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You lucky devil. You just found copycat recipes for all of 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. Get all the best restaurant recipes from Applebee's to El Pollo Loco here. New recipes added every week.

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  • Score: 4.58 (votes: 43)
    Buffalo Wild Wings Buffalo Wings and Sauces

    Menu Description: "Here they are in all their lip-smacking, award-winning glory: Buffalo, New York-style chicken wings spun in your favorite signature sauce."

    Since Buffalo, New York was too far away, Jim Disbrow and Scott Lowery satisfied their overwhelming craving in 1981 by opening a spicy chicken wing restaurant close to home in Kent, Ohio. With signature sauces and a festive atmosphere, the chain has now evolved from a college campus sports bar with wings to a family restaurant with over 300 units. While frying chicken wings is no real secret—simply drop them in hot shortening for about 10 minutes—the delicious spicy sauces make the wings special. There are 12 varieties of sauce available to coat your crispy chicken parts at the chain, and I'm presenting clones for the more traditional flavors. These sauces are very thick, almost like dressing or dip, so we'll use an emulsifying technique that will ensure a creamy final product where the oil won't separate from the other ingredients. Here is the chicken wing cooking and coating technique, followed by clones for the most popular sauces: Spicy Garlic, Medium and Hot. The sauce recipes might look the same at first, but each has slight variations make your sauce hotter or milder by adjusting the level of cayenne pepper. You can find Frank's pepper sauce by the other hot sauces in your market. If you can't find that brand, you can also use Crystal Louisiana hot sauce.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.74 (votes: 19)
    Chili's Chicken Crispers and Honey Mustard Dressing

    Menu Description: "Strips of hand-battered chicken fried to perfection. Served w/sweet corn on the cob, honey-mustard dressing and homestyle fries."

    When biting into Chili's delicious trademarked Chicken Crispers, I detect the distinct flavor of MSG, or monosodium glutamate. Although there is no English word for it, the Japanese call this flavor "umami", and it delivers a taste sensation that is different from bitter, salty, sweet, or sour flavors. This "fifth flavor" is created naturally by glutamic acid, an amino acid, and it can be found in mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, fish and dairy products. But rather than adding something like Accent flavor enhancer—which is pure MSG—to this recipe, I thought of another approach. To clone the flavorful batter for this Chili's entrée, I decided to bring canned chicken broth into the mix. Most chicken broths, including Swanson brand, contain autolyzed yeast extract. These yeast enzymes release flavor-enhancing compounds that work just like MSG, amplifying flavors in much the same way. Plus, the chicken broth is made with other goodies such as carrot, onion, and celery that will contribute to a tasty, crunchy coating. As for the frying, Chili's has recently switched to a shortening that contains no trans fat. So, if you want the best clone of Chili's Chicken Crispers, use shortening, but find the kind that has no trans fat. Crisco now makes a version, and so does Smart Balance. Shortening produces a superior clone and it will release less "fry smell" into your house. You can also use vegetable or canola oil.

    I've also included the recipe for Chili's Honey Mustard Dressing that's easy to make with just 5 ingredients.

    Try my Chili's Crispy Honey Chipotle Chicken Crispers recipe here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.
     

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  • Score: 4.73 (votes: 15)
    Applebee's Crispy Orange Chicken Bowl

    Menu Description: "Breaded boneless chicken breast is delicately spiced and covered in a spicy-sweet orange glaze. Served in a big bowl over almond rice pilaf and a flavorful mixture of mushrooms, broccoli, red pepper, sugar snap peas, and shredded carrots. Topped with toasted almonds and crispy noodles."

    In a dish like this, it's important to get the sauce tasting just right or the whole hack will be off. Simmering a secret blend of orange juice, brown sugar, marmalade, and few other ingredients will give you a sauce that's sweet, tangy, spicy and really, really freakin' good. Rather than going to the trouble of breading and frying the chicken from scratch, I've cut time off your prep by including frozen breaded chicken fingers that you simply bake in the oven when you're ready to assemble the dish. I used Claim Jumper brand chicken tenderloins for this recipe since one 20-ounce box was perfect for the two servings this recipe yields. However, these are mongo-huge restaurant-size portions, so you'll be able to divide this recipe up into four more modest servings if you like.

