The #1 Copycat Recipes Website

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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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Show: 24
  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Applebee's Quesadillas

    Menu Description: "Two cheeses, bacon, tomatoes, onion, jalapenos grilled between tortillas with guacamole, sour cream and salsa."

    When Bill and T.J. Palmer opened their first restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1980, they realized their dream of building a full-service, reasonably-priced restaurant in a neighborhood setting. They called their first place T.J. Applebee's Edibles and Elixirs, and soon began franchising the concept. In 1988 some franchisees bought the rights to the name and changed it to Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar. By that time, there were over 650 outlets, making Applebee's one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the world.

    According to waiters at the restaurant, the easy-to-make and slightly spicy quesadillas are one of the most popular appetizers on the Applebee's menu. My Applebee's quesadillas recipe calls for 10-inch or "burrito-size" flour tortillas, which can be found in most supermarkets, but any size can be used in a pinch. Look for the jalapeño "nacho slices" in the ethnic or Mexican food section of the supermarket. You'll find these in jars or cans. 

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

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.50 (votes: 2)
    Applebee's Tequila Lime (Fiesta Lime) Chicken

    Menu Description: "A tender boneless chicken breast marinated with lime juice and tequila flavors and grilled. Served on a bed of crisp tortilla strips. Topped with a Mexi-ranch and Cheddar-Jack cheese. Served with Southwest rice and pico de gallo."

    Because of the huge success of this dish, Applebee's has recently changed the name to "Fiesta Lime Chicken," and trademarked the name. Many people still know this dish by its original title: Tequila Lime Chicken. Whatever you call it, my recipe very closely duplicates the successful dish from Applebee's.

    When you're making my Applebee's Tequila Lime Chicken recipe, just be sure not to marinate the chicken for much longer than the 2 to 3 hours specified, or the acid in the lime juice may toughen your chicken. The bed of crispy corn tortilla strips can be easily made by crumbling store-bought tortilla chips, or, if you want strips more closely resembling those served at the restaurant, just follow the Tidbits below. 

    Serve this dish with your choice of rice and some pico de gallo on the side.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

    Try my improved version in Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 6)
    Baja Fresh Salsa Baja

    You won't find freezers, can openers, or microwave ovens at this national Mexican food chain. Since 1990 Baja Fresh has been serving up great food, made fresh with each order. As you're waiting for your food to come out, that's when you hit up the salsa bar, where you'll find several varieties of delicious fresh salsa, from hot to mild, ready to be spooned into little tubs that you can take to your table or to your car. One of the most popular selections is called Salsa Baja—its medium spiciness, smoky flavor, and deep black color make the salsa unique and mysterious. That is, until now, since I've got a Top Secret formula for you right here. But the recipe wasn't as easy to create as I first thought. I figured the tomatoes would have to be extremely blackened over a hot grill, but I wasn't sure how to get them dark enough to turn the salsa black without the tomatoes getting all mushy and falling apart on the barbecue.

    So, I went back to Baja Fresh before they opened to peer through the window to see if I could catch some hot salsa production action. I waited and waited. After several hours as the lunch rush was beginning to wind down and no fresh salsa was in the pipeline, it was time for extreme measures to get things moving. I went in and ordered 30 tubs of Salsa Baja to go, and that did it. I ended up with a big bag filled with 2 gallons of salsa (thankfully they poured those 8-ounce portions into bigger bowls), and the restaurant went immediately into "salsa red alert" to replenished the now-dwindling salsa reserve. It was perfect. As I was grabbing my bag of salsa, a dude come out from the kitchen with a huge box of tomatoes and placed them all on the grill. I ordered a giant Diet Pepsi and parked myself at a close table to watch the process. That's when I discovered the secret. For super-charred tomatoes they start with firm, chilled tomatoes, that aren't too big or too ripe. I also found out that the tomatoes must start roasting on the grill with the stem-side down. Crafting the rest of my Baja Fresh Salsa Baja recipe was simple...

