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Margaritaville Jerk Salmon copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Margaritaville Jerk Salmon

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Menu Description: “From Boston Bay, the birthplace of Jamaican Jerk. Salmon rubbed with our signature Jerk spices and seared in a skillet, finished with Jerk BBQ sauce and a side of mango chutney.”

Perk up your next salmon feast with the sweet-and-spicy flavors of Margaritaville’s jerk seasoning. After duplicating the secret jerk rub, add a little bit of it to either Cattlemen’s Golden Honey barbecue sauce or KC Masterpiece Honey barbecue sauce for the perfect after-baking baste. The chain’s delicious mango chutney is also cloned here so that you get the true Margaritaville Jerk Salmon experience. If you can, make the chutney a couple hours ahead—it seems to get tastier over time. Serve my copycat Margaritaville Jerk salmon with some rice and your favorite steamed veggies. 

Check out my other copycat Margaritaville recipes here

Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • 1 ripe mango, diced
  • 2 tablespoons diced white onion
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    Panda Express Chow Mein

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    Just like the real Panda Express Chow Mein, the beauty in this re-creation is its simplicity. There are only seven ingredients, and the prep work is low-impact. I used dry chow mein noodles (also called Chinese stir fry noodles) which are easy to find and cheap, and dark soy sauce to get that great caramel color. And if you don’t have a wok for this, a large skillet with sloped sides for tossing will work just fine.

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    Long John Silver's Batter-Dipped Fish

    Jerrico, Inc., the parent company for Long John Silver's Seafood Shoppes, got its start in 1929 as a six-stool hamburger stand called the White Tavern Shoppe. Jerrico was started by a man named Jerome Lederer, who watched Long John Silver's thirteen units dwindle in the shadow of World War II to just three units. Then, with determination, he began rebuilding. In 1946 Jerome launched a new restaurant called Jerry's and it was a booming success, with growth across the country. Then he took a chance on what would be his most successful venture in 1969, with the opening of the first Long John Silver's Fish 'n' Chips. The name was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. In 1991 there were 1,450 Long John Silver Seafood Shoppes in thirty-seven states, Canada, and Singapore, with annual sales of more than $781 million. That means the company holds about 65 percent of the $1.2 billion quick-service seafood business.

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    Wingstop Lemon Pepper Wings

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    Wendy's Seasoned Potatoes

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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. 

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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.

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    Pei Wei Pad Thai

    If you’re ranking Pad Thai served at U.S. chains, Pei Wei’s tasty take on the dish comes in at the top. The secret sauce is perfectly sweet, sour, salty, and lightly spicy, and the chicken is moist, tender, and filled with great flavor.

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    Discovering the secret to making rolls at home that taste as good as Texas Roadhouse Rolls involved making numerous batches of dough, each one sweeter than the last (sweetened with sugar, not honey—I checked), until a very sticky batch, proofed for 2 hours, produced exactly what I was looking for. You can make the dough with a stand mixer or a handheld one, the only difference being that you must knead the dough by hand without a stand mixer. When working with the dough add a little bit of flour at a time to keep it from sticking, and just know that the dough will be less sticky and more workable after the first rise.

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce

    Getting a table at the 123-year-old original Rao’s restaurant in New York City is next to impossible. The tables are “owned” by regulars who schedule their meals months in advance, so every table is full every night, and that’s the way it’s been for the last 38 years. The only way an outsider would get to taste the restaurant’s fresh marinara sauce is to be invited by a regular.

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    The current co-owner of Rao’s, Frank Pellegrino Jr., told Bon Appetit in 2015 that the famous marinara sauce was created by his grandmother many years ago, and the sauce you buy in stores is the same recipe served in his restaurants. The ingredients are common, but correctly choosing the main ingredient—tomatoes—is important. Try to find San Marzano-style whole canned tomatoes, preferably from Italy. They are a little more expensive than typical canned tomatoes, but they will give you some great sauce.

    After 30 minutes of cooking, you’ll end up with about the same amount of sauce as in a large jar of the real thing. Your version will likely be just a little bit brighter and better than the bottled stuff, thanks to the fresh ingredients. But now you can eat it anytime you want, with no reservations, at a table you own.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Outback Steakhouse Baked Potato Soup

    Menu Description: “Creamy potato soup topped with melted cheese, bacon, and green onions.”

    It’s not called baked potato soup because the potatoes in it are baked. It’s called baked potato soup because it’s topped with shredded cheese, bacon, and green onion, and it tastes like a loaded baked potato. Other hacky hacks for this recipe miss that point and add over an hour to the preparation process by preheating an oven and baking the potatoes, all while hungry stomachs are growling on the sidelines. My version skips that part by adding the raw potatoes directly into the pot with the other ingredients, where they cook in 20 minutes, and the soup is ready to eat in less time than other recipes take just to get the potatoes done.

