THE MOST TRUSTED COPYCAT RECIPES
THE MOST TRUSTED COPYCAT RECIPES
Charms Blow Pop copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Charms Blow Pop

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The fruity lollipop with gum inside is Charms' bestselling product, but the cool combo candy was the brainchild of a different candy company. Thomas T. Tidwell of Triple T Co. invented and patented his method for encasing gum inside candy in the 1960s, and sold his new lollipop, Triple Treat, for a short time. In 1973, Tidwell sold the product idea to the Charms Candy Company who renamed it Blow Pop, and for over 50 years the famous pop has been enjoyed by millions of happy mouths.

I’m not privy to the details of Tidwell’s method, but I can see by the vertical seam on a real Blow Pop that it's probably made by sealing two halves of the pop together, one half with gum and one half without. I tried various silicone lollipop molds for my Charms Blow Pop copycat recipe with little success and decided instead to create a technique using half of a slightly altered cake pop mold. I first poured half of the pop into the molds, added the gum on a stick, and when it hardened I removed it, poured the other half of the candy into the mold, and added the hardened first half on top. When all was set, I had perfectly spherical pops with seams just like the original. And it didn’t seem to bother anyone that my pops were more than twice as big as the real thing.

I designed my recipe to call for 1 dram of LorAnn Oils which you can find online. The original Blow Pops come in five flavors, and I’ve got four of them for you here: cherry, grape, watermelon, and sour apple. I also made a batch of cinnamon pops just for fun and added those instructions to the Tidbits below. Real Blow Pops don’t come in cinnamon flavor, but after tasting these, you might wish they did.

Click here to make more famous candy at home. 

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  • 2 cups plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
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    Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce

    Getting a table at the 123-year-old original Rao’s restaurant in New York City is next to impossible. The tables are “owned” by regulars who schedule their meals months in advance, so every table is full every night, and that’s the way it’s been for the last 38 years. The only way an outsider would get to taste the restaurant’s fresh marinara sauce is to be invited by a regular.

    If that isn’t in the stars for you, you could buy a bottle of the sauce at your local market (if they even have it). It won't be fresh, and it's likely to be the most expensive sauce in the store, but it still has that great Rao's taste. An even better solution is to copy the sauce for yourself using my easy Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce copycat recipe.

    The current co-owner of Rao’s, Frank Pellegrino Jr., told Bon Appetit in 2015 that the famous marinara sauce was created by his grandmother many years ago, and the sauce you buy in stores is the same recipe served in his restaurants. The ingredients are common, but correctly choosing the main ingredient—tomatoes—is important. Try to find San Marzano-style whole canned tomatoes, preferably from Italy. They are a little more expensive than typical canned tomatoes, but they will give you some great sauce.

    After 30 minutes of cooking, you’ll end up with about the same amount of sauce as in a large jar of the real thing. Your version will likely be just a little bit brighter and better than the bottled stuff, thanks to the fresh ingredients. But now you can eat it anytime you want, with no reservations, at a table you own.

    This recipe was our #1 most popular in 2020. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Olive Garden Lasagna Classico (#2), King's Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Rolls (#3), Pei Wei Better Orange Chicken (#4), Chipotle Mexican Grill Carnitas (#5).

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 6)
    Olive Garden Lasagna Classico

    Crafting an Olive Garden’s signature Lasagna Classico recipe became the perfect opportunity to create a beautiful multi-layered lasagna hack recipe that uses up the whole box of lasagna noodles and fills the baking pan all the way to the top. This Top Secret Recipe makes a lasagna that tips the scale at nearly 10 pounds and will feed hungry mouths for days, with every delicious layer copied directly from the carefully dissected Olive Garden original.

    I found a few credible bits of intel in a video of an Olive Garden chef demonstrating what he claims is the real formula on a midday news show, but the recipe was abbreviated for TV and the chef left out some crucial information. One ingredient he conspicuously left out of the recipe is the secret layer of Cheddar cheese located near the middle of the stack. I wasn’t expecting to find Cheddar in lasagna, but when I carefully separated the layers from several servings of the original dish, there was the golden melted cheesy goodness in every slice.

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    Portillo's Chocolate Cake

    I can confirm that the secret recipe for Portillo’s Chocolate Cake is as simple as adding a cup of mayonnaise, a cup of water, and three eggs to a box of chocolate cake mix and baking it in two 9-inch pans at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. The frosting on the cake is the kind you find in the baking aisle in tubs for $2. That's it.

    The recipe I've described would cost around $6 to make at home, and yet you'll pay $75 to have a frozen version of the real Portillo's cake delivered to your house. I know this because I did it. It was the easiest way to confirm my suspicions about the recipe. And sure enough, the cake packaging listed ingredients one would find in just about every box of grocery store cake mix: diglycerides, dicalcium phosphate, and propylene glycol. 

    Perhaps you prefer not to pay $75 for a cake you can make at home for 6 bucks. I get that. Maybe you also want chocolate cake that's not made with boxed cake mix because it’s, well, boxed cake mix. Same here. So, I wondered if I could make a similarly moist mayonnaise chocolate cake just like Portillo's, but this time from scratch, with wholesome ingredients in both the cake and the icing. Thankfully, after baking over a dozen different cakes I finally came up with a recipe that tastes like Portillo's Chocolate Cake but without the hard-to-spell additives found in the real thing.

    And if mayonnaise sounds like an unusual ingredient for a cake, fear not. Practically everything in it benefits your cake batter. The blend of eggs and fat helps keep the cake fluffy and moist, salt and sugar add flavor, as do the vinegar and lemon juice which also assist with the leavening process to produce a tall cake with a light crumb. You could say mayonnaise is the perfect ingredient.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Kellogg's Pop-Tarts

    It took six months for Kellogg’s product developers to figure out how to mass produce a par-baked filled pastry that could be crisped up in a home toaster. In 1964, Pop-Tarts hit grocery store shelves in four flavors: strawberry, brown sugar cinnamon, blueberry, and apple currant, and went on to become Kellogg’s top-selling brand.

    I set out to make a taste-alike version of the popular snack that looks just like the original and could be cooked for a second time in a toaster. It was apparent that I would need a pastry dough that was flakey yet sturdy, and with a familiar flavor reminiscent of Pop-Tarts, and eventually, I came up with a recipe that worked.

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    Church's Chicken Original and Spicy Fried Chicken

    On the list of inspirational American food success stories is the small fried chicken restaurant George W. Church opened across the street from the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas in 1952. In the years since Church's Chicken exploded into a monster chicken chain with over 1000 restaurants in 35 countries.

    The truth is, no chain would grow that big without good food. George's special homestyle fried chicken formula was his secret recipe to success, and as far as I can tell, nobody has properly hacked it. Until now. 

    The ingredient list for this crispy chicken is smaller than what you might find in “The Colonel’s” kitchen, which is good because you won’t have to go out and buy 11 herbs and spices. Much of the flavoring in this chicken recipe develops during the brining process, which also has the added benefit of keeping the chicken moist and juicy inside. I discovered that Church’s marinates their chicken for 12 hours, so I worked backward and designed a brine that would do its job in exactly half a day.

