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Welcome. You just found copycat recipes for all your favorite famous foods! Bestselling author and TV host Todd Wilbur shows you how to easily duplicate the taste of iconic dishes and treats at home for less money than eating out. Todd's recipes are easy to follow and fun to make. New recipes are posted each week.

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    Shake Shack ShackBurger

    Several puzzles had to be solved to make a satisfying hack of the signature sandwich from the rapidly expanding New York chain. First, our burger must include a spot-on facsimile of the secret ShackSauce. I got a sample of the sauce from one of our Las Vegas Shake Shacks and determined the seven common ingredients, including pickle juice, to combine for a great shack sauce recipe.

    Second, the burger must be made with a special ground mix of four different cuts of beef and the patties need to be cooked the right way. I tested many combinations of meat until I landed on a flavorful blend of chuck, brisket, skirt steak, and short ribs. If you don't have a meat grinder at home, you can have your butcher grind these for you. At the restaurant, the ground beef blend is formed into ¼-pound pucks that are smashed onto the grill with a metal press. Grab a strong spatula and heat up a heavy skillet.

    And third, you'll need some soft, buttered and toasted potato buns to hold it all together. Shake Shack uses Martin's rolls, which are not cut all the way through, allowing the buns to be hinged open for loading. If you can’t find Martin’s, any soft potato rolls will do.

    Use these secrets and follow the easy steps below, and soon you’ll be biting into a perfect re-creation of Shake Shack Shackbuger. The famous cheeseburger that helped this chain grow from a single food cart in New York City to over 162 stores.

    Try my Shake Shack vanilla custard and vanilla milkshake recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unleashed by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    KFC Potato Wedges

    “Don’t call them fries,” says KFC about its popular side made with sliced, skin-on russet potatoes. What sets these potatoes apart from all the others is the secret breading made with a similar seasoning blend to the one used for Colonel's Original Recipe Fried Chicken. To achieve the proper crispiness, the potatoes are par-fried, frozen, then fried again until golden brown.

    One important ingredient that completes the flavor is MSG. Monosodium glutamate is a food additive derived from glutamic acid, which is an important amino acid found in abundance in nature, food, and in you right now. Over the last 60 years of study and use, MSG has not only been found harmless in normal amounts, but tests have shown glutamate to be a chemical messenger that benefits gut health, immunity, and brain functions such as memory and learning. In addition to all of that, it imparts a unique savoriness that enhances flavors in other ingredients and makes your food taste amazing. Using MSG in your food is, literally, smart cooking.

    Another important ingredient is ground Tellicherry black pepper, a select black pepper from India. Winston Shelton, a friend of Harland Sanders who invented the first high-volume pressure fryers for KFC, confirmed this. Shelton recalled seeing the ingredient when Sanders showed him the secret formula for the fried chicken seasoning he had scribbled on a piece of paper.

    While we were shooting the first episode of my TV Show, Top Secret Recipe, Winston pulled me aside and whispered to me that Tellicherry pepper is crucial to creating the unique KFC aftertaste. It was a great tip, and fortunately, we caught that moment on camera and you can see it in the show. Later, I conducted a side-by-side taste test with common black pepper and Tellicherry black pepper and discovered Winston was right. If you want the best taste for your copycat KFC Potato Wedges, you'll need Tellicherry pepper, which you can find online and in some food stores. Be sure to grind it fine before using it.

    For my KFC Potato Wedges recipe, just two russet potatoes are all it takes to make the equivalent of a large serving of fried potato wedges, which will be enough for at least four people.

    Get more of my KFC copycat recipes here.

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  • Score: 4.81 (votes: 16)
    Popeyes Chicken Sandwich

    When Popeyes debuted its new crispy chicken sandwich on August 12, 2019, the company was not prepared for the eruption of social media video posts comparing the new sandwich to Chick-fil-A’s classic chicken sandwich. As a result of the apparently unplanned instant viral campaign in which Popeyes almost always emerges as the winner, customers swarmed the stores and waited in long lines to try the now-famous sandwich. The buzz continued to build day by day, and just two weeks after its debut, the sandwich had sold out—a full month ahead of schedule.

    But sold out or not, you don’t need Popeyes to get the great taste combo of the crispy buttermilk breaded chicken breast, soft buttered brioche bun, mayo, and pickles. Fortunately, I was able to get my hands on several of the sandwiches before they were gone and cranked out a Popeyes Chicken Sandwich copycat recipe, so you can now learn to make the Popeyes fried chicken sandwich any time you want. With these new tricks you’ll be able to make crispy chicken at home that’s flavorful, juicy, and tender, just like Popeyes, coated in a thick golden breading with the same light crunch.

    The secret to moist, tasty chicken is to brine it for several hours in a spicy mixture of buttermilk, pepper sauce, salt, and MSG. The buttermilk is slightly acidic, so it will help tenderize the chicken without making it too tough like harsher acids, while the salt enhances the flavor (as does the MSG) and keeps the chicken juicy. The MSG (monosodium glutamate) is an amino acid with a salt-like flavor that at one time was thought to be unhealthy, but is now considered an important culinary additive. Popeyes uses it in their chicken because it provides an essential savory flavor called “umami,” and you cannot make an accurate clone without it.

    To imitate the light, crispy breading of Popeyes Chicken Sandwich, we’ll use baking powder in the flour. The baking powder forms bubbles in the flour when the chicken cooks so that the breading is tender and crispy, rather than crusty and dense. I found that self-rising flour works great since it conveniently has just the right amount of baking powder and salt already added. But don't use a low-protein self-rising flour like White Lily. That brand is awesome for biscuits, but its low gluten content makes it not stick well on chicken breasts. I used Gold Medal self-rising flour, and it worked great. If all-purpose flour is all you’ve got, that can work as well. I’ve put measurements for using all-purpose flour, plus baking powder and salt, in the Tidbits below. 

