Chimichurri Aioli or Argentine Tartar Sauce

May 24, 2011
1 Ratings
  • Makes About 1 1/2 cups
Author Notes

It's Soft Shell Crab week here in Maryland! Just one of the many annual delicacies looked forward to by many folks here in the Chesapeake Bay region, even more than strawberries or tomato season. Soft Shell Crabs are crabs that are in the active process of molting. During this time, (only about 48 hours) their shells are soft and the crab can be eaten whole without peeling. The season usually runs from Mother's Day to about the Fourth of July, but Memorial Day is peak season. Whether they are served tempura style, pan fried with plenty of brown butter (my favorite), or simply grilled—they are my favorite seafood.

This sauce is the perfect accompaniment for their sweetness without hiding it, and it's such a nice change from traditional tartar sauce. In this dish, you get the garlicky, tangy, bright flavors of the herbs and capers in traditional chimichurri with a little heat from the chile powder, and the mellow creaminess of aioli. Normally, I would make the aioli with 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 neutral oil, but I like the olivey taste with this version. Feel free to change it if you like a less olive note. If you don't have soft shell crabs - no worries! Serve this with any firm, white fish steaks that have been simply grilled with lemon juice, oil and herbs to brighten the flavors. - Burnt Offerings

Here is my favorite way to prepare the crabs if you need some further inspiration:

Photos: Finished dish - my photo; Crabs - courtesy of, Grilled fish - courtesy of
Burnt Offerings

Test Kitchen Notes

Burnt Offering's Chimichurri Aioli was a wonderful marriage between traditional aioli and classic chimichurri sauce. The parsley and cilantro added a freshness and the capers brought a nice briny bite. This "Argentine Tartar Sauce" is perfect for the suggested soft shell crabs and would also be great on grilled meats and seafood. A squeeze of lemon mixed in right before serving brightened all the flavors. - jvcooks —jvcooks

What You'll Need
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoon capers, drained, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • Grated rind from one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon crumbled dry oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ancho or aleppo chile powder
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 fresh egg yolks - room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. Make the Chimichurri by combining the parsley, cilantro, capers, vinegar, lemon rind, oregano and chile powder in a small bowl and set aside. (I make this in a small food processor and just give a good whirl to a pesto consistency)
  2. In a mortar & pestle grind up garlic and salt until a smooth paste is formed.
  3. Beat egg yolks with an electric mixer until pale yellow and thick.
  4. Add olive oil, drizzled drop by drop into the egg yolk mixture as you continue to beat. As the mixture thickens, you can then add the oil in a thin stream as you beat. Half way through, add in the garlic paste.
  5. When the oil is used up, and the mixture is a thick mayonnaise consistency, fold in the chimichurri mixture.
  6. Correct for seasoning (you may want more salt, depending on your vinegar and capers) and refrigerate.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Midge
  • Sagegreen
  • gingerroot
  • meganvt01
  • aargersi

13 Reviews

Midge May 25, 2011
Soft shell crabs are just about my favorite thing in the world, and with chimichurri? Yum!
Sagegreen May 24, 2011
What a great feast!
gingerroot May 24, 2011
Oh yum, Linda!! I love chimichurri and pairing with soft shell crab is brilliant.
meganvt01 May 24, 2011
Wow - I love this idea. My Annapolis crabs will definitely be getting this treatment this summer.
Burnt O. May 24, 2011
Thanks megan - but THREE aoli dips??!! You outdid yourself. I've never had much luck making french fries, but I may have to try yours. I have an overabundance of fresh sugar snap peas from this week's Farmer's Market - they're so good dipped in aoli. I may try a few and start with yours.
aargersi May 24, 2011
What time should we be there? :-) yum
AntoniaJames May 24, 2011
Yeah, I'll be there, too! ;o)
Burnt O. May 24, 2011
Seriously - rapture a week late!
Burnt O. May 24, 2011
Seriously - rapture a week late.
AntoniaJames May 24, 2011
Love this! My second favorite thing about your lovely state (after the astonishingly high level of lacrosse played there, at all levels) is the soft shelled crabs. It's obvious that this recipe is going to become a favorite here. I plan to make some without the chili -- it's not that I don't like it, but rather, it doesn't like me -- soon, and will report back. Great idea, too, the Champagne vinegar. I make my own Champagne vinegar, so I'm often looking for new ideas on how to use it. Thanks for a great recipe!! ;o)
Burnt O. May 24, 2011
Thanks! Such a compliment! Yeah - the Champagne vinegar is much softer than the traditional red wine vinegar used in Chimichurri - I really liked it. I'm sure it will taste just fine without the chile powder. That's what was fun about this contest - with egg yolk, oil, garlic, and a little acid, the possibilities are endless. And it's nice that it's a condiment and doesn't steal the show from good, well prepared, Soft Shell Crabs.
inpatskitchen May 24, 2011
Oh my!!....soft shell crabs and this aioli? I'm in heaven!
Burnt O. May 24, 2011
I'm still working my mind around your aoli bread!