Fast Food Fish Sandwiches That Deserve A Permanent Spot On The Menu

Chicken and beef tend to dominate fast-food menus, but several fish sandwiches deserve a permanent spot too. There are only a small number of fast-food fish sandwiches that stay on the menu year-round, like McDonald's Filet-O-fish, Burger King's Fish'N Crisp, Checkers and Rally's crispy fish sandwich and Deep Sea Double, and White Castle's panko breaded fish slider. If fish is your go-to, you're out of luck at most fast-food restaurants for the majority of the year since they tend to only include fish sandwiches on the menu seasonally during Lent to avoid losing Catholic customers. 

Nevertheless, people like to eat fish year-round, so we struggle with the idea of fast-food fish sandwiches only being seasonal. We've sought out the discontinued or temporary fish sandwiches we think deserve a permanent place on fast-food menus to give fish lovers more choices. Some are fairly ordinary, with nothing more than tartar sauce and lettuce as toppings. Others are premium versions with veggies, coleslaw, superior buns, cheese, or even spicy fish. While most fast-food restaurants don't want to devote a fryer bay to fish year-round, we wish they would. In the meantime, we can dream.

McDonald's Filet-O-Fish deluxe

The Filet-O-Fish has had an enduring spot on the menu at McDonald's and continues to have a nostalgic appeal. The original Filet-O-Fish sandwich comes with fried, wild-caught Alaskan pollock, along with a slice of American cheese and tangy tartar sauce. However, between 1996 and 2000, McDonald's sold a deluxe Filet-O-Fish that it advertised as having a "grown-up taste" (per Twitter). It had all the same ingredients as the standard Filet-O-Fish but was 50% larger, included lettuce, and came on a fluffy sesame-seed bun. When McDonald's reintroduced the sandwich in 2015, it was the same size as the regular Filet-O-Fish but with lettuce and tomato and it cost an extra dollar. That's not quite what we were hoping for.

We'd like to see a return of the original large Filet-O-Fish deluxe with a sesame-seed bun, lettuce, and tomato rather than the one that hit the menu in 2015. A larger sandwich with veggie toppings is more appealing than the small plain fish sandwich currently on the menu. In the meantime, you can always customize your sandwich with lettuce and tomato, and the app allows you to order a double Filet-O-Fish with two fish patties. However, it's not quite the same.

Burger King's Whaler

Burger King is one of the few fast-food restaurants with a fish sandwich on its menu year-round. The chain's current offering is the Fish'N Crisp, but the one that customers remember more fondly is the Whaler, which debuted in 1975. The sandwich made a comeback in 1983 along with a Cajun Whaler in 1987, but then Burger King discontinued forever. Those who still dream about the Whaler say that even the Big Fish sandwich that Burger King occasionally brings out for Lent doesn't compare in flavor to the sandwich from the '80s. That big juicy fried fish patty on a sesame seed bun with lettuce and tartar sauce was everything.

When people started reminiscing about this beloved sandwich on the In the 80s forum, the message board went off the rails. Whaler lover @Rascal said, "The Whaler was awesome! Nice white fish hardly ever any dark spots and never 'fishy' tasting. It set my standard for fast-food fish sandwiches. I haven't found [any] nearly as good today." Everything from the moistness factor to the superior taste of the tartar sauce makes fans nostalgic for this oversized fish sandwich. One fan, @Dave, said that "it was so juicy it might squirt and hit the person across the table." Perhaps that's where it got its name. When a fast-food fish sandwich last seen 40 years ago brings back that many fond food memories, it's worth a reboot. Surely, someone kept the recipe. Right?

Wendy's North Pacific cod sandwich

Wendy's North Pacific cod sandwich captured the hearts and taste buds of customers for years during the Lenten season. However, the last time it was featured on the menu was in the spring of 2020, before Wendy's discontinued it in favor of a pollock sandwich. Earlier versions of the cod sandwich only came with lettuce and tartar sauce, however, Wendy's improved it over the years.

In 2020, it came on a toasted bun with crispy, fried North Pacific cod and lettuce. It was also infused with a dill flavor thanks to the pickles and tartar sauce, which gave the sandwich an added burst of flavor. Among its many qualities, the cod sandwich had a soft buttery brioche bun and the fish was pleasantly moist and flaky. When it was available on the menu, Redditor u/4Door77Monaco called Wendy's cod sandwich "one of the best in the game."

Wendy's crispy panko fish sandwich

When Wendy's offered a sandwich during the Lent season in 2021, customers found that the chain had abandoned its beloved cod sandwich in favor of a crispy panko fish sandwich. Rather than cod, Wendy's crispy panko fish sandwich contains wild Alaska pollock, which is the same type of fish used in McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich. The contents are the same as its predecessor, except that it comes with panko-coated fried pollock instead of fried cod. Like the previous sandwich, It is also garnished with lettuce, crunchy dill pickles, and tartar sauce. The sandwich is served on a toasty bun and gets a flavor lift from melted American cheese (which is not included with the cod sandwich).