    If you'd like to kick up your Popeyes Chicken Sandwich copycat recipe, clone the spicier version by replacing the plain mayo with my easy hack for Popeyes Spicy Mayonnaise

    Click here for more of my copycat recipes for Popeye's famous dishes.

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    Olive Garden Chicken Margherita

    Menu Description: "Grilled chicken breasts topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil pesto, and a lemon garlic sauce.”

    My Olive Garden grilled chicken margherita recipe starts with a quick 30-minute brine to bless the chicken with flavor and juiciness. While the chicken is marinating and then grilling, you’ll have plenty of time to make the basil pesto and lemon garlic sauce knockoffs.

    When the chicken comes off the grill, top it with cheese and pop under the broiler for a nice melt. Once plated, the chicken is doused with the delicious lemon garlic sauce, topped with pesto, and dressed up with colorful grape tomatoes.

    And if you’re into it, I’ve also worked up a clone for the side served with this entrée at Olive Garden—Parmesan zucchini. The hack is in the Tidbits below if you’d like to include this simple side with your copycat plate, like they do in the restaurant.

    This recipe makes four servings, which is four lunch-size servings at Olive Garden, or two dinner portions. Now, how hungry are you?

    Find more of my Olive Garden recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Taco Bell Diablo Sauce

    The hottest of Taco Bell’s five hot sauces cranks up the heat meter with a special blend of peppers for true chili heads. Diablo Sauce was introduced on Cinco de Mayo in 2015 as a limited-time-only product and was soon discontinued. But demanding fans pleaded for the chain to bring the sauce back, and on May 5 of the following year, Diablo Sauce got a permanent spot in the Taco Bell hot-sauce lineup.

    According to Taco Bell, the sauce contains aji panca, a sweet Peruvian red pepper, and chipotle, which is smoked red jalapeño. Since aji panca can be hard to find, we'll use ground ancho instead, which has a similar taste. There are other peppers in Diablo Sauce which remain a mystery, but it's easy to tell that at least one of them comes packing big heat. I added habanero and cayenne and the sauce had a perfect kick.

    Purée all of it in a blender, then cook it for 10 minutes. Once it’s cooled, you’ll have an easy home copy of Taco Bell Diablo sauce, with great flavor and heat that’ll turn your face red, just like the real one.

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    Qdoba Grilled Adobo Chicken

    The 729-unit chain did not start its life as Qdoba. When the Mexican food chain was first founded by Robert Miller and Anthony Hauser in Denver, Colorado in 1995, it was called Zuma Mexican Grill, named after a friend’s cat. As it turned out, a restaurant in Boston had that same name and threatened to sue, so the partners changed the name to Z-Teca. It wasn’t long before two different restaurants threatened to sue for that name—Z’Tejas in Arizona and Azteca in Washington—and the partners were forced to change the name yet again. This time they called their restaurant Qdoba, a completely made-up name that was unlikely to be used by anyone else.           

    A signature item and consistent top seller is this marinated adobo chicken, offered as a main ingredient in most of the chain’s selections. Make this chicken by marinating thigh meat for a couple of days in the secret adobo sauce (a worker there told me they let it soak for up to 8 days), then grill and chop. Use your copycat Qdoba chicken in burritos, tacos, bowls, on nachos, and in tortilla soup.

    I bet your craving some Qdoba Fiery Habanero Salsa right about now. Get my recipe here

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    Cheddar's Spiked Strawberry Lemonade

    Here's a refreshing warm weather (or any weather!) cocktail that’s considered one of Cheddar's signature drinks. It's served in a huge 18-ounce schooner glass, but you can use any glass that will hold 18-ounces of liquid goodness. For the strawberries, find them in the freezer section and get kind that are frozen in sweet syrup, and let them thaw out before you measure. Be sure to include lots of the syrup when you measure the strawberries to help mellow the tart juice from the two lemon wedges.  

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    KFC Extra Crispy Tenders

    As you can probably guess, KFC's Extra Crispy Tenders are chicken tenderloins coated with the same delicious breading as KFC’s Extra Crispy Chicken. These tenders come in servings of two, three, six, or twelve, with your choice of dipping sauces on the side including buffalo, barbecue, and the new Finger Lickin' Good Sauce.

    To duplicate these chicken fingers at home, we’ll resort to a similar prep technique to the one used for the Extra Crispy Chicken: the chicken is brined for 2 hours to give it more flavor and juiciness, then the tenders are double-breaded for an extra-crunchy coating.

    An important secret revealed in this breading recipe is the use of a specific type of ground black pepper. For the best copy of KFC Extra Crispy Tenders, you'll want to use Tellicherry black pepper, which is premium black pepper ground from mature peppercorns that have had time to develop more flavor. The unique aftertaste of KFC chicken is attributed to this special spice, so it’s worth the time to track it down.

    Tellicherry black pepper costs a little more than the younger, more common black pepper, but if you want a good clone of the famous crispy fried chicken, it’s an essential ingredient. Be sure to grind the pepper fine before adding it.

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    Outback Steakhouse Firecracker Salmon

    If you like sweet with a little bit of heat, and if you like salmon, then you'll love my Outback Steakhouse Firecracker Salmon recipe. 

    Grilled salmon is brushed with the restaurant's top secret Firecracker Sauce and then it's topped with simple-to-make mango salsa. Those fabulous formulas are all here, and I’ll also show you how to cook the salmon the same way the restaurant does for a perfectly awesome kitchen clone.

    Find recipes for more of your favorite Outback dishes here

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    In-N-Out Burger Vanilla Shake

    In-N-Out Burger's delicious shakes are made with real ice cream, and that's a good thing, but this vanilla shake has a unique taste that's more than just straight vanilla—I sense a hint of buttery caramel. Riffing on that idea, I came up with an easy recipe for In-N-Out Vanilla Shakes, using a blend of French vanilla ice cream and whole milk, along with a simple secret ingredient: caramel topping. Spooning just 1 tablespoon of Smucker’s caramel topping into the blender before mixing it all up produced a vanilla shake remarkably similar to the one that’s been served at In-N-Out Burger since 1975.