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    Qdoba 3-Cheese Queso

    There are many acceptable ways to formulate good queso, but to make this specific queso the Qdoba way, the ingredients must be correct – and most copycat recipes seem to get it wrong. A few recipes get one of the peppers and two of the cheeses right, but pretty much every recipe out there is a bit of a mess that I will now save you from.

    Quesos can be made with a variety of cheeses that include queso fresco, asadero, and Muenster, but this particular queso includes a cheese you probably didn’t expect: Swiss. That cheese is slow to melt, so we’ll shred it first, along with the Jack. And you won't need to gum up the queso with flour or cornstarch by making a roux because the white American cheese in the mix contains either sodium citrate or sodium phosphate—additives that help the cheese melt smoothly and stay that way. 

    Authors of recipes that call for tomatoes in this dish haven’t looked closely. Those are red bell peppers and they are roasted, peeled, and seeded along with the poblano and jalapeños before they are diced and added to the cheese sauce. The sauce cooks on low heat, never bubbling, so that it stays smooth and creamy.

    When done, your queso might seem thin in the pan, but it will thicken as it cools to a perfect consistency for dipping tortilla chips, or as a topping for tacos and burrito bowls.

    My Qdoba 3-cheese queso copycat recipe was our #2 most popular in 2021. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Panda Express Chow Mein (#1), Panda Express Fried Rice (#3), Outback Baked Potato Soup (#4), Chipotle Carne Asada (#5).

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    P.F. Chang's Crispy Honey Chicken

    I'm not sure why it took me so long to clone this dish, considering that it was my daughter's favorite thing to eat at P.F. Chang's when she was a kid. I recently tackled it and created a spot-on copy of the chain's signature sweet-and-sour honey sauce, and in the process found some new intel that improved on my earlier version of the chain's crispy chicken which I had already hacked for a different P.F. Chang's recipe. The dish came together beautifully on the plate, and it cleared the final taste test by earning an enthusiastic thumbs-up from my now-grown little girl.

    Since P.F. Chang’s sells a version of this dish in the freezer aisle of my local grocery store, I was able to improve my chicken batter formula by extracting some good info from the ingredients listed on the product box. Based on this new information, I added more cornstarch to the batter along with corn flour and egg whites for a much better, crispier coating.

    The sauce in my P.F. Chang's Crispy Honey Chicken copycat recipe is sweetened with honey and sugar, soured by wine and rice vinegar, and thickened with cornstarch and gelatin powder to create a flavorful finishing glaze that sticks to the crispy chicken like the real thing. In the restaurant, the chicken is served over a bed of fried maifun rice sticks so I’ve included prep notes for that in the Tidbits, but you may prefer to forego that step and serve the chicken over or alongside cooked white or brown rice.

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    Ferrara Butterfinger

    Break open a milk chocolate-coated Butterfinger candy bar and you’ll see flakey layers of candy inside, and it may not seem possible to duplicate that mysterious peanuty center at home without some sort of special equipment. But considering that candy bars as old as this usually start as a hand-made recipe, I figured there must be a way to craft a Butterfinger clone in your own kitchen from scratch.

    Ownership of Butterfinger has changed hands a few times since Otto Schnering invented it in 1923 for his Illinois candy company, Curtiss. Standard Brands bought Curtiss in 1964, and then Nabisco merged with Standard Brands in 1981. Nestle purchased Butterfinger from Nabisco in 1990, then later sold it to Italian candy company Ferrara in 2018. Ferrara claims to have “improved” the formula in 2019 by removing preservatives, adding more cocoa to the chocolate, using better peanuts, plus a few other tweaks. And this is where the controversy starts. Posts on Butterfinger’s social media pages complain that the new Ferrara formula is not as good as the Nestle version, that it leaves a bad aftertaste, and that they should immediately bring back the old recipe.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 9)
    Texas Roadhouse Rolls & Cinnamon Butter

    I never thought dinner rolls were something I could get excited about until I got my hand into the breadbasket at Texas Roadhouse. The rolls are fresh out of the oven and they hit the table when you do, so there’s no waiting to tear into a magnificently gooey sweet roll topped with soft cinnamon butter. The first bite you take will make you think of a fresh cinnamon roll, and then you can’t stop eating it. And when the first roll’s gone, you are powerless to resist grabbing for just one more. But it’s never just one more. It’s two or three more, plus a few extra to take home for tomorrow.

    Discovering the secret to making rolls at home that taste as good as Texas Roadhouse Rolls involved making numerous batches of dough, each one sweeter than the last (sweetened with sugar, not honey—I checked), until a very sticky batch, proofed for 2 hours, produced exactly what I was looking for. You can make the dough with a stand mixer or a handheld one, the only difference being that you must knead the dough by hand without a stand mixer. When working with the dough add a little bit of flour at a time to keep it from sticking, and just know that the dough will be less sticky and more workable after the first rise.

    Roll the dough out and measure it as specified here, and after a final proofing and a quick bake—plus a generous brushing of butter on the tops—you will produce dinner rolls that look and taste just like the best rolls I’ve had at any famous American dinner chain.

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    See's Candies Chocolate Walnut Fudge

    Fudge can be finicky. It's created by combining hot candy syrup with chocolate, which can result in a grainy mess if the chocolate seizes and gets clumpy. This undesirable situation can be avoided by closely monitoring the temperature, but even then your chocolate could still lock up, and your fudge will be ruined. I couldn't let that happen in my recipe re-creation of the famous fudge from the 100-year-old West Coast candy chain. 

    For my See's Chocolate Walnut Fudge copycat recipe, I made over 56 pounds of fudge on my quest to develop a recipe that works every time, even if the chocolate seizes. And in most of my batches, it usually did. So I came up with a secret trick: reserve a little cream for later, then after the hot candy syrup is mixed with the chocolate and the chocolate begins to seize, send the cream to the rescue and the fudge will become smooth, as if by magic. 

    Stir in some walnuts, then pour the fudge into a wax paper-lined pan, and when it cools, you'll have over 3 1/2 pounds of thick fudge that tastes just like the real thing. That's more than $110 of fudge if you buy it at the candy store!

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Subway Cookies

    The chewy, fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies sold at Subway are baked daily at the sandwich shop with frozen dough pucks provided by Otis Spunkmeyer. So, I guess you could say that this copycat recipe for several of Subway’s most popular cookies is also a clone of several of Otis Spunkmeyer’s most popular cookies.

    Perhaps the biggest secret revealed here is the butter/oil blend. Most cookie recipes call for just softened butter as the fat component, but that can add too much butter flavor. According to the ingredients list for these cookies, they contain a blend of oil and butter, which worked best as a 2-to-1 ratio of butter to oil after baking through a number of test batches. This fat blend helped improve the texture with crispier edges and a chewier middle, and the butter flavor was perfectly muted. Also, just one egg is added here—most cookie recipes like this add two—to make the cookies less cakey.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream

    If I told you that Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream was formulated generations ago on a dairy farm in the rolling hills of Denmark, you’d probably believe me. It sounds true and that’s precisely what Rueben Mattus wanted you to think when he created his new ice cream brand in 1960. In the Bronx in New York City.

