Seafood salad sauce is typically made from a combination of mayonnaise, lemon juice, herbs, and seasonings. The specific ingredients can vary depending on the type of seafood salad and personal preferences, but some common ingredients include:
Mayonnaise is the base of most seafood salad sauces. Mayonnaise is an emulsion of egg yolks, oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and seasoning. It has a creamy, rich texture that pairs well with seafood. The mayonnaise provides moisture and binding to hold the salad together. Light mayonnaise or low fat mayonnaise is sometimes used as a healthier alternative in seafood salads.
Lemon juice is usually added to seafood salad sauce. The acidity of the lemon helps cut through the richness of the mayonnaise and gives the sauce a refreshing taste. Lemon juice also aids in preventing oxidation and browning of delicate seafood like shrimp or crabmeat. The amount of lemon juice can be adjusted to taste preference.
An assortment of fresh herbs are commonly used to flavor seafood salad sauce. Some popular choices include:
- Parsley – Provides freshness and accentuates other herbs
- Dill – Has a light anise flavor that pairs well with seafood
- Tarragon – Licorice notes work well in seafood salads
- Chives – Offer mild onion flavor and color
- Cilantro – Bright herb that complements lighter seafood
- Basil – Brings sweetness that contrasts seafood flavors
- Oregano – Earthy herb that enhances Mediterranean style salads
The herbs can be finely chopped and added directly to the sauce. Basil, tarragon, dill and other soft herbs will impart more flavor if they are pureed into the sauce.
Adding salt is necessary to properly season the sauce. The amount will depend on flavor preference and the saltiness of other ingredients like anchovies or capers if used. Start with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt per cup of sauce and adjust as needed.
Freshly ground black pepper adds spice flavor to balance the rich, creamy sauce. Add to taste, usually starting with 1/4 teaspoon or less per cup of sauce.
Spices and Seasonings
Other spices may be used to tailor the sauce to the type of seafood salad.
- Old Bay – Works well for crab and shrimp salads
- Curry powder – Adds warmth for lobster or scallop salads
- Paprika – Smoky flavor complements oily fish like salmon or tuna
- Dill seed – Toasted and ground dill seed enhances dill’s flavor
- Celery seed – Provides a salty, vegetal taste
Start with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of spices per cup of sauce. Celery salt or onion powder can also be used to boost flavor. Some chefs may even add a pinch of cayenne or hot sauce for a touch of heat.
In addition to lemon juice, vinegars and other acidic ingredients help brighten the sauce and preserve the seafood.
- White wine vinegar
- Champagne vinegar
- Rice vinegar
- White balsamic vinegar
Add 1 to 2 tablespoons vinegar per cup of sauce. The vinegar used should complement the style of salad, such as champagne vinegar for elegant seafood salads.
Capers and Pickles
Capers and chopped pickles like gherkins or dill pickles add pops of briny flavor. About 1-3 tablespoons per cup of sauce is sufficient. They pair especially well with cured seafood like smoked salmon.
Anchovies are a traditional salad sauce ingredient, lending rich, savory umami. 1-2 finely minced anchovies per cup of sauce is plenty. Opt for anchovy paste if you want the flavor without the texture. Bottarga (cured fish roe) can also be grated as a seasoning.
Prepared horseradish adds sinus-clearing heat and spice. Fold in 1-2 tablespoons per cup of dressing or adjust to preferred spiciness.
Grainy, Dijon or whole grain mustard contributes tangy flavor. Add 1-2 tablespoons per cup or more if desired. Mustard pairs especially well with heartier seafood like tuna or salmon.
Some other ingredients commonly added to seafood salad sauce include:
- Honey – For sweetness to balance acidity
- Relish – Adds texture and flavor
- Sour cream – Makes the sauce richer and thicker
- Hot sauce – Brings heat and vinegar tang
- Worcestershire – Provides depth of flavor
- Wasabi – Spicy kick complements seafood
Start with small amounts around 1-2 teaspoons per cup of sauce for these. Taste and adjust until the desired flavor is reached.
Seafood Salad Sauce Variations
While mayonnaise makes up the base for most seafood salad sauces, there are many flavorful variations suited to different types of seafood salads.
Tartar sauce is commonly paired with fried seafoods like fish sticks, popcorn shrimp, or fried clams. It has a creamy, tangy flavor from:
- Sweet pickle relish
- Dill pickle
- Lemon juice
Cocktail sauce has a ketchup base instead of mayonnaise. It is served with shellfish like shrimp, crab, and lobster and contains:
- Prepared horseradish
- Worcestershire sauce
- Lemon juice
- Hot sauce
Rémoulade is a classic French sauce for cold seafood. It has a mayonnaise base with:
- Grainy mustard
- Herbs like chervil, parsley, chives
Aioli is a garlicky mayonnaise sauce that originates from the Mediterranean region. Traditional aioli contains:
- Olive oil
- Egg yolk
- Lemon juice
Flavored aiolis can be made by adding herbs, spices, citrus, or other ingredients.