    Find more cool dips and salsa recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Applebee's Pizza Sticks

    Menu Description: "Parmesan: Thin crusty strips of pizza dough topped with herbs and melted Italian cheese, served with marinara sauce. Loaded: Add Italian sausage and pepperoni."

    Each Applebee's makes an effort to decorate the inside of the restaurant with pictures and memorabilia from the neighborhood in which it is located. You'll see photographs of local heroes and students, license plates, banners, old souvenirs, trinkets, and antiques-all representing area history. Take a look around the walls of the next Applebee's you visit. Maybe you can find something you lost several years ago.

    Meanwhile, here's a find: pizza sticks that are made from dough that is proofed, fried, and then broiled. The frying adds a unique flavor and texture to the dough that you won't get with traditional pizza. I've designed my Applebee's pizza sticks copycat recipe to use the premade dough that comes in tubes. You know, like the stuff from that dough boy. But you can make this with any dough recipe you like. Just roll the dough into a 10x15-inch rectangle before slicing.

    These appetizers can be made either in the Parmesan version without meat, or "loaded" with sausage and pepperoni. This recipe yields a lot, so it makes good party food.

    Speaking of party food, you can check out more of my copycat appetizers here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Cheesecake Factory Mini Crab Cakes

    The secret to great crab cakes starts with great crab. Freshly cooked blue crab is the crab of choice for these crustacean cakes, but you can often find high quality canned backfin blue crab in some stores. One such brand comes in 16-ounce cans from Phillips Seafood and is sold at Costco, Sam's Club, Wal-Mart and Vons stores. 

    Once you've got the crab grabbed you need to pick up some panko. Panko is Japanese-style bread crumbs usually found near the other Asian foods in your market. The Cheesecake Factory uses a little bit of panko to coat each of these small crab cakes for a great, lightly crunchy texture. One order of this appetizer at the restaurant gets you 3 crab cakes; my Cheesecake Factory Mini Crab Cakes recipe makes 6 cakes from 1/2-pound of crab. If you have a 1-pound can of crabmeat, you can save the leftover 1/2-pound for another recipe or double-up on this one. 

    Any surplus crab cakes will keep for 24 hours in the fridge before you need to get them in a pan. Oh, and one other thing to remember when making crab cakes: be gentle. Don't stir the crab too much into the other ingredients. Rather, fold the mixture gingerly with a spatula to combine. You want any big chunks of tasty crab to stay as big chunks of tasty crab in the finished product.

    I've duplicated many popular dishes from Cheesecake Factory. See if I cloned your favorites here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Cheesecake Factory Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes

    Menu Description: "Topped with sour cream, salsa, avocado and salsa verde."

    Nestled between slick full-page ads on page 7 of the huge 17-page spiral-bound menu from The Cheesecake Factory, is a long list of fabulous appetizers that includes this Southwestern-style crowd pleaser. Hand-formed tamale cakes are arranged on fresh salsa verde, topped with sour cream and creamy Southwestern sauce, with a fresh avocado and cilantro garnish. It's happiness on a plate. And, while the ingredients listed below may seem intimidating at first, the three sauces are very simple to make, and your crew will no doubt be impressed with the results. The flavors in the sauces develop after sitting for a bit so you can prepare them all in advance and let them chill in the fridge until chow time. If you get anything short of a standing ovation for this dish, coax out the kudos by waving the pages of this recipe in front of everyone while wiping your brow. Sometimes you have to milk it.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.71 (votes: 14)
    El Pollo Loco Flame-Broiled Chicken

    El Pollo Loco, or "The Crazy Chicken," has been growing like mad since it crossed over the border into the United States from Mexico. Francisco Ochoa unknowingly started a food phenomenon internacional in 1975 when he took a family recipe for chicken marinade and opened a small roadside restaurante in Gusave, Mexico. He soon had 90 stores in 20 cities throughout Mexico. The first El Pollo Loco in the United States opened in Los Angeles in December 1980 and was an immediate success. It was only three years later that Ochoa got the attention of bigwigs at Dennys, Inc., who offered him $11.3 million for his U.S. operations. Ochoa took the deal, and El Pollo Loco grew from 17 to more than 200 outlets over the following decade.

