Filet-O-Fish Copycat

filet-o-fish-sandwich-recipe

I say “copycat” but really, this version is much tastier than the McDonald’s Filet O Fish sandwich, and more filling with less calories. I think you’ll agree that this isn’t the first time a copycat recipe turned out better than the original.

Though I don’t celebrate Lent, I found an article last week explaining how the Filet O Fish came to be: An Ohio franchise operator, Lou Groen, was having poor sales of hamburgers on Fridays during Lent. Taking a cure from a nearby restaurant, Groen created a simple battered and fried fish sandwich, with cheese. He presented his idea and recipe to the top tier of McDonald’s in 1961 and was allowed to add it to his menu. It was a hit and the rest is history!

Since Lent is arrived, it seemed perfect timing to try my hand at another copycat.

Having not eaten much McDonald’s in my life, I have had the Filet O Fish only a handful of times before, but certainly not in 10 years or longer. So Chris and I went for lunch at Mickey D’s the other day. I was surprised that the menu stated the FOF has only 390 calories. Honestly, I was expecting much higher for a fried fish sandwich with  cheese and a big glop of tartar sauce. But the sandwich was also surprisingly small. I’d bet the fish portion was but a mere 3 ounces (pollock is what McDonald’s uses) and the bun seemed a seize between a standard burger bun and a slider bun. It tasted alright. A little fishy, but not bad, really. The breading was crisp and reminded me of a breadcrumb coating. Tartar sauce had visible bits of pickle and onion mince, but didn’t taste like much beyond a hint of sour pickle. I’d expected, too, for it to be overly salty and was pleased that it was not. An hour later Chris and I both felt hungry again, though, and a little nauseated. It’s a strange phenomenon.

To recreate the Filet O Fish, I used tilapia fillets. They are less “fishy” than pollock and large enough so that you can (if you want) cut out squares of fish so that your copycat will look like the original. Keep the extra pieces and fry them, too, of course for snacking on. I tried breading with plain breadcrumbs and cracker crumbs and felt the cracker crumbs were way better. You can use either the McDonald’s tartar sauce copycat recipe I’ve posted below, or use my tartar sauce recipe, which is a little fancier.

Filet O Fish Recipe Video

Filet O Fish Recipe – Printable!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Filet O Fish Copycat
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • Fish Filets:
  • 2 large tilapia fillets (about 1.25 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 cups finely crushed oyster or Saltine crackers
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups oil for frying (peanut, canola, or vegetable)
  • Tartar Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons minced white onion
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons minced dill pickles with juice
  • Pinch salt
  • For serving:
  • 4-6 slices American cheese
  • 4-6 white hamburger buns
Instructions
  1. Cut the fillets into squares about 3" by 3". Reserve scraps as well (waste not, want not!).
  2. Place fish in a shallow bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice. Allow to marinate for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place crumbs in a shallow bowl and line a plate or baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper.
  3. Drain excess lemon juice and add milk to the fish.
  4. Lift pieces out carefully and dredge in crumbs to cover completely. Dip in milk again and then crumbs for a good coating. Place coated fillets on the paper and refrigerate 10 minutes up to 3 hours to help coating adhere.
  5. Make your tartar sauce:
  6. Mix onions, pickles, and mayo with a pinch of salt and a dash of white pepper
  7. Refrigerate.
  8. Unwrap and cut the cheese slices
  9. Heat ½ inch depth of oil in a large skillet until a crumb sizzles when dropped in. It should be about 350ºF with a thermometer.
  10. Fry fillets cold from the fridge for about 2 minutes on each side.
  11. When golden and cooked through, remove fillets to a rack.
  12. Warm the buns in the microwave for 10 seconds or until soft.
  13. Put a slice of cheese on the bottom of each bun, top with a fish square or two for larger sandwiches, a big scoop of tartar sauce and each right away!
  14. Makes 4 big sandwiches or 6 smaller sandwiches

 

 

filet o fish recipe

1976 ad featuring “Phil A. O’Fish”

 

Comments

  1. You’re the greatest, thank you for this marvelous transformation. I wish to know your star sign, you’re a role model for all star children!

  2. Pat Soltis says:

    Hey, Hilah,

    I don’t think I’ve eaten at a McDonald’s since college — specifically the summer of 1970 — so I may pre-date their fish sandwich.

    Interesting detail though: During my last couple of years as an engineer at Lincoln Electric in Cleveland I worked very closely with a man who claimed to have made the first Egg McMuffin while he was in school in Cincinnati.

    “Fish fries” are all over the place in the Cleveland area on Fridays during Lent. In a way I grew up on that stuff. My mom did it better than McDonald’s — fresh caught Lake Erie perch.

