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​The Intriguing Tale of McDonald's Filet-O-Fish

​The Intriguing Tale of McDonald's Filet-O-Fish

Posted by Stelios on 5th Sep 2023

The Filet-O-Fish may not enjoy the same status as the Big Mac, but it's a McDonald's offering that has withstood the test of time since 1962. This simple fish sandwich, consisting of a fish filet, tartare sauce, and half a slice of cheese, has some surprising secrets and stories behind it. Let's dive in.

A Sandwich with Religious Origins

Bible and Crucifix

This fishy favourite was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the 1960s, not out of a love for seafood but to meet religious dietary requirements. The city had a large Catholic community, and until 1966, the Catholic Church's rules prevented meat consumption on Fridays. Lou Groen, Cincinnati's first McDonald's franchise owner, invented the Filet-O-Fish as a meat-free alternative. By doing so, he not only boosted his dwindling Friday sales but also added the first new item to McDonald's original menu.

The Hula Burger Face-Off

Ray Kroc, McDonald's founder, had initially opposed the Filet-O-Fish, favouring his invention, the Hula Burger - a grilled pineapple ring sandwich. The two meatless options were put to a sales test, and the Filet-O-Fish emerged victorious, selling 350 sandwiches to the Hula Burger's six. Thus, the fish sandwich was formally added to McDonald's menu in 1965.

Evolution of Ingredients

Contrary to fast food stereotypes, McDonald's Filet-O-Fish is made with 100% wild-caught Alaskan pollock. While initially, Lou Groen wanted to use halibut, cost considerations led to Atlantic cod, which was eventually replaced by Alaskan pollock. Since 2013, the fish is sourced sustainably from a single Alaskan pollock fishery.

The Square Filet and Steamed Bun


You may have noticed that unlike regular hamburger patties, the fish filet is square. This isn't a mere quirk but a method for maintaining quality control, facilitating easier cutting and less wastage. The sandwich also features a steamed bun, making it unique amongst McDonald's offerings and providing a soft, fluffy contrast to the crisp fish filet.

The Tartare Sauce and Half a Slice of Cheese

The tartare sauce on the Filet-O-Fish is more than just a condiment; it's an experience. Made from natural ingredients like diced pickles and capers, it adds a rich, tangy flavour. The decision to include only a half slice of cheese is deliberate, providing just the right amount of creaminess without overpowering the fish.

Secret Menu and Local Preferences

The Filet-O-Fish has found its way into McDonald's secret menu with creations like the "Land, Sea, and Air Burger," a towering assembly of a beef patty, fish filet, and a chicken burger. Moreover, the sandwich has a significant fan following in Hawaii, where it tops sales per capita, according to a 2022 report.

International Variations

While the Filet-O-Fish remains consistent across the U.S., international McDonald's outlets offer variations. White hoki is sometimes used instead of pollock in the U.K. & Ireland, while Singapore serves a Wasabi Filet-O-Fish with wasabi mayo. Some U.S. states even offer an Old Bay Filet-O-Fish featuring tartare sauce blended with the famous Old Bay seasoning.

In summary, McDonald's Filet-O-Fish is far more than a simple fish sandwich. Its religious origins, varied ingredients, and unique adaptations make it a fascinating item in the fast food universe. I like mine with extra pickles and extra tartare sauce; how do you like yours?


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