    Pair my El Pollo Loco Flame Broiled Chicken recipe below with my copycat recipes for El Pollo Loco avocado salsa, pinto beans, Spanish rice, and bbq black beans.

    Source: More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 3.94 (votes: 16)
    Benihana Dipping Sauces

    The origin of the name of this chain of Japanese steakhouses dates back to 1935. that's when founder Rocky Aokis father, Yunosuke Aoki, opened a small coffee shop in Japan and named it "Benihana" after a wild red flower that grew near the front door of his shop. Next time you're at Benihana, look carefully and you'll notice that bright red flower has been incorporated into the restaurants logo.

    With most of the cooking performed before your eyes on an open hibachi grill, Benihana maintains a much smaller kitchen than most restaurants, allowing practically the entire restaurant to become productive, money-generating dining space. The limited space behind the scenes is for storage, office and dressing rooms, and a small preparation area for non-cooked items like these sauces. These Benihana dipping sauces will go well with a variety of Asian dishes and can be frozen in sealed containers for weeks at a time. If it's the Benihana Chicken and Steak you crave, you can find my clone recipe here

    Source: "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes" by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Chi-Chi's Nachos Grande

    Menu Description: "Seasoned beef, refried beans and cheese." 

    Marno McDermott was a successful Minneapolis restaurateur, opening a chain of Mexican restaurants in the seventies called Zapata's against the advice of skeptics who said he would never be able to sell Mexican food to the large population of Scandinavians in the area. Marno proved them wrong then, and once again in 1976, when he partnered with Max McGee, a former Green Bay Packer football player, to open the first Chi-Chi's in Richfield, Minnesota. The restaurant was built inside a deserted Kroger grocery store and became instantly famous for the intensely flavored and larger-than-usual portions of food. To keep volume high, Chi-Chi's designed a custom computer-driven system that clocks every aspect of service from the time each server enters an order to when the order is placed in front of the customers. Special attention was given to the design of the menu items as well, with each dish taking no more than nine minutes to prepare, even during the rush hours. 

    At the restaurant you can order the Nachos Grande with beef, chicken, seafood or a combination. This recipe will show you how to make the beef and chicken versions.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Chili's Fajitas For Two

    Menu Description: "A pound of steak, chicken or combination on a sizzling skillet. Peppers available w/Fajitas upon request." 

    Chili's is perhaps the restaurant most responsible for introducing the famous finger food known as fajitas to the mass market. Company CEO Norman Brinker discovered the dish at a small restaurant on a visit to San Antonio, Texas. When Chili's put the item on its menu in the early eighties, sales immediately jumped a whopping 25 percent. One company spokesperson told Spirit magazine, "I remember walking into one of the restaurants after we added them to the menu and all I could see were whisps of steam coming up from the tables. That revolutionized Chili's."

    Today Chili's serves more than 2 million pounds of fajitas a year. If all of the flour tortillas served with those fajitas were laid end-to-end, they'd stretch from New York to New Zealand.

    Today just about every American knows what fajitas are—the Southwestern-style grilled chicken, beef, or seafood, served sizzling on a cast iron skillet. And everyone has their own method of arranging the meat and onions and peppers in a soft tortilla with gobs of pico de gallo, cheese, guacamole, lettuce, sour cream, and salsa. The tough part is trying to roll the thing up and take a bite ever so gracefully without squeezing half of the filling out the backside of the tortilla. This Chili's Fajitas recipe is guaranteed to be as delicious and messy as the original.

    Try more awesome Chili's copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.67 (votes: 3)
    Buca di Beppo Chicken Limone

    Menu Description: "Chicken breasts lightly sautéed and topped with lemon butter sauce and capers."

