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I ranked 6 fast-food fish sandwiches from Popeyes, McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger King. My favorite was spicy.

the author holding a fish dandwich and a close up of a fish sandwich
McDonald's famous Filet-O-Fish sandwich ranked highly thanks to its flavorful tartar sauce, but Popeyes' spicy fish sandwich took the win.Erin McDowell/Business Insider
  • I tried and ranked six fish sandwiches from McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, and Popeyes.

  • I was impressed by McDonald's classic Filet-O-Fish and tartar sauce.

  • However, Popeyes had my favorite sandwich.

Fish sandwiches are popular spring offerings at many fast-food chains, but which chain has the best one?

Every year, fast-food chains release fish sandwiches to coincide with the season of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. During that time, Catholics abstain from eating meat but can eat fish on Fridays.

McDonald's has been selling fish sandwiches since the 1960s. The chain's Filet-O-Fish was born after a franchisee in a highly Catholic area of Ohio noticed his restaurant's sales suffered on Fridays, according to the company.

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The franchisee brought the idea of selling a fish sandwich to McDonald's then-CEO Ray Kroc, who was appalled at the idea of adding a fish sandwich to his hamburger empire's lineup.

"I don't care if the Pope himself comes to Cincinnati. He can eat hamburgers like everybody else. We are not going to stink up our restaurants with any of your damned old fish," Kroc recalled in his 1977 memoir, "Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's."

However, customers couldn't get enough, and by 1965, the Filet-O-Fish became a permanent fixture on McDonald's menus nationwide.

USA Today reported in 2023 that McDonald's sells roughly 300 million Filet-O-Fish sandwiches each year, and roughly a quarter of all Filet-O-Fish purchases are made during the 40-day Lent period.

Since the Filet-O-Fish was introduced, nearly every fast-food chain has added a seasonal fish sandwich to their menus during the Lent season.

Burger King added a fish sandwich sometime between the 1960s and 1970s, according to The Retroist, and this year the chain added a spicy version.

Popeyes brought out its first flounder fish sandwich in 2021, and added a spicy fish sandwich to its menus the following year, perhaps aiming to capitalize on the incredible success of its spicy chicken sandwich in 2019.

But which sandwich is the tastiest and offers the best value?

For a definitive ranking, I tried all the fish sandwiches I could from McDonald's, Burger King, Popeyes, and Wendy's.

Here's every fast-food fish sandwich ranked from worst to best.

My least favorite fish sandwich was the crispy panko fish sandwich from Wendy's.

wendys fish sandwich
Wendy's crispy panko fish sandwich.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

The sandwich cost $9.36 from my local Wendy's in Brooklyn, New York, excluding tax and fees.

It was supposed to come topped with lettuce, a slice of American cheese, pickles, and tartar sauce. Strangely, my sandwich came with tomato instead of lettuce.

wendys fish sandwich
Wendy's crispy panko fish sandwich.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

This was obviously just an error made by the employees at my specific Wendy's. However, I decided to go ahead and try it anyway.

I enjoyed the crispy fish patty and the tartar sauce had a subtle flavor.

wendys fish sandwich
Wendy's crispy panko fish sandwich.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

I couldn't quite get past the tomato, though. It added a strange flavor to an overall OK sandwich. After removing the tomato, I liked the sandwich a bit more.

If you order this yourself, you'll probably have a better experience than I did, with the correct toppings.

My fifth-favorite sandwich was the Big Fish sandwich from Burger King.

burger king classic fish sandwich
Burger King Big Fish sandwich.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

It cost $7.09 from my local Burger King in Brooklyn, New York, excluding tax and fees.

The Alaskan pollock patty came topped with tartar sauce, lettuce, and crunchy pickles on a toasted potato bun.

burger king classic fish sandwich
Burger King Big Fish sandwich.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

I thought the sandwich could have used a touch more tartar sauce, and the lettuce could have been spread out more to ensure an evenly distributed bite of all the ingredients.

The pickles were very crispy and I loved the texture of the potato bun.

burger king classic fish sandwich
Burger King Big Fish sandwich.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

However, I thought the fish patty could have been just a touch flakier on the inside. The texture was more chewy than some of the other sandwiches I tried.