    Unfortunately, a milkshake produced with a home blender is thinner than a restaurant milkshake made with a milkshake machine. To fix that, after mixing your shake in the blender, place the blender in your freezer for a bit until the shake firms up, then mix it once again, spoon it into a tall glass, and serve it with a wide straw.

    Pair this with my improved In-n-Out Double-Double hamburger recipe here.

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    Chick-fil-A Sweet and Spicy Sriracha Sauce

    The newest flavor in Chick-fil-A’s line-up of seven sauces is this spicy little number packing big heat from chili sauce and sriracha. The sauce is mostly used as a dip for the chain’s chicken strips and nuggets, but you’ll find it also works great on chicken that’s grilled or roasted. Use my Chick-fil-A Sweet and Spicy Sriracha Sauce recipe to create a dip for fried seafood, like shrimp, and as a glaze that perks up the flavor of almost any fish.

    Get this recipe in "Top Secret Recipes Unleashed" exclusively on Amazon.com.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Bojangles' Buttermilk Biscuits

    There’s one copycat recipe for these famous biscuits that’s posted and shared more than any other, and it’s downright awful. The dough is formulated with self-rising flour, baking powder, powdered sugar, shortening, and buttermilk, and many complain that the recipe creates dough that’s much too loose and the resulting biscuits are a complete disaster. Yet there the recipe remains on blogs and boards all over the interweb for unsuspecting home cloners such as yourself to waste time on. But that won’t happen anymore, because I have made a good copycat Bojangles' buttermilk biscuits recipe that works the way it should, guaranteeing you’ll get amazing golden buttermilk biscuits that look and taste just like a trained Bojangles’ pro made them.

    In addition to the obvious overuse of buttermilk, the popular recipe I found online has many problems. The author gets it right when calling for self-rising flour, which is flour containing salt and a leavening agent (aka baking powder), but why would the copycat Bojangles biscuit recipe be designed to use self-rising flour and then add additional leaving? Well, it probably wouldn’t. Biscuits are job number 1 for self-rising flour, and the leavening in there is measured for that use, so there’s no need to add more. If you were planning to add your own leavening, you’d probably start with all-purpose flour, which has no leavening in it. And let's just be clear: baking powder tastes gross, so we want to add as little as possible, not more than necessary.

    It’s also important to handle the dough the same way that workers at Bojangles’ do. They make biscuits there every 20 minutes and there are plenty of YouTube videos showing the preparation technique. In a nutshell, the dough is mixed by hand (in the restaurant they use their hands because the quantity is so large, but for this recipe use a mixing spoon), then it’s folded over a few times on a floured countertop before it’s rolled out. This gentle handling of the dough prevents the gluten in the flour from toughening and adds layers, so your biscuits come out of the oven tender and flakey.

    For the best results, find White Lily flour. This self-rising flour is low in gluten and makes unbelievably fluffy biscuits. If you use another self-rising brand, you’ll still get great biscuits, but the gluten level will likely be higher, the biscuits will be tougher, and you’ll probably need more buttermilk. Head down to the Tidbits below for details on that.

    And I noticed another thing most copycat Bojangles biscuit recipes get wrong. For biscuits that are beautifully golden brown on the top and bottom, you’ll want to bake them on a silicone baking mat (or parchment paper) at 500 degrees F. Yes, 500 degrees. That may seem hot, but this high temp works well with self-rising flour, and in 12 to 15 minutes the biscuits will be perfectly browned.

    Counterintuitively, it’s the lower temperatures that end up burning the biscuits, while the higher temperature cooks them just right. At lower temps the biscuits must stay in the oven longer to cook through, which exposes the surfaces to more heat, and they end up too dark on the outside, especially the bottom. For even better results, if you have a convection setting on your oven, use that and set the temp to 475 degrees F. Your biscuits will look like they came straight from the drive-thru.

    Find more tasty Bojangles' copycat recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    McDonald's Strawberry Banana Smoothie

    McDonald's refreshing smoothie is easy to knock off at home in a blender with fresh bananas and boxed frozen strawberries that come in syrup. Thaw out those strawberries before adding them and include some of the syrup when measuring. My McDonald's strawberry banana smoothie recipe makes 2 medium drinks so you can share, or one really big drink for a very hot and thirsty you.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Burger King BK Stacker King

    With a simple stack of meat, bacon, cheese, and secret sauce, the original BK Stacker was introduced in 2006 as a product targeted to men. Hungry men. The Stacker came with one, two, three, or four 2-ounce beef patties, and several slices of bacon on top, along with a slathering of the top secret Stacker sauce. Even though the sandwich had developed something of a cult following over the years, it was dropped from the menu in 2012.

    Today, the BK Stacker has been revived, but this time as a bigger, badder version with a new name, and beefier beef patties that weigh in at a whopping quarter-pound each. And just like the original, you can stack the patties, but this time up to a max of three because the patties are so darn big. Good luck getting your mouth around a triple with nearly a pound of meat between the buns.

    As with the original Stacker, this sandwich’s big secret is the Stacker sauce. Its base is a typical burger spread combo of mayo/ketchup/sweet pickle relish, but this one has a hint of celery flavor and rosemary not found in other burger sauces. To get the celery juice you can grate a stalk of celery on a grater or Microplane then press the pulp through a wire mesh strainer. You’ll get plenty of juice, but you just need a little bit to make your hacked sauce a perfect taste-alike. Just so you know, all other Stacker Sauce hacks I researched leave out the celery juice and rosemary.

    My Burger King BK Stacker King recipe here makes four single hamburgers, but feel free to stack up as many patties as you can handle.