    Mattus used a marketing technique called “foreign branding.” To set his brand apart from others, Mattus created the impression that his new ice cream was an exotic, special recipe made with hard-to-obtain ingredients. To come up with the name, Mattus sat at his kitchen table in the mornings blurting out non-sensical words until he eventually landed on one that sounded Danish: Häagen-Dazs. The word is meaningless, it’s not Dutch, and it even includes an umlaut, which doesn’t exist in the Danish alphabet.

    While the name may suggest a fancy, complicated recipe for ice cream, the Häagen-Dazs label is one of the simplest and cleanest you'll find for any major ice cream brand. There are just five very ordinary ingredients and nothing else: cream, skim milk, cane sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. And those will be the ingredients we’ll use in our hack.

    To create my Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream copycat recipe, I played with the ratios through many batches until I finally honed in on the right combination for a perfect French vanilla ice cream, prepared like custard, but with less egg, and just enough butterfat to re-create the smooth mouthfeel of the original.

    Cook your ice cream base with the simple instructions, then get it cold and into an ice cream maker. After 30 minutes of churning grab a spoon, because you'll have a heaping quart of the best homemade ice cream you’ve ever tasted, and it's best when served a little soft.

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  • Score: 4.50 (votes: 2)
    Rao's Traditional Meatballs

    Tweaking a classic recipe with a few special prep tricks leaked to me by a server was the key to developing this spot-on hack for the famous meatballs from the iconic 125-year-old Italian dining room. With just two locations in the U.S. (Los Angeles and New York), sinking your fork into a fresh meatball at the restaurant requires quite a trip for most people, but my Rao's Traditional Meatballs recipe, refined through multiple batches, will make you a meatball master in your own kitchen, producing ten 5½-ounce meatballs that look and taste like the real thing.

    Fortunately, I could squeeze in a reservation at the Las Vegas Rao’s location a few weeks before it closed its doors forever at Caesar’s Palace in late November 2021. While there, I made sure to ask my server for any information about the recipe, and was informed about the secret two-step process described in this hack to create giant meatballs that are cooked through, but so moist that they practically crumble when cut with a fork.

    Rao’s has shared a meatball recipe in the past, but don’t be fooled. That recipe produces decent meatballs, but they are not the same as what’s served in the restaurant. If you want to make meatballs that taste like the classic original, use my Rao's meatballs recipe below.

    And when they're done, top the meatballs with your favorite marinara or use my hack here to re-create Rao’s famous sauce.

    This recipe was our #1 most popular in 2022. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Chipotle Pollo Asado (#2), Wendy's Seasoned Potatoes (#3), Cheesecake Factory Spicy Cashew Chicken (#4), McDonald's Chicken McNuggets (#5).

    Check out this list of our most popular recipes of all-time.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    King's Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

    A recipe for Portuguese sweet bread inspired the soft rolls that became a big hit at Robert Tiara's Bakery & Restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii in the 1950s. It wasn’t long before Robert changed the name of his thriving business to King’s Hawaiian, and in 1977 the company opened its first bakery on the mainland, in Torrance, California, to make the now-famous island sweet rolls sold in stores across the U.S.

    King’s Hawaiian Rolls are similar to Texas Roadhouse Rolls in that they are both pillowy, sweet white rolls, so it made sense to dig out my Texas Roadhouse Rolls clone recipe and use it as a starting point. These new rolls had to be slightly softer and sweeter, so I made some adjustments and added a little egg for color. And by baking the dough in a high-rimmed baking pan with 24 dough balls placed snugly together, I ended up with beautiful rolls that rose nicely to the occasion, forming a tear-apart loaf just like the original King's Hawaiian Rolls, but with clean ingredients, and without the dough conditioners found in the packaged rolls.

    Use my King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls copycat recipe for sandwiches, sliders, or simply warmed up and slathered with soft European butter.

    This recipe was our #3 most popular in 2020. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce (#1), Olive Garden Lasagna Classico (#2), Pei Wei Better Orange Chicken (#4), Chipotle Mexican Grill Carnitas (#5).

    Check out this list of our most popular recipes of all-time.

    Read more
  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Burger King French Toast Sticks

    Many fast food chains have offered French toast sticks over the years, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Sonic, Roy Rogers, and Jack in the Box, but Burger King was first to introduce the morning finger food way back in 1985, and if staying power is any indication of preference, then BK is most deserving of this new top secret recipe.

    Burger King French Toast Sticks are a perfect fast food item, since they come pre-battered and par-fried, and workers just need to toss a few frozen sticks into the fryer next to the French fries for 3 or 4 minutes, and they’re ready to go, along with a handy dipper pack of maple-flavored syrup.

    But no deep-frying is necessary here for my French toast sticks copycat recipe. Instead, you’ll cook your quartered and battered white bread slices in a combination of butter and oil in a sauté pan for a couple of minutes per side, or until the sticks are nicely browned. Serve them with a side of warm maple syrup, and you can even add a dusting of powdered sugar on top if you want to get fancy about it.

    Next time you make breakfast, mix things up with some of these as a sweet, easy-to-eat starter.  

    Find recipes for more of your favorite items from Burger King here.  

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  • Not rated yet
    Lotus Biscoff Cookies

    Jan Boone first created the traditional Belgian speculoos cookies at his Lotus Bakery in Lembeke, Belgium in 1932. Spiced shortbread cookies like these are often enjoyed with a cup of coffee, so the new cookie was called Biscoff as a mashup of “biscuit” and “coffee.” The cookies didn't become popular in the U.S. until the 1990s when airlines began passing out the cookies to travelers on every trip.

    Recipe authors who claim to re-create these cookies with a blend of spices that includes clove, nutmeg, and cardamom appear to be confusing speculoos cookies from Belgium with speculaas cookies from the Netherlands. Many spices were too costly to import to Belgium at that time, so speculoos cookies were often made with just cinnamon, while the Dutch version got the more expensive blend of exotic spices.

    Biscoff cookies are called “caramelized cookies” because they’re made with Belgian blonde candy sugar (bruen leger), which is granulated sugar that has been lightly caramelized. This ingredient contributes a unique taste to the cookies that is slightly different from cookies made with American brown sugar, which contains molasses. You can find brun leger online or make it yourself with white sugar in your oven using the tips here. If you'd rather not fuss with that, you can substitute with domestic light brown sugar.

    Finish my Lotus Biscoff Cookies copycat recipe by slicing the rolled dough with a fluted pastry wheel to make fancy edges like the real thing, and you’ll have around 3 dozen of the classic European cookies that will fit nicely on one half-sheet pan for baking. I’m calling for all-purpose flour here, but if you want more tender, melt-in-your-mouth cookies, use fine pastry flour.  