    Make more of your favorite dishes from Applebee's. 

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 3.92 (votes: 12)
    BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse Famous Pizookie

    Menu Description: "A freshly baked, hot out-of-the oven, rich and delicious cookie topped with 2 scoops of vanilla bean ice cream and served in its own deep dish. Your choice of chocolate chunk, white chocolate macadamia nut, peanut butter or oatmeal raisin walnut."

    Visit one of the 83 BJ's restaurants located in the West and Southwest and you'll likely find many giddy diners digging down into one of these deep-dish cookie desserts. Even though the restaurant is known for great Chicago-style deep-dish pizzas and a fantastic selection of custom-brewed beers, it's the Pizookie at the end of the meal that gets the most drools. There are four varieties to choose from on the menu, so I'm giving you the BJ's Pizookie recipe for all four below. Each formula makes enough dough for one giant cookie, and the Pizookie recipe is so easy that you could make more than one with just a little extra effort. You might think that the cooking temperature of 475 degrees is extreme for a cookie, but since BJ's is a pizza joint, these puppies get cooked in cranked-up pizza ovens, and it works great. Not only will you have your cookie done in only 5 to 7 minutes, but also it'll be nice and brown on top, and slightly gooey in the center—all good things for a cookie, right? The restaurants uses 6-inch deep-dish pizza pans, but you can bake your clones in any cake pan or pie pan with a bottom that is 6 to 7 inches across.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.71 (votes: 24)
    Bonefish Grill Bang Bang Shrimp

    Menu Description: "Tender, crispy wild gulf shrimp tossed in a creamy, spicy sauce."

    Bonefish Grill proudly refers to this appetizer as the "house specialty." And why not, it's an attractive dish with bang-up flavor, especially if you like your food on the spicy side. The heat in this Bang Bang Shrimp recipe comes from the secret sauce blend that's flavored with chili garlic sauce, also known as sambal. You can find this bright red sauce where the Asian foods in your market—and while you're there, pick up some rice vinegar. Once the sauce is made, you coat the shrimp in a simple seasoned breading, fry them to a nice golden brown, toss them gently in the sauce, and then serve them up on a bed of mixed greens to hungry folks who, hopefully, have a cool drink nearby to mellow the sting.

    You might also like my recipes for Bonefish Grill's Saucy Shrimp and Citrus Herb Vinaigrette

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.75 (votes: 8)
    Bonefish Grill Saucy Shrimp

    Menu Description: "Wild gulf shrimp sauteed in a Lime Tomato Garlic sauce with Kalamata olives and Feta cheese."

    Restaurateurs Tim Curci and Chris Parker opened the first Bonefish Grill in St. Petersburg, Florida in 2000, and, with at least eight species of fresh oak-grilled fish to choose from on any given day, the chain has since exploded to over 100 units in 24 states. Yes, the fish is very good, and the oak grill is a nice touch, but you should also know that this is a restaurant that likes to have fun with sauces. This appetizer clone is a good example of that. The tartness of the lime works beautifully with the sweetness of the sundried tomato to create a scampi sauce unlike any you may have tasted before. Lay this simple dish on the troops before your main course and you will be tonight's kitchen hero.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.86 (votes: 14)
    Bonefish Grill Citrus Herb Vinaigrette

    There a are few decent bottled salad dressings out there, but there's nothing on the shelf that compares in taste to this homemade version of the house salad dressing from Bonefish Grill.  Not only that, it's a heck of a lot cheaper to make your own vinaigrette from scratch. And check out the easy steps: Mix everything together in a bowl, microwave for 1 minute, whisk to emulsify, then chill. If you're a salad lover, this is the clone for you. 

    You might also like my recipes for Bonefish's Bang Bang Shrimp.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    California Pizza Kitchen The Original BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad

    Menu Description: "Chopped lettuce, black beans, sweet corn, jicama, cilantro, basil, crispy corn tortilla strips, and Monterey Jack cheese tossed together in our herb ranch dressing. Topped with chopped BBQ chicken breast, diced tomatoes and scallions."

