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Fast-food menus have long been dominated by beef, chicken, and other options that cater to the carnivorous cohort of customers. But, as of this week, we’ve finally reached the time of year when seafood gets its time to shine in the world of fast food.

Lent just kicked off on Feb. 14, marking the start of the annual religious period when many people choose to abstain from meat. Fast-food chains love to cater to customers in need of convenient, meat-free meals during Lent by expanding their menus with seasonal seafood options, primarily fried fish sandwiches.

Sure, some fast-food fish sandwiches are available year-round, like McDonald’s famous Filet-O-Fish and Burger King’s Big Fish. But at other major chains like Wendy’s and Popeyes, you can only score fish sandwiches for a few fleeting weeks around February and March each year.

In honor of the start of Lent this week, I set out to determine which fast-food chains serve the absolute best fish sandwiches by trying every option I could find in my area: McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish, Wendy’s seasonal Crispy Panko Fish Sandwich, Popeyes’ seasonal Flounder Fish Sandwich, Popeyes’ seasonal Spicy Flounder Fish Sandwich, Burger King’s Big Fish sandwich, and Burger King’s seasonal Fiery Big Fish sandwich (a new limited-time option that debuted for the first time in 2024).

After snagging each option from my local fast-food eateries, I brought them home, tasted them, and judged them on flavor, texture, and appearance. Read on for my definitive ranking of all six sandwiches, starting with my least favorite and ending with my top pick!

Popeyes’ Spicy Flounder Fish Sandwich

Popeyes Spicy Flounder Fish Sandwich
Zoe Strozewski / Eat This, Not That!

Per Sandwich: 730 calories, 40 g fat (9.4 g saturated fat, 0.7 g trans fat) 2351 mg sodium, 66 g carbs (2.8 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 26 g protein

Popeyes’ Spicy Flounder Fish Sandwich is made from premium flounder that’s marinated in Louisiana-style herbs and spices, covered in a southern coating, fried to a crisp, and served on a brioche bun with barrel-cured pickles and spicy mayo. It cost me $5.99.

The look: The Spicy Flounder Fish Sandwich was the biggest sandwich of the bunch, weighing in at 253 grams. It was also one of the only sandwiches in this taste test that featured a whole piece of fish rather than an unnaturally square fried fish patty. The breaded flounder developed nice golden brown color during the cooking process, but the sandwich overall looked pretty plain, with just a couple of pickles and a very light layer of spicy mayo.

The taste: I absolutely adore Popeyes’ famous fried chicken sandwich, so I was truly expecting the chain to dominate this taste test. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything good to say about this option. While the Louisiana herbs and spices Popeyes uses across its menu pair great with chicken, they completely overshadowed the delicate taste of the fish. There also wasn’t nearly enough spicy mayo or pickles to give it a much-needed flavor boost.

Additionally, the fish itself looked and felt like it would be beautifully crispy at first. But when I bit into it, the breading was so crazy thick that it completely negated any crispiness. The whole thing just felt really tough, bready, and one-note.

Popeyes’ Flounder Fish Sandwich

Popeyes Flounder Fish Sandwich
Zoe Strozewski / Eat This, Not That!

Per sandwich: 681 calories, 35 g fat (8.6 g saturated fat, 0.8 g trans fat) 2386 mg sodium, 66 g carbs (3 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 26 g protein

Popeyes’ classic Flounder Fish Sandwich features all the same elements as the spicy version aside from swapping out the spicy mayo for tartar sauce. It cost me $5.99.

The look: There’s not much to say about the look of the Flounder Fish Sandwich that I didn’t already say about its spicy counterpart. It was almost as big, weighing in at 228 grams, and looked pretty much identical. The portions of pickles and tartar sauce were similarly skimpy on this option.

The taste: Every single issue that I encountered with the Spicy Flounder Fish Sandwich was present in the non-spicy version as well. The breading was way too thick, there was no fish flavor, and it was overall very boring and hard to eat. It was marginally better than the spicy version because I much prefer tartar sauce on a fish sandwich over mayo. However, there was so little of the tangy, creamy condiment that it didn’t make much of a difference.

Burger King’s Big Fish

Burger King Big Fish
Zoe Strozewski / Eat This, Not That!

Per sandwich: 570 cal, 30 g fat (5 g saturated fat, 0.3 g trans fat), 1,270 mg sodium, 58 g carbs (3.2 g fiber, 8.1 g sugar), 19.2 g protein

Burger King’s Big Fish sandwich features white Alaskan pollock in a crispy panko breading, sweet tartar sauce, lettuce, and pickles on a toasted potato bun. The sandwich cost me $6.49.

The look: On the positive side, this sandwich boasted a glossy, soft-looking bun, plenty of toppings, and a beautifully golden brown fish patty. On the negative side, it was messily assembled, the lettuce appeared wilted, and there was a bit of an overload of tartar goop. The Big Fish was in the middle of the pack in terms of size, weighing in at 190 grams.

