A Definitive Ranking Of The Best Fast Food Fish Sandwiches

Right now is prime time to find the best fish sandwiches in the fast food game. Between Lent and Easter, most fast food chains will add a fish patty menu item to their lineups, that’s especially true if the fast food joint does a decent fried chicken sandwich. It’s also kind of a golden era for the fried fish sandwich, thanks to the return of Popeyes Classic Flounder Fish Sandwich and the advent of “spicy” everything — you can even get Burger King’s Big Fish with spicy sauce now for instance.

All of this is to say that it’s high time we ranked all of the fried fish sandwiches we could find in the fast food world. And this year there are a lot of them.

I’ve been busy eating since I moved back to the U.S. Generally speaking, whenever I order something at a fast food restaurant, I’ll add a fish sandwich on the side if there’s one on the menu. I don’t know if that habit is a hangover from being raised on the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest or if I’m just a sucker who loves fried fish sandwiches in general (probably some combination of the two). Either way, I’m that guy who still gets a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish every time, even though I’m not sure I even like them anymore. Nostalgia is a hell of a thing.

PART I — Method

Here’s what I look for in a good fried fish sandwich from a fast food joint.

  1. The fried fish filet needs to be legit. No mushiness in the piece of fish, nice flaking, well-seasoned, crunchy breading, and not too greasy.
  2. The tartar sauce needs to be on point (this is where most fried fish sandwiches fall down). Tangy, herbal (dill and marjoram), creamy, and a touch pickle-y (maybe throw a caper or two in there or some dill relish).
  3. A well-toasted bun feels essential (again, this is where a lot of these sandwiches fail). Overall, a little butter, nice crispiness on the edges, and a soft sweetness to the bread are ideal.
  4. Don’t overdo it with the salad or extras. Cheese isn’t always necessary (but not unwelcome either) and wilted lettuce can kill the vibe (so can mushy tomato slices).

Over the last few months, I’ve been able to retry most of the classics while traveling around Kentucky for work and inevitably stopping at various fast food joints for lunch. I also live in a small town that has the holy grail of fast food restaurants within one mile of each other — Wendy’s, Arby’s, Long John Silver’s, Dairy Queen, McDonald’s, and Burger King are all there, alongside Taco Bell, Domino’s, Papa John’s, and so forth.

So below, I’m listing 14 of the best fish sandwiches from the biggest fast food chains. I’ve added some smaller chains like Jack In The Box, Culver’s, and Whataburger as well but kept the super regional stuff off the list. Each of these entries has to be available in more than one or two states and actually carry a fish sandwich (obviously) either year-round or seasonally.

Okay, let’s jump in!

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14. Jack In The Box Fish Sandwich

Jack in the Box Fish Sandwich
Jack In The Box

Calories: 450

Price: $4.99

The Sandwich:

This sandwich is made with a pollock filet that’s breaded in panko and deep-fried right next to the tacos and fries. The construction has tartar sauce on the top and bottom with a handful of shredded lettuce over the fish patty. It’s served on a butter-toasted bun.

Bottom Line:

Whenever I’m back in Washington to visit family, I get my Jack In The Box fix. I know I should just order a Jumbo Jack to relive my college days but I end up with one of these and some tacos every time. I’m not sure why. This is trash.

The tartar sauce is just okay but a little bland — it barely feels like mayo with sad pickle chunks in it. The fish patty is meh. There’s a flake (kind of) but it’s not really seasoned. The lettuce is an abomination.

How To Order:

Hold the lettuce and add cheese and pickles.

There are over 2,200 Jack In The Box locations across 21 states. Find the nearest Jack In The Box Here.

13. McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish

McDonald's Filet-O-Fish

Calories: 390

Price: $3.79

The Sandwich:

The Filet-O-Fish is a classic example of a fast food fish sandwich. The combination of the steamed bun, tangy tartar, fried fish filet (Alaskan pollock), and a slice of American cheese just works.

Bottom Line:

If you grew up eating these, then you’ll still order them. If not, this is a hard sell.