    It was probably the popularity of CPK's BBQ chicken pizza that inspired this twist on the original chopped salad. I think the herb ranch dressing that's made here is much better than any ranch dressing you can buy in bottles in your local supermarket, but you can still choose to use one of those on this salad to speed things up, if you prefer. You might also consider substituting ingredients listed here for lower-fat ingredients, such as low-fat mayonnaise, sour cream and fat-free milk. As with any clone, consider this formula as your springboard into a custom dish that suits your own specs.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad

    Menu Description: "Fajita-marinated chicken, corn relish, mixed cheese, cilantro, diced tomato and crispy tortilla strips. Garnished with a chipotle-ranch drizzle and cheese quesadilla wedges. Served with our citrus-balsamic dressing."

    I'm a happy camper on a Saturday afternoon when diving into one of these big salads, served up with a Presidente Margarita to help relieve my hangover from a Friday night hoo-ha. For the last several years, this has been the go-to salad when you're dining at Chili's. The chicken marinade is delicious, the corn relish is a great touch, and the citrus-balsamic vinaigrette totally rocks. And where else can you get a salad that includes slices of cheese quesadilla on the side? I love it. If you're a fan of the original, this 4-serving clone will bring it home.

    Craving more of your favorite dishes from Chili's? See if I hacked your favorites here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur

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  • Score: 4.57 (votes: 14)
    El Pollo Loco BBQ Black Beans

    If you like traditional BBQ beans, you've got to love El Pollo Loco's sweet-and-spicy variation with black beans. The light smokiness in this clone comes from bacon fat, then cayenne pepper and green chiles give the beans a Southwestern flavor that's perfect on burritos or as a delicious side. The prep is a breezer, since you conveniently combine two 15-ounce cans of black beans with the other secret ingredients in a saucepan and just let it simmer for an hour or so. When the beans are soft and the mixture is thick, on with the eating.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.50 (votes: 6)
    Applebee's Key Lime Pie Dessert Shooter

    Menu Description: "This tart and tangy layer of graham cracker crumbs, key lime filling and whipped cream is a little taste of heaven."

    While working on this clone recipe for Aoplebee's Key Lime Pie Shooters, I couldn't help thinking of Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters in The Jerk enjoying "the best pizza in a cup ever." Applebee's has taken a slice of key lime pie out of the pie pan and put it into a 6-ounce rocks glass. The key lime filling for this clone is thickened on your stovetop, and the topping is made by combining key lime juice and sweetened sour cream. Try to find key limes for this recipe, but any lime juice will work in a pinch if key limes or bottled key lime juice is hard to track down. Chill the filling for a few hours in your fridge before building these 4 servings with graham cracker crumbs on the bottom, and whipped cream on top. It's really good stuff. Probably the best key lime pie in a cup ever.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.
     

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 6)
    Cheeseburger in Paradise BBQ Jerk Ribs

    Menu Description: "Slow-cooked marinated domestic pork ribs lightly seasoned with Jerk spices and basted with BBQ sauce."

    An island taste in the secret jerk paste formula permeates the ribs as they slow cook in low heat. Halfway through cooking the ribs are wrapped in foil to begin a braising process that tenderizes the meat. And for a big finish, the racks are tossed on the grill just before serving then basted with a delicious scratch sauce. Follow the grilling instructions here and you won't lose any meat from your ribs sticking to the barbecue grate. Start by grilling the ribs bony-side-down so that some of the fat from the ribs melts onto your grill. Now when you flip the racks over onto the meaty side the grill is well-lubricated, giving you beautiful grill marks on the good part, and no sticking. And don't freak out about that whole habanero pepper included in the jerk paste. Sure, it may be one of the world's hottest peppers, but the paste goes a long way, and you should only detect a hint of heat on the finished product. If you're a chilihead, go ahead and add more than one. Serve up these babies with a side of my hacked Sweet Potato Chips clone for an authentic CIP experience.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.67 (votes: 3)
    Buffalo Wild Wings Parmesan Garlic Sauce

    Menu Description: "Roasted garlic and Parmesan sauce with Italian herbs."

