauce as a whole. Ultimately, it lacks balance.

8. Suzie's

Suzie's tartar sauce squeeze bottle
Suzie's tartar sauce squeeze bottle - Wendy Hector/Daily Meal

Based on the look of Suzie's organic tartar sauce, I thought it would definitely be a front-runner. There are tons of herbs and spices packed into every square millimeter of sauce, which boded well for flavor intensity. Maybe it's because I was expecting so much, but I felt a little bit let down after my first taste. It wasn't bad, but it just didn't wow me as much as I thought it would.

There are a lot of pluses here: number one, the ingredients are all organic. The aforementioned very visible herbs are quite tasty, mainly a strong dill flavor that is the driving force of the sauce. The mayonnaise base is rich and discernibly yolky in color and flavor, almost like Kewpie mayonnaise in that regard. It adheres beautifully to food thanks to its thickness. Yet I couldn't help but feel like something was missing -- something acidic.

I scanned the label to see if I could figure it out, and it took me a moment before I realized -- there are no pickles in this sauce. There are capers, and plenty of dill weed, but no pickled cucumbers or relish. It's an odd choice to leave them out of a tartar sauce -- so odd, in fact, that I kept thinking I had to be mistaken. But they're simply not there. To me, this isn't a tartar sauce. It's a dill-caper mayonnaise, and it's just not tangy enough.

7. Whole Foods 365

365 organic tartar sauce bottle
365 organic tartar sauce bottle - Wendy Hector/Daily Meal

365 by Whole Foods is the store's in-house, budget-friendly brand of grocery staples. This is one of the lowest-priced offerings on our list. It's a good value, especially because it's made with all organic ingredients. While it's a solid purchase, it's not the most exciting sauce in the lineup. Sweet relish is the main flavor, which gets somewhat lost in a heavy mayonnaise base that carries even more sweetness. The sauce is extremely thick, and tough to get out of the glass bottle without a narrow spoon or a lot of pounding (or in my case, a combination of both, accompanied by some grunting and yelling).

This is another sauce that leans heavily into the mayonnaise component. Visually, you can see that compared with most of the other sauces, there's not much going on besides the white base and a few scattered herbs. The sauce itself is so thick that the bits of relish were sometimes hard to find, but when they did show up in a bite, there was a welcome burst of tangy, zesty taste. The more I tasted it, the more I liked it, as the pickle flavor built up on my palate. Overall, this is a nice option for those looking for organic ingredients at a good price.

6. Louisiana

Louisiana tartar sauce bottle
Louisiana tartar sauce bottle - Wendy Hector/Daily Meal

After tasting so many thick, densely creamy tartar sauces, a bite of Louisiana's version was like a breath of fresh air. Although its texture is not thin by any means, it comes across as light and sleek rather than cloying or heavy. Dill relish is used here rather than the sweet variety, which gives it a zestier, brighter, and more savory flavor. It finishes with a bracing vinegar note and citrus tang, which does exactly what it's supposed to do: cut through the richness of fried food, and enhance the flavor of the fish.

What Louisiana's sauce does well is lean into the creamy style without becoming stodgy, heavy, or sweet. I wanted it to have a little more acidity, but that's nothing a spritz of lemon juice can't fix. If you like dill pickles, or love them to a possibly unhealthy degree like I do, you'll enjoy the flavor profile of this sauce quite a bit.

5. Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's tartar sauce squeeze bottlel
Trader Joe's tartar sauce squeeze bottlel - Wendy Hector/Daily Meal

When I first opened this container and squeezed out some sauce, I nodded and thought to myself, "Now that's the perfect texture." Trader Joe's tartar sauce is creamy with a silky richness; it clings to food as a smooth coating, rather than in heavy globs, and it's not so thin that it drips off. Consistency-wise, Trader Joe's tartar sauce earns top marks. As far as flavor goes, it's got a lot going for it, with good balance between tanginess and buttery creaminess, along with a strong, sweet vegetal note that I attribute to the dried red bell pepper listed as an ingredient in the relish. The balance of tanginess and richness fell a little bit flat for me when paired with fried food, but it was still a tasty dip.

This was hands-down my favorite of the ultra-creamy, mayonnaise-forward tartar sauces. Personally, I prefer those that are tangier and herbaceous and bring a more intense burst of flavor to the table. But if you enjoy this richer, milder style, Trader Joe's is a wonderful option, and it's offered at an affordable price. Moreover, Trader Joe's has a dizzying selection of well-priced frozen fish, so you can easily put together a satisfying oceanic feast and enjoy this sauce in all of its glory.