The bun is tasteless and chewy. Well, it does have a hint of cardboard to it. The fish filet has a decent crust but tastes of nothing. There is a real, decent flake to the fish though. The only thing that saves this is the tangy tartar sauce. Still, that’s simply not enough these days when fast food joints are adding legitimately spicy sauces to help their sandos really pop.

How To Order:

Add pickle and onion on a sesame seed bun with extra tartar sauce.

There are over 40,000 McDonald’s locations across the U.S.A. and over 100 countries. Find the nearest McDonald’s Here.

12. Burger King Spicy Big Fish

Spicy Big Fish
Burger King

Calories: 570

Price: $3.69

The Sandwich:

The fish is 100% White Alaskan pollock that’s coated in panko bread crumbs. The bun is a butter-toasted brioche. The spicy mayo sauce is applied to the bottom and top bun with a layer of lettuce and pickle on top of the fish filet.

Bottom Line:

Two things kill this sandwich. The fish filet is garbage. It’s not mushy per se but it’s not flaky either, more stringy. Then there’s that f*cking lettuce. It’s always wilted and nasty. This does have a properly spicy sauce on it though, which makes it a little more desirable than the last two but only barely.

How To Order:

Hold the f*cking lettuce and get it on a sesame bun.

There are over 19,000 Burger King locations across the U.S.A. and 100 countries. Find the nearest Burger King Here.

11. Whataburger Whatacatch Sandwich

Whatacatch Fish Sandwich

Calories: 520

Price: $3.59

The Sandwich:

The Texan fish sammie has a nice, crispy fish filet (yes, Alaskan pollock). The top bun is covered in mild tartar with lettuce and tomato. The latter adds a nice layer of brightness to the whole fish sandwich concept and helps protect the lettuce from the heat of the filet.

Bottom Line:

I ordered one of these and took it with me to the airport in Austin. Even after a 20-30 minute rest in a bag, the salad held up. Well, the tomato did. I knew to ask them to hold the lettuce. That aside, this has a decent piece of fish that’s thin but feels real with a small flake to it. It’s seasoned well and nicely crispy.

The tartar sauce is pretty bland though and the bun is kind of listless.

How To Order:

Hold the lettuce and tartar. Add pickle and Whataburger’s One-of-a-kind Creamy Pepper Sauce or Spicy Jalapeño Ranch (or both). If you really want to take this to the next level, 86 the bun and have them put it on a biscuit. It’ll be a delightful mess.

There are over 900 Whataburger locations across 11 states. Find the nearest Whataburger Here.

10. Culver’s North Atlantic Cod Sandwich

Culver's Fish Sandwich

Calories: 600

Price: $4.89

The Sandwich:

Midwest mainstay, Culver’s, has a pretty deep fried fish menu. For this mainstay of the menu, the bun is a small hoagie roll that has real heft to it. The North Atlantic cod is beer-battered and fried well. Then there’s shredded American cheese, shredded lettuce, and plenty of tartar on the bottom bun.

Bottom Line:

I just had one of these and it just didn’t sing as it used to. The saving grace here is the bun and fish. The bun does have a real bready quality with a nice sweetness and hint of tang. The fish was a nice, big morsel with an excellent flake, good batter crispiness, and nice seasoning.

On the other hand, the lettuce was pointless and the shredded cheese was almost offensively bland and plasticky (it clearly comes out of one of those huge bags of shredded cheese). The tartar sauce was pretty bland too, all things considered.

How To Order:

Culver’s is one of those places where you can 100% customize everything. So, go to town with this one. Lose the shredded cheddar and lettuce. Then add a slice of white American cheese and coleslaw. The slaw will live up to the bun and the fish and add a nice and tangy crunch.

There are over 900 Culver’s locations across 26 states. Find the nearest Culver’s Here.