    Buffalo Wild Wings had a record day on Super Bowl Sunday 2007 when the chain sold 3.4 million wings! One year later the chain announced the opening of its 500th store. As the biggest buffalo wing chain in the country continues to grow, so does its selection of delicious sauces. Creamy, and slightly spicy, this Parmesan Garlic Sauce is one of several new sauces BWW added to its menu. Our Top Secret clone starts by roasting a few peeled garlic cloves in your oven. Add mayo and Parmesan cheese to the soft, roasted garlic, plus some corn syrup, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and an assortment of dried herbs and you've got yourself an addictive sauce that's as good on finger food as it is on a salad. Bake up some breaded chicken nuggets or fry up some wings, then simply toss 'em in some of this delicious sauce and serve.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.82 (votes: 11)
    Buffalo Wild Wings Asian Zing Sauce

    Menu Description: "Sweet meets heat: A chili pepper, soy and ginger sauce."

    Here's a clone for one of the newer sauces that the wing masters at Buffalo Wild Wings added to the menu. When I get over to BWW, I order up a tall Foster's on tap, and 12 boneless wings covered in this great sauce. It's sweet-and-sour with a kick, and the kick is what the beer's for. Next time you're at the market grab yourself some chili garlic sauce in the aisle with the other Asian foods. That's the crucial ingredient to this Buffalo Wild Wings Asian Zing Sauce recipe that gives this sauce its heat, along with its deep red color. Once this sauce is made it'll store for weeks in a sealed container in your fridge. Now you've got a quick dip for eggrolls, wontons and spring rolls. Cook up some wings, nuggets or breaded tenders and toss 'em in the gooey goodness until well-coated, then serve hot. And don't forget the beer.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.75 (votes: 8)
    Cracker Barrel Coleslaw

    Similar to cloning the coleslaw at KFC, the secret technique for duplicating Cracker Barrel's delicious coleslaw starts with slicing the cabbage into very small pieces. A mandoline works great for this, or use whatever slicing contraption you have. Slice the heads of green and red cabbage on the thinnest setting, and then chop those strips into small bits. The carrot can be shredded using a cheese grater. Mix it all up and then let the coleslaw chill out for several hours so the mixture can get its flavor on and ends up tasting just like Cracker Barrel's famous dish. An overnight chill is even sweeter.

    Try more of my Cracker Barrel recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Denny's Grand Slamwich

    Menu Description: "Two scrambled eggs, seasoned sausage, crispy bacon, shaved ham, mayonnaise and American cheese grilled on potato bread with a maple spice spread."

    After a successful Super Bowl promotion when Denny's gave away over 2 million Grand Slam Breakfast platters in February 2009, the chain revealed its next generous publicity stunt the following April by offering a free serving of its new Grand Slamwich with every purchase of a Grand Slam Breakfast. This entire breakfast-in-a-sandwich features everything you'd want in a hearty day starter including 2 eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, and cheese, all on potato bread. It seems that the taste buds of Denny's corporate chefs were influenced by the maple-flavored buns used on McDonald's McGriddle sandwich when they got the idea to brush the bread on each Grand Slamwich with a maple-infused buttery spread. Regardless of the inspiration, the Denny's Grand Slamwich recipe works great, and now you can make it at home anytime you like.
     
    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Chili's Nacho Burger

    Menu Description: "Nacho Ordinary Burger! Shredded lettuce, tortilla strips, chili queso and green onions. Served open faced w/sour cream, guacamole, jalapenos and pico de gallo."

    This hack includes recipes for popular garnishes and sides offered at Chili's: Chili's Chili Queso, Chili's Pico de Gallo, and Chili's Guacamole. Now, in this one recipe, you'll learn how to clone all three components from scratch. You then pile everything on a hamburger with some jalapenos, crunchy tortilla chips and chopped green onion, and serve it open-faced with extra guacamole and queso on the side. 

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.75 (votes: 4)
    Cheesecake Factory Cajun Jambalaya Pasta

    Menu Description: "Our most popular dish! Shrimp and Chicken Sauteed with Onions, Peppers and Tomatoes in a Very Spicy Cajun Sauce. All on top of Fresh Fettuccine."

