This filet-o-Alaska cod sandwich is as good as its drive-thru cousin

Fried fish pattie on a bun with lettuce and cheese

No apologies: my favorite item on the McDonald’s menu is the Filet-O-Fish. Created in the early ‘60s for Catholic diners who were abstaining from meat on Fridays, its very simple recipe — warm, soft, unseeded bun, tartar, American cheese and fried fish — hasn’t changed since my childhood. I still think it’s delicious. Lately, I’ve been making a version of them at home. Turns out they aren’t very hard, my family loves them, and they play all the nostalgic notes.

These days the McD’s menu board advertises that the sandwich is made of Alaska-caught pollock, which is harvested in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. Though pollock is among the most common fish Americans encounter — it’s used to make fish sticks, patties and surimi, among other things — it isn’t very easy to find it unprocessed in grocery stores. Instead of pollock, I’ve been using Alaska or Pacific cod, which is available in most freezer sections or at fish counters. It’s important to use Alaska/Pacific cod and not other types of cod, because you need a relatively thin filet so it cooks through when you fry it. You can also use halibut, so long as your portions are not more than about an inch thick.

A note on fish-counter cod filets — they are sometimes very skinny, as in quite long, but not wide enough to cover a bun. In that case, you can make a sandwich with two thin portions, side by side. As for tartar — the internet is full of recipes for homemade tartar using lemon, mustard, mayo and relish — it’s easy to whip up your own or use your favorite store-bought version. If you aren’t a tartar fan, plain mayo or mayo with a little hot sauce swirled in works too. And, if you are not an American cheese fan, swap in some cheddar. A pound of cod, depending on its shape, is certainly enough for four sandwiches, and can sometimes make enough for five. If the filets are extra thin, you can stack them on the bun.

Fried Alaska cod “filet-o-fish” sandwiches

Serves 4


1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 eggs

1 cup breadcrumbs, panko or regular or a mix

1 pound, or roughly two filets, Alaska cod

1 1/2 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup tartar sauce, homemade or store-bought

4 squishy white burger buns, warmed

4 pieces American cheese

4 sandwich sized pieces of butter lettuce, washed and dried

Method: Make your breading station. With a fork, whisk the salt into the flour and then pour the flour mixture on a plate big enough for one piece of fish. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat them. Pour the breadcrumbs on to a small plate. Prepare a “landing spot” for the breaded fish on a parchment-lined cutting board. Line up the flour plate, the egg bowl, the breadcrumb plate and the landing spot. Now, bread the fish. Dredge each portion of the fish in the flour and salt. Dunk in the egg. Roll in breadcrumbs until well covered. Set aside. Once the fish is breaded, place the oil in a medium deep frying pan or cast iron skillet on the stove on a medium flame and allow it to heat up. Test the oil temperature by dropping a few breadcrumbs in. When it’s time to fry the crumbs should begin to sizzle and bubble immediately. Cook the breaded fish in the hot oil, working in batches, 2-3 minutes a side, until each side is a rich golden brown. Move to a paper towel-covered sheet pan or cutting board, immediately lay a piece of cheese on top of each hot piece of fish. If the pieces are skinny and you plan to use two for a sandwich, group them and cover the group with cheese. Tent loosely with foil. Assemble the sandwich. Spread tartar on the insides of the top and bottom buns. Layer cheese-covered fish, a piece of butter lettuce and the top bun. Enjoy immediately.