4. Stonewall Kitchen Down East

Stonewall Kitchen tartar sauce jar
Stonewall Kitchen tartar sauce jar - Wendy Hector/Daily Meal

This thick, intensely flavor-packed firecracker of a tartar sauce from Stonewall Kitchen is one of the pricier options on this list, but if you're going to splurge, this is the sauce you want to put your money towards. Spices and herbs abound in every rich and flavorful bite, enhanced by the complex tang of white and cider vinegars, as well as lemon juice and mustard. It's the only member of the group that has cayenne pepper sauce in it, which gives it a unique kick. It's not a hot and spicy sauce by any means, but once you know it's there, you can find a little thread of heat thrumming in the background of the other flavors.

If I were just ranking based on quality of ingredients and flavor intensity, this would be the winner. There's a lot to love here. However, as I was snacking on my seafood spread, I found myself going back to this sauce less and less, and gravitating towards a few of the others more. I never thought I'd say this about a dipping sauce, but it's almost too intense. A little goes a long way. That's not a bad thing -- it's delicious stuff -- but that, along with its hefty price tag, keeps it out of medal contention.

3. Waterfront Bistro

Waterfront Bistro tartar sauce bottle
Waterfront Bistro tartar sauce bottle - Wendy Hector/Daily Meal

Waterfront Bistro makes my favorite store-bought cocktail sauce, and while its tartar sauce doesn't take the top spot on this list, it's another well-done offering from the value brand. The sauce is visibly chock-full of herbs, and has loads of pickles and capers concentrated throughout, so that each bite bursts with bright, tangy flavor. It's also among the least expensive bottles in this selection, making it one of the better options for value-conscious customers looking for big flavor at a low price.

The acidity in Waterfront Bistro's tartar sauce is impressive in that it's both intense and balanced. It doesn't overwhelm your palate when it's paired with something mild like a plain French fry, but it also holds up well with a mouthful of spicy breaded shrimp, in both cases leaving you with a vibrant, refreshing tang that lingers long after you've finished the bite. I felt like I could eat a whole bucket of fried seafood with this sauce. I still might.

2. Beaver

Beaver tartar sauce bottle
Beaver tartar sauce bottle - Wendy Hector/Daily Meal

The top two spots on this list went down to the wire, so you could consider Beaver's tartar sauce a winner. The second you open the lid, a wave of fresh dill envelops you, like an invigorating wind blowing through an herb garden. Then you taste it, and find it's surprisingly layered. The dill is prominent, but there's so much more going on. The pickles are fresh, the citrus is zesty, the capers are briny, the spices are savory. It's a beautifully balanced, delightfully intense sauce.

What impressed me most about Beaver's sauce was how well its flavor held up in all situations. A lot of sauces seemed to fall flat and lose their oomph with certain foods, but Beaver's flavor stayed strong, never getting drowned out by crunch or richness or spice. Every bite finished with a fresh burst of dill and lemony tang which was addictively delicious. The texture was also perfect for dipping. This tartar sauce really does have it all, and I will gleefully be spreading and drizzling it on everything until the bottle is scraped clean.

1. Vince's

Vince's tartar sauce jar
Vince's tartar sauce jar - Wendy Hector/Daily Meal

However many sauces I tasted, however many times and ways I tried them, I always found myself coming back to Vince's. When it came down to two contenders, Vince's and Beaver, it was the perfect acidic tang of Vince's that pushed this jar over the top. It might not blow you out of the water at first taste, but after a few bites, its balance and brilliance become clear. This tartar sauce tastes like you just whipped it up in the kitchen, with the freshest flavors of the bunch. There's nothing off in this sauce, no questionable recipe decisions or lack of key elements, and the flavor profile is somehow classic and recognizable, but still exciting.

The acidity in Vince's sauce, which comes from white vinegar and lemon juice, is crisp and sharp without being unpleasantly sour. Flavors like garlic, onion, and dill match that freshness and add depth of flavor. I thought I preferred squeeze bottles, but found Vince's classic screw-top jar to be convenient, especially considering the sauce's thick, creamy consistency, which is easier to spoon than pour. While some other sauces are richer and some are more intense, none are as bright or balanced. Vince's does a perfect job of enhancing the food it's partnered with without upstaging it or fading into the background. I can't wait to put it on everything.


various bottles of tartar sauce
various bottles of tartar sauce

To select the tartar sauces for this ranking, I cast a wide net, looking for products at a wide range of price points from popular brands that are widely available. Each sauce was tasted on its own to get an initial assessment of its flavor and quality. Then they were each used as a dip for various types of breaded and fried seafood -- shrimp, calamari, and fish -- as well as French fries, in order to see how well they complement the foods they are typically served with. The sauces were then ranked against each other and the order chosen based on a combination of factors including flavor, texture, balance, quality, and value.

Read the original article on The Daily Meal.