    The Cheesecake Factory's founder, David Overton, says it was his unfamiliarity with the restaurant business that contributed to the company's success. In an interview with Nation's Restaurant News David says, "We did not know anything about running restaurants. We just knew that people valued fresh foods. In some ways our naivete helped us because we didn't know what you are not supposed to do."

    I think we all know it helps to serve good food and that's an area in which the Cheesecake Factory excels. The pastas and salads top the list of big sellers, but it's the Cajun Jambalaya Pasta that holds the pole position, according to the menu description of this dish. Jambalaya is a spicy Creole dish that usually combines a variety of ingredients including tomatoes, onions, peppers, and some type of meat with rice. Rather than the traditional rice, the Cheesecake Factory has designed its version to include two types of fettuccine—an attractive mix of standard white noodles and spinach-flavored noodles. 

    This recipe makes 2 huge portions, like those served in the restaurant. It's probably enough food for a family of four.

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

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 3.50 (votes: 2)
    California Pizza Kitchen Tuscan Hummus

    Menu Description: "Our original recipe of Tuscan white beans pureed with sesame, garlic, lemon, and spices. Garnished with fresh Roma tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Served with warm pizza-pita bread."

    The traditional dish of Tuscan white beans is usually made from dried cannellini beans or great Northern beans that are soaked overnight in water and then cooked until tender with olive oil, garlic and sage. But there's no need to wait through such a time-consuming process if we can simply use already tender canned beans found in any market. Look for white beans or the slightly larger great Northern beans and strain off the liquid, but don't throw that liquid away! you'll need a little of it to add to the food processor along with the other ingredients, including sesame tahini which can be found in most markets where the international foods are stocked or in specialty stores such as Whole Foods. 

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–2 tablespoons
    Total servings–14
    Calories per serving–60
    Fat per serving–4.3g 

    Source: Low-Fat Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Not rated yet
    Chili's Tropical Sunburn

    The rums, Cointreau, and juices create an island flavor that anyone will love. This drink is named after its tendency to leave you passed out on the beach before applying sunscreen.

    Get your drink on with more famous cocktail recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes: Sodas, Smoothies, Spirits & Shakes by Todd Wilbur.

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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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  • Score: 4.31 (votes: 13)
    Carl's Jr. Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich

    This is a simple fast food sandwich to clone, and it's one of my favorites to make at home. This sandwich has been around since March of 1991, and has been a popular choice at Carl's Jr. outlets dotting the western United States. Chicken fillets are marinated in teriyaki sauce and grilled. The chicken is then stacked on a whole wheat bun along with American cheese, lettuce, mild green chili peppers and a spicy southwestern-style spread. If you're looking to fire up the barbecue for a little chicken grilling, give this sandwich a go and bring a surprise to the table.

    Source: More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.88 (votes: 8)
    Applebee's Almond Rice Pilaf

    You're grilling some steaks or baking some chicken and don't know what to serve on the side? Try out this simple clone for a dish that's served along with several of Applebee's entrees. Since the recipe requires converted rice because instant rice is gross, you have to plan ahead about 25 minutes to give the rice time to cook. It's worth the wait. The secret to an authentic, great-tasting rice pilaf is sauteing the uncooked rice kernels in butter first, before adding the liquid—in this case chicken broth. Then, as the rice is cooking, you have plenty of time to saute the almonds, celery, and onions that are tossed into the rice at the end.

    Want some more of my Applebee's recipes? I've got a bunch right here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.67 (votes: 6)
    Arby's Horsey Sauce

    Even though Arby's has diversified its menu over the years with toasted subs and deli-style sandwiches on sliced whole wheat bread, it's the thinly-sliced roast beef piled high on hamburger buns that originally made this chain famous. Since roast beef and horseradish go so beautifully together, Arby's created this delicious mayo-based horseradish sauce as a spread for the roast beef sandwiches. It also happens to be great on your homemade sandwiches too, but it just isn't cool to hoard handfuls of those blister packs to take home with you. So, with the help of my Arby's Horsey Sauce recipe, you can clone as much sauce as you want. First step: get out the blender. You'll need it to purée the horseradish into the mix so that the sauce is smooth and creamy like the real deal.

