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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. Find all the best restaurant recipes from KFC to Outback Steakhouse here. New recipes added every week.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 2

    Braised Beef Pasta Menu Description: “Slow-simmered meat sauce with tender braised beef and Italian sausage, tossed with ruffled pappardelle pasta and a touch of alfredo sauce—just like Nonna’s recipe.”

    It’s a mistake to assume that a recipe posted to a restaurant chain’s website is the real recipe for the food served there. I’ve found this to be the case with many Olive Garden recipes, and this one is no exception. A widely circulated recipe that claims to duplicate the chain’s classic Bolognese actually originated on Olive Garden’s own website, and if you make that recipe you’ll be disappointed when the final product doesn’t even come close to the real deal. I won’t get into all the specifics of the things wrong with that recipe (too much wine, save some of that for drinking!), but at first glance it’s easy to see that a few important ingredients found in traditional Bolognese sauces are conspicuously missing, including milk, basil, lemon, and nutmeg.

    I incorporated all those missing ingredients into this new hack recipe, tweaked a few other things, and then tested several methods of braising the beef so that it comes out perfectly tender: covered, uncovered, and a combo. The technique I settled on was cooking the sauce covered for 2 hours, then uncovered for 1 additional hour so that the sauce reduces and the beef transforms into a fork-flakeable flavor bomb. Yes, it comes from Olive Garden, but this Bolognese is better than any I’ve had at restaurants that charge twice as much, like Rao’s where the meat is ground, not braised, and they hit you up for $30.  

    As a side note, Olive Garden’s menu says the dish comes with ruffled pappardelle pasta, but it’s actually mafaldine, a narrower noodle with curly edges (shown in the top right corner of the photo). Pappardelle, which is the traditional pasta to serve with Bolognese, is a very wide noodle with straight edges, and it’s more familiar than mafaldine, so perhaps that’s why the menu fudges this fact. In the end, it doesn’t really matter which pasta you choose. Just know that a wide noodle works best. Even fettuccine is good here.

    For the little bit of alfredo sauce spooned into the middle of the dish I went with a premade bottled sauce to save time. You can also make this from scratch if you like (I’ve got a great hack for Olive Garden’s Alfredo Sauce), but it’s such a small amount that premade sauce in either a chilled tub from the deli section or in a bottle off the shelf works great here.

    This recipe was our #3 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1) KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).

    And browse my other Olive Garden clone recipes here.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 2

    Menu Description: “Two lightly fried parmesan-breaded chicken breasts are smothered with Olive Garden’s homemade marinara sauce and melted Italian cheeses. We serve our Chicken Parmigiana with a side of spaghetti for dinner.”

    Chicken parmigiana is a forever favorite, and it’s not a difficult dish to whip up at home. But for it to taste like the Olive Garden signature entree, we’ll need to take some very specific steps.

    Olive Garden’s chicken is salty and moist all the way through, so we must first start by brining the chicken. Give yourself an extra hour for this important marinating step. The marinara sauce used on the chicken is an Olive Garden specialty and no bottled sauce compares, so we’ll make our own from scratch using canned crushed tomatoes and the formula below.

    While the sauce cooks, filling your house with its intoxicating aroma, the chicken is breaded and browned. When the marinara is done, top the chicken with the sauce and mozzarella and stick it under your hot broiler until bubbling.

    Hopefully, everyone at your house is hungry, because the Olive Garden dinner portion is two chicken fillets, and this recipe will yield a total of four 2-piece servings. Add a small serving of spaghetti on the side, topped with more of the delicious sauce, and you'll have a perfect match to the restaurant plate.

    Can't get enough Olive Garden? Click here for more of my copycat recipes. 

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Menu Description: “Creamy marsala wine sauce with mushrooms over grilled chicken breasts, stuffed with Italian cheeses and sundried tomatoes. Served with garlic mashed potatoes.”

    This recipe includes a marsala sauce that even marsala sauce haters will like. My wife is one of those haters, but when she tried this sauce, her eyes lit up and she begged for more. That’s great, now I won’t have to eat alone.

    Not only is Olive Garden's delicious marsala sauce hacked here (and it’s easy to make), you’ll also get the copycat hack for the chain's awesome Italian cheese stuffing that goes between the two pan-cooked chicken fillets. Build it, sauce it, serve it. The presentation is awesome, and the flavor will soothe your soul.

    Try this dish paired with my recent clone of Olive Garden’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes for the complete O.G. Stuffed Chicken Marsala experience.

