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Capers (Recipe: grilled tuna sandwiches with tartar sauce)

Grilled tuna sandwich with tartar sauce

True confession: I don't love capers all that much.

More than once, the long-stemmed giant caper berries from The Gourmet Outlet, so beautiful on an antipasto platter, have tempted me. More than once, a tin of medium-sized salt-packed capers from France has leapt off the gourmet shop shelf and into my cart.

The fancier the capers, the more I've wanted to love them.

I've tried, really. More than once.

Nevertheless, there's always a jar of capers, from the supermarket or local Italian market, in the door of my refrigerator. Some dishes just need the flavor of capers, and nothing else will do.

What are capers?
The unopened buds of a bush native to the Mediterranean region; the buds are harvested in the morning, and always brined in vinegar or packed in salt, and they have a strong, floral, lemon flavor. (You can substitute preserved lemons in many dishes calling for capers.)

How/where to store:
In the cupboard; if the capers are in a glass jar, store in the refrigerator after opening. Be sure to keep brined capers covered with the brine; don't let them dry out.

More facts about capers, and ingredient photos, in The Perfect Pantry:
Capers (Recipe: roast halibut with orange-caper gremolata)

Grilled tuna sandwich

Grilled tuna sandwiches with tartar sauce

An all-purpose tartar sauce with the fresh taste of lemon and capers will liven up almost any grilled fish: swordfish, salmon, cod, or whatever looks best at the market. Double the recipe, and keep some on hand for a few weeks in the refrigerator. Serves 4.


For the tartar sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used Miracle Whip)
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1-1/4 tsp capers, drained
3 gherkin pickles
3/4 tsp dried dill weed
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or more to taste
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper

4 4-oz pieces fresh tuna steak (or swordfish, or salmon)
1 Tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
Lettuce leaves
4 hamburger buns


Combine tartar sauce ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until the pickles and capers are chopped and everything is combined. Taste, and adjust seasoning with more lemon juice, salt and pepper, as needed. (Can be made hours or days ahead. Refrigerate until ready to use.)

Preheat grill, grill pan or broiler to high heat. Take the fish out of the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature while the grill is heating.

Cut the tuna to make four portions. Brush each piece with olive oil, and sprinkle on both sides with salt and pepper.

The fish should cook 10 minutes for each inch of thickness. If your fish is one inch thick, cook for 5 minutes per side. If it's half an inch thick, cook for 3 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the second side.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Chicken marbella
Confetti spaghetti
Pasta puttanesca
Empanadas filled with chicken picadillo
Goat cheese and olive stuffed peppers

Other recipes that use capers:
Grilled chicken with lemon, capers and oregano, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Pork medallions with mustard-caper sauce, from Simply Recipes
Lemony egg salad with basil and capers, from Not Eating Out in New York
Carrots with capers, from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska
Pasta with chicken sausage, tomatoes, olives, and other good stuff, from Al Dente

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Oh, good Lord - that tartar sauce looks amazing. As for capers, I typically end up adding twice the amount because my sons and I tend to arm-wrestle over the last ones left on the plate.

Have you tried frying capers? Oh my. It's amazing how much better they taste! Just toast them in butter or really crisp them in olive oil.

This looks way more appetizing than that "fast food joint's" fish sandwiches! I only make my tartar, complete with capers.

I only use homemade tartar sauce and capers are a necessary ingredient. I usually make extra to mix into tuna spread for sandwiches. Try adding a little Sriracha to the sauce to add a little kick.
I put drained capers in my olive oil for dipping oil for hot bread, along with garlic, and small amounts of roasted red pepper strips, onion and grated parmesan.

Capers -- as well as lemon & butter -- are a required ingredient in the French classic "truite grenobloise" (trout in style of Grenoble). Another truly delicious dish.

I see that Amy also fries capers, which is the comment I planned on leaving here. They are indeed delightful and bring a whole new taste and texture to the fore. I adorn my deviled eggs with fried capers.

I love capers (but no Miracle Whip in my tartar sauce!) I think this loves like a great way to dress up grilled tuna!

Love the pictures, they make me so hungry! Thank u for sharing.

Cookin' Canuck, now that is love!

Amy, Christine: Believe it or not, I've never fried capers, but I can definitely see how frying would change both the taste and texture. I'm definitely going to try it.

Peter, Barb: There is no comparison between homemade and store-bought tartar sauce. Barb, I love how you can vary the flavor to match the preparation of the fish. I love tartar sauce on French fries and vegetables, too.

Mae, I've never had trout prepared that way; it sounds divine.

Kalyn, what Miracle Whip adds is a bit of sweetness, so using Hellmann's and adding a pinch of sugar would give the same effect.

Best Cook, thanks.

I have to say, I adore capers. Always have and always will. But I can see how they wouldn't be a favorite for everyone. I know they would go great with this tuna steak though. I love this recipe!

I loved the grilled tuna and caper tartar sauce. It's earthy flavour would go so well wuth the tartar sauce.

Capers are a must for me - in fact I may list them as a favorite food right after pickles! but I am most definitely a "salty vinegar" person as opposed to a "sweet"
(some might say that describes my personality too ;-)
I am off to try something new: Fried Capers! thanks!

I just had a tuna salad with capers for lunch! I love them lots. This is a great looking recipe. And, the photos? Mouth watering!

I just did some research on capers! How timely!

The only way I've ever used them is with Chicken Piccata - at least that I can think of. I'll try them fried, just might have a jar still the fridge. I can see how the capers would be good for tuna though. Thanks for the ideas!

I'm not a huge fan of capers in general either, but I do find, like you, that they're essential for some things! Piccata is what comes immediately to mind for me - now I'll have to remember this the mext time I splurge on some ahi burgers!

Joanne, Bellini Valli: The pairing of the oily tuna with the acidic capers is truly delicious. Hope you'll try it.

Carol, I'm going to try frying them, too. It will be a first for me.

Redmenace, I love to make a salad with Italian canned tuna (in olive oil) and capers. Sounds like your lunch!

Liz, I often use them in piccata, too. Since capers are always in my pantry, I'm always trying new ways to use them.

FabFrugalFood, sometimes I substitute preserved lemon for capers. Have you tried that? You get the same pickled taste, but with a hint of lemon, too.

Capers fried in butter are so sinfully delicious.

I like capers in my Nicoise salads.

I have been meaning to fry capers for a while to try it. I didnt think it would make a difference, but now I do. I am not a huge fan of grilled tuna, but I will be using your tartar sauce for a canned tuna sandwich tommorow!

wait a minute - I thought this was about grilled tuna sandwich? love capers in all forms BUT I want to know more about the tuna. Husband brought 20# back with him from Baja and what do I do with it?

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