    You might also like my Arby's BBQ sauce recipe.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    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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  • 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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    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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    Applebee's Spinach & Artichoke Dip

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

    I've hacked many spinach & artichoke dips over the years, but this one is different with a blend of Italian cheese in the mix. Thankfully, grocery stores usually have bags of pre-blended shredded Italian cheese, to make things easy. With that cheese blend, plus some additional Asiago and Parmesan, we've got a spot-on match to Applebee's Spinach & Artichoke Dip.

    No need to defrost the frozen spinach ahead of time—that will be taken care of when it steams in your microwave. Add the steamed spinach to the cheese and other ingredients in a saucepan 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
    Del Taco Tamales

    This 600-unit Mexican fast food chain celebrates the holidays each year with delicious little $2 corn husk-wrapped pork tamales made from a traditional recipe for authentic south-of-the-border taste. The only problem is when the holidays go away, so do these tasty tamales. And that's why we bust out this Top Secret Recipe.

    Making authentic tamales is not difficult, but it does take time. The pork requires a braise for several hours to get it fork-tender, and the wrapped tamales will take around 2 hours to steam until they're done.

    My Del Taco tamale recipe is inspired by traditional tamale recipes that include a braising sauce for the pork made from rehydrated guajillo peppers. To coax out more flavor, I chose to first toast the peppers before adding them to the liquid. And rather than using lard in the masa dough, I found a combination of vegetable shortening and butter to be a more flavorful alternative.

    Steam all 24 of tamales until they are fully cooked, and store those you can’t eat in your freezer for several weeks. Steam the frozen tamales for 20 to 30 minutes, and they’ll taste as good as fresh.

    How about a cold margarita to wash down those tamales? Find your favorite famous drink recipes here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Chick-fil-A Peppermint Chip Milkshake

    The chicken chain’s seasonal milkshake made with chips of peppermint and chocolate is only available November through January each year, but what if you’re craving one in March? Or what if it’s Sunday and you can’t get your favorite shake because that’s when every Chick-fil-A is closed?

    Now you can make Chick-Fil-A Peppermint Chip Milkshake at home in the few minutes it takes to smash some candy canes and turn on a blender. Use a small storage bag and a kitchen mallet or handle of a butter knife to smash the peppermint candy into small crumbs, then combine those with dark chocolate bits, ice cream, milk, flavoring, and color, and you’ll be sipping on a perfect copy of the famous shake in under 5 minutes.

    Oh, don’t forget the whipped cream and a cherry.

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

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    Domino's Sweet Mango Habanero Sauce

    This is the hottest of Domino’s dipping sauce offerings, and many would say it’s the best. The big sweet-and-sour flavors hit you first right out of the gate, then the habanero creeps in to remind your mouth which ingredient is the boss.   

    Sure, habanero is in the name, but there are actually several peppers at work here including jalapeno and red bell, and three juices: mango, orange, and lime. For your clone, everything gets pureed in the blender until smooth. When your Domino's Sweet Mango Habanero sauce has cooled, use it as a dip or baste for chicken fingers, nuggets, wings, coconut shrimp, salmon, and pizza (yes, pizza!). Give it a try with my Domino's pizza copycat recipes here

    Come for the great flavor, but stay for the heavenly heat of my simple and delicious original recipe for Domino's Sweet Mango Habanero sauce. Includes handy step photos. 

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

    A great buttermilk biscuit isn’t hard to make. This is good news if you're serving hundreds each day as they do at this popular Southern kitchen chain. But a simple recipe such as this one is also a blessing when you need to whip up a modest batch at home for your hungry gang of biscuit fanatics, and it's an added bonus if they taste as good as the famous biscuits from Cracker Barrel. 

    The secret to tender, flakey biscuits like you get at the restaurant chain is using a lower-gluten self-rising flour such as White Lily; a staple for Southern biscuit recipes. A bit of shortening in the mix will help tenderize the finished product, as will a light mixing hand. Overmixing the dough may toughen your biscuits, so mix the dough gently and only as much as you have to.

