A French classic, Steak Tartare is a raw preparation of beef that is common in French bistros, brasseries, and cafes. It's easy to make, requires no cooking, and is best with a side of fries, a light salad, and/or toast points.
(This recipe was originally published in July 2019, but was updated with new photos and content in 2020).
Steak tartare, aka beef tartare, is a combination of hand-chopped raw beef, finely minced shallot/onion, capers, and cornichons, all tossed in a tangy and acidic Dijon mustard-based dressing. Recipes often include egg yolks in the dressing, or place whole egg yolks atop each serving.
There are many recipes for this dish throughout the internet, and in essentially every French cookbook. There are of course similarities and some differences, from the cut of beef to the slight variations in how the meat is seasoned.
For example, the late great Anthony Bourdain's recipe in the Les Halles Cookbook includes ketchup, anchovies, and Cognac, which I did not see in any other recipe I came across.
- Beef: Some folks use top round or sirloin for their tartare. You're best off using beef tenderloin if you can afford it. My local meat market sells this top cut at a reasonable price. Make sure your beef is as fresh as possible, since you will be consuming it raw.
- Cornichons: Cornichons are tiny pickled cucumbers commonly accompanying charcuterie. Use finely chopped cornichons or other small dill pickles in this beef tartare recipe.
- Dijon Mustard: Make sure you use classic French Dijon mustard and not another variety (like yellow or brown mustard) to get a truly authentic beef tartare. The Dijon adds some sharpness and great flavor.
- Egg Yolk: The egg yolk like the beef itself is consumed raw in French steak tartare. Infants, pregnant women, older adults and other high-risk groups should avoid eating raw eggs and raw meat.
How to make classic steak tartare
After much research I put together my own formula using a more traditional approach. The first step for making this steak tartare recipe is to briefly freeze the beef tenderloin so it slightly firms up. This will make it much easier to hand chop the beef into small pieces.
Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients for the tartare. Finely chop cornichons, capers, parsley, and some shallot.
In a small, separate mixing bowl whisk together the dressing. You'll need an egg yolk, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, oil, Worcestershire sauce, and a couple dashes of hot sauce.
Once the beef is relatively firm on the outside but still easily pierced with a knife, remove it from the freezer.
Slice the tenderloin against the grain, then cut into matchsticks, and finally into tiny cubes about ¼-inch across in each direction. Combine the hand-chopped beef with the cornichon-caper mixture and the dressing.
How to serve beef tartare
Once the beef is evenly dressed, you may serve the tartare. Traditionally you can use a ring to shape the mixture into a patty. If you don't have a round cookie cutter or pastry ring, you can shape it free-form into a flat patty on a plate.
I find a 3 ¾-inch ring is a pretty good size for dividing the tartare into individual portions. Simply place the ring on your plate, pile a quarter of the mixture into the ring, and carefully press so it's even and flat on top. Then remove the ring. Voilà!
Serve your tartare with French fries, toast points (toasted crusty bread like a baguette is good here) and/or a light salad. I like slicing a baguette on the bias into ½-inch thick slices, lightly brushing or spraying with extra virgin olive oil, then toasting in a 375 degree F oven for about 10 minutes until crisp but not dried out.
This particular recipe is a bit more acidic than some others. I really wanted to replicate the highly acidic flavor of the steak tartare I enjoyed at Cafe Blanc in Paris. It definitely packs a punch, and that's what I like so much about it.
It's important to taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking once you combine everything. Of course as is the case with any raw preparation of meat, be sure to serve it cold and immediately.
If you don't have 3 other people to enjoy this tartare with you, you can definitely halve the recipe (I've done this). Use half an egg yolk (doesn't need to be super exact) or splurge a little and use the entire yolk for the 2 servings.
Do not plan to have leftovers. Steak tartare should be eaten immediately, not later or the following day.
Here's a fun idea for a variation. Add finely cubed gruyère cheese to your beef mixture! A friend of mine mentioned she enjoyed steak tartare at a restaurant with this unique twist, and tried it herself using my recipe and LOVED the version with cheese just as much as the original. I'm going to try it next time with cheese!
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Steak Tartare (Beef Tartare)
- 1 pound beef tenderloin
- 1 shallot minced
- 2 tablespoons capers drained and chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cornichons or small dill pickles (not sweet pickles)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- A couple shakes of hot sauce
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Place the beef in the freezer for about 1 hour until the exterior begins to firm up and form crystals but it’s still easily pierced with a knife. This will make it easier to finely hand-chop.
- Meanwhile, prep the shallot, capers, cornichons, and parsley in a small bowl, and set aside. In another small bowl whisk together the egg yolk, vinegar, mustard, oil, Worcestershire, and hot sauce.
- Remove the beef from the freezer, slice it thinly against the grain, then slice into fine strips, and then finally dice into small cubes, about ¼-inch across. Transfer the beef to a large mixing bowl and gently combine it with the shallot and caper mixture as well as the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed with salt, pepper, etc.
- Divide into 4 equal portions, press each portion into a round cookie cutter on a plate. Remove the ring and serve immediately, preferably with toast points/toasted baguette slices, fries and/or salad.
- I have seen recipes that use sirloin–Anthony Bourdain’s does–and top round, but beef tenderloin should be your first choice if it’s affordable.
- If you don't have 3 other people to enjoy this tartare with you, you can definitely halve the recipe. Use half an egg yolk (doesn't need to be super exact) or splurge a little and use the entire yolk for the 2 servings. Do not plan to have leftovers. Steak tartare should be eaten immediately, not later or the following day.
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*