    When I was two or three years old my parents used to take me on Friday nights to a restaurant called The Cabin. The restaurant still exists, in a log cabin east of Cleveland, fairly close to Lake Erie. In the old days they had the ultimate “fish fry” — Lake Erie blue pike, breaded and fried, all you could eat for a dollar (!!). This was 1953. We lived two doors down the street from the head waiter, Mr. Fisher, so we always got great service.

    Most people now think that the Lake Erie blue pike is extinct — a casualty of the era when Lake Erie was a cesspool for Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo . . . It was a different animal from walleye, which is highly regarded in these parts but not nearly as tasty.

    best,

    Pat

    • Barbara Rizzo says:

      Howdy Hilah,

      I just recently discovered your internet shows one night and couldn’t stop watching them ALL one after the other. Yes okay, I binged out. Couldn’t help it because I found Ya-all so entertaining.

      What I’m hoping you’ll share with me is where you got your black t-shirt with the mirror imaged leopard heads worn on the Filet-O-Fish copycat video. It’s awesome!

      Love ya,
      Babs

      • Hi Babs!
        So happy you found me. Thanks for writing. I got that t-shirt at a weird department store on east Springdale (not sure if you live in Austin) called Fashion Plus or something. I just checked and the brand name on the tag, no surprise, is called Bling Bling. :)

    • I’m envious of community parties like “fish fries” – we didn’t really have much of that when I was growing up. Though some weekends I’d be invited to a friend’s house and her dad would catch catfish from the lake and fry it up along with hushpuppies and fries, with homemade jalapeño cheese bread and banana ice cream for dessert. Nary a vegetable to be found but it was delicious!

      • Pat Soltis says:

        Fried catfish with hushpuppies is one of the greatest gustatory experiences! The meal that you describe must have been wonderful.

  3. Hilllllllaaaaaah. What you do with the oil once you’re done with it? That’s the one hitch for me with the frying recipes.

    • Maaaaacon! What I do is let the oil cool overnight. Get a plastic grocery bag and open it up in the regular trash can, pour the cooled oil into that and tie it shut. Then it’s in the trash with an extra barrier against leaking. You can also reuse frying oil up to three times. Let it cool, then pour through a fine sieve into a jar to save for next time.

  4. Wow, your version looks surprisingly good! I say surprisingly because often when you copy-cat the copy cat version looks less than desirable and nothing like the original, but yours looks yummy! I like the idea of Tilapia, as I have recently discovered myself that it is less “fishy” than others. I’ll have to try this! Haven’t had any kind of fish sandwich in a long time.

  5. Pat Soltis says:

    Hilah,

    A small correction: Reading over your introduction to your fish sandwich recipe, I realized that I do not “pre-date” McDonald’s version. I don’t know whether it hadn’t made it to the center of Michigan (I went to Michigan State) during the time when I lived on junk food — if you could have called it living — before I started teaching myself to cook. Maybe I just never paid any attention to it. I have no recollection of it.

    ps

  6. Very interesting, I had a Filet O’ Fish just yesterday. Definitely wins over the McRib! :)

  7. Cool video. I am a Filet of Fish fan and would love to taste your moist Filet of Fish. All kidding aside, I do have pollock in the freezer so will try that. Thanks again sexxy. Randy

  8. Hilah:

    I just took the Big Leap and deep-fryed a couple of catfish fillets according to your filet-o-fish recipe. I added some homemade cajun spices to the cracker crumbs and it turned out delicious!

    I do have 3 questions.

    When I breaded the fish once, then dipped it back in the milk for a second coat, the first coat of crumbs all fell off into the milk. I pressed on a new bunch of crumbs, but how do I prevent this in the future? The crust was so good, I’d like as much as I can get.

    Also, when the fillets were in the oil, cooking, a lot of the crust came off there and went to the bottom. Is there a way to prevent this de-crustification?

    Lastly, the filets seemed to retain a lot of the peanut oil. How can I keep this from happening?

    I used an old cast-iron dutch oven to cook in.

    Thanks,

    tim

    • Whoopee, Tim! Glad you liked it. I will try to answer your questions:
      Some amount of the crumbs will fall off into the milk. Try pressing the first coat in more before re-dipping in milk, or you can even try 3 coatings.

      Be sure to rest the fillets for at least 10 minutes in the fridge after breading. Longer is even better, if you have time. This helps the milk and crumbs bind to the fish and prevents the crust from falling off.

      When things turn out greasy while frying, it’s often because the oil isn’t hot enough when you put the food in. If you have a thermometer, wait until the oil is 350F. If you don’t, try the sizzling crumb test or put the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil and if bubbles rise up around it, it’s about 350F.

      Let me know if those tips help you next time!

  9. Deliciousl I didn’t have any buns so I did Filet o Fish style fish nuggs topped with tartar and grated cheddar. A! MAZ! ING!

  10. So there’s no tartar in the tartar sauce? I love McD’s filet o fish but yours looks better. I can’t wait to try your recipe. Thanks for sharing!

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