    Buca di Beppo's Chicken Limone was deliciously simple to reverse-engineer: I asked the server to check on what kind of dairy is used in the sauce and whether or not white wine is cooked into it. After getting the information I needed, I ordered the dish to go with the sauce on the side and got to work back in the lab. Several versions hit the sink as I unsuccessfully experimented with various amounts of wine, butter, and cream.

    It was only after I decided to chill the lemon-butter sauce that I got the information that I needed. The sauce formed a firm solid in the fridge, which indicated that my recipe needed a lot more butter than first estimated. I made the proper adjustments and the sauce that sat in my pan was a perfect match that could surely stand up to a blindfolded taste test. The rest of the secret technique required pounding the chicken breasts until thin. This tenderized the chicken and made each piece the same size as the original. A quick sauté later, I was arranging the chicken on a serving platter, adding capers, spooning on plenty of sauce, and I had before me a beautiful culinary carbon copy indistinguishable from the real Buca di Beppo Chicken Limone.

    Try my recipe for Bucca di Beppo garlic bread for the full experience.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Carrabba's Chicken Bryan

    Menu Description: "Grilled Chicken breast topped with goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, and a basil lemon butter sauce."

    Carrabba's number one chicken dish is simple to clone once you duplicate the delicious basil lemon butter sauce. Preheat your grill to high and pound the chicken breasts with a mallet so that they'll cook evenly. Use the sun-dried tomatoes that come in a bag rather than those that come bottled in oil. To rehydrate them, simmer the sun-dried tomatoes in a small pan of water for about 4 minutes, then slice them. The goat cheese used at the chain is called Caprino cheese, which is a very smooth and creamy goat cheese. If you can't find Caprino, use any available goat cheese from your market and you'll still have a tasty clone.

    Complete the Carrabba's experience with my copycat recipes for their bread dipping blendsausage lentil soup, and creamy Italian dressing

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Del Taco Crispy Fish Taco

    The number two Mexican fast food chain nicely duplicates the delicious fish tacos you'd find in coastal towns south of the border: two corn tortillas wrapped around a fried halibut fillet that's topped with cabbage, fresh salsa, and a creamy "secret sauce." It's practically impossible to eat just one—they're that good. And, thanks to the availability of breaded frozen fish sticks in just about every market, a home version of Del Taco Crispy Fish Tacos is stupidly simple. If you can't find crispy halibut sticks in your local store, the more common breaded pollock will work just fine here. You can also use frozen fish portions that are grilled if you're not into the breaded (fried) stuff. The real recipe at Del Taco comes with two thin corn tortillas, but sometimes the only available corn tortillas in consumer markets are the thicker ones. If that's the case, you'll need just one per taco.

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

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Benihana Japanese Onion Soup

    Menu Description: "It takes half a day to make this perfect combination of onion, celery, carrot and garlic."

    Before a skilled chef appears tableside to perform his culinary prestidigitation on the hot hibachi grill at Benihana, you're treated to a tasty bowl of chicken broth-based soup with fried onions, sliced mushrooms and green onions floating cheerfully on top. The restaurant menu claims this soup takes a half a day to make, but we can clone it in a fraction of that time using canned chicken broth (I use Swanson brand). This soup works great as a prelude to your favorite Asian dishes or other Benihana clones since it's so light and won't fill up anyone before the main course. I've included a simple technique here for making the breaded fried onions from scratch (for the most accurate clone), but you can skip that step by substituting French's canned French Fried Onions that are sold in most markets.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 14)
    Carrabba's Chicken Marsala

    Menu Description: "Fire-roasted chicken breast topped with mushrooms, prosciutto and our Florio Marsala wine sauce." 

