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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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Chick-fil-A Carrot and Raisin Salad

    The secret to cloning Chick Fil-A's popular carrot raisin salad lies in proper carrot shredding technique. A standard shredder, like the type you might use to shred a hunk of cheddar cheese, creates a coarse shred that makes the salad taste much too "carroty." Instead, find yourself the type of fine shredder that is often used for Parmesan cheese. Sure, it'll take a little more elbow grease to reduce 5 or 6 carrots to ultra thin strips, but I guarantee you'll end up with a superior finished product that will help you forget all about the extra effort.

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

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Chili's Guiltless Grill Guiltless Chicken Salad

    This salad was one of the first six selections offered when Chili's Guiltless Grill premiered on the chain's menu in 1993. You'll love the Southwestern flavors in this delicious and healthy salad clone. The marinated grilled chicken has a sweet, smoky taste, and the pico de gallo lends a nice zip to the dish. Top it all off with irresistible Southwest dressing and you'll have a meal-size salad that comes in at only 5 grams of fat.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 salad
    Total servings–2
    Calories per serving–558
    Fat per serving–5g

    Find more copycat recipes of your favorite dishes from Chili's here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Lite by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Chili's Guiltless Grill Guiltless Chicken Sandwich

    Here's another item that has been on Chili's Guiltless Grill menu from the start. It's a chicken sandwich that gets its sweet smoky flavor from the marinated chicken that is grilled over an open flame. The chicken is stacked on whole wheat buns with lettuce and tomato; and a tasty, yet simple-to-make honey mustard sauce is drizzled over the top. If your chicken fillets are too plump, just give'em a few whacks with a tenderizing mallet and rejoice in the extra calories you work off.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 sandwich
    Total servings–4
    Calories per serving–378
    Fat per serving–8g

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Lite by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.88 (votes: 8)
    Applebee's Bananaberry Freeze

    Ah, if only kitchen cloning was an exact science. While working on this one I saw the same bartender make the drink two different ways on two different days. Only after a firm grilling did I get her to admit to her personal "improvement" to the chain's secret recipe. The official clone includes the ingredients found below. But if you want to add a little pineapple juice—as some independent thinking bartenders are apt to do—you might discover you have indeed created a tastier version of this refreshing smoothie. On that day the cloning gods shall be looking the other way. But, for heaven's sake, be sure your banana is soft and ripe. 

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Applebee's Low-Fat and Fabulous Brownie Sundae

    The Applebee's chain is now the world's largest casual dining restaurant, with over one thousand units in seven countries and forty-eight states. In less than four years, the chain has doubled in size. That's great if you're a restaurant chain, but put enough fat-filled desserts in your belly and you'll double in size, too. That's why we're happy to see items like this one on the menu. It tastes like a decadent, guilty pleasure, but it actually contains only four grams of fat per serving. That's possible because the brownie "pie" is made in a special way using a combination of low-fat and fat-free chocolates, some egg whites, and just a bit of shortening. Grab yourself some fat-free frozen yogurt, and share this one with eight hungry friends.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 dessert
    Total servings–9
    Calories per serving–424 
    Fat per serving–4g

    Find more of my Applebee's copycat recipes here.

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

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  • Score: 4.58 (votes: 105)
    Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad

    Menu Description: "Crisp Oriental greens topped with chunks of crunchy Chicken Fingers, toasted almonds and crispy rice noodles tossed in a light Oriental vinaigrette."

    Applebee's 60-item menu is revised twice a year. That means about 40 percent of the entire menu changes on a regular basis. The other 60 percent are items that are found on menus in all of the Applebee's restaurants, and seldom ever change. One item that has been on the menu for some time now is this Oriental Chicken salad, which is considered one of the restaurant's signature items. The recipe makes one dinner-size salad and can be easily doubled or quadrupled for additional servings. This recipe comes from the third book, Top Secret Restaurant Recipes, but the dressing has been improved to more closely match the current dressing served at the restaurant.

    Want more Applebee's? See if I hacked your favorites here

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  • Score: 4.85 (votes: 34)
    Arby's Jamocha Shake

    Arby's famous Jamocha Shake was one of the first frozen coffee drinks to gain popularity, even before Starbucks pummeled us with Frappuccinos. This thick drink is actually more milkshake than coffee drink, but if you like the original, you'll love this easy-to-make clone that serves two.

    Think of all the popular drinks you can make at home! Click here to see if I hacked your favorite.