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    Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles

    Forty-five years ago, chicken and waffles sounded like an unusual combination to most people, but not to Herb Hudson. He loved the dish so much when he lived in Harlem, New York, where it was created, that he brought it west in 1975 to Long Beach, California, and turned the concept into a chain of seven legendary Los Angeles restaurants that were successful for decades.

    But Roscoe’s has recently fallen on hard times. Eater.com reported in January 2018 that the chain had declared bankruptcy and owed $27 million. Snoop Dogg, known over the years for claiming Roscoe’s as his favorite restaurant, told TMZ that he was going to buy the chain and call it Snoop Dogg’s Chicken ‘N Waffles. That deal never happened.

    I’m not sure what’s in the cards for Roscoe’s, but I thought it might be a good idea to head out to the Roscoe’s on Gower in LA and do a little hacking, and the sooner, the better. Once there, I ordered plenty of extra chicken and waffles to go, popped them into the cooler, then headed back to Vegas and got to work.

    The chicken at Roscoe’s is Southern-style, which usually means the chicken is soaked in buttermilk, but several workers there insisted that wasn’t the case. So instead, I brined the chicken in a simple salt solution and was pleased to discover that it tasted like theirs. By peeking into the kitchen I observed that Roscoe’s chicken is pan-fried, which is a very Southern thing to do with chicken, so we’ll do the same with our chicken clone. My waiter claimed they use canola oil.

    As for the waffles, they’re made special with a secret combination of spices added to the batter. I noted a strong taste of cinnamon and vanilla, with just a dash of nutmeg. To be sure, I confirmed these three ingredients with a very helpful server from another table who was proud to talk about the recipe, and even high-fived me when I called out the correct secret ingredients. 

    Combine the recipes I've created here, and enjoy Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles at home anytime.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Starbucks Banana Nut Bread

    It’s about time for Top Secret Recipes to hack one of Starbucks all-time bestselling baked snacks. For this banana bread knock-off, I settled on a blend of both baking powder and baking soda for a good crumb and dark crust that perfectly resembles the original. And I decided it best to go big on the dark brown sugar, not only for flavor but also because the extra molasses in the darker brown sugar triggers a helpful leavening boost from the baking soda. It’s also important to know that an accurate clone must have both walnuts and pecans in the mix, because that’s what’s really in it, according to the official Starbucks website ingredients info. All other copycats I saw got it wrong when it came to the nut blend, so if you want a true knock-off, this is the Starbucks Banana Bread recipe to bake.   

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Starbucks Petite Vanilla Bean Scones

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Bush's Country Style Baked Beans

    In the Bush’s Beans commercials, Duke, the family golden retriever, wants to sell the secret family recipe, but the Bush family always stops him. The dog is based on the Bush family’s real-life golden retriever, and the campaign, which began in 1995, made Bush’s the big dog of the canned baked beans market practically overnight. Their confidential baked beans formula is considered one of the top 10 biggest recipe secrets in the U.S.

    Bush Brothers & Company had been canning a variety of fruits and vegetables for over 60 years when, in 1969, the company created canned baked beans using a cherished recipe from a family matriarch. Sales jumped from 10 thousand cases in the first year to over 100 thousand cases in 1970. And just one year later sales hit a million cases. Today Bush’s makes over 80 percent of the canned baked beans sold in the U.S., and the secret family recipe remains a top food secret, despite Duke’s attempts. A replica of the original recipe book—without the original recipe in it (drat!)—is on display at the company's visitor center in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee.

    I chose to hack the “Country Style” version of Bush’s Beans because I don’t think the Original flavor has enough, uh, flavor. Country Style is similar to Original, but richer, with more brown sugar. My recipe for Bush's Country Style baked beans starts by soaking dry small white beans in a brine overnight. The salt in the water helps to soften the skins, but don’t soak them for more than 14 hours or the skins may begin to fall off. You can skip this step if you've got a fancy Instant Pot using my directions below. 

    My first versions tasted great but lacked the deep brown color of the real Bush’s beans, which include caramel coloring—an ingredient that can be hard to find on its own. I eventually discovered that the “browning” sauce, Kitchen Bouquet, will add the dark caramel color needed to our home version of the beans so that they’ll look just like the real thing.

    This recipe was our #5 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), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4).

     

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Benihana Hibachi Chicken and Steak

    When 20-year old Rocky Aoki came to New York City from Japan with his wrestling team in 1959 he was convinced it was the land of opportunity. Just five years later he used $10,000 he had saved plus another $20,000 that he borrowed to open a Benihana steakhouse on the West Side of Manhattan. His concept of bringing the chefs out from the back of the kitchen to prepare the food in front of customers on a specially designed hibachi grill was groundbreaking. The restaurant was such a smashing success that it paid for itself within 6 months. 