    Find more of your favorite famous cookie copycat recipes here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Barbecue Sauce

    Brothers Dave and Larry Raymond came up with a top secret recipe for barbecue sauce that was so good they entered it in Chicago’s Rib Fest barbecue competition in the late ‘80s. The fourth time they entered, in 1985, they took home the 2nd place trophy. By the following year, they were selling bottles of their now-famous sauce in stores, and the brand became a huge success.

    The brothers sold their $30-million-a-year sauce business in 2005, and the brand kept growing. By 2008, Sweet Baby Ray’s was America's #2 best-selling barbecue sauce.

    Now, with my Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Barbecue Sauce copycat recipe, you can make 2 cups of a taste-alike sauce with mostly common ingredients plus pineapple juice, celery salt, and tamarind paste to help nail down the familiar award-winning taste.

    Try other famous copycat sauce recipes here.

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  • Not rated yet
    McDonald's Chicken McNuggets

    When dippable tempura-battered chicken chunks made their debut at select McDonald’s restaurants in 1981, America couldn’t get enough…literally. Supply chain issues prevented the burger chain from meeting high demand in all markets for many months, and it wasn’t until two years after the McNuggets were first introduced that they were finally available at every McDonald’s in the country.

    The famous finger food was invented by McDonald’s first executive chef, Rene Arend, who discovered that reconstituted chicken blended with flavor enhancers, enrobed with tempura batter, and deep-fried until golden brown, made a simple, portable snack. The chicken was formed into four “B” shapes designed for dipping—the bell, the bow-tie, the ball, and the boot—and served along with child-friendly dipping sauces such as ranch and barbecue, so the breakout finger food product became a huge winner with kids.

    To make a home version that looks and tastes like McNuggets I dissected a real one and discovered that the chicken in the middle is coated twice: once with dry, seasoned breading, and then once more with wet batter before frying. The chicken in McNuggets is puréed not ground, and the best way to prepare it is with a food processor. “Ground” chicken in grocery stores is often puréed, then pushed through a die to look more appealing in the package, similar to how ground beef is presented. For my Chicken McNugget recipe below, it's best to use a home food processor, but if you don’t have one, ground chicken from your butcher will work.

    If I had to identify a secret ingredient in this hack it would be Knorr chicken bouillon powder. It contains many of the same ingredients found in real Chicken McNuggets, so once you get that crucial flavoring component, you’re well on your way to an amazing knockoff of an iconic American food.

    This recipe was our #5 most popular in 2022. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Rao's Traditional Meatballs (#1), Chipotle Pollo Asado (#2), Wendy's Seasoned Potatoes (#3), Cheesecake Factory Spicy Cashew Chicken (#4).

    Check out this list of our most popular recipes of all-time.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Wendy's Seasoned Potatoes

    Reviewers of Wendy’s tasty seasoned potatoes point out that the skin-on slices stay crispy even when cool. That tells us the breading is most likely made with a non-wheat flour blend, an assumption confirmed by the website ingredients list for the potatoes where nary a gram of wheat flour is included. Yep, these seasoned potatoes are gluten-free.

    Wendy’s uses a blend of food starches plus rice flour for the breading on their version, but my tests confirmed that cornstarch is all you’ll need for a great clone of Wendy's seasoned potatoes. The secret process starts by coating the potato slices with the dry breading mix, which contains salt. The salt in the blend will draw water out of the potatoes, magically transforming the dry breading into a wet batter in about 20 minutes.

    When all the breading is wet, the potatoes go into the oil for partial frying. After resting a bit, they get dropped in again until golden brown and crispy. And, thanks to the cornstarch, these potatoes will stay crispy, even when they’re completely cool. Pretty cool right? Give my Wendy's seasoned potatoes copycat recipe a try.

    This recipe was our #3 most popular in 2022. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Rao's Traditional Meatballs (#1), Chipotle Pollo Asado (#2), Cheesecake Factory Spicy Cashew Chicken (#4), McDonald's Chicken McNuggets (#5).

    Check out this list of our most popular recipes of all-time.

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  • Score: 4.67 (votes: 6)
    Panda Express Chow Mein

    I got lucky on the day I picked up a box of chow mein from this huge Chinese chain because they had just run out. This meant that I could watch from the sidelines as they whipped up a fresh batch in a giant wok over a high flame in the completely visible kitchen, and I was able to take plenty of mental notes. The whole dish took just a few minutes for the enthusiastic chef to prepare, and before I knew it I was out the door with a huge box of hot chow mein ready for hacking. 

    Just like the real Panda Express Chow Mein, the beauty in this re-creation is its simplicity. There are only seven ingredients, and the prep work is low-impact. I used dry chow mein noodles (also called Chinese stir fry noodles) which are easy to find and cheap, and dark soy sauce to get that great caramel color. And if you don’t have a wok for this, a large skillet with sloped sides for tossing will work just fine.

    This recipe was our #1 most popular in 2021. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Qdoba 3-Cheese Queso (#2), Panda Express Fried Rice (#3), Outback Baked Potato Soup (#4), Chipotle Carne Asada (#5).

    Check out this list of our most popular recipes of all-time.

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  • Not rated yet
    Panda Express Honey Sesame Chicken Breast

    Menu Description: “Honey Sesame Chicken Breast is made with thin, crispy strips of all-white meat chicken tossed with fresh-cut string beans, and crisp yellow bell peppers in a sizzling hot wok with our new delicious honey sauce and topped off with sesame seeds.”

    The limited-time-only availability of this entrée is unfortunate for those who claim it as their top choice at America’s biggest fast Chinese chain. But now, with my Panda Express Honey Sesame Chicken Breast copycat recipe, you can make your own homemade version anytime you want, and it won’t matter if the real one's yanked off the menu.

    The success of this clone depends almost entirely on how good the sauce is. The sauce needs to be sweet, but when I used too much honey the honey flavor overpowered the dish, so it was clear that some of the sweetness would have to come from sugar. Eventually, I found the right balance for a good sauce hack: sweet, salty, and sour, with a light back-end hit of red pepper.

    For the batter, I tweaked the coating in my hack for Panda Express Honey Walnut Shrimp, increasing the yield of the batter, so you won’t run out.

    After your sauce is done and the chicken is finished, build the dish by tossing green beans, yellow bell peppers, and crispy chicken in a wok or large sauté pan with the sauce, then spoon it over rice, and grab some chopsticks.

    Click here for more of my Panda Express copycat recipes. 

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    IKEA Swedish Meatballs

    I've always known IKEA as a giant global furniture chain, but before researching these tasty little balls of meat, I wasn't aware that IKEA is also one of the world's largest food retailers. And at the very top of the list of the most popular menu items at the stores' cafeteria-style IKEA Restaurant & Bistro, are the Swedish Meatballs, which are consumed at a rate of 150 million each year. 

