I’m not Catholic, but I grew up in a predominantly Catholic community. Most of my peers observed Lent, which starts on Ash Wednesday and ends the night before Easter (this year, Lent began on February 17th and ends April 3rd). During those weeks, many Lent-observers eat fish on Fridays to abstain from “warm-blooded animals,” and some Christians follow this practice year-round. If you’re a fan of the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich, you can thank this tradition.
Created by franchise-owner Lou Groen in 1962, the Filet-O-Fish was the first non-hamburger item on the McDonald’s menu. In his Catholic community, Groen noticed that sales declined every Friday, so he slapped some fried fish on a bun with American cheese and tartar sauce to keep the Catholics coming back. Now the Filet-O-Fish is a McDonald’s staple, and consumers are deeply obsessed.
But if you have food allergies, there’s a chance that McDonald’s is off the table for you. That’s the case for my girlfriend, who has Celiac disease. Throw in my dietary restrictions due to chronic digestive issues, and ordering fast food (or ordering from restaurants in general) feels nearly impossible for us. But after some extensive research, I started making copycat Filet-O-Fish sandwiches in my own kitchen that suited our particular needs. And readers — I think I’ve nailed it.
Whether you’re observing Lent right now or you’re just a fan of the FOF, you can make this gluten-free, dairy-free fish sandwich at home. My specific brand recommendations for ingredients are all certified gluten-free or processed in a gluten-free facility. If trace amounts of gluten aren’t a concern for you, then you have more options for your ingredients.
*Makes four sandwiches
For the Tartar Sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use Primal Kitchen Mayo, which is Certified Gluten-Free)
1/4 cup minced dill pickles (I use Bubbie’s Kosher Dill Pickles, which are processed in a gluten-free facility)
2 teaspoons white onion, minced
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
10-12 capers, minced
1/8 teaspoon sugar
For the Sandwich:
4 cod or pollock filets
3/4 box of Simple Mills Almond Flour Crackers, crushed
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
4 slices of dairy-free American cheese (I use Daiya American-style Slices, which are processed in a gluten-free facility)
4 gluten-free buns (I use Udi’s Classic Hamburger Buns, which are Certified Gluten-Free)
1. If you’re using frozen gluten-free buns, start thawing them.
2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees
3. Mix your tartar sauce ingredients together. If it’s too thick or if it doesn’t have enough of a “vinegar-y” taste, add a little pickle juice. Refrigerate the mixture until you’re ready to use it.
4. Cut your filets into squares that are slightly larger than the buns (these will shrink a bit in the oven).
5. Whisk one egg in a bowl.
6. In a separate container, crush your gluten-free crackers. You can do this by hand or you can pulse the crackers in a food processor.
7. Add salt and pepper to the cracker mixture.
8. Dip each filet into the egg mixture. Then dip each filet in the crushed crackers. You may have to do this more than once to make sure that each filet is evenly coated.
9. Place your filets on a baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the fish is flaky and the cracker coating is slightly browned.
10. While your fish cools, warm your buns in the broiler or microwave.
11. Put those sandwiches together! For your most authentic Filet-O-Fish experience, place a slice of dairy-free cheese on the bottom half of each bun. Place each filet on top of the cheese. Add tartar sauce to the top half of each bun to complete your sandwich assembly.