    If you don’t use White Lily flour and go with a heavier self-rising flour such as Gold Medal, take note that you may have to add a couple of tablespoons more buttermilk to the dough to loosen it up. Good biscuit dough should be soft, but not sticky.

    After making these Cracker Barrel biscuits from scratch, try home versions of Cracker Barrel hash brown casserolebuttermilk piemeatloaf, and more.

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    Cracker Barrel Biscuit Beignets

    The delicious beignets Cracker Barrel creates with the chain's famous buttermilk biscuit formula are unlike traditional beignets in that they start with such a tangy dough. But once you add all the sweet stuff—cinnamon-sugar, powdered sugar, and butter-nut sauce—the saltiness is offset, resulting in a perfect harmony of great flavor.

    The dough here is a tweaked version of my hack for Cracker Barrel's Buttermilk Biscuits, but unlike that dough where we strive for flakiness in the finished product, this dough won't call for a light stirring hand. Instead, you should give this dough a decent beating in the mixing bowl to tighten it up so that it resists oil absorption when deep-fried.

    Along with all the steps and step photos for a great copycat of Cracker Barrel biscuit beignets, I’m also including my new hack for a delicious butter-nut dipping sauce that tastes just like what the chain serves, except this one is made with real butter. 

    Find more of your favorite Cracker Barrel dishes here

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    Applebee's Riblets

    Ever wonder where Riblets come from?

    "Riblets" is Applebee’s trademarked name for button ribs or rib tips (as they are called at Walmart), which is a short cut trimmed from the back end of pork spareribs, packed with lots of connective tissue. And that's a good thing because, after 3 to 4 hours of braising, that connective tissue will break down, producing fork-tender meat that slips off the bone. Of the cooking methods I tried for my version of Applebee's Riblets recipe, which included steaming, slow-roasting, and smoking; braising made the most tender, flavorful ribs—even before the sauce went on. 

    For the braising formula, I found that chicken broth infused with liquid smoke creates tender ribs that taste as if they came out of a smoker. Finish off the braised ribs on your grill and baste them with the original TSR hack below that clones Applebee’s honey barbecue sauce, or use your favorite bottled sauce. 

    And if you'd like to serve these riblets with almond rice pilaf as they do in the restaurant, you can find my clone recipe here on the site.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Domino's Chocolate Lava Crunch Cakes

    A traditional “molten” cake or “lava” cake is baked at a high temperature for a short time so that the outside of the cake is fully cooked, but the batter at the center stays unset and gooey. Domino’s lava cakes are different with pure fudge topping hidden in the middle rather than cake batter. The little dessert is delicious, with a crunchy exterior and two forms of chocolate in one bite, but it presents some challenges, such as how to fully enclose soft fudge in the center of a small cake without holes, and how to keep the fudge from disappearing into the cake batter as it bakes.

    Since there are no holes or seams detected on the cakes, the filling needs to be loaded into the cakes before baking. I thought about freezing the fudge in disk shapes and then concealing those into the middle of a muffin cup of cake batter, but the fudge doesn’t freeze solid in a home freezer. It just gets really cold and really sticky, and it's much too messy to work with.

    Going back to the drawing board, I found the clue I needed on Domino's website. The list of ingredients for the lava cakes includes “cake crumbs” and “cookie crumbs” along with butter, eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla, and cocoa. This suggests that crumbs of pre-baked cake and cookies could be combined with the other ingredients to make firmer cake “dough” rather than runny cake batter. The soft fudge could then be spooned onto the bottom of the uncooked mini cakes, topped with more dough, and baked.

    After baking the little cakes with this new technique there is no detectable seam, and the fudge inside gets warm and gooey and oozes out when you eat it, just like the real thing. Serve these up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side and watch the fun when everyone takes a bite.

    My Domino's chocolate lava crunch cake recipe makes 12 cakes, and I'm adding a bunch of step photos so yours will come out perfect. You can chill any leftovers for serving later with the reheating instructions I'm including at the end.

    Find more of your favorite Domino's copycat recipes here.