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    “Biting into a cloud” is how many describe the lightly crisp browned shell and fluffy, custard-like middle of Leonard’s malasadas. Hawaii has become known for the best malasadas in North America, but the hole-less doughnuts aren’t originally from Hawaii. Malasadas were brought to the islands in the late 1800s by Portuguese immigrants who worked on the sugarcane plantations, and today malasadas are sold in bakeries all over Hawaii. But for the best malasadas, everyone knows you must brave the long lines that always go out the door at Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu. And that’s okay because it’s always worth the wait.

    Leonard’s has been making malasadas since 1952 using a well-protected secret recipe that many have unsuccessfully tried to duplicate. The chain will ship malasadas from Hawaii to your house on the mainland for a pretty hefty fee (nearly $100), but even after following strict reheating instructions, eating a two-day-old malasada is not the same heavenly experience as consuming a fresh one. A fluffy, fresh malasada turns into a tough and chewy malasada in just a few hours. That’s the nature of fried dough. It quickly became clear that if I were ever to properly clone these, I would have to experience them fresh, from the source. So, I hopped on a plane to Hawaii.

    I visited two Leonard’s locations in Honolulu: the original brick-and-mortar bakery and a Leonard’s Bakery food truck parked in a shopping mall lot. I watched them make malasadas in big vats of oil, lowering dozens of doughnuts at once into the oil with a metal screen pressing down on them so that they were fully submerged in the hot fat. I observed the process, noted the temperature, watched the malasadas come out of the oil and get sugared, and timed everything.

    Back home I made malasadas for weeks, using intel gathered in Hawaii. Dozens and dozens of versions later, after altering variables such as proofing methods, mixing methods, flour types, fat types, sweetness, saltiness, and many others, I landed on this one. I believe it was number 92 out of 93 attempts.

    Before we start, let me offer a few tips about equipment you’ll need. It’s best to have a stand mixer. The dough starts loose but it eventually gets too tough for a handheld granny mixer. I’m sure it’s possible to mix and knead the dough by hand when it gets too tough for the little mixer, but a big mixer is much better.

    Also, a deep fryer is helpful. You can fry these in a pot of oil with a thermometer if you want, but it’s so much easier to regulate temperature with a deep fryer. And you must devise a way to keep the malasadas submerged so that you won’t have to flip them, and they won’t get a white line around the middle where the dough isn’t in the oil. Deep fryers typically have a basket that you can use to put on top of the malasadas to hold them down. Rather than placing the dough in the basket when frying, carefully lower the dough into the fryer without the basket and use the basket on top of the dough to hold it under the oil. If you are frying on your stovetop, you can use a spider or strainer to hold the dough under the oil.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Here’s a hack that might help when you feel like doing something special with those steaks in the fridge. Or maybe you have salmon fillets in there? Doesn’t matter, this recipe works great on both. And it also makes a great pasta sauce.

    The secret Toowoomba sauce is a variation on alfredo sauce that Outback served over pasta at one time. These days the sauce is only used to top steak and salmon at the restaurant, but you can also use it on just about any type of pasta.

    In my early batches of the sauce, I noticed that if the shrimp are added at the beginning they get too tough. To solve that problem, I sautéed the seasoned shrimp separately, then added them closer to the end, and they came out perfect.

    Spoon this clone of the Toowoomba sauce over grilled tenderloin filets (or salmon filets) for an easy way to elevate your entrée. This recipe will make enough for four servings.

    If you love Outback Steakhouse, check out my other clone recipes here

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 4

    For many years this entree has been a top menu choice at Maggiano's, the 54-unit Italian chain from Brinker, the same company that operates Chili’s Grill & Bar. The $30 restaurant dish consists of three 2½-ounce tenderloin steaks, swimming in a fantastic balsamic cream sauce with sliced portobello mushrooms—but a home version of the signature dish is only seven easy steps away, and it won't hit you in the wallet as hard as the pricey original.

    Cracking this dish required a perfect hack of the sauce, and that came quickly after obtaining some very reliable information from my incredibly helpful server/informant at a Las Vegas Maggiano’s. Let’s call him Skippy.

    According to Skippy, the balsamic cream sauce is as simple as mixing a sweet balsamic glaze with the chain’s creamy alfredo sauce. So, I first got a sample of Maggiano’s alfredo sauce and figured out how to replicate it. Once that was done, I measured increments of balsamic glaze into the alfredo sauce until the color and flavor matched the original. The rest of the recipe was easy.