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

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  • Score: 4.24 (votes: 17)
    Baskin-Robbins B.R. Blast

    Burt Baskin and Irv Robbin's idea to franchise their ice cream stores for rapid growth was so inspired that the company's former milk shake machine salesman, Ray Kroc, adopted the technique to successfully expand his new chain of McDonald's hamburger outlets.

    Ice cream is this chain's staple. So this coffee drink, unlike the Frappuccino made famous by Starbucks, requires adding ice cream for a creamy texture and rich taste. If you've got a blender you can clone either of the two varieties of this refreshing coffee beverage. For chocoholics bent on everything mocha, just add some chocolate syrup to the mix.

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Chili's Calypso Cooler

    Ever order one of those expensive specialty drinks off the shiny, full-color restaurant table-stand cards and wish you had a clone recipe? This is one of those drinks, off of one of those cards. And here's the clone recipe.

    Find more of your favorite famous drink recipes here.

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Cinnabon Icescape Strawberry, Orange and Mochalatta

    In a blender, Cinnabon adds concentrated flavoring, some ice and a curious secret ingredient referred to only as a "dairy product." When blended smooth, out comes these thick, refreshing drinks that look and taste like they were made with ice cream. For this clone we just need a little half-and-half that's half cream and half milk for those of you across the pond. It gives this version the exact same creamy consistency as the original with its custom "dairy" ingredient. Strawberry is the most popular of the flavors, but the other two are tasty as well. The Mochalatta version uses the TSR clone of the Mochalatta Chill and produces a thicker blended version of the drink, similar to Starbucks popular blended Frappuccino.

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Cinnabon Mochalatta Chill and Strawberry Lemonade

    Cinnabon gives lemonade a twist by adding strawberry syrup. Its a simple clone when you pick up some Hershey's strawberry syrup near the chocolate syrup in your supermarket, and a few juicy lemons. But if it's a caffeine buzz you're looking for, you'll want the Mochalatta Chill hack. Brew some double-strength coffee (see Tidbits), let it cool, then get out the half-and-half and chocolate syrup. Man, these are easy.

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

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  • Score: 4.89 (votes: 9)
    Applebee's Mud Slide

    Menu Description: "Bury your sweet tooth with smooth Kahlua, creamy vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and rich Hershey's chocolate syrup."

    Sure, there's a little Kahlua in there, but this famous Applebee's drink is more dessert than cocktail, really. And the presentation will make you look like a pro because you spiral the chocolate syrup around the inside of the glass before adding the drink. This Applebee's mudslide copycat recipe looks cool and its easy to do...even after you've had a couple. Grab a straw and prepare to crave another when this one's gone. No wonder this drink also comes in a larger size.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.87 (votes: 15)
    Applebee's Chicken Fajita Roll-up

    Menu Description: "A large flour tortilla topped with melted Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, grilled chipotle chicken, shredded lettuce and pico de gallo. Rolled, sliced and served with a Mexi-ranch dipping sauce."

    Take Applebee's delicious chicken chipotle fajita recipe, roll it up in a large flour tortilla with lettuce, cheeses and fresh pico de gallo and you've got a meal to wrap your hands around. The Mexi-ranch dipping sauce is the perfect creamy compliment for this recipe and you can use what's left over for a dressing on your next salad. The sauce is actually just a kicked-up ranch dressing recipe that includes a small amount of buttermilk in the ingredients list. But if you don't want to buy a whole carton of buttermilk to use just a tablespoon for this recipe, that's okay. Substitute the regular moo juice you've got sitting in the fridge. For the spicy marinade it's best to use ground chipotle pepper (dried smoked red jalapeno) made by McCormick. If you can't find that stuff, cut the amount in half and use cayenne pepper. For the cheeses, many major brands make a cheddar/Jack blend that will work great here if you'd rather not buy the cheeses separately. That's helpful if you're about to tip the limit for the express lane checkout line.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Chevys Flan

    Abiding by this large Mexican food chain's "no cans in the kitchen" edict, we'll craft our clone of the delicious flan dessert with fresh whole milk, rather than canned sweetened condensed milk required by most flan recipes out there. The canned stuff has a bit of a funky taste to it anyway, plus it's much too sweet to be an accurate Chevys knockoff. When you're ready to clone this one, be sure to get some parchment paper. When laid over the top of the baking pan, the parchment paper helps the flan cook faster and more evenly than if left uncovered. Aluminum foil doesn't seem to work as well since it tends to reflect the heat away from the ramekins of sweet, creamy goodness.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 5)
    Chevys Sweet Corn Tomalito