    Check out my clones for the Whopper, Big King, Onion Rings, the Stuffed Steakhouse Burger, and more from Burger King.  

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Panera Bread Vegetarian Summer Corn Chowder

    Panera’s top soup pick in the summer is a creamy vegetarian chowder that’s full of flavor and easy to copy at home once you know an important flavor secret. I started my hack using a vegetable broth, since that’s what 

    Panera’s top soup pick in the summer is a creamy vegetarian chowder that’s full of flavor and easy to copy at home once you know an important flavor secret. I started my hack using a vegetable broth, since that’s what all the other “copycats” call for, but I found its strong vegetable flavor dominated the soup, so I quickly bailed on that plan.

    Starting over, I referred to the soup’s ingredients posted online by Panera Bread and noticed there is no broth in the soup, which means every copycat recipe online is wrong. I didn’t want to make the same mistake in my Panera Bread Vegetarian Summer Corn Chowder recipe, but without the broth my soup would be lacking some important flavor components, and that’s no good either.

    In many soup recipes, the broth or stock is important for the umami quality provided by the yeast extract added to the product. Yeast extracts are one of the many ways food manufacturers add an MSG flavor-enhancing effect without adding MSG. Panera does in fact list “yeast extract” as one of the ingredients in the soup, so I needed to find a readily available ingredient that would provide the same savory quality.

    Enter nutritional yeast—or “nooch” as it’s often called—a flakey, nutrient-packed, vegan ingredient that’s growing quickly in popularity thanks to the savory, cheesy flavor it adds to a variety of foods (it’s great on popcorn). Nooch is also popular with vegans and vegetarians since it’s fortified with vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that's mainly found in animal-sourced foods.

    Now, with nooch in there, along with yellow corn, red-skin potatoes, poblano peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and other tasty things, no broth is required. Just give your Panera Bread Vegetarian Summer Corn Chowder some water and a little patience.

    Find more of your favorite Panera Bread recipes here

     

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  • Score: 3.00 (votes: 2)
    Wendy's Chocolate Frosty (Improved)

    It may look like it's all chocolate, but Wendy's founder Dave Thomas thought that a purely chocolate frozen dairy dessert would overpower his burger and fries, so he mixed chocolate with vanilla to create his signature ultra-thick shake, and in 1969, the Frosty was born.

    My first crack at this iconic treat was revealed in a copycat recipe I published 25 years ago in my first book "Top Secret Recipes" that called for mixing milk with Nestle Quik and vanilla ice cream in a blender. Tasty? Sure, it was. But the finished product was too runny, and the flavor wasn't perfect. That's why I recently holed myself up in the lab and created a new improved Wendy's Frosty recipe that you churn in a home ice cream maker until thick and creamy, and it now tastes just like the real thing.

    Unlike my previous recipe, which relied on premade ice cream and a drink mix, the scratch ingredients I used here allowed me to make small adjustments in flavor for a better match, and an ice cream maker is the perfect way to produce a thick, creamy consistency. So far, this is the best hack I've come up with to duplicate the treat that tests have shown is up to twice as thick as other famous desserts in a cup, including Dairy Queen's Blizzard and McDonald's McFlurry

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Bush's Country Style Baked Beans

    In the Bush’s Beans commercials, Duke, the family golden retriever, wants to sell the secret family recipe, but the Bush family always stops him. The dog is based on the Bush family’s real-life golden retriever, and the campaign, which began in 1995, made Bush’s the big dog of the canned baked beans market practically overnight. Their confidential baked beans formula is considered one of the top 10 biggest recipe secrets in the U.S.

    Bush Brothers & Company had been canning a variety of fruits and vegetables for over 60 years when, in 1969, the company created canned baked beans using a cherished recipe from a family matriarch. Sales jumped from 10 thousand cases in the first year to over 100 thousand cases in 1970. And just one year later sales hit a million cases. Today Bush’s makes over 80 percent of the canned baked beans sold in the U.S., and the secret family recipe remains a top food secret, despite Duke’s attempts. A replica of the original recipe book—without the original recipe in it (drat!)—is on display at the company's visitor center in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee.

    I chose to hack the “Country Style” version of Bush’s Beans because I don’t think the Original flavor has enough, uh, flavor. Country Style is similar to Original, but richer, with more brown sugar. My recipe for Bush's Country Style baked beans starts by soaking dry small white beans in a brine overnight. The salt in the water helps to soften the skins, but don’t soak them for more than 14 hours or the skins may begin to fall off. You can skip this step if you've got a fancy Instant Pot using my directions below. 

    My first versions tasted great but lacked the deep brown color of the real Bush’s beans, which include caramel coloring—an ingredient that can be hard to find on its own. I eventually discovered that the “browning” sauce, Kitchen Bouquet, will add the dark caramel color needed to our home version of the beans so that they’ll look just like the real thing.

    This recipe was our #5 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1) KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4).

     

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    Hellmann's - Best Foods Real Ketchup

    Hellmann’s—or Best Foods as the company is known west of the Rockies—recently debuted this new ketchup for customers looking to avoid high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, and artificial ingredients. The label lists only six ingredients: tomato puree, honey, white wine vinegar, salt, onion powder, and spices. It wasn’t immediately clear what the “spices” referred to until I wiped a wide smear of the ketchup across a white plate, making the blacks specks of fine grind pepper clearly stand out. After that, creating my Best Foods Real Ketchup recipe was just a matter of getting the ratios right.

    If you're a fan of the original Heinz Ketchup, check out my clone recipe here

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    Cheesecake Factory Cheeseburger Spring Rolls

    Here's how to build a cheeseburger in crispy spring roll dough and make the secret 4-ingredient dipping sauce for a perfect hack of Cheesecake Factory’s Cheeseburger Spring Rolls. I found the best solution for a good clone was to first cook two 4-ounce Angus patties—with no less than 15 percent fat, so the beef stays juicy—in a sauté pan until browned. I then sautéed some onion in the same pan and mixed it into the crumbled patties, with ketchup and diced American cheese. 