    The chain's secret Swedish meatballs are moist and delicious and come smothered in a cream sauce, with a side of lingonberry jam. But there's no need to work your way through the giant rat maze of furniture that is the ingenious layout of each store to get to the cafeteria when you can now duplicate them at home with my IKEA Swedish Meatball copycat recipe below, and very little effort.

    The secret is to use ground beef that is 20 percent fat and a food processor to puree all of the ingredients. If you don't have a food processor, a blender works, too. Form the balls with a 1 1/4-inch dough scoop or teaspoon measure, and keep your hands thoroughly moistened to prevent the meat mixture from sticking.

    After you make the meatballs, you'll probably want to make the secret cream sauce that goes over the top, and that recipe is here, too. 

    This recipe was my #2 most popular of 2023. Check out the other most popular unlocked recipes of the year: Church's Chicken Original and Spicy Fried Chicken (#1), Chipotle Guacamole (#3), Subway Cookies (#4), IHOP Thick 'N Fluffy French Toast (#5).

    Check out this list of our most popular recipes of all-time.

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  • Not rated yet
    Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Dipping Taco

    Taco Bell chefs worked for two years perfecting the birria-inspired shredded beef introduced nationwide in the summer of 2023 for the chain’s new Grilled Cheese Dipping Taco. According to a company press release, the new beef is slow-braised in spices, then it’s loaded into a white corn tortilla that’s freshly fried each day, with melted cheese inside the taco and more cheese grilled onto the outside.

    For my Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Dipping Taco copycat recipe, you’ll slow-braise the beef like they do at the restaurant, but with a slimmed-down formula that won’t require you to chop vegetables as is called for in most birria recipes. One 2-pound chuck roast is all you’ll need to make enough tender shredded beef for at least 18 tacos. I’ve also got a great copycat formula here for the creamy jalapeno sauce that’s drizzled over the beef once it’s loaded into a freshly fried white corn tortilla.

    After adding the sauce, a 3-cheese blend is added to the taco, more cheese is grilled onto one side of the shell in a hot pan, then it’s served with two sauces for dipping: nacho cheese sauce and the chain’s signature red sauce, which you can make from scratch with the easy recipe I’m including as well so you can get the full flavor effect of the real deal.

    If shredded chicken is your thing, check out my Taco Bell Shredded Chicken Soft Taco copycat recipe here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Maggiano's Famous Rigatoni "D"

    “D” was chef David Di Gregorio’s nickname at the first Maggiano’s, which opened in Chicago, Illinois in 1991, and he’s the guy who developed the best-selling pasta dish on the menu. 

    Maggiano’s Famous Rigatoni “D” is a genuinely great dish that anyone can copy if they use the exclusive top secret techniques revealed here. After many trials and several errors, I finally replicated the amazing creamy marsala sauce by reducing two full bottles of inexpensive marsala wine down to just one-half cup of intensely flavored liquid. The alcohol cooks out, the mushrooms contribute their savory umami goodness, and after about an hour-and-a-half you have the perfect flavoring solution for your cream sauce.     

    The other mushrooms in the dish are served unsliced, so make sure they’re small enough to eat in one bite. Sometimes it’s tough to find 40 small mushrooms, so feel free to use your choice of white (button) or brown (cremini) mushrooms for this recipe. They are the same mushroom species with only minor differences (white mushrooms are a cultivated mutation of the brown ones), so either will work. But, if you have a choice, go with creminis since they tend to have a slightly deeper flavor.

    Try my Maggiano's Rigatoni "D" copycat recipe today, and complete the meal with my Maggiano's Vera's Lemon Cookies recipe here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Panda Express Fried Rice

    A popular staple of any Chinese chain is fried rice, so it better be good, and the version served at Panda Express most certainly is. Here's my easy Panda Express Fried Rice recipe for when you need a stress-free, low-cost side for your entrées. But I do suggest that you cook the white rice several hours or even a day or two before you plan to make the finished dish. I found that the cooked rice called for in this recipe works best when it's cold. 

    As for a shortcut, bagged frozen peas and carrots will save you from the hassle of petite-dicing carrots since the carrots in those bags are the perfect size to produce an identical clone. And they're already cooked. 

    This recipe was our #3 most popular in 2021. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Panda Express Chow Mein (#1), Qdoba 3-Cheese Queso (#2), Outback Baked Potato Soup (#4), Chipotle Carne Asada (#5).

    Check out this list of our most popular recipes of all-time.

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  • Not rated yet
    Totino's Pizza Rolls

    Luigino “Jeno” Paulucci had been manufacturing prepared Chinese food products for a couple of decades when he realized that eggrolls could be filled with pretty much anything. Jeno tested dozens of fillings, but it was the eggrolls filled with pizza toppings that got the most raves, so that became Jeno’s new product. The pizza rolls were so successful that Jeno sold his Chinese food company and dedicated himself to producing the world’s best frozen pizza and original pizza rolls. His vision paid off. 20 years later, in 1985, Jeno scored a $135 million payday when he sold his company to Pillsbury, the manufacturer of Totino’s—a competing pizza rolls brand that copied Jeno’s invention. Pillsbury combined the two brands in the early 1990s, and today all pizza rolls are produced under the Totino’s name. Jeno’s brand has been officially retired to the dead food bin.

    As I studied the ingredients for Totino’s Pizza Rolls I was surprised to discover that they do not contain real cheese. I’m not sure why this is, but for my clone, I’m using all real ingredients. It’s likely the original pizza rolls recipe was changed at some point for cost reasons, and if that’s the case, then my Totino’s Pizza Rolls copycat recipe should be closer to the original from Jeno that was made with real cheese.

    For the dough, I first tried using pre-made eggroll wrappers, but they didn’t bake well and were not a good match to Totino’s dough, so I was left with no choice but to make a simple dough from scratch. Totino’s print ads from the 1960s and 1970s referred to an “egg-crust”, so I designed a simple dough based on an eggroll wrapper recipe made with egg. You’ll need an easy way to roll a very thin dough wrapper for this recipe, and the best way to do that is with a pasta machine. You can certainly roll the dough very thin by hand, but a pasta machine is a big help here.

    Once your dough is rolled thin, you’ll fill it and fold it in the special way described below to create the same “pillow” shape as the original. After a quick par-fry, the rolls are frozen and can be baked anytime you feel a pizza roll craving coming on, just like the famous original Jeno’s—sorry—Totino’s Pizza Rolls.

    Find more fun snack recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Marie Callender's Coconut Cream Pie

    For a delicious slice of your favorite iconic American pie, Marie Callender’s is the place to go. The chain serves tasty breakfast, lunch, and dinner entrees, but it's mostly famous for great homestyle pies, and the classic coconut cream pie is no exception. Like many other pies I’ve hacked from Marie Callender's (Pumpkin Pie, Double Cream Blueberry Pie, Chocolate Satin Pie), the Coconut Cream Pie is sold in your store’s freezer section. But none of these frozen pies are as good as a fresh one you make from scratch. 