    Other Mexican food chains such as Chi-Chi's and El Torito call it "Sweet Corn Cake." But at Chevys, the corn-filled, pudding-like stuff that's served with most entrees is known as "Tomalito." That masa harina in there corn flour is what's used to make tamales, and it can be found in your supermarket either with the corn meal and flour, or where the other Mexican/Spanish items are stocked. Everything else here is basic stuff. While other corn cake recipes may require canned corn or canned cream-style corn, Chevys "no cans in the kitchen" commandment requires that we use frozen corn for a proper clone. You may also use corn that's been cut fresh from the cob.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Claim Jumper Fire-Roasted Artichoke

    I've been searching for the chain restaurant with the best recipe for roasted artichokes, and I think I've found it. With roasted garlic mayonnaise and a delicious tomato relish on the side, Claim Jumper takes the prize, for now. This recipe is for just one artichoke, but feel free to add another if more than a couple hungry mouths are waiting. Just be sure to double up on the tomato relish.

    Now, what's for dinner? Browse through my copycat entrée dishes here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.67 (votes: 3)
    Denny's BBQ Chicken Sandwich

    Menu Description: "A seasoned, grilled chicken breast topped with Cheddar cheese and a stack of thin crisp onion rings on a sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato and a sweet hickory spread. Served with a side of BBQ sauce."

    With 1527 restaurants across the country, Denny's is on top as America's largest full-service family restaurant chain. Sure, the chain's famous for its Grand Slam Breakfasts, but Denny's menu is filled with tasty choices for grub way past breakfast time. One such item is this chicken sandwich built with grilled chicken breast, lettuce, tomato, Cheddar cheese, crispy onion rings, and a secret sweet hickory spread. That hickory spread is one of the ingredients that makes this sandwich special so the clone is here, and it requires an ingredient called hickory salt. You can find this blend of salt and hickory flavoring in the spice section from Spice Islands under the name "Old Hickory Smoked Salt." If you can't find that stuff, just substitute with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke flavoring. For even more flavor, Denny's serves the sandwich with a small dish of barbecue sauce that tastes remarkably similar to Bull's-Eye Original, so that's what well use. While homemade crunchy onion rings are the way to go for a true clone, you can certainly shortcut this step by using the canned French's French Fried Onions found in practically every supermarket.

    I've cloned a ton of items from Denny's, see if I hacked your favorites here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Carl's Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburger

    In 1989, Carl's Jr. became the first fast-food chain to allow customers to use their ATM cards to make purchases. Not only can customers buy a Western Bacon Cheeseburger and fries to go without using cash, they can get cash back out of their account.

    Onion rings, bacon, American cheese and tasty barbecue sauce combine to make a manly gut-grinder that can be thoroughly enjoyed during the grilling season, or any time of the year if you use an indoor grill. The sandwich was introduced in 1983, and has since become so successful that it has spawned variations, from a junior version to the monstrous double, both of which are included here. While any barbecue sauce you use for this recipe will work just fine, track down some Bulls-Eye Hickory Smoke flavor barbecue sauce if you want the closest cloned results. This recipe makes one sandwich. Double, triple, and quadruple it as needed based on current hunger requirements.

    This recipe also includes clones for the Junior Western Bacon Cheeseburger and the Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger.

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 5)
    Chi-Chi's Sweet Corn Cake

    Chi-Chi's cofounder Marno McDermott named his restaurant chain after his wife Chi Chi. He claims the name is quite memorable as it translates in Spanish into something like "hooters" in English. The Minneapolis Star quoted McDermott in 1977 shortly after the first Chi-Chi's opened in Richfield, Minneapolis, "English-speaking patrons remember it because it's catchy. And the Spanish-speaking customers are amused. Either way, it doesn't hurt business."

    One of the side dishes included with several of the entrees at Chi-Chi's is the Sweet Corn Cake. It's sort of like cornbread, but much softer, almost like corn pudding. You'll find it goes well with just about any Mexican dish. The recipe requires a bain marie, or water bath—a baking technique commonly used to keep custards from cracking or curdling. This is done by baking the corn cake in another larger pan filled with a little hot water.