    I tried several different wrappers and found the thinnest wrappers to work the best. Try to find wrappers that say “super thin” on them. Thicker dough wrappers will blister when fried, which is not how the restaurant version looks, although the thicker wrappers still make tasty spring rolls.

    Rice paper wrappers will give you a chewier, less crispy bite, and are a good option if you're interested in a gluten-free version. If you go with rice paper, you won’t need the cornstarch solution to seal them. Dipping the whole wrapper in a little water makes the rice paper pliable and naturally sticky.

    The list of recipes I've copied from Cheesecake Factory is almost as long as their menu. Check them out here.

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    Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows

    The most popular recipe circulating on the internet and among Food Network chefs who claim it as their own makes decent marshmallows, but the ubiquitous formula won’t pass as a hack for America’s favorite marshmallows, Jet-Puffed. I know this for sure because my eleven-year-old daughter says so, and she’s the House Marshmallow Expert (HME).

    According to our HME, the internet recipe makes marshmallows that are too sweet, and they don't have the right flavor. After testing the sweetness for myself I decided she was right, so I reduced the sugar for my Jet-Puffed Marshmallow recipe. I also adjusted the flavor by adding more vanilla, and after another taste test, my batch of fresh marshmallows got the HME seal of approval.

    But the shape was still wrong.

    One thing you’ll notice about homemade marshmallow recipes is that they all make cubic marshmallows, which are hand-sliced from one sheet of marshmallow that has set up in a square pan. But Jet-Puffed Marshmallows aren’t cubes, they’re cylindrical, and I wanted marshmallows like that. So, borrowing a technique for cornstarch molds used by candy manufacturers, I came up with a way you can make cylindrical marshmallows just like the big boys do. All you need is cornstarch and a muffin pan. You’ll find instructions for cylindrical marshmallows at the bottom of the recipe in the Tidbits if you want to give the more authentic shape a try.

    Regardless of what shape you decide to make, a stand mixer and a candy thermometer will help you turn out the best-ever homemade marshmallows—which, by the way, make fantastic s'mores.

     

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Kozy Shack Rice Pudding (Improved)

    My previously published recipe hack of America's most popular rice pudding was not clear about which kind of rice to use. That's a problem because not all rice is created equal. The recipe calls for medium-grain rice but is not any more specific than that, which could lead to varying results in the consistency of the pudding since every rice has a different thickening ability.

    I recently reworked my Kozy Shack Rice Pudding recipe using many different types of rice, including instant rice, converted rice, basmati rice, jasmine rice, calrose rice, arborio rice, and even sushi rice. Most didn't contain the starch needed to properly thicken the pudding, especially the par-cooked rice such as instant rice and converted rice. On the other end of the spectrum, sushi rice contained too much starch and was much too small.

    The best of the bunch was jasmine rice, a long-grain rice, which thickened the pudding nicely after 45 minutes or so of simmering and appeared to be comparable in size to what is in the real thing. Jasmine rice plus five more ingredients are all it takes to make this new, improved clone.

    And now there's no need for a cooking thermometer as required in my previous recipe, since you can just add the rice when you see the milk beginning to steam and keep the pudding at a low simmer until it's done. After about an hour, you'll have a Kozy Shack rice pudding copycat recipe that's ready to pop into the fridge until it’s cool, creamy, and ready to eat.

    Also, check out my copycat recipe for Kozy Shack Tapioca Pudding.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Starbucks Bacon and Gruyere Sous Vide Egg Bites

    In January of 2017, Starbucks perfected slow-cooked sous vide–style egg snacks that can be prepped and served quickly by the baristas at any location. To speed up service, Starbucks makes the egg pucks ahead of time, then freezes and ships them to the coffee stores where they are defrosted and reheated in blazing-hot convection ovens.

    Sous vide refers to the method of cooking food sealed in bags or jars at a low, consistent temperature for a long time. This technique creates food that’s softer in texture and less dried out than food cooked with other, faster methods. Cooks who use sous vide will often vacuum pack their food in bags and use special machines to regulate temperature. But you won’t need an expensive machine like that for my Starbucks Bacon and Gruyère Sous Vide Egg Bites recipe—just some 8-ounce canning jars and a blender.

    The secret to duplicating the smooth texture starts with blending the cheeses very well until no lumps remain. Rub some of the cheese mixture between your fingers to make sure it’s smooth before you pour it into the jars. It’s also important to monitor the temperature of the water. Try to keep it between 170 and 180 degrees F so that your eggs are neither too tough nor too soft. It’s best to use a cooking thermometer for this, but if you don’t have one, the right temperature is just below where you see tiny bubbles rising to the surface. Also, if you hear the jars jiggling in the water, that’s their way of telling you the water is a bit too hot.

    You might also like my version of Starbucks Egg White and Roasted Red Pepper Sous Vide Egg Bites. 

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  • Not rated yet
    Hostess Powdered Donettes

    At the 2018 Salvation Army National Doughnut Day World Doughnut Eating Contest, held every June 1st, competitive eater Joey Chestnut consumed 257 Hostess powdered Donettes in six minutes to take home the top prize. There was a big smile on Joey's powdered-sugar-and-crumb-coated face that day as he raised a trophy to celebrate another glorious gastronomic feat.  

    If you had to guess who makes the top-selling doughnuts in America, you’d probably say Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme, but you’d be wrong. According to Hostess, Donettes are the country’s most popular doughnuts—you rarely find a supermarket, corner market, or convenience store without at least a few packages on the shelf. Hostess Donettes come in several flavors, including chocolate, crumb, and strawberry, but the one most people turn to, and the one I grew up on (they were called “Gems” back then), is coated with a thick layer of powdered sugar.    

