Filet-O-Fish Copycat


I say “copycat” but really, this Filet O fish copycat 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 size 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 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. You could also use cod or haddock. 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 and less sweet.

Filet O Fish Recipe Video (scroll down for recipe card)

Filet O Fish Copycat Recipe – Printable!


Filet O Fish Copycat

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

3.8 from 8 reviews

  • Author: Hilah Johnson
  • Yield: 4-6 1x


  • Fish Filets:
  • 2 large pollock, tilapia, cod or other white fish fillets (about 1.25 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups finely crushed oyster or Saltine crackers
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 cups oil for frying (peanut, canola, or vegetable)
  • Tartar Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons minced white onion
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons minced dill pickles with juice
  • Pinch salt
  • For serving:
  • 46 slices American cheese
  • 46 white hamburger buns


  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 1/2 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


  • Serving Size: 1 sandwich
  • Calories: 470

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filet o fish recipe

1976 ad featuring “Phil A. O’Fish”



  1. Chelsy on March 8, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    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!

    • Hilah on March 9, 2014 at 11:02 am


    • Kathy Suthard on March 10, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      You CAAAAAAAAARRRRAAAAAACCCCKKKK me up !!!!!!!!!!!!! Keep doin it girl !!!!!
      Love EVERY recipe. Definitely tryin the Chic-fil-gay. : )

      Kathy/Chesapeake Beach, MD

      • Hilah on March 11, 2014 at 9:21 am

        Hi Kathy!!!
        Thank you for writing! You will LOVE the CFG! 🙂

        • Michael Frazier on July 14, 2021 at 6:26 pm

          Why did you get sick after eating them? You and Boyfriend?

    • Kathleen on March 17, 2017 at 6:57 pm

      tried this recipe tonight! not good! did it exactly as the recipe stated. milk, bread crumb mixture and again – and when I did it the breadcrumbs just came off the fish. I watched the video as well.. and I’m not an amature cook but this recipe did not work for me at all

      • Hilah on March 18, 2017 at 2:57 pm

        I’m sorry, Kathleen. Did you allow the breaded fish to rest for a few minutes before cooking?

      • Bennie on July 1, 2020 at 5:28 am

        That’s because it is not a true copy (sorry). It must have a Gorton’s (or better), Pollock fish filet and if you want the cheese option, 1/2 slice of Kraft American Deluxe (never use the cheaper non Deluxe, it is terrible!) and most important, a fresh steamed quality round top bun! Never try and improve on the original when making a copy cat! As for the tartar sauce, your favorite store bought OR any of the copy cat recipes and there are many of them…just make sure it is simple and not ‘over improved’!

      • ddt on September 19, 2021 at 1:34 pm

        They say to use milk, but I would have to think eggs would be better – I’m gonna try it, but I’ll moisten with egg!

  2. Pat Soltis on March 8, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    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.



    • Barbara Rizzo on March 8, 2014 at 11:40 pm

      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,

      • Hilah on March 9, 2014 at 10:53 am

        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. 🙂

      • Annette on August 7, 2019 at 8:47 am

        Only thing missing is the steamed bun.

    • Hilah on March 9, 2014 at 11:01 am

      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 on March 9, 2014 at 11:46 am

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

  3. Macon on March 8, 2014 at 7:32 pm

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

    • Hilah on March 9, 2014 at 10:57 am

      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. Laura on March 9, 2014 at 6:16 am

    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.

    • Hilah on March 9, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Hope you try it, Laura! It is really tasty!

  5. Pat Soltis on March 9, 2014 at 10:02 am


    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.


    • Hilah on March 9, 2014 at 10:51 am

      You could be right, that not all franchises carried it. Or maybe you were too enamored with the Big Mac to notice! 😉

  6. The Sushi Knife Store on March 12, 2014 at 5:12 pm

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

    • Hilah on March 14, 2014 at 7:05 pm

      Never have had a McRib!

  7. Randy on March 15, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    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

    • Hilah on March 17, 2014 at 8:36 am

      Ha! 😛 Hope you like it, Randy!

  8. Tim on March 16, 2014 at 4:18 pm


    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.



    • Hilah on March 17, 2014 at 8:28 am

      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. Mike on March 23, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    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!

    • Hilah on March 24, 2014 at 9:45 am

      Hey, low-carb FOF! Nice work, Mike! 🙂

  10. Emily on May 4, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    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!