    The filling for my Marie Callender's Coconut Cream Pie copycat recipe takes just 10 minutes to make, and if you use a premade pie crust, this becomes a very low-impact recipe. I recommend you make the whipped cream topping from scratch using the recipe here that will produce much better whipped cream than anything from a can, and it's also quick. The most time-consuming step is making the dollops of whipped cream that cover the top of the pie, but even that’s pretty fun.

    If you’d like to make your pie crust from scratch, I’m including a recipe from my previous Marie Callender’s pie hacks. It’ll add time to your build, but the extra effort will be worth it.

    Try more of my Marie Callender's copycat recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Chipotle Chicken Al Pastor

    A dish traditionally made with pork is redesigned for chicken in this Mexican chain’s limited-time-only sweet-and-spicy variation. All the key ingredients for good al pastor are here: pineapple, lime, achiote, and morita chipotle peppers, which come together to make a bright orange sauce used here for basting marinated chicken thighs.

    The TV commercial for Chipotle’s new offering claims the morita peppers are seared and shows wild flames dancing around a pan filled with fresh green and red peppers. That is perhaps not an accurate depiction of the preparation process considering that morita peppers are made by smoking red jalapeños, not green ones. And smoked jalapeños do not look like fresh jalapeños, so I'm not sure what's going on there.

    Regardless of the confusing clues in the TV ad, to make my Chipotle Chicken Al Pastor copycat recipe, you'll want to find dry morita peppers, then remove the seeds and toast the peppers in your oven before making the secret sauce. Baste the sauce on your chicken just before it's done cooking, then chop it up and use it to make delicious tacos, burritos, salads, and bowls.

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  • Not rated yet
    Subway Raspberry Cheesecake Cookies

    Subway’s most popular freshly baked cookie will remind you of biting into a delicious slice of berry cheesecake. The cookie dough has a little cream cheese in it, and the cookie is embedded with creamy white chocolate chips and flavorful real raspberry baking bits.

    The challenge for making a good clone was re-creating the raspberry bits found in the real cookie using easy steps that anyone could manage. I experimented with raspberry candy bits in the style of Turkish delight, gummies, and fruit rolls, but each of those techniques took much too long. Eventually, I mixed concentrated raspberry purée with white chocolate chips and got meltable real raspberry baking bits that were easy to make and tasted great.

    I’ll show you how to make those raspberry bits here with simple steps and photos, and then you’ll combine those bits with white chocolate chips and other ingredients for a batch of 22 cookies that will come out of your oven crispy on the edges and chewy in the middle, just like the real ones at the world’s biggest sandwich shop.

    Try my Subway Raspberry Cheesecake cookie recipe below, and find my recipes for Subway Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate Chip, and White Chip Macadamia Nut cookies here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Lofthouse Frosted Cookies

    When 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's 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 you find on the label of the store product, such as artificial flavoring, lecithin, cellulose gum, or carrageenan in my Lofthouse cookie recipe, we'll 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 can freeze them so they last longer. 

    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 over liquefying the dough (as milk would). An added benefit of sour cream is its high acidity, which activates the leavening power of the baking soda. The dough is still going to be much thinner and tackier than 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 work with. 

    Find more copycat recipes for your favorite famous cookies here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Southern Comfort Traditional Egg Nog

    Online taste tests and reviews routinely mention Farmland Fresh, Darigold, and Southern Comfort as America's best egg nog brands. And of the three, Southern Comfort, a brand famously known for fruit-flavored whiskey, often takes the top spot with its delicious “traditional” egg nog. Which, ironically, contains no booze.

    But the first egg nog, invented in medieval Britain, was quite intoxicating. It was a warm drink made with milk and sherry, and thickened with plenty of egg yolks. That’s a much different beverage experience than today’s branded egg nog, often served cold. And the cartons of egg nog from your market are now made with non-traditional ingredients such as corn syrup, and much of the egg yolk has been replaced with cheaper and longer-lasting natural gums, like carrageenan and guar gum.

    But, for my Southern Comfort Traditional Egg Nog copycat recipe, we'll turn back the clock and make egg nog more traditionally, with plenty of real egg yolks to thicken the batch, and no gums or corn syrup. My easy recipe will give you around 36 ounces of fresh homemade egg nog. And it’s up to you to add any booze.

    Make more fun, famous drinks with my recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Domino's Loaded Tots

    Domino’s oven-baked starter, which debuted in early 2023, reveals a great way to transform a boring bag of potato tots into a dish with pizzazz. The pizza chain’s new Loaded Tots are built with a delicious pile of crispy potato tots, topped with cheese, a secret sauce, and other good stuff that I probably should have been stacking on potato tots years ago.

    For my Domino’s Loaded Tots recipe, I picked the two bestsellers of the three versions offered at Domino’s for you to clone: Philly Cheesesteak and Cheddar Bacon. The Philly Cheesesteak version includes onion, green pepper, steak, and Alfredo sauce, and the Bacon Cheddar is topped with crispy crumbled bacon and garlic Parmesan sauce. Which one will you be making?  

    Once you decide, simply arrange a couple of dozen cooked tots on a baking sheet and smother them with the mozzarella/cheddar cheese blend, a few toppings, and the secret sauce hack, then bake for just 8 minutes until it’s melty and magnificent.

    Find more of my Domino's copycat recipes here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Rao's Homemade Bolognese Sauce

    The family recipes of Rao’s Italian restaurant have been enjoyed for over 125 years, but it’s only been since 1992 (starting with the marinara sauce) that the chain has been selling the ultra-popular bottled sauces under the Rao’s Homemade label, which is on track to become a billion-dollar company.

    One of the many popular sauces now available from Rao’s Homemade is the Bolognese sauce, a blend of tomatoes, veggies, crumbled meatballs, and pancetta. Like my Rao’s Marinara Sauce clone recipe, this hack starts with canned San Marzano tomatoes with the famous red, white, and green San Marzano label. Those are true San Marzano tomatoes grown in the San Marzano region of Italy, and they are superior to other San Marzano-style canned tomatoes in my local grocery stores, many of which aren’t from Italy.

    I would suspect that the meatballs crumbled into Rao’s Bolognese sauce are the famous Rao’s meatballs, which Rao’s sells in the restaurants and frozen food aisles, and which I hacked here. For my Rao’s Bolognese Sauce recipe, you’ll need ½ cup of crumbled meatballs using either this top secret recipe, or a bag of frozen Italian meatballs found in most stores. Obviously, my Rao’s meatball hack will give you the best ingredients for this recipe, but I found that the frozen meatballs still work great, as long as they’re good meatballs. This sauce will only be as good as the meatballs you choose.

    The slow simmer marries the flavors, and after about an hour you’ll have a great Bolognese to spoon over tagliatelle, tortellini, gnocchi, or whatever you want.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Jason's Deli Irish Potato Soup

    Traditional Irish potato soup—a simple formula made with potatoes, onions, stock, and cream—gets an upgrade with cheddar cheese, carrots, green onions, and sour cream in Jason’s Deli's delicious take on the classic recipe. These improvements make a great soup that's still easy to make, but it also may be the best-tasting potato soup I’ve ever hacked.