    Cloning the Hostess powdered donuts is not hard, once you know the secrets. You'll make a stiff cake dough, punch out 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter, pierce the dough with a straw or chopstick to make a hole, then fry the doughnuts for 2 minutes until golden brown. After you roll them in powdered sugar, you'll have around 20 fresh, home-cloned miniature Hostess Powdered Donettes that will make you feel like a kid again.

    And—just doing a little math here—it would take Joey Chestnut all of about 14 seconds to eat that entire plate of doughnuts you just made.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Olive Garden Stuffed Chicken Marsala

    Menu Description: “Creamy marsala wine sauce with mushrooms over grilled chicken breasts, stuffed with Italian cheeses and sundried tomatoes. Served with garlic mashed potatoes.”

    My Olive Garden Stuffed Chicken Marsala recipe includes a marsala sauce that even marsala sauce haters will like. My wife is one of those haters, but when she tried this sauce, her eyes lit up, and she begged for more. That’s great, now I won’t have to eat alone.

    Not only is Olive Garden's delicious marsala sauce hacked here (and it’s easy to make), you’ll also get the copycat recipe for the chain's awesome Italian cheese stuffing that goes between the two pan-cooked chicken fillets. Build it, sauce it, serve it. The presentation is awesome, and the flavor will soothe your soul.

    Try this dish paired with my recent clone of Olive Garden’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes for the complete Olive Garden Stuffed Chicken Marsala experience.

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  • Not rated yet
    Chick-fil-A Frosted Lemonade

    Chick-fil-A’s popular Frosted Lemonade is a delicious, blended combination of lemonade and the chain’s trademarked Icedream soft serve product. Just like Dairy Queen’s famous soft serve, Icedream looks and tastes like ice cream, but it contains considerably less butterfat since it’s made with milk, rather than cream.

    For my Chick-Fil-A Frosted Lemonade recipe though, cream-less ice cream is not a necessity. Regular ice cream works just fine here, although light ice cream, which is usually made with a milk base (Blue Bell Vanilla Light Ice Cream is one example), also makes a great clone.

    Give yourself a little time for the fresh lemonade to chill in your freezer before adding it to your blender with the other ingredients. In a matter of seconds, when all the ice is crushed, you’ll have two frosty 16-ounce drinks that taste just like the real deal, but at a mere fraction of the cost.

    Try more of my Chick-Fil-A copycat recipes like their famous chicken sandwich here

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  • Not rated yet
    Carrabba's Calamari and Ricardo Sauce

    Searching for a great fried calamari recipe from a large chain to hack, I finally landed on Carrabba’s popular appetizer, with two dipping sauces, including the chain's top secret Ricardo Sauce.

    I like this preparation because it's super simple, with a two-stage breading process that calls for just egg whites to moisten the calamari before it gets dropped into the seasoned flour. The egg whites will give the breading a light texture and prevent your calamari from browning as it would with any milk or egg yolk in the mix. Browning is just fine for other fried calamari dishes, but a hack for Carrabba’s version needs to produce crispy calamari with a tender crunch and light golden color.

    A good Carrabba’s Calamari recipe will also need to include both dipping sauces, so hacks for the chain’s marinara sauce and famous Ricardo Sauce recipes are here. Ricardo Sauce is a creamy lemon butter sauce with added red bell peppers, pepperoncini, and crushed red peppers, and this exclusive TSR formula will give you the absolute best results of any recipe that exists in the known universe.

    I've hacked a ton of dishes from Carrabba's. Check to see if I hacked your favorites here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Panda Express SweetFire Chicken Breast

    It’s not a regular menu item at Panda Express, so if the chain’s great SweetFire Chicken Breast isn’t available at a restaurant near you, you can use my Panda Express SweetFire Chicken Breast recipe below to get your fix. 

    I've worked up a simple hack here for the sweet-and-spicy sauce that gets poured over the crispy chicken chunks, and I’m also including a breading technique for perfect bite-size portions of crispy chicken. Add some onions, red bell pepper, and pineapple chunks, and you’ve just made a spot-on copy of the popular limited dish.

    Find more of my Panda Express copycat recipes here

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  • Not rated yet
    Yard House Nashville Hot Chicken

    This hit entrée at the 80-unit Yard House brings crispy Nashville hot chicken together with house-made sweet potato pancakes and honey hot sauce syrup on one beautiful plate, and now you can re-create that gorgeous entrée at home with these exclusive secrets, right down to the crispy sage leaves on top.

    In my version of Yard House's Nashville Chicken recipe, the crispy chicken is brined to make it moist and juicy on the inside, and just before serving it gets tossed with the Nashville hot sauce for a perfect re-creation of the plate's main attraction. The honey hot sauce is a simple concoction of five ingredients, and the pancakes are simplified by using canned sweet potatoes rather than fresh ones that require an additional cooking step. 

    Bring it all together for four impressive plates, and be sure to serve ‘em up with something tall and cold to drink. 

    Find my famous cocktail recipes here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Cheesecake Factory Thai Coconut-Lime Chicken

    Menu Description: “Tender pieces of chicken. Snow peas, shiitake mushrooms, onions, and garlic in a Thai coconut-curry sauce with cashews and pineapple. Served with white rice.”

    Sautéed white meat chicken comes swimming in the chain’s magical coconut-lime curry sauce, served alongside a bed of rice, with stir-fried vegetables, and topped with pineapple relish, cashews, and toasted coconut. The Cheesecake Factory captures great Thai flavors in this striking entrée from the restaurant chain’s specialty menu selections, and you can re-create the Cheesecake Factory Thai-Coconut Lime Chicken dish at home, with this exclusive recipe that I’ve sleuthed out down to every delicious detail.