    To reverse-engineer this big-time favorite entree, I ordered the dish to go, with the sauce on the side, so that I could separately analyze each component. After some trial and error in the underground lab, I found that recreating the secret sauce from scratch is easy enough with a couple small cans of sliced mushrooms, a bit of prosciutto, some Marsala wine, shallots, garlic and a few other good things. Cooking the chicken requires a very hot grill. The restaurant chain grills chicken breasts over a blazing real wood fire, so crank your grill up high enough to get the flames nipping at your cluckers (not a euphemism) for this Carrabba's chicken marsala recipe. If your grill has a lid, keep it open so you can watch for nasty flare-ups.

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

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Chevys Chili Con Queso

    This top secret clone of the cheesy appetizer from this 107-unit Mexican food chain is perfect to whip out for your festive fiestas. This Chevys Chili Con Queso recipe will make enough of the spicy cheese concoction for plenty of party time double-dipping. The Anaheim chili has a mild spiciness, so we'll toss a jalapeno in there for extra kick. If you can't find an Anaheim pepper, use any mild green chilies that are available, as long as you get about 1/2 cup of diced pepper in the mix.

    Find more famous dip recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Chevys Mango Salsa

    This zippy mango salsa clone from America's "Fresh Mex" chain is great sprinkled over fajitas, burritos, tacos, salads, sandwiches—you name it. The salsa is so good on its own you may be tempted to eat it straight from the bowl with a spoon. A little bit of fresh habanero pepper brings the heat to this concoction, but if you can't track down fresh peppers use a couple drops of your favorite bottled habanero sauce.

    Check out my recipe for Chevy's Fresh Salsa here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Chevys Fresh Salsa

    Whip out the food processor and fire up the grill because you'll need these essential tools to clone one of the best restaurant salsas in the business. The key to recreating the flavor of the real deal is to fire roast the tomatoes and the jalapenos, and to add a little mesquite-flavored liquid smoke. The restaurant chain uses a mesquite grill, so these steps are crucial to getting the same smoky flavor as the popular restaurant version. Chevys uses chipotle peppers, which are smoked red jalapenos. But unless you grow your own jalapenos, it may be difficult to find the riper red variety in your local supermarket. For this recipe, the green jalapeno peppers will work fine if you can't find the red ones. Adjust the number of jalapenos you use based on the size of the peppers that are available: if you have big jalapenos you need only 6, and you'll need around 10 if your peppers are small.

    Check out my recipes for Chevy's flan, chili con queso, and more here

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–2 tablespoons
    Total servings–16
    Calories per serving–10
    Fat per serving–0g

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

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  • Score: 4.77 (votes: 26)
    Chili's Chicken Enchilada Soup

    Chili's Chicken Enchilada soup happens to be one of the chains most raved-about items, and the subject of many a recipe search here on the site. Part of the secret in crafting your clone is the addition of masa harina—a corn flour that you'll find in your supermarket near the other flours, or where all the Mexican foodstuffs are stocked.

    Complete your meal with more of my Chili's copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Chili's Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie

    Menu Description: "We start with a warm, chewy bar layered with chocolate chips, walnuts and coconut. Topped with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with hot fudge and caramel."

    One thing that makes this dessert special is the way it comes to your table sizzling in a cast iron skillet—just like fajitas. The chocolate chip cookie and graham cracker crust "pie" sits in a hot skillet on top of bubbling cinnamon butter. It's topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and then finished with walnuts, chocolate and caramel syrup. If you're a cloning perfectionist and want to present this dessert exactly like they do at the restaurant, you'll need a small skillet for each serving. Small cast iron skillets are the best, but any 6- or 8-inch saute pan will do fine. Just be sure your pan is real hot to get that same Chili's "sizzle" when you lay in the goodies. If you've got a big crew to feed and don't have enough skillets for each serving, you can add the cinnamon butter to individual serving plates, microwave the plates until the butter melts, then build each serving on the warm plates. It may not have the sizzle of the real thing, but it'll still taste like paradise.

    Now you've got dessert covered, what's for dinner? Try my recipes for famous entrées here. 