9. Sonic Drive-In Fish Sandwich

Sonic Drive-In Fish Sandwich
Sonic Drive-In

Calories: 540

Price: $3.99

The Sandwich:

This is your typical Alaskan pollack coated in panko breading and deep-fried. The fish sandwich is served with crisp lettuce, tartar, crinkle-cut pickles, and a toasted brioche bun.

Bottom Line:

This is very much in the “fine” category. It’s not exciting or that great but it gets the job done without being overtly offensive in some way. Nothing here is terrible but it’s not great either. The fish patty is fine. The tartar sauce is decent. The pickles and bun are on point. The lettuce is superfluous, sure but besides mediocrity, that’s the only real downside to this sandwich.

How To Order:

Hold the lettuce. Maybe add a slice of American cheese and extra tartar sauce.

There are over 3,500 Sonic Drive-In locations across the U.S.A. Find your nearest Sonic Drive-In Here.

8. DQ Wild Alaskan Fish Sandwich

Wild Alaskan Fish Sandwich
Dairy Queen

Calories: 420

Price: $5.49

The Sandwich:

This sandwich is made with wild Alaskan pollock as well. The bun is toasted and served with lettuce and a tangy tartar sauce.

Bottom Line:

This isn’t … bad. The lettuce was pretty fresh on the last one I ordered, which was a surprise. The tartar sauce is actually tangy (almost unexpectedly so for an ice cream joint). The bun is mediocre and soft with a lack of any distinguishable flavor. Overall, it’s not terrible and kind of something I go back to every now and then (well, that and DQ’s chili dogs).

How To Order:

This is fine as is. Though you can add some pickle, tomato, and American cheese if you’re into it.

There are over 6,800 Dairy Queens across the U.S.A. and 18 countries. Find the nearest DQ Here.

7. White Castle Panko Fish Slider

White Castle Fish Slider
White Castle

Calories: 320

Price: $1.59

The Sandwich:

These mini fish sandos are simply done pretty damn well. The mini filet is Alaskan pollock with a panko breading. The rest is just the iconic White Castle slider bun and a small slice of American cheese. That’s it.

Bottom Line:

This is way better than it has any right to be. There’s not even tartar sauce on that little steamed bun!

Look, this is basic but delivers a decent fish patty with a small flake, good seasoning, and a nice crispy outer coating. The cheese moistens it along with the soft bun to create a good textural experience.

How To Order:

As is. Just roll with it.

There are over 370 White Castle locations across 11 states. Find the nearest White Castle Here.

6. Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. Panko-Breaded Fish Sandwich

Hardee's Fish Sandwich

Calories: 540

Price: $3.29

The Sandwich:

We have another panko-breaded pollock filet here. The sandwich is built on a sesame seed Hardee’s bun with a touch of toasting, creamy tartar sauce, and a handful of lettuce on the bottom bun.

Bottom Line:

The fish is the star of this sandwich. It’s a bigger piece that delivers a filling meal. There’s a real flake to it and it’s well-seasoned with a legit crispy coating. The tartar sauce is actually creamy and tangy and the lettuce isn’t terrible.

Overall, this is a pretty good, standard fish sandwich.

How To Order:

The lettuce on the bottom sort of saves this one. Add some pickles and red onions to spice it up.

There are over 5,800 Hardee’s and Carl’s, Jr. locations across the U.S.A. and 10 countries. Find the nearest Hardee’s or Carl’s, Jr. Here.

5. Long John Silver’s Wild Alaska Pollack Sandwich

Long John Silver's Wild Alaska Pollack Sandwich
Long John Silvers

Calories: 400

Price: $3.69

The Sandwich:

This big sandwich comes with a large piece of beer-battered Alaskan pollack. It’s served on a small sub roll (or hoagie) that’s lightly coated with tartar sauce and stacked with pickles.

Bottom Line:

If Long John Silver’s tartar sauce wasn’t such hot trash, this would have won. It’s baffling how tasteless and thin their tartar sauce is for a freakin’ fried fish restaurant. It’s kind of maddening.

That said, this is one of the best pieces of fish by far — it’s well-seasoned, crispy, and has a nice flake. The bun is big but tastes like real bread. The pickles have a nice bite to them.

