THE ORIGINAL 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

    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. The 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 jalapeno "nacho slices" in the ethnic or Mexican food section of the supermarket. You'll find these in jars or cans. 

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.50. Votes: 2

    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 Jack-Cheddar sauce. 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, so that's what I'm using here. When making your clone, 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: 1

    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 this 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: 6

    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. The rest was simple...

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    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 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; this 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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    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, 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.

    Re-create the whole El Pollo Loco experience at home with my copycat recipes for avocado salsa, pinto beansSpanish rice, and bbq black beans.

    Source: More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 3.94. Votes: 16

    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 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: 5

    While most restaurant chains attempt to keep their menus simple so as not to tax the kitchen, the Cheesecake Factory's menu contains more than 200 items on a 17-page menu. And at the end of the meal there are 40 cheesecakes to choose from for dessert, including the delicious Pumpkin Cheesecake hacked here for you. 

    Use an 8-inch springform pan for this recipe. If you don't have one, you should get one. They're indispensable for thick, gourmet cheesecake and several other scrumptious desserts. If you don't want to use a springform pan, this recipe will also work with two 9-inch pie plates. You'll just end up with two smaller cheesecakes. 

    Find more of your favorites from Cheesecake Factory here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.50. Votes: 26

    Got one of those cool hand blenders? It comes in handy for this recipe, which requires the split peas to be smashed into a smooth consistency, just like the original. If you don't have a hand blender, also called a stick blender, a standard blender works just fine. This soup is very tasty and very low in fat. And the barley gives it a special chunky texture and nutty flavor that isn't found in most pea soups.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–2 cups
    Total servings–4
    Calories per serving–450
    Fat per serving–3g

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

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I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker

For 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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