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

     

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  • Score: 4.65 (votes: 17)
    Chili's Chili Queso

    Menu Description: "Our appetizing cheese dip with seasoned beef. Served with warm tostada chips."

    Take your chips for a dip in this top-secret Chili's skillet queso copycat recipe that comes to your table in a small cast iron skillet along with a big bowl of tortilla chips. A popular recipe that's been circulating calls for combining Velveeta with Hormel no-bean chili. Sure, it's a good start, but there's more to Chili's spicy cheese dip than that. Toss a few other ingredients into the saucepan and after about 20 minutes you'll have a great dip for picnic, party, or game time.

    Now, what's for dinner? Check out my other Chili's copycat recipes here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.
     

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  • Score: 4.50 (votes: 2)
    Chili's Lettuce Wraps

    Menu Description: "Grilled Asian-spiced chicken w/carrots, water chestnuts, green onions & almonds. Served with crisp Bibb lettuce and sesame-ginger & peanut sauces for dipping."

    Chili's take on the appetizer made popular at P. F. Chang's Asian Bistro got diners across the country wrapping lettuce around chopped chicken. Now you can bring Chili's version of the Asian tacos home along with the mega-addictive sesame-ginger and peanut dipping sauces with my recipe for Chili's lettuce wraps.

    After you make the sauces and prepare the chicken, assemble the wraps by arranging some sliced chicken into the center of a leaf of butter lettuce, sprinkle on some shredded carrot, perhaps a few crunchy bean threads, add a little dipping sauce, and open wide.

    Find more of your favorite Chili's copycat recipes here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Chili's Firecracker Tilapia

    Menu Description: "A grilled tilapia fillet brushed with a sweet and spicy glaze and garnished with red chili tapenade, cilantro and sesame seeds." 

    Here's a great way to prepare that next batch of fresh fish fillets when you're contemplating a new taste. If you and your diners love spicy food this is the perfect clone, since the top secret glaze and tapenade recipes I've included here both come packing heat. You can make the sauces several hours—or even days—ahead of time, and then when you're ready to eat, the fish will cook up in less than 10 minutes. Chili's calls this "grilled" tilapia on the menu, but don't expect to find grill marks on the fish. It appears the restaurant uses a flat griddle or saute pan to cook the fish, since the tender tilapia would fall through the grate on a barbecue grill. Don't limit this recipe to tilapia. The intense glaze and tapenade will perk up a variety of fish fillets, from sea bass to salmon.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 9)
    Cheesecake Factory Miso Salmon

    Menu Description: "Fresh salmon marinated in miso and baked. Served with a delicious miso sauce, snow peas and white rice."

    Presented beautifully on top of white rice and surrounded by sake butter sauce is a baked salmon fillet that tastes like candy. Miso is a salty fermented soy bean paste that combines well with sweet brown sugar and sake for a syrupy marinade that makes salmon taste so good that even salmon haters will devour it. Look for red miso in a refrigerator in your market. You can also find it in Asian markets and some health food stores. After cooking up your marinade, you should allow the salmon fillets to soak in it for up to six hours, so start this dish early in the day and plan to scarf out at dinnertime. The cool presentation starts by pressing cooked rice into a lightly greased 5-inch ramekin or small cake pan, and then turning it out onto the center of your serving plate. Add a moat of sake reduction sauce, a few steamed snow pea pods, and you will have re-created a dish that looks and tastes exactly like the number one fish dish at The Factory.

    Click here for more of your favorite recipes from Cheesecake Factory.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.
     

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  • Not rated yet
    Cheesecake Factory Thai Coconut-Lime Chicken

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

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

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

    Check out more of my copycat Cheesecake Factory recipes here.

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

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

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

    Find more of your favorites from Domino's here

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  • Not rated yet
    Carrabba's Traditional Cannoli

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Not rated yet
    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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    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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    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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  • Not rated yet
    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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  • Not rated yet
    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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  • Not rated yet
    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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