The taste: Like both Popeyes options, there was pretty much no actual fish flavor in Burger King’s signature seafood sandwich. However, the Big Fish was still a vast improvement over the two lower-ranking Popeyes sandwiches. Despite not really tasting or feeling like fish, the panko-breaded patty was pleasantly salty and super crispy. The pickles and lettuce both added a fresh, zingy note and a bit of texture that the Popeyes sandwiches lacked. And while I could have done with less tartar sauce, I’d rather have a little too much of it than too little. Burger King’s version of the condiment wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it was sweet, creamy, slightly tangy, and pretty serviceable.

Overall, I really enjoyed the toppings and textures of the Big Fish, but it landed on the lower end of this ranking because the toppings were all I tasted. When I order a fish sandwich, I want the dominant flavor to be fish.

Burger King’s Fiery Big Fish

Burger King Fiery Big Fish
Zoe Strozewski / Eat This, Not That!

Per sandwich: 730 cal, 46 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 1,530 mg sodium, 61 g carbs (3 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 19 g protein

Burger King’s limited-edition Fiery Big Fish sandwich is almost identical to the classic Big Fish, but the pollock patty is coated in a “triple pepper spicy glaze,” according to the chain’s website. The sandwich cost me $6.49.

The look: Like a zestier, more daring cousin to the original Big Fish. While the Fiery Big Fish was also somewhat messy, I could see and smell the reddish spicy glaze, which made me really excited to take a bite. This sandwich weighed in at 200 grams.

The taste: Nearly identical to the Big Fish, but with a slightly spicy upgrade. The glaze had a super peppery and slightly sweet flavor that made the sandwich even tastier than its non-spicy counterpart. It almost reminded me of a Nashville hot chicken, but not nearly as spicy or intense. Everything else about the sandwich was exactly the same as the Big Fish. Yet again, I didn’t detect any actual fish flavors, but I enjoyed the textures and toppings.

McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish

McDonald's Filet-O-Fish
Zoe Strozewski / Eat This, Not That!

Per sandwich: 390 cal, 19 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 580 mg sodium, 39 g carbs (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 16 g protein

McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish features a crispy fish filet patty, American cheese, and tartar sauce on a soft, steamed bun. It cost me $5.75.

The look: I’ve never seen a fast-food item that looked so identical in real life to its marketing photos. This Filet-O-Fish, which happened to be my first ever, boasted a picture perfect bun, melty cheese, a generous layer of tartar sauce, and a light golden brown fish patty. Despite its visual perfection, it was the smallest of the sandwiches by a landslide, weighing in at just 139 grams. I found it very notable that the Filet-O-Fish costs nearly as much as Popeyes’ fish sandwiches despite weighing so much less.

The taste: Hallelujah! After trying several fish sandwiches that inexplicably lacked fish flavor, I’m happy to report that the Filet-O-Fish indeed tastes like fish. That in and of itself was enough to secure it the second place spot in this ranking, but there were also a couple of other things I really like about this sandwich.

For starters, the steamed bun was delightfully soft and pillowy. Additionally, while I wish the tartar sauce had a more potent flavor, it still had a nice creamy texture and decent tang. My biggest critiques were that the fish wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked and the flavor was just a little boring. Some fresh lettuce and a couple of pickles would really upgrade the taste and textures of the Filet-O-Fish.

Wendy’s Crispy Panko Fish Sandwich

Wendy's Crispy Panko Fish Sandwich
Zoe Strozewski / Eat This, Not That!

Per sandwich: 520 cal, 25 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 1,240 mg sodium, 52 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 21 g protein

Wendy’s Crispy Panko Fish Sandwich features a wild-caught Alaskan pollock fillet coated in crispy panko breading, lettuce, American cheese, pickles, and creamy dill tartar sauce on a premium Wendy’s bun. It cost me $6.92, which was the most I paid for any sandwich in this taste test.

The look: While McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish looked identical to its marketing photos, Wendy’s Crispy Panko Fish Sandwich somehow looked even more tantalizing in real life than what I’ve seen advertised. The fish was a deep golden brown color, hinting at a perfectly crispy texture. The lettuce looked super fresh, the cheese was melty, and it was loaded with the perfect amount of tartar sauce. It weighed in at 180 grams, making it the second smallest sandwich of the bunch.

The taste: Practically perfect, from the textures to the balance of flavors. The bun was soft and pillowy, the pickles were tangy and crunchy, the lettuce was fresh and crisp, and the dill-y tartar sauce was the best in the whole taste test by a landslide. Better yet, the fish was not only audibly crispy, but it actually tasted like fish!

One of my friends once described Wendy’s to me as the “Rolls-Royce” of fast-food, and I’m inclined to agree after tasting the Crispy Panko Fish Sandwich for the first time. I was hugely impressed by the quality and execution, and I hope that Wendy’s continues to bring back this exemplary offering year after year.

In fact, it’s so good that Wendy’s should seriously consider making this a permanent part of the menu. After all, if McDonald’s and Burger King can do it, then why can’t Wendy’s?

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