Mignonette sauce accompanies raw oysters and shellfish. This simple French sauce is made by combining:
- Red wine vinegar
- Fresh cracked black pepper
Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
Cucumber yogurt sauce is a light, creamy sauce that goes well with poached salmon or other delicate seafood. It’s made by mixing together:
- Plain yogurt
- Peeled, seeded cucumber
- Lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
Green goddess dressing has a mayonnaise base with lots of fresh green herbs. It pairs well with seafood salads containing shrimp, crab, or scallops. Main ingredients include:
- Lemon juice
Making Seafood Salad Sauce
To make seafood salad sauce, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, and seasonings in a bowl and whisk together well. Taste and adjust flavors as needed. The sauce can be covered and refrigerated until ready to use. Allow refrigerated sauce to come to room temperature before tossing with seafood, or the chilled sauce risks turning the proteins tough and rubbery.
When incorporating the sauce with cooked seafood for salad, gently fold together rather than heavy mixing to avoid breaking up delicate proteins like crab. The amount of sauce can vary to taste and how heavily dressed you prefer your salad.
Some additional tips for excellent seafood salad sauce include:
- Use fresh, high-quality lemon juice for bright flavor
- Make sure herbs are dried well before chopping to avoid discoloration
- Use soft herbs like dill, parsley, basil, and chives raw for freshness
- Toast spices like dill seed, celery seed, or cumin briefly to intensify flavor
- Chill sauce before adding to seafood to allow flavors to meld
- Add salty ingredients like capers, pickles, and anchovies in moderation initially
- Brighten rich sauces with a splash of vinegar or hot sauce
Seafood salad sauce can transform simple cooked seafood into a bright, flavorful salad. Play around with different herb and seasoning combinations to create your own signature sauce.
Common Types of Seafood Salad
Seafood salad sauce complements and enlivens a wide variety of seafood salads. Popular choices include:
Chilled, cooked shrimp are tossed with mayo, lemon, herbs, and seasonings for a classic salad. Variations include curry shrimp salad and Cajun spiced shrimp salad.
Lumpy crab meat is gently folded together with a mayo sauce spiked with Old Bay, celery, and lemon. Works well as a salad or crab dip.
Luxurious chunks of lobster meat are dressed in a light dressing of mayonnaise, lemon, tarragon, chervil, and crisp celery. A touch of cayenne, paprika or curry are tasty additions.
Seafood Pasta Salad
A pasta salad made extra appetizing with an assortment of seafood like shrimp, bay scallops, crab, and imitations lobster or crab sticks. Bind with a creamy dressing.
Flaky tuna gets blended with mayo, mustard, onion, pickle relish, herbs, and hard boiled egg for a classic tuna salad. Makes a perfect sandwich filling.
Poached, grilled, or smoked salmon gets flaked into a salad with capers, onion, mayo, and dill for a delicious composed salad.
Seafood Potato Salad
Potato salad is made even better with seafood mix-ins like shrimp, crab, tuna, or smoked salmon. Eggs and vegetables make it a hearty meal.
Smoked Fish Salad
Smoked trout, whitefish, or mackerel are finely chopped and combined with creamy dressing, hard boiled egg, and fresh veggies for an easy make-ahead salad.
Raw seafood like shrimp, scallops, or fish are “cooked” by marinating in lemon or lime juice and mixed with chili peppers, onions, and cilantro for a light, citrus seafood salad.
Freshly shucked oysters are simmered in creamy milk, enriched with butter, thickened with flour, and seasoned for a comforting, briny stew.
The nutrition of seafood salad depends heavily on the ingredients used in the sauce as well as the types of seafood included. Some general nutrition facts about seafood salad:
- Seafood is lean, low fat source of protein. 3 ounces of seafood ranges 15-25g protein.
- Many types of seafood like oysters, mussels, salmon are high in B vitamins.
- Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids that benefit heart health.
- Seafood salad made with a mayo-based sauce will be higher in calories, fat, and cholesterol than lighter dressings.
- Incorporating lots of vegetables like celery, onions, peppers adds fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Pay attention to any ingredients like mayonnaise, creamy dressings, eggs, or oil-packed fish that may increase the fat and calorie content. Overall, seafood salad can be a nutritious meal when lighter sauces are used and loaded with vegetables.
Seafood Salad Nutrition Facts Table
|Seafood Salad (3.5 oz serving)
|Smoked Salmon Salad
|Seafood Pasta Salad
Seafood salad sauce brings together a medley of flavors to perfectly accent and unify a seafood salad. Mayonnaise forms the base along with acid from lemon or vinegar, fragrant herbs and spices, briny pickles or capers, and seasonings like mustard, horseradish or hot sauce. The sauce possibilities are endless, and can be tailored to complement delicate flaked crab, hearty tuna, or roasted salmon. Seafood salad makes for a light, protein packed meal that can be topped with the perfect savory dressing.