    The secret to this soup recipe is that it starts life as a cheddar cheese sauce, which may worry you if you’ve ever made cheese sauce that wound up “grainy." But that won’t happen here if you're sure to use mild or medium cheddar cheese. Older (sharper) cheddar contains less water and doesn’t melt as well as younger cheese, so the first important step is to choose your cheddar wisely.    

    Also, shred your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheese won’t melt as well, since shredded cheese is usually drier and often dusted with cornstarch to keep the shreds from clumping. For my Jason's Deli Irish Potato Soup recipe below, I highly recommend that you shred your own cheese to get the best results. 

    After an hour or so of simmering, you’ll have eight beautiful bowls of soup, all topped with cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon before serving, just like the real thing.  

    Find more amazing copycat soup recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Cheesecake Factory Orange Chicken

    With delicious versions on the menus at Panda Express, Pei Wei, and P.F. Chang’s, the orange chicken space is certainly competitive (click on the brands for my recipes). That’s why it’s so impressive that The Cheesecake Factory serves up one of the best orange chicken entrées of any chain, including chains that specialize in Chinese food.

    For this easy entrée hack, I’ve included a recipe for breading and frying the chicken yourself, but you may prefer to bake or fry pre-breaded frozen chicken strips or nuggets and toss them in the sauce you make here. The sauce is the big secret in this recipe, and the version I’ve whipped up for you has just the right amount of sweet, sour, and spicy to match the real thing.

    Add some rice and stir-fry vegetables, and you’ll have two large Cheesecake Factory-size entrées with this hack, or you can split it into four more modest portions.   

    Try my Cheesecake Factory Orange Chicken copycat recipe below, and check here for some great dessert ideas.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    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 the fresh lemonade you make here a little time 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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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 5)
    Jack Link's Original Beef Jerky

    Using his grandfather’s old recipes for sausage and smoked meats, Jack Link created his first kippered beef sticks in Wisconsin in 1986, and they quickly became a popular snack throughout the state. But that wasn’t enough for Jack, so he invested in a packaging machine to expand into other markets, and eventually—with the help of a successful Sasquatch-themed marketing campaign—Jack Link’s became the #1 jerky brand in the country.

    Beef jerky is usually made in a dehydrator designed to circulate air around the food at a low temperature. The temperature for drying beef jerky in a dehydrator is typically 130 to 140 degrees, which is a lower temperature than you can reach with a conventional home oven. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use our home oven to make a perfectly acceptable beef jerky hack that tastes like Jack’s. And even though Jack uses a smoker for his beef jerky, you won’t need one to give your jerky a similar smoky flavor.

    The pineapple juice in the marinade is an important part of the taste, but its primary contribution is a unique enzyme that helps break down the proteins in the tough cut of meat to tenderize it. Soy sauce and beef bouillon contribute to the umami savoriness of the jerky, and liquid hickory smoke is used in my Jack Link's Original Beef Jerky copycat recipe as a quick way to add the smoky flavor.

    The marinating takes 24 hours and the oven drying takes between 6 to 8 hours, so get the sliced beef into the bath in the morning, and you’ll be munching on homemade Jack Link's beef jerky by dinnertime the next day. And to help you out, I'm including step photos.

    Find more cool recipes for your favorite snacks here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Cracker Barrel Buttermilk Pancakes

    A great buttermilk pancake recipe will produce fluffy, tangy, and slightly sweet pancakes—the same qualities as the popular pancakes served at Cracker Barrel restaurants nationwide. But Cracker Barrel’s flapjacks have a secret ingredient that sets the chain’s morning stack apart from other restaurants. And this Top Secret Recipe will reveal it.

    To create my Cracker Barrel Buttermilk Pancakes copycat recipe, I first purchased a box of the chain’s pancake mix at the restaurant’s store to examine the list of ingredients on the package. In the list were the ingredients you'd expect, like wheat flour, sugar, salt, and leavening. But there was also a surprise: yellow corn flour. When added to the mix in the right ratio, the yellow corn flour contributed great cornbread-like flavor and gave the pancakes a unique crumbly texture that many seem to love.

    Does this special ingredient produce buttermilk pancakes which are superior to a more traditional recipe? It's easy to find out. Once you have corn flour and just a handful of other common ingredients, it takes just minutes to produce enough pancakes for you and everyone else to get a taste and decide if these are indeed the best buttermilk pancakes in the biz.

    Try more of my Cracker Barrel copycat recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Cheesecake Factory Shrimp Scampi

    This top entrée pick from Cheesecake Factory is a classic dish, but its preparation is far from traditional, and perhaps that's why it's so popular.

    The creamy scampi sauce is flavored with a handful of whole roasted garlic cloves, plus shallot, basil, and tomato. The shrimp are lightly battered and fried until golden, then arranged upright around the plate to keep their crunching coats from sogging.

    In addition to all the secrets you’ll need to assemble two servings of my Cheesecake Factory Shrimp Scampi copycat recipe, I’ve also included a cool technique for easily roasting the garlic cloves in just 15 to 20 minutes, and you won’t even need to peel the cloves. After your garlic cools, the skins will slip right off.

    Now, how about dessert? Find my copycat recipes for Cheesecake Factory's signature cheesecakes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    IHOP Thick 'N Fluffy French Toast

    IHOP upped its French toast game in 2022 with the introduction of a new recipe that suggests your French toast is only as good as the bread you start with, and IHOP’s new Thick ‘N Fluffy French Toast starts with thick specialty artisan bread, rather than the more commonly used Texas toast white bread.

    For my IHOP Thick 'N Fluffy French Toast recipe, you can use any thick-sliced bread from your bakery, but there are two national brands that work well: Nature’s Own Perfectly Crafted Thick-Sliced White Bread and Sara Lee Artisano. Either of those will do, but of the two, Nature’s Own is shaped more like IHOP’s version.

    Adding vanilla and a little cinnamon to the easy batter will set these waffles apart from most others, and in no time, you’ll have 6 beautiful slices of French toast for a total of 3 servings. Dust them with a little powdered sugar, add some butter and maple syrup on the side, and it’s like you just opened a mini IHOP in your house.

    This recipe was my #5 most popular of 2023. Check out the other most popular unlocked recipes of the year: Church's Chicken Original and Spicy Fried Chicken (#1), IKEA Swedish Meatballs (#2), Chipotle Guacamole (#3), Subway Cookies (#4).

    Check out this list of our most popular recipes of all-time.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Walker's Shortbread

    Joseph Walker used only the best ingredients to make the famous pure butter shortbread recipe he created in 1898 at his Bakery in Aberlour, Scotland. More than a century later Walker's is one of the bestselling shortbreads in the world and it’s still made with the same four quality ingredients: flour, butter, sugar, and salt.