    Try more of my Chi-Chi's copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 5)
    Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream Cake

    Traditional white birthday cakes are pretty boring by themselves. Scoop a little ice cream onto the plate and I'll perk up a bit. But, hey baby, bring a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cake to the party and I'll be the first one in line with my plastic fork. This 5000-unit ice cream chain stacks several varieties of pre-made ice cream cakes in its freezer, but I've discovered the most popular version, over and over again, is the one made from white cake with pralines and cream ice cream on top. So that's got to be the version we clone here. But don't think you're locked into this Todd Wilbur formula—you can use any flavor of cake and ice cream you fancy for your homemade masterpiece. Just be sure the ice cream you choose comes in a box. It should be a rectangular shape so that the ice cream layer stacks just right on the cake. You'll want a real sharp serrated knife to cut the ice cream in half while it's still in the box. And check this out: that white stuff that coats the cake is actually softened vanilla ice cream that's spread in a thin layer on the cake, and then re-frozen. After it sets up, you can decorate the cake any way you like with pre-made frosting in whatever color suits the festive occasion. So now you can learn how to make Baskin Robbins ice cream cake at home that looks and tastes exactly like those in the stores that cost around 30 bucks each!

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.10 (votes: 21)
    Buffalo Wild Wings Caribbean Jerk Sauce

    This quickly growing chicken wing chain sells each of its 12 signature sauces in the restaurant because many of them work great as a baste or side sauce for a variety of home cooked masterpieces. This Buffalo Wild Wings Caribbean Jerk sauce recipe is a favorite for that reason (ranking at the top of the list with Spicy Garlic as the chain's best-seller), so I thought it would be a useful clone that doesn't require you to fill up the fryer to make chicken wings. You can use this sauce on grilled chicken, pork, ribs, salmon or anything you can think of that would benefit from the sweet, sour and spicy flavors that come from an island-style baste.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur

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  • Score: 4.80 (votes: 5)
    California Pizza Kitchen Jamaican Jerk Chicken Pizza

    This CPK creation is a top pick at the 209-unit chain, most likely because chefs slather on a delicious sweet-and-spicy Caribbean sauce where tomato sauce usually sits on traditional Italian-style pies. Making the sauce from scratch is the way to go for true clone rangers, but if you'd like a shortcut, find Tiger Sauce in your local market where the bottled hot sauces are sold, and use that. If you want another shortcut, rather than mixing your own jerk seasoning from scratch, use any jerk blend or seasoning. I do recommend making the pizza dough from scratch, rather than buying prepared dough, however. You'll need to plan ahead on this part of the recipe so that the dough has a chance to slowly rise in your fridge overnight. This is the technique the pros use to recreate professional-style, chewy pizza dough. To bake the pizzas—this recipes makes two—I suggest cooking them on a preheated pizza stone in your oven. This is the best way to reproduce the taste and texture of the great pizzas at CPK.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 5)
    California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) California Club Pizza

    Menu Description: "Applewood smoked bacon, grilled chicken and Mozzarella cheese, hearth baked, then topped with Roma tomatoes, chilled chopped lettuce tossed in mayonnaise and fresh sliced avocados."

    There's no better way to clone the great pizzas from this creative chain than to start with dough made from scratch. Since the best way to re-create commercial-style pizza dough at home is to use the same slow-rising technique the pros use, you're going to have to plan ahead at least 24 hours. This is the length of time it will take for the gluten in the flour to work its magic while resting comfortably in your refrigerator. And, if you've got the patience, 48 hours is even better. 

    Once the dough is ready to go, you should bake your pizzas—my CPK California Club Pizza recipe makes two—on a pre-heated pizza stone in your oven. If you don't already have one, you can find one of the round or rectangular stones in just about any housewares store. This cooking method is the absolute best way to produce an evenly baked finished product with a texture and taste that mirrors the amazing pies CPK whips out of rocket-hot brick pizza ovens.

    CPK makes great soups and salads too. Get my copycat recipes here.

    Source Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 8)
    Dairy Queen MooLatte

    Here's what happens behind the counter when you order a Cappuccino MooLatte frozen coffee drink at Dairy Queen: a plastic cup is filled almost halfway with the frozen simple syrup mix that comes out of the machine used for slush drinks. Next, your server hops over to the frozen soft serve machine and fills the cup the rest of the way with ice cream. After a couple squirts of concentrated coffee syrup, the drink is blended on a milkshake machine and is then passed off to you in exchange for a few greenbacks. Since we don't have the same efficient commercial equipment they use at Dairy Queen we must make our clone in a household blender. First things first, we need to start with very strong coffee. Make some espresso, or pick some up at your nearest coffee house. After dissolving sugar in the coffee, chill it, and then add it to ice cream, ice, and milk in a blender, and get it going. When the blender does its work, you'll have two 16-ounce clones of the DQ frozen coffee drink fave ready for whipped cream. If you prefer the mocha or caramel variety of the MooLatte, scroll to the bottom where the Tidbits will throw those variations your way.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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Show: 24

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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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  • 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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  • Not rated yet
    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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  • Not rated yet
    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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