McDonald's Filet-O-Fish Was Almost Made With A Totally Different Fish

McDonald's may be known primarily for its burgers and fries, but the fast food chain's Filet-O-Fish sandwich is still considered a beloved staple. After its initial run in 1963 at select locations, McDonald's ended up adding it to the permanent menu in 1965 due to successful sales. Since then, loyal customers have continued to order it on a regular basis, contrary to its reputation among those who are happy to stick to their Big Macs and Quarter Pounders.

"McDonald's still sells the Filet-O-Fish. Who is keeping them in business?!" one tweet says. "Ordering a Filet-O-Fish at McDonald's is criminal," another adds. The truth is that while people do order it year-round, the Filet-O-Fish sees a significant boost in sales among Catholic customers during Lenten season, securing its spot on the menu. Having a non-meat option is precisely why it was introduced in the first place, but the Filet-O-Fish recipe as we know it today took some time to develop because McDonald's wasn't entirely sure about what type of fish it would use for the sandwich initially.

The Filet-O-Fish was almost a halibut sandwich

Take a glimpse at the McDonald's menu, and you'll notice that you have to do a bit of digging in order to find out the type of fish used in the Filet-O-Fish. The description does divulge that the fish is "wild-caught" and "sourced from sustainably managed fisheries," but under ingredients, it's described only as a "Fish Filet Patty." So what type of fish exactly is it?

Ray Kroc, the chain's former CEO, revealed in his memoir "Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's," that test recipes for the Filet-O-Fish originally called for halibut. McDonald's ultimately swapped it out for cod before its release because it ended up being cheaper, but it wasn't an easy decision because Kroc didn't want customers to negatively associate the Filet-O-Fish with cod liver oil. This ended up being avoided by referring to the fish as "North Atlantic whitefish" instead. For a solid 50 years, the Filet-O-Fish was made with cod patties, but in 2013, McDonald's publicly revealed its decision to change the recipe.

How is the current Filet-O-Fish made?

As a fast food brand, McDonald's isn't one to shy away from altering its recipes if need be. Back in 2016 for example, chicken skin, citric acid, and other preservatives were removed from the McNuggets, and in the salads, iceberg lettuce was replaced with romaine, baby kale, and baby Tuscan lettuce. As for the Filet-O-Fish, Kerry Coughlin, The Marine Stewardship Council's regional director for the Americas, revealed to the Associated Press in 2013 that McDonald's began sourcing its Filet-O-Fish from a sustainable Alaskan pollock fishery. Judging by the information on the McDonald's website updated in 2021, it appears the current Filet-O-Fish still holds to the same standards.

At McDonald's restaurants outside of the U.S., however, the Filet-O-Fish isn't always made with sustainably sourced Alaskan pollock. In the U.K, there are two types of fish in the sandwich — white Hoki and Pollock — and in China, the Filet-O-Fish is still made with cod per the original recipe, and it actually contains two fish patties instead of one.