    The star of the show is the mouthwatering coconut-lime curry sauce that brings together the traditional Thai combination of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors. The sauce brings in sour from lime and tamarind, sweet from honey, salt from fish sauce, and spicy heat from red pepper flakes. And if the sauce is cooked minimally after the parsley is added, the leafy herb will stay bright green for a beautiful and tasty dish that perfectly mirrors the original Cheesecake Factory Thai Coconut-Lime Chicken.

    Check out more of my copycat Cheesecake Factory recipes here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Outback Steakhouse Twisted Ribs

    Creative chefs at Outback Steakhouse have transformed the chain’s fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs into a fantastic appetizer by adding crispy Bloomin’ Onion breading, sweet barbecue sauce, and a drizzle of Bloomin’ Onion dipping sauce. I reverse-engineered the Outback Twisted Ribs recipe thanks to a kind server who let me take some home with sauces on the side, and now you can copy every twisted bit of it yourself with this exclusive hack.

    Outback’s ribs are smoked, but we’ll duplicate the taste without a smoker using a liquid smoke brine. This marinade will not only add flavor to the ribs, but it will also help keep the meat moist and juicy when cooked twice. Tweaked hacks for my Bloomin’ Onion breading and dipping sauce are here to complete your twisted appetizer, and you'll also get my new easy way to knock off the chain’s tasty house-made spicy pickles that come on the side. Plus, I'm including a batch of step-by-step photos so your dish will come out picture-perfect.

    Brush your ribs with Sweet Baby Ray's Original barbecue sauce since it tastes similar to what Outback uses, or use your favorite barbecue sauce, and you'll have a messy, but insanely delicious and exclusive new finger food favorite for your hungry crew.

    Check out more of my Top Secret Recipes for Outback Steakhouse favorites here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Chickie’s & Pete’s Famous Crabfries

    Waiting for a plane in Philadelphia isn’t so bad if your gate is near the airport location of this 20-unit crab house and sports bar chain where weather delay frustrations melt away over a cold beer, a Philly cheesesteak, and a bucket of Chickie’s & Pete’s Famous Crabfries.

    Crabfries, despite the name, do not have any crab on them. When the first Chickie’s & Pete’s opened its doors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1977, the restaurant served crab only in the summer. While brainstorming off-season uses for the seafood seasoning, founder Pete Ciarrocchi sprinkled some over crinkle-cut fries, served them with a side of secret cheese dipping sauce, and the most popular dish at his crab house was born.

    The beauty of this Chickie’s & Pete’s Crabfries recipe is its simplicity since you’ll need to prepare only two things, and they’re both easy: the secret crab seasoning and the secret cheese sauce. Since the chain’s cheese sauce is also used on their cheesesteak sandwiches, I surmised that a combination of the two easy-melting cheeses most commonly used on Philly cheesesteaks—white American and Cheez Whiz—would make a sauce with the taste and color of the restaurant version. This smooth sauce goes great with the fries, and it also puts the "Philly" into your next homemade cheesesteak.

    Once your cheese sauce is done and your seasoning is mixed, cook up a bag of crinkle-cut fries following the directions on the package, toss them with the seasoning, and serve immediately with the warm cheese sauce on the side.

    Find more famous french fry recipes from KFC, Taco Bell, and McDonald's here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Necco Candy Butttons

    The majority of paper that I ingested as a kid most likely came from eating these crunchy candy dots of flavored sugar. Peeling the buttons off the strips was never an entirely pure candy experience since there were always several buttons removed with haste that came with a bonus layer of paper stuck to the underside. And perhaps part of the candy’s charm was making a game out of attaining a clean, paper-free button removal.

    Candy Buttons or Candy Dots were created in the 1930s when an engineer at Cumberland Valley Company in New York created a machine to produce tiny dots of flavored sugar onto strips of paper. Necco bought Cumberland Valley in 1980 and became the sole manufacturer of the colorful candy strips until the company declared bankruptcy in 2018, and the famous candies, including Necco Wafers, Sweethearts, and Clark Bar, were sold off to the highest bidders. Candy buttons almost became a dead food, but fortunately, the product was resurrected when it was purchased by Cincinnati-based Doscher’s Candies, and today candy buttons are alive and well.

    A strip of the original pastel-colored candy buttons includes a combination of cherry, lemon, and lime flavors, but you can make your homemade Necco candy buttons any flavor or color you like with this recipe using the same ingredients as the real deal. For flavoring, find the popular LorAnn candy flavoring oils and add one bottle to the pan as the candy is cooling. Get some coated butcher paper and cut it into 11x2-inch strips (or any size you want, really), and use the back end of a skewer to place your dots on the paper. After a couple of days of drying the candy will be crunchy just like the original, and with coated paper, the sugar should make a clean release for a paperless burst of sweet nostalgia.

    The recipe will make at least 1000 candy buttons, but I’m not sure of the exact amount since I only got through about half of the pan of candy syrup to determine yield when my sanity came into question. Don’t feel obligated to use up the whole pan of candy for your buttons. For three different flavors of buttons on each strip like the original, you'll need to make three batches of candy.

    Click here for more of my copycat recipes of famous candy.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Domino's Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple Specialty Chicken

    My Domino’s new spicy specialty chicken recipe gives you a new way to turn frozen breaded chicken from any supermarket into an impressive appetizer. And this Top Secret Recipe comes with my complete formula for duplicating the chain’s famous sweet mango habanero dipping sauce to give your dish its fiery personality.

    Top your chicken with a blend of Cheddar and mozzarella cheese, jalapeño slices, and pineapple, and bake it on a strip of parchment paper until the cheese is bubbly and browned around the edges.

    Find more of your favorites from Domino's here

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  • Not rated yet
    Carrabba's Traditional Cannoli

    Menu Description: “Two crisp pastry shells stuffed with sweet ricotta and chocolate chip filling, topped with pistachios and powdered sugar.”           