    But just knowing the ingredients still leaves you a long trip away from great shortbread—a fact that’s best confirmed by giving any other copycat recipe a try. If a recipe calls for all-purpose flour and/or standard granulated sugar and salt, you’re destined for disappointment.  

    The secret ingredient in a perfect Walker's Shortbread cookie is pastry flour. It has less gluten than all-purpose flour and will produce a tender bite mirroring the original cookies, but it still provides a stable structure that won’t spread out when baked. My favorite pastry flour is Bob’s Red Mill.

    There is no leavening in these cookies (that’s why they're called shortbread), so the sugar and salt are whipped into the butter until it’s fluffy which works in air bubbles that provide a lift to your shortbread when baked. Standard sugar and salt grains won’t easily dissolve in the butter, so I'm using superfine sugar here (baker’s sugar) and superfine salt (popcorn salt) to produce perfect shortbread with a clean bite that’s free of any detectable sugar or salt granules.

    Try my Walker's Shortbread copycat recipe below, and click here for more great famous cookie recipes.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Cheesecake Factory Steak Diane

    Fans of Cheesecake Factory’s Steak Diane don’t seem to care that the dish isn’t a traditional take on the classic dish. The restaurant chain’s version is indeed served with mushrooms and medallions of beef tenderloin just like the old-school recipe, but you won’t find any Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, cognac, or cream that one would expect in a true Steak Diane. Instead, the chain douses steak with the same Madeira sauce served with its Chicken Madeira entrée, and it's delicious.

    I hacked the chain’s Chicken Madeira many years ago in Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 but was happy for the chance to go back and improve the great sauce. After some fiddling, I came up with an improved formula that calls for less wine and uses a more thorough reduction to intensify the flavors. When shopping for ingredients for my Cheesecake Factory Steak Diane copycat recipe, it's okay to pick the least expensive Madeira wine on the shelf. Just know that Madeira wines have different characteristics, so your final flavor may slightly vary from the restaurant version.

    For your tenderloins, start with thick steaks, since you’ll be slicing the portions in half through the middle, making them thinner. You’ll need 7 to 8 small steak portions to be sliced in half for 14 to 16 medallions. 

    Now, how about dessert? Find my copycat recipes for Cheesecake Factory's signature cheesecakes here.

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  • Score: 3.00 (votes: 2)
    El Pollo Loco Shredded Beef Birria

    Birria was invented over 400 years ago when an increasing goat population became a problem for residents of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Their solution: eat them.

    But goat meat can be tough and gamey, so a low and slow braising method was developed to make the meat tender and tasty. A broth flavored with chili peppers and spices was combined with the meat in a covered pot which was then buried in the ground with hot coals. Early the next day, the braised birria is ready to eat, which is why the dish became a traditional Mexican breakfast food.

    But customers at El Pollo Loco birria usually have their birria for lunch and dinner. And, while I lack a formal survey, I am nearly positive that everyone is happy that this version isn’t made with goat meat. Instead, my version of El Pollo Loco Shredded Beef Birria is made by braising a 2 to 3 pound chuck roast in a secret combination of peppers and spices for 3 hours, or until your beef is tender enough to shred with a couple forks.

    Strain the braising sauce left in the pan to make the delicious consommé, then use this shredded beef on tacos, burritos, quesadillas, or whatever sounds good. Add some cilantro and chopped onion to the consommé and serve it on the side for dipping, just like they do at the restaurant chain.

    Pair my El Pollo Shredded Beef Birria copycat recipe below with my copycat recipes for El Pollo Loco avocado salsa, pinto beans, Spanish rice, and bbq black beans.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Applebee's Spinach & Artichoke Dip

    When I saw a recent Mashed.com poll where most people picked the spinach and artichoke dip as their favorite appetizer on the Applebee’s menu, I realized I hadn’t yet cracked the recipe, and immediately got to work.

    I've hacked a lot of spinach and artichoke dips over the years, but no other dip features so many different types of Italian cheese. Thankfully, many grocery stores have bags of pre-blended shredded Italian cheese that work great for our Applebee's Spinach & Artichoke Dip copycat recipe. With that cheese blend, plus additional Asiago and Parmesan, we can produce a spot-on match to Applebee's ultra-popular dip.

    And there’s no need to defrost the frozen spinach ahead of time—that will be taken care of when it steams in your microwave. Add the cooked spinach to the cheese and other ingredients in a saucepan along with the trimmed artichoke hearts, and when it’s hot, sprinkle on some more Parm, brown it under your broiler, and bust out the chips.

    Check out my recipe for Applebee's Chicken Wonton Tacos and more here

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  • Not rated yet
    Applebee's Brew Pub Pretzels & Beer Cheese Dip

    The chain’s popular appetizer brings three secret recipes together in one dish: the pretzels, the beer cheese, and the honey Dijon mustard dip. And I’ve got original hacks for all three formulas that will make enough for lots of bellies.

    Bavarian pretzels are traditionally bathed in a lye solution before they’re baked to give them a dark shiny brown skin. Food-grade lye, when cooked, is safe to eat, but it’s not an ingredient usually found at the corner food store. So, to make my Applebee’s Beer Pub Pretzels recipe more convenient, I’m opting for a baking soda bath to darken these pretzels. They don’t have the same shine as lye-bathed pretzels, but if you use enough baking soda, your pretzels will come out beautifully caramel brown, just like the real thing.

    For my Applebee’s Beer Cheese Dip recipe, I had to come up with a good way to melt white cheddar, which can be tricky since it’s hard to find mild (softer) white cheddar. Most white cheddar I found was either sharp or extra sharp, and when I made a sauce using a roux, the finished product came out much too grainy. On my next attempt, I tried a different approach by melting a chunk of Velveeta Queso Blanco in some milk before adding the shredded white cheddar. Thanks to sodium citrate, a cheese melting aid that’s in Velveeta, the sauce came out smooth as silk, and I was thrilled.

    After your pretzels and beer cheese are done, mix up the easy honey Dijon mustard dipping sauce in a small bowl, and you’re ready to serve a gang of pretzel lovers with 12 Bavarian pretzel sticks and plenty of beer cheese and mustard sauce for dipping.

     Check out more of my cool copycat appetizers here

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    IHOP Cinnamon Bun Crepes

    One of IHOP’s creative new crêpes is this cinnamon bun/cheesecake mashup that’s probably more dessert than breakfast food, although no one at my house complained. Two delicate crêpes are filled with cheesecake mousse and drizzled with cinnamon bun filling and cream cheese icing, and it looks beautiful on the plate.

    For my take on the IHOP Cinnamon Bun Crêpes recipe, I reworked the cinnamon topping which I previously hacked for IHOP’s Cinn-A-Stacks to hold its shape better when applied with a squirt bottle. And I’m including two easy new hacks for the cream cheese icing and cheesecake mousse.

    Once your mousse and icings are done, use this original crêpes formula to make eight beautiful, delicate crêpes for four servings, topped with sliced strawberries and a dusting of powdered sugar.

    Find more of my IHOP copycat recipes here.

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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 copycat recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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