I also tried the spicy version of Burger King's fish sandwich, which I liked more.

burger king spicy fish sandwich
Burger King Fiery Big Fish.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

The Fiery Big Fish sandwich also cost $7.09, excluding tax and fees.

It came with the same toppings, but the fish patty was coated in Burger King's signature triple-pepper spicy glaze.

burger king spicy fish sandwich
Burger King Fiery Big Fish.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

This is the same glaze Burger King uses on its spicy chicken sandwich, which I've always been a huge fan of. I was intrigued to see if I'd like the spicy fish sandwich just as much.

The fish tasted fresh, and I loved the sweet-but-spicy flavor of the glaze.

burger king spicy fish sandwich
Burger King Fiery Big Fish.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

However, again, I wasn't in love with the texture. I thought the ingredients tasted good, but I would have personally preferred a slightly flakier fish patty.

However, if you're not super into fish but are looking for a pescetarian option, I thought this was a great option. With the glaze, it tasted very similar to the chain's chicken sandwich, in my opinion.

My third favorite was the classic flounder fish sandwich from Popeyes.

popeyes classic fish sandwich
Popeyes classic flounder fish sandwich.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

It cost $5.99 from my local Popeyes in Brooklyn, New York, excluding tax and fees.

The top of the sandwich had a smattering of tartar sauce, with layers of pickles and more tartar sauce underneath the flounder patty.

popeyes classic fish sandwich
Popeyes classic flounder fish sandwich.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

It came on a brioche bun, just like Popeyes' other sandwiches.

I really liked how crispy the fried fish patty was, and it had a lot of savory flavor.

popeyes classic fish sandwich
Popeyes classic flounder fish sandwich.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

I thought the tartar sauce was tart, without being too overpowering. The pickles were thickly cut, which I was also impressed by. Overall, I really enjoyed this sandwich and would definitely order it again.

My second favorite, which I was surprised by, was the McDonald's Filet-O-Fish.

mcdonalds filet o fish sandwich
McDonald's Filet-O-Fish.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

It cost $5.99 at my local McDonald's in Brooklyn, New York, excluding tax and fees.

The sandwich came with a very generous serving of tartar sauce and a half-slice of American cheese.

mcdonalds filet o fish sandwich
McDonald's Filet-O-Fish.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

The cheese slice was slightly hanging off the burger, so I moved it more to the center before diving in.

In 2023, a TikTok user claimed the size of the Filet-O-Fish patty appeared to have shrunken over the years, citing "shrinkflation," a tactic reportedly used by chains in which they reduce the size of their menu items in response to rising costs.

However, McDonald's responded that the "size and build of the Filet-O-Fish, including a half slice of American cheese, has not changed in decades." I didn't notice anything surprising about the size — I thought it seemed average for a burger.

This sandwich had the flakiest fish patty, in my opinion.

mcdonalds filet o fish sandwich
McDonald's Filet-O-Fish.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

The layers of fish flaked off with each bite, which I didn't find with any other sandwich.

I also loved the amount of tartar sauce included on this sandwich — it added a ton of flavor and moisture, without being overpowering. I didn't really taste the cheese, and think the sandwich would have been just as good or better without that addition.

My favorite fish sandwich was the spicy flounder fish sandwich from Popeyes.

popeyes spicy fish sandwich
Popeyes spicy flounder fish sandwich.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

It cost $5.99 from my local Popeyes in Brooklyn, New York, excluding tax and fees.

Instead of tartar sauce, the sandwich came topped with spicy mayonnaise and pickles.

popeyes spicy fish sandwich
Popeyes spicy flounder fish sandwich.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

I was interested to see if I would miss the tartar sauce, since I liked it on the classic Popeyes fish sandwich.

I loved the spicy flavor of the mayo with the fish and crunchy pickles.

popeyes spicy fish sandwich
Popeyes spicy flounder fish sandwich.Erin McDowell/Business Insider

I thought this sandwich was the most flavorful, and also a great value at only $5.99. I loved how the spicy mayo added not only a delicious amount of flavor but also added moisture to the fish patty.

The crinkle-cut pickles tasted fresh, and I didn't feel weighed down by the ingredients. I would definitely order this sandwich again.

Read the original article on Business Insider