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    Applebee's Oreo Cookie Milkshake

    This delicious made-to-order oreo cookie milkshake was one of several items cut from the menu in 2020 when the pandemic brought the dine-in restaurant business to a crawl. But in June 2021 when the song “Fancy Like” from country singer Walker Hayes, which mentions the milkshake by name, went viral on TikTok, Applebee’s brought back the shake to satisfy the increased demand.

    Now you can make your own Applebee's Oreo Cookie Milkshake without leaving home with this simple hack that requires just a few ingredients and a blender. Start by getting the ice cream smooth in the blender with the milk before adding in the Oreo pieces so that you don’t make the Oreo cookie crumbs too small. You want a few little bits in there for crunch, but they shouldn’t be big enough to clog the straw. Add some whipped cream on top with some Oreo crumbs and you’ve just made enough for two 12-ounce shakes.

    As the song goes, “We fancy like Applebee’s on a date night, got that Bourbon Street steak with the Oreo shake.” Now that you’ve got your Oreo shake, how about a Bourbon Street steak

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Chick-fil-A Spicy Deluxe Chicken Sandwich

    This chain’s not-spicy original chicken sandwich which debuted in 1964 was the first chicken sandwich introduced to America by a fast food chain, and it put Chick-fil-A on the map. By diversifying the menu with new products such as this kicked-up version of the famous sandwich, the chain grew over the years to become the #1 chicken restaurant in the nation, and this sandwich is now one of the most popular picks on the menu board.

    The secrets for a good clone of the Chick-Fil-A Spicy Deluxe Chicken Sandwich lie in the brine and the breading. I recently obtained some insider intel confirming the long-standing rumor that pickle juice is the brine. I hadn’t called for it in my prior Chick-fil-A clones because the listed ingredients for the sandwich didn’t include it. I’m not sure why that is, but my latest test versions with the pickle juice were noticeably better, so now it’s in there. You should also know that MSG is an important ingredient in both the brine and breading, so don’t leave that out if you want the best clone.

    Use this special trick to get three perfect sandwich-size cutlets out of each chicken breast, and then give the chicken a nice 4-hour brine. Your patience will be rewarded with one of the best chicken sandwich hacks to come out of a home kitchen. 

    Now, check out my version of Chick-fil-A Mac and Cheese!

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    Cheesecake Factory Spicy Cashew Chicken

    This popular chain wrangles a wide variety of dishes and cooking styles day after day with consistently high quality. From pasta to burgers to tacos, from salads to pancakes to beautiful cheesecakes for dessert, there is something for everyone at the Cheesecake Factory.

    The thorough menu's Asia-inspired plates include Thai, Korean, and Chinese dishes, but one that consistently stands out is this excellent Mandarin-style spicy chicken entrée, served over your choice of white or brown rice.

    The secret of the great flavor is in the sauce, which has now been hacked for you in this recipe. Plus, I’ll walk you through the process of creating perfect crispy chicken from scratch using juicy chicken tenderloins.

    If you’d like to save time, you can bake up some pre-cooked breaded chicken tenders and focus all your efforts on the amazing sauce. Tips on that shortcut can be found below in the Tidbits.    

    If you like this recipe for Cheesecake Factory Spicy Cashew chicken, you'll want to check out more of my copycat Cheesecake Factory recipes here.

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    Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s Hand-Breaded Chicken & Waffle Sandwich

    In the midst of the chicken sandwich wars of 2019-2021, Carl’s Jr. (Hardee’s) debuted a simple chicken and waffle sandwich that is surprisingly good. Crispy chicken breast is doused with maple butter sauce and sandwiched between two Belgian waffle buns for a sweet-and-savory handful of fab.     

    To clone the sandwich at home, the chicken gets brined for great flavor and juiciness like the real thing, then it’s cooked until perfectly golden brown and crispy. The maple butter sauce is easy to hack with just three ingredients and a mixer.

    The biggest secret I reveal is how to make Belgian waffles with one flat side just like the real sandwich using a standard waffle iron and a piece of folded aluminum foil. Those exclusive tricks are here plus plenty of helpful step photos so your homemade Carl's Jr. chicken & waffle sandwich will come out perfect.

    Find more of my copycat Carl's Jr. 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 clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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