How To Order:

Hold the tartar and add your own (or go to the grocery and get your favorite tartar sauce and bring it with you).

There are over 630 locations across 37 states and Singapore. Find the nearest Long John Silver’s Here.

4. Popeye’s Spicy Flounder Fish Sandwich

Spicy Flounder Fish Sandwich

Calories: 729.9

Price: $5.99

The Sandwich:

This sandwich uses “premium” flounder that Popeyes marinated in “authentic” Louisiana herbs and spice. The fish is then fried in their signature southern crispy coating before going into the oil. The sandwich is served on Popeyes butter-toasted brioche with their tangy spicy sauce with pickles (exactly like their spicy chicken sandwich).

Bottom Line:

This is so close to great but the fish just whiffs too hard. The flounder just tastes and feels cheap. There’s a tad bit of mushiness at play with light muddiness (which can be a virtue for some). Everything else was on point.

How To Order:

Switch out the flounder for Popeyes fried shrimp.

There are over 3,700 locations across the U.S.A and 30 countries. Find the nearest Popeyes Here.

3. Wendy’s Crispy Panko Fish Sandwich

Crispy Panko Fish Sandwich

Calories: 520

Price: $5.89

The Sandwich:

Wendy’s fish sandwich starts with panko-breaded Alaskan pollock. The fried fish patty is put into a classic Wendy’s toasted bun with creamy dill tartar sauce, American cheese, pickles, and lettuce.

Bottom Line:

Every element of this rings true. The fish is perfectly fine (well-seasoned, crispy, flaky) while the bun and pickle shine. The real star of the show is the tartar sauce though. It’s miles better than everything else on this list. It feels like the Wendy’s team actually thought about this component and made something that truly stands out. It’s creamy, herbal, tangy, and feels well-rounded.

How To Order:

I usually have them hold the lettuce and get extra tartar sauce on the bottom bun (or on the side).

There are over 6,700 Wendy’s across the U.S.A. and 28 countries. Find the nearest Wendy’s Here.

2. Arby’s Crispy Fish Sandwich

Crispy Fish Sandwich

Calories: 566

Price: $2.99

The Sandwich:

This sando starts off with a large panko-breaded pollock filet. The sandwich has two layers of tangy tartar with shredded iceberg lettuce and a toasted sesame seed bun.

Bottom Line:

This seasonal sandwich has a lot of fans out there and it’s easy to see why. You’re getting a large piece of fish on a decent sandwich. The large fish filet is really good and is actually filling. There’s a good flake and seasoning. The tartar sauce is decent with a nice tanginess and pickle bite. The lettuce is actually fine as it’s crispy and adds texture for once. The bun works well and tastes like a classic sesame burger bun.

How To Order:

It’s pretty good as-is. Though get a little Horsey Sauce on the side for dipping if you want to really go wild. The horseradish will help every bite pop.

There are over 3,400 Arby’s across the U.S.A. and five countries. Find the nearest Arby’s Here.

1. Captain D’s Spicy Giant Fish Sandwich

Captain D's Spicy Giant Fish Sandwich
Captain Ds

Calories: 1190

Price: $5.99

The Sandwich:

This is the fish sandwich that gets it. The build has two beer-battered fish filets that are dipped in a spicy batter, building the heat into the fish very nicely. Those two filets are stacked on a toasted bun with a tangy creamy tartar sauce and a handful of iceberg lettuce.

Bottom Line:

This one simply has the best fish and tartar combo of any sandwich on this list. The fish is legitimately spicy and well-seasoned with an excellent large flake that’s still juicy. The beer batter is wonderfully crispy and hot. The tartar is high-quality with a good tanginess. The bun is fine. The lettuce is actually okay too and holds its own thanks to being a thicker iceberg.

How To Order:

Get it straight off the menu. No notes. No hacks. No substitutions.

There are over 500 Captain D’s locations across 22 states. Find the nearest Captain D’s Here.