    For great traditional cannoli, one need not look any further than a nearby Carrabba’s Italian Grill. The cannoli there are exactly what you want cannoli to be: a crunchy shell that isn’t soggy or too thick, packed with sweetened ricotta cheese filling that’s smooth and not grainy. And with that classic crunchy/creamy combination comes a hint of cinnamon lingering in the background to complete the traditional taste of a legit cannoli.

    To make Carrabba's cannoli at home, you’ll need 8 cannoli tubes to form the shells. After wrapping circles of dough around these 5-inch long metal tubes, they get deep-fried for a few minutes resulting in shells that are perfectly golden brown.

    As for the filling, it needs to be smooth if you want a good clone, so try to find ricotta cheese that isn’t too grainy. We’ll first strain the cheese overnight so that most of the liquid runs off for a thicker filling, but if your cheese is still grainy run the filling through a food processor until the cheese is smooth before folding in the whipped cream. Now that’s good cannoli.

    Click here for more of your favorite dishes from Carrabba's.

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  • Not rated yet
    Melting Pot Cheddar Cheese Fondue

    This 140-unit chain is America's go-to restaurant for great fondue since 1975. The four-course menu includes a salad, a broth fondue entrée with a variety of meats and vegetables, and a selection of chocolate fondues for dessert.

    But the dining experience starts with a delicious cheese fondue served with various sliced breads, apples, and vegetables for dipping. The most popular of the cheese fondues is this one made with medium cheddar and just a little Emmentaler Swiss cheese melted into beer and combined with garlic and spices. Talking with a manager at my local Melting Pot, I learned that the chain uses Milwaukee's Best or Colt 45 in the fondue, so make sure you use a mild (and cheap) lager beer. He told me that the mild flavor of these beers doesn't overpower the cheese. Use a traditional fondue pot intended for cheese/chocolate fondue.

    Check out my Melting Pot Traditional Swiss Fondue recipe in "Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step". 

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  • Not rated yet
    McDonald's Strawberry and Creme Pie

    Tiny apple pies have been a signature dessert on the McDonald’s menu for decades, but the chain upped its pie game recently with a tasty new treat featuring a duo of fillings in a flaky, lightly-iced crust. And no one has developed a good hack...until now.

    To duplicate these personal McDonald's Strawberry and Crème pies at home, I’ve created a new crust formula and filled it with thickened, puréed frozen strawberries next to a sweetened cream cheese filling. You'll find everything you'll need in my McDonald's Strawberry and Cream Pie recipe below. 

    To apply the perfect amount of filling, you can convert small plastic storage bags into mini piping bags by snipping off a corner. Squeeze the fillings onto the dough, then seal up the pies, brush them with light icing, and pop them in the oven. This recipe makes ten pies, which is a good thing because everyone who watches you make these will want one.   

    Find my McDonald's Apple Pie recipe in "Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step".

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  • Not rated yet
    Pizza Hut Spicy Lover's Pizza

    To satisfy America’s growing desire for foods that bite back, Pizza Hut introduced its spiciest pizza ever in early 2022. The new peppery pies include Spicy Hawaiian Chicken and Spicy Veggie, but it’s the Spicy Double Pepperoni version, with both regular pepperoni and cupped pepperoni, that takes the top spot.

    This is Pizza Hut’s first pizza to be topped with brined red jalapeño slices, which are similar to those packed in a jar from Old El Paso. If you can’t find bottled slices, use sliced fresh red jalapeños or red Fresno peppers, or any other spicy red pepper you find in your produce section. Red jalapeños will certainly bring some sting, but most of the boom will come from the chain’s new spicy marinara sauce that’s been kicked up with added peppers, and it's hacked here for you.

    When your feisty pie comes out of the oven, hit it with some “fiery flakes” (crushed red pepper and parsley) and you’ve got a perfect hack of Pizza Hut Spicy Lover's Pizza for your pizza-loving, hungry home team who like some heat.

    You might also want to try my clone recipe for Pizza Hut Pan Pizza.

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  • Not rated yet
    Lofthouse Frosted Cookies

    When the Lofthouse frosted cookies were first produced from a handed-down family recipe in a makeshift bakery in the back of a Utah garage in 1994, it's likely the ingredients were different than they are in the mass-produced product found in markets across the country today. To maintain a long shelf-life, it is common for baked goods to be manufactured with nondairy substitutes, so butter is often replaced with hydrogenated oil and butter flavoring (otherwise known as margarine), and various vegetable gums and preservatives are added to improve the texture and stabilize the product. 

    Rather than using ingredients such as artificial flavoring, lecithin, cellulose gum, or carrageenan in my Lofthouse cookie recipe, as you will see on the label of the store product, we will use real butter, fresh eggs, and vanilla extract in our clone - perhaps just as the family who created this recipe did back in the day. The big difference is that you have to be sure to eat the cookies within a few days to get that freshly baked taste and texture. Or you may want to freeze them. Cake flour is used here rather than all-purpose flour to duplicate the tender, cakey texture of the original, and sour cream is used to add in the dairy needed without overliquefying the dough (as milk would). An added benefit of sour cream is the high acidity, which activates the leavening power of the baking soda. The dough is still going to be much thinner and tackier that typical cookie dough, so chilling it for a couple of hours before portioning it out onto a baking sheet is a must to make it easier to shape. 

    Get the full recipe in Todd Wilbur's "Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step" cookbook. 

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  • Not rated yet
    IHOP Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes

    A scoop of cocoa powder and a handful of chocolate chips are mixed into the chain’s famous buttermilk batter for a bold stack that is a chocoholic’s dream come true. And making a picture-perfect home hack with my IHOP Chocolate Chip Pancake recipe is about as easy as cooking can get.

    Just before you serve up each stack, drizzle it with chocolate syrup and add more chips. Finish it up with a pile of whipped cream on top, and some warmed maple syrup on the side.

    Check here for many more of my IHOP copycat recipes.

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I'm Todd Wilbur, Chronic Food Hacker

For over 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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