There are mixed reviews from those who have tried both the North Pacific cod sandwich and the wild Alaska pollock sandwich. Some think the new version is a big improvement in terms of flavor, while others like the cod better. To make everyone happy, maybe Wendy's could alternate which one is available on the menu. We'd be happy with anything as long as the chain puts some type of fish sandwich on the menu permanently. 

Chick-fil-A's fish sandwich

Sure, Chick-fil-A is traditionally a chicken restaurant, but it would probably make more people happy by having its fish sandwich on the menu outside of the Lenten season. In 2021, the chain seemed on track to permanently discontinue its seasonal fish sandwich. Since kitchens required an extra fryer to be able to handle chicken and fish separately, it disrupted the normal pace. While the sandwich was nowhere to be found in 2021, customers were happy to see it reappear in some locations in the spring of 2022 and 2023.

Chick-fil-A fried fish sandwiches are made with Pacific cod. Both versions of the sandwich come on a buttery, toasted bun with two fish fingers and dill pickles. The tartar sauce comes on the side so you can add as much as you want. If you order the deluxe version, you'll get lettuce, tomato, and American cheese as extra toppings. The traditional version isn't nearly as exciting as the deluxe version. However, the fish is soft and flaky, and it makes a good alternative if you're not in the mood for chicken at Chick-fil-A, so we wish it was available year-round.

Arby's crispy fish sandwich

Arby's often brings out a fancier fish sandwich for Lent, but it's usually added to the menu alongside the ordinary crispy fish sandwich. Sometimes, when you're craving a fish sandwich, you just want something simple without extraneous ingredients. Arby's crispy fish sandwich comes on a toasted sesame seed bun, which is the only semi-fancy part about it. A sweet tartar sauce and shredded lettuce are the only other ingredients.

When @theendorsement tried the crispy fish sandwich on YouTube, he commented, "[it] kind of reminds me of frozen fish sticks a little bit, but it's a lot better than frozen fish sticks." It also doesn't have an overly fishy flavor. This is a solid little sandwich, which is why Arby's brings it back every year even though the chain has invented other more elaborate fish sandwiches. We only wish it were available year-round to satisfy our fishy cravings.

Arby's spicy fish sandwich

For those looking for a more fiery fish sandwich during the Lenten season, Arby's fish sandwiches fill that niche too. While the crispy fish sandwich is great for people who like their sandwiches without frills, Arby's spicy fish sandwich has a tantalizing kick that sets it apart and makes it deserving of a permanent place on the menu. It comes with lettuce and tartar sauce just like the crispy fish sandwich. However, the crispy, spicy fish fillet, tomato slices, and fire-roasted jalapeños make for a zesty and unique flavor combination.

Sadly, while the spicy fish sandwich was available on the menu in the spring of 2022, it was nowhere to be found in 2023. Perhaps Arby's is alternating it with the King's Hawaiian fish deluxe sandwich rather than placing three fish sandwiches on the menu at the same time. We're not sure why most other fast-food chains don't seem to have tapped into the hot fish idea, considering hot chicken has been such a craze. People who miss this sandwich describe it as intensely spicy. However, the flavor punch is what makes it superior to many other fish sandwiches and worthy of permanent menu status.

Arby's King's Hawaiian fish deluxe sandwich

Arby's King's Hawaiian fish deluxe sandwich is a true gem on its Lenten menu. It provides a sweet flavor experience that you wouldn't expect. Don't get all excited thinking this sandwich comes with pineapples or a fancy fish like mahi-mahi. Instead, the "Hawaiian" element consists of a sweet King's Hawaiian bun that is both toasted and fluffy at the same time. Like the Arby's crispy fish sandwich, the King's Hawaiian fish deluxe comes with a crispy fish fillet, shredded lettuce, and sweet tartar sauce. The combo of a sweet bun and sweet tartar sauce makes it overall sweeter than the average fish sandwich. Tomato slices and cheddar cheese transform it into deluxe territory.

We like that Arby's didn't go with American cheese and ordinary buns for this sandwich like so many other fast-food chains. Higher-quality ingredients give it a delectable flavor experience, plus it's double the size of the McDonald's fish sandwich. In some years, the fish patty is big enough to hang off the bun, while in other years, the huge bun dwarfs the fish patty. Customers love this tasty sandwich, so we think it deserves a permanent place on the menu.