    • Hilah on May 4, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      I guarantee it’s better than McD’s! Hope you enjoy it, Emily!

  11. Imran on December 22, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Hi Hilah,

    I really want to try this recipe. However, my mum is really superstitious about using fish with milk. So in turn I’ve never ever combined milk and fish. Is there anything else I can use as a substitute?

    Also I’m from the UK and I haven’t managed to find saltine crackers. I heard that cream crackers would be a suitable replacement. What do you think?


    • Hilah on December 22, 2014 at 11:49 am

      Hi Imran,
      You could use an egg, beaten well with a couple tablespoons of water instead of the milk. Cream crackers are very similar to saltines and they should work fine!

  12. madie on February 19, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Hi Hilah! i know you are busy but I want to take time to thank you for your recipes. I am a beginner cook and started taking cooking seriously last year. My friend recommended one of your recipes.

    So far i have tried two including this and both were equally successful. i’ve always loved Mcd Fish since I was a kid, and wanted to learn how to cook a crunchy crusted fried fish (or chicken) –and have had many failed attempts in that crust would just not adhere. To my amazement your recipe worked effortlessly by just following your simple instructions which is what i love about your recipes so far.

    I admire how you make everything from scratch and yet still manage to keep recipe simple. For example, I never thought i could make enchilada sauce til I tried yours! I can go on and on, and I really enjoy watching your random hilarious quips!

    I really hope you do continue sharing your talent of teaching others to cook. You are a blessing! When i watched some of your more recent vids, it seemed you might venture to other cooking-related activities….I hope this will still include you teaching us new recipes. I know I still have a long way to go with your over 100+ recipes though. lol In short, i guess i am saying: please dont stop what you are doing so well! 🙂 Anyway, happiest new year to you and your new beautiful family!

    • Hilah on February 20, 2015 at 8:19 am

      Oh Madie! You really made my day with your comment. I can’t tell you how much it means to hear from people like you who’ve gained confidence and skills in the kitchen at the same time.

      Thank you so much for writing! I will begin posting new video recipes in March, along with some other types of videos to mix it up a little for my own sanity 😉 But really, seriously, THANK YOU. Just what I needed to hear!

  13. Fauzia on September 9, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    Can I use basa fillets?

    • Hilah on September 10, 2015 at 7:08 am

      Hi Fauzia, yes you can use any white fish filets.

  14. bc on February 1, 2016 at 10:00 am

    Awesome recipe and video. Thank you for the good grub and entertainment!!!

  15. Juan on April 2, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    Hey Hilah,
    thanks for making my mouth water with goodness. Can you make more videos on how to make McDonald’s foods? For example the McDOnald’s kids happy meal Cheeseburgers/chicken nuggets. Or how ’bout quarter pounders?

  16. kayla on July 6, 2017 at 1:42 am

    i think that is really2yummmy

  17. Bonnie Hilliker Taschner on October 24, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Had all the breading problems that it seems everyone else had. Tried everything you suggested, taking plenty of time to do everything right, and the coating still didn’t stick right, and cooked off! The tartar sauce was really good!

  18. A on December 11, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Ok but why is this actually more calories than McDonald’s ?

    • Hilah on December 15, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      I don’t know. Nutrition info is always an estimate

  19. Barbara Warner on February 6, 2018 at 3:18 pm

    Does anyone know if there is a copycat filet fish that is frozen that is like Mc Donald’s? Pollock or Cod All ready breaded.

  20. Judy on March 6, 2019 at 10:18 am

    I wanted to make a fish sandwich for Lenten supper tonight. Recipe looks great, but you lost me at “TILAPIA”. (IF one knew how these are raised, it would no longer be on anyone’s menu!) We live near beautiful fish markets along the Connecticut shore, so I’d choose cod for this. (In a pinch, I just use those frozen fish filets from the “Fisherman” or the “Mrs.”

    • Hilah on March 6, 2019 at 10:42 am

      If you’ll notice, in the written recipe I direct to use “pollock, tilapia, cod or other white fish”. I’m so glad for you that you live near great seafood and can afford to buy it. Others may not be so lucky, which is why I gave several suggestions.

  21. Kathy on March 9, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    How do I follow you???

  22. Ted on August 24, 2023 at 3:55 pm

    McDonald’s get their fish pollock from Gortons you. An get a bag at Mejiers fact! Family member orders for mcdonals ….

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