    This recipe will make two servings of the dish and includes preparation for the tenderloins and sauce. If you’d like to complete the dish the way it’s served at the restaurant (as in the photo), add some garlic mashed potatoes on the side, using my hack for Olive Garden Garlic Mashed Potatoes.   

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    “Don’t call them fries,” says KFC about its popular side made with sliced, skin-on russet potatoes. What sets these potatoes apart from all the others is the secret breading made with a similar seasoning blend to the one used for Colonel's Original Recipe Fried Chicken. To achieve the proper crispiness, the potatoes are par-fried, frozen, then fried again until golden brown.

    One important ingredient that completes the flavor is MSG. Monosodium glutamate is a food additive derived from glutamic acid, which is an important amino acid found in abundance in nature, food, and in you right now. Over the last 60 years of study and use, MSG has not only been found harmless in normal amounts, but tests have shown glutamate to be a chemical messenger that benefits gut health, immunity, and brain functions such as memory and learning. In addition to all of that, it imparts a unique savoriness that enhances flavors in other ingredients and makes your food taste amazing. Using MSG in your food is, literally, smart cooking.

    Another important ingredient is ground Tellicherry black pepper, a select black pepper from India. Winston Shelton, a friend of Harland Sanders who invented the first high-volume pressure fryers for KFC, confirmed this. Shelton recalled seeing the ingredient when Sanders showed him the secret formula for the fried chicken seasoning he had scribbled on a piece of paper.

    While we were shooting the first episode of my TV Show, Top Secret Recipe, Winston pulled me aside and whispered to me that Tellicherry pepper is crucial to creating the unique KFC aftertaste. It was a great tip, and fortunately, we caught that moment on camera and you can see it in the show. Later, I conducted a side-by-side taste test with common black pepper and Tellicherry black pepper and discovered Winston was right. If you want the best taste for your clone you'll need Tellicherry pepper, which you can find online and in some food stores. Be sure to grind it fine before using it.

    For this recipe, just two russet potatoes are all it takes to make the equivalent of a large serving of fried potato wedges, which will be enough for at least four people.

    Get more of my KFC copycat recipes here.

     

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 4

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

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

    This clone recipe will make enough for 8 big portions, but if you make slightly smaller slices this is easily enough food to fill twelve lasagna-loving bellies. If you like lasagna, you're going to love this version.

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

    Browse my other Olive Garden clone recipes here.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Menu Description: “Bacon baked with brown sugar, crushed red pepper chili flakes, black pepper.”

    If you like candy and you like bacon it’s a sure bet that you’ll go crazy over bacon candy. Although the basic recipe of sugaring raw bacon and baking it until crispy is not at all complicated or secret, the variations of this simple formula are numerous. My goal was to try as many techniques as I could to figure out what works best, and then customize the recipe to duplicate the incredible bacon candy you’ll find on the appetizer menu at the fast-growing 44-unit Lazy Dog chain.

    Lazy Dog knows that really good bacon candy should be more than just sweet and salty, so chefs there sprinkle in some black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes to perk up the party. Thick cut bacon works best here, and you’ll need a rack for the bacon to rest on while it bakes so air can move around the slices. And do yourself a favor: line the baking sheet with foil for an easier cleanup of the inevitable greasy, sugary mess.

    This bacon candy is great on its own as a small appetizer, sprinkled with fresh parsley and served upright in a cup, just like in the restaurant. Or you can use the Bacon Candy as a garnish in this amazing hack for Lazy Dog Crispy Deviled Eggs

    Click here for more of my copycat appetizer recipes.

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    Menu Description: “Lightly fried, topped with smoked paprika + bacon candy.”

    Hard-boiled egg whites are breaded and fried until crispy, then filled with the creamy yolk mixture, sprinkled with smoked paprika, and topped with the best thing that ever topped a deviled egg: bacon candy! 

    We'll start with my preferred way to hard-boil the eggs, to get beautifully yellow yolks with no grey tint to them. Those bright yellow yolks are removed and flavored, then spooned back into the crispy breaded whites.

    I'm also including my hack for cloning two slices of the chain's great brown sugar candied bacon. If you want to make extra bacon candy to munch on check out my recipe for Lazy Dog's Bacon Candy appetizer and you’ll get five slices of bacon candy. That’s two for these deviled eggs, and three for you to eat and share.

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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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