Popeyes' Cajun flounder fish sandwich

Popeyes' signature flair placed the Cajun flounder fish sandwich on firm footing in the Lenten fish sandwich competition when it arrived in 2021. Customers who tried it were met with a flavor explosion thanks to the fried Cajun-spiced flounder, tart pickles, and a choice of a spicy condiment or tartar sauce. The vinegary tang and the sweet brioche bun provide a good balance for the sandwich's spices, making it delightful to eat. We're also impressed by the choice of mild, delicate flounder over other types of fish.

While Popeyes introduced a non-spiced version of the sandwich in 2022, it's the Cajun version that really shines. Of course, it's hard to beat Popeye's spicy chicken sandwich, but the flounder fish sandwich holds its own. The fish is flaky, and the flavor is excellent. The regular Popeyes menu contains shrimp, but we'd love to see a spicy fish sandwich year-round for fish lovers, especially since Cajun cuisine is traditionally seafood-heavy.

Whataburger Whatacatch sandwich

Whataburger has both a Whatacatch sandwich and Whatacatch platter available for Lent, which is an idea we applaud since not everyone wants their fish on a bun. However, if you are a bun-loving fish eater, the Whatacatch sandwich is likely to reel you in. The fish variety for this sandwich is Alaska pollock and it comes breaded with seasoned panko crumbs. The sandwich is garnished with tartar sauce, tomato slices, and lettuce. Whataburger also suggests trying add-ons like melted American cheese, jalapeños, or Creamy Pepper sauce, to take it to another flavor level and customize it to your taste. 

Redditor u/United_Caregiver7046 says, "It's a really good sandwich that got better when they switched out the fish a few years ago." Meanwhile, Redditor u/Sansyboy14 thinks it's "easily the best fast food fish sandwich." We only wish it were on the menu year-round to provide a more diversified menu for customers looking for an option beyond chicken and burgers.

Freddy's deluxe crispy fish sandwich

2023 was the first year Freddy's offered its deluxe crispy fish sandwich for Lent. However, this isn't the only time the chain has offered fish. Menus in previous years have included seafood offerings like a fish and chips basket (which we think more fast-food places should offer) and a regular fish sandwich. Freddy's fish sandwich is a beautiful mess, with a crispy, battered Alaska flounder fillet extending well beyond the soft toasted bun. 

The sandwich's lengthwise-cut pickles and shredded lettuce will also try to escape while you're eating it, so you'll want to be vigilant. It also comes with American cheese and Freddy's signature tartar sauce. The flavor combination is reminiscent of a fish sandwich topped with coleslaw, despite there being none on the sandwich. This is one of the more expensive fast-food fish sandwiches at over $7 as of 2023. However, it's extremely good and deserves a place on the permanent menu so that seafood lovers can enjoy it more than once a year.

A&W wild caught cod

All the A&W restaurants we've encountered in the past few years have come attached to a Long John Silver's restaurant, so it was a brave move to introduce a fish sandwich to the menu. The sandwich is made from two pieces of wild-caught cod on a fluffy, toasted bun with coleslaw and tartar sauce. We think coleslaw makes far more sense for a fish sandwich than lettuce, tomato, and cheese, giving it more texture, crunch, and tang than your average fast-food-chain fish sandwich. The thick-cut tender pieces of fish in the sandwich come seasoned and battered, which makes them delectable.

When KBDProductionsTV reviewed this sandwich on YouTube, he said it's "probably one of the nicest fish sandwiches or fish burgers I have ever had," calling it both "fantastic" and "phenomenal." Sadly, it doesn't seem to show up for Lent every year. In both 2022 and 2023, A&W offered cod sliders and pub-style baskets instead of this sandwich. We would love to see it on the permanent menu rather than waiting each year in the hopes that it shows up again for Lent.

Jack in the Box deluxe fish sandwich

Jack in the Box's seasonal fish sandwiches are a satisfying addition to the Lent-season fish lineup in the fast-food world. The chain actually puts out two fish sandwiches each spring: a regular fish sandwich that comes with lettuce and tartar sauce and a deluxe version. The deluxe fish sandwich seems to be the real favorite. It comes with two pieces of panko-coated fish fillets and two slices of American cheese. In addition to the lettuce and tartar sauce that top the plain fish sandwich, this one comes with tomato slices, while a buttery toasted bun completes the flavor profile. Some customers who like McDonald's Filet-O-Fish say they like this sandwich even better.

In 2023, the deluxe fish sandwich cost $7.29, which was nearly as much as buying a regular fish sandwich combo meal. While it's pricey, some customers who would normally get two fish sandwiches like the fact that the deluxe provides two pieces of fish in a single sandwich, saving them from having to eat so many carbs from the buns. If fans had their wish, this sandwich would be available from Jack in the Box year-round.