Lent 2023: The Best Food Freebies And Deals

If thinking about Lenten food doesn't excite you, you're not alone. It's not exactly a cake walk: the 40-day lead up to Christian Holy Week and Easter is a time of fasting and abstinence, not indulgence and revelry. Fasting is a key part of many religions' observances, from Ramadan to Yom Kippur. In line with traditional fasting, Lenten food is mostly about what you can't eat (meat, rich foods), rather than what you can (not a lot). For centuries, Christians gave up all sorts of ingredients for Lent that they enjoyed during the rest of the year: meat, eggs, and dairy were all off-limits from Ash Wednesday until the day before Easter. Even today, Orthodox Christians give up those foods and more during the six-week period: olive oil, wine, and even fish itself is off-limits (though shellfish is OK). 

Over the centuries, the cultural and religious practices around this penitential season have shifted and lessened: most Protestant Christians do not fast during this time, but Catholics are still asked to forego meat on Fridays and on Ash Wednesday — but nowadays, fish and shellfish are fine during Lent. Many people also choose to give up sweets or other foods as part of individual Lenten sacrifices or practices. 

It's hard to offer incentives on what people don't eat, and Lenten specials offering "1 for 2" candy bars aren't likely to garner enthusiasm. But while many people aren't eating as much meat, they are eating a good deal more fish and shellfish.

7-Eleven, Speedway, and Stripes

When Lent rolls around, well-known restaurants and fast food chains typically have a number of specials on offer for those looking to increase their seasonal seafood consumption, whether this be for religious or other reasons.

Probably the best-known contender in the fasting food market is McDonald's Filet-o-Fish sandwich, which is offered year-round. But other quick-service restaurants have entered the fray in order to remind consumers that there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

Some of these fish options are supremely affordable: 7-Eleven, Speedway, and Stripes all have a $2 Friday Fish Sandwich on offer on Fridays throughout the whole Lenten season. The fish is pollock; it is coated in a garlic and herb breading, topped with tartar sauce and cheese, and served on a brioche bun. At this price, you may be tempted to get a second to give to a friend — or even just for yourself.


Popeyes has applied its signature deep-fried sandwich goodness to something other than its iconic chicken sandwich this year, bringing back its redundantly named Flounder Fish Sandwich. The chain's Lent-perfect options feature flounder that's been herb-marinated and fried in crispy coating. This year, it's offered in two varieties: "classic" with tartar sauce, or in a new "spicy" edition, with a spicy mayo sauce to increase the heat. Both are perched atop a brioche bun and served with pickles. 

This year, Popeyes is hoisting another choice on board, too: the Shrimp Tackle Box, complete with butterflied shrimp, a side, and a buttermilk biscuit — kind of like a bento box by way of Louisiana. No need to dig deep into your pockets for these; either will only set you back $6. The chicken chain is also offering an incentive for ordering seafood from its app or online: an extra 200 points, which could earn you some free fries. Hello, fish and chips. 

Long John Silver's

Another $6 deal comes by way of a familiar name in the seafood-faring world: Long John Silver's. It's no surprise that Silver's has Lenten specials, since fish is what this chain does year-round. Silver's menu presents a wide variety of fish and seafood, but they've rustled up a couple of seasonal offers for weeks before Easter.

There are two special deals: the shrimp basket and the heftier "sea share." These shrimp-centric celebrations come in one of three ways: grilled with rice and a side; batter-dipped; or crispy-breaded popcorn shrimp served with a side and two hushpuppies. If you're looking to increase your quantities while sticking with the fast, $4 more will land you 15 shrimp instead of the usual 8. Long John Silver's is also offering up an option aimed to please big and small fry alike: 12 batter-dipped shrimp; eight hand-battered, wild-caught Alaska pollock fillets; two family-size sides; and eight hushpuppies round out your Friday (or any day) fish fry.

Red Lobster

Proving that fish isn't just for Fridays, Red Lobster has offers that span the whole week, and can serve up enough variety to cover the 6-week span before Easter comes around. 

In addition to a $13.99 Fish Fry Friday, the chain also has Endless Shrimp on Mondays ($21.99 for all you can eat); Two for Tuesdays (two different entrées); a surf-and-turf "Steak and Lobster" on Wednesdays; and Throwback Thursdays featuring fan-favorite shrimp for $14.99. 

And if lobster can't liven up your Lenten fast, we don't know what can. Just in time for the season, LobsterFest is back in town, too: true to its name, Red Lobster is featuring a vast assortment of lobster dishes on the menu. The offerings run the culinary spectrum, from creamy Italian linguine to shrimp and lobster stuffed tacos and a Bar Harbor seafood and lobster bake, there's certainly a lot to choose from. 

Omaha Steaks

Yes, you read that right. While putting steaks on sale might seem like a cruel move, the beef-famous company is actually luring you with its seafood offerings. Omaha Steaks carries a lot more than steaks, and the retailer is reminding you of that by presenting a wide range of fish and shellfish for 50% off. 

From Wild Argentinian Red Shrimp and marinated salmon filets to ahi tuna and lobster tails, the menu boasts an impressive array of meat-free options that require minimal prep time, giving you options beyond the usual fish fry.  Omaha Steaks carries fish that may not be available in your local area, so it's one way to expand your horizons. The company's options include sampler packs that allow you to try an assortment of different types of fish and seafood — all at half price. If that sounds like an excuse to eat twice as much, that decision is on you. 

The small fry: seasonal offerings

Even though not every restaurant offers Lenten discounts, some are still featuring special limited-time only menu items for the season.

White Castle's shrimp nibblers are back in town for a few weeks, while Carls Jr and Hardee's pollack sandwiches are back on the menu just in time. Arby's is carrying the King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich again and Quizno's has creations that resemble lobster rolls on offer. 

And just to prove it's not all sandwiches and fish fries, Del Taco and Taco Cabana have added specialty shrimp tacos back on their menu. Of course, vegetarian options like Impossible Burgers are always fair game (even if they seem to miss the spirit of the Lenten law, as the Washington Post has pointed out).

But it's Chik-fil-A that's making the real waves. The Atlanta-based chain recently broke out of its chicken run to explore a fried cauliflower sandwich, just in time for the season. Early reports are enthusiastic, which makes us wonder whether these choices are a sacrifice — or an indulgence? Either way, it's all in the spirit of the season.