    The most popular items at the restaurant are the Hibachi Chicken and Hibachi Steak, which are prepared at your table on an open hibachi grill. But, since most home kitchens are not fitted with an hibachi grill, you'll have to improvise. You will likely have to use two pans for this Benihana hibachi chicken and steak recipe; one for the meat and mushrooms, and the other for the remaining vegetables. And since many of today's cooking surfaces are coated with scratchable, nonstick coatings, we won't be slicing the meat and vegetables while they are sizzling on the hot cooking surface as the Benihana chefs do.

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    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.70 (votes: 10)
    Skyline Chili

    There's no chocolate in it. Or coffee. Or Coca-Cola. The ingredient rumors for the Skyline Chili secret recipe are plentiful on the Internet, but anyone can purchase cans of Skyline chili from the company and find the ingredients listed right on the label: beef, water, tomato paste, dried torula yeast, salt, spices, cornstarch, and natural flavors. You can trust that if chocolate were included in the secret recipe, the label would reflect it—important information for people with a chocolate allergy. All it takes to re-create the unique flavor of Skyline is a special blend of easy-to-find spices plus beef broth and a few other not-so-unusual ingredients. Let the chili simmer for an hour or so, then serve it up on its own or in one of the traditional Cincinnati-style serving suggestions (the "ways" they call 'em) with the chili poured over spaghetti noodles, topped with grated Cheddar cheese and other good stuff: 

         3-Way: Pour chili over cooked spaghetti noodles and top with grated Cheddar cheese. 
         4-Way: Add a couple teaspoons of grated onion before adding the cheese. 
         5-Way: Add cooked red beans over the onions before adding the cheese.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

     

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Mastro's Steakhouse Warm Butter Cake

    Mastro’s signature dessert is sinfully good. How can it not be? It’s buttery pound cake with a warm cream cheese filling, crowned with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of homemade raspberry sauce. This formula makes 3 cakes when you bake them in 5-inch ramekins, which gives you cakes that are the same size as those served in the restaurant. And each one will easily serve two people. You can make this dessert the day before you plan to serve it just as the chefs at the restaurant do. When each butter cake order comes into the Mastro’s kitchen, a cake is microwaved until hot, the sugar topping is melted with a chef’s torch (the kind used for crème brulee), then the cake is topped with ice cream and raspberry sauce. If you don’t have a torch to melt the sugar crystals, you can just skip that step and serve the cake with the raw sugar un-torched. It still tastes great.

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    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Chili's Grilled Baby Back Ribs (Improved)

    When I hacked this recipe on my TV show "Top Secret Recipe" I learned that the only way to make ribs taste just like the famous original version from Chili's is to smoke them with pecan wood chips. I had access to the development kitchen at Chili's corporate headquarters in Dallas where I discovered that the chain uses a special commercial smoker made by Convotherm that is preprogrammed to first smoke the ribs and then steam them until tender. To stimulate the steam function in a home smoker, you will need to spray the ribs with a little water every half hour in the second half of the cooking process.

    It is also important to use the right kind of ribs if you want the perfect clone. Get well-trimmed baby backs that aren't too thick. Chili's ribs are trimmed pretty close to the bone to ensure even smoking and grilling. I also learned on the show that the chain wraps up the hot ribs in plastic wrap and foil immediately after they are smoked and before they are finished on the grill to help make them extra tender. You can skip this step if you are rushed, but if you have the time to work it in, the meat will fall off the bone on the way to your mouth. 

    If you don't have a smoker, you can still use the seasoning and sauce recipes here and turn out some great ribs on your grill. You can give the ribs their great smokey flavor using a smoking box found on some grills, or by folding pecan wood chips into a pouch made from foil. Follow my grilling directions in the Tidbits of this recipe.

    I've cloned a ton of Chili's famous dishes. See if I hacked your favorites here. 

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step by Todd Wilbur

     

     

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  • Score: 4.80 (votes: 10)
    KFC BBQ Baked Beans

    Here's a replica recipe that's great for a cookout, or as your cool cloned contribution to a party. You can add everything to the dish ahead of time and bake it when you get to the shindig. Just find yourself a couple cans of the small white beans (not pinto beans or great northern beans), and the rest is easy. Throw all of the ingredients into a casserole dish and let the sucker bake, while you get in on the festivities.

    Complete your meal with my copycat KFC Original Fried Chicken and KFC Coleslaw recipes here.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.86 (votes: 49)
    Chili's Southwestern Eggrolls

    Menu Description: "Smoked chicken, black beans, corn, jalapeno Jack cheese, red peppers and spinach wrapped inside a crispy flour tortilla. We serve it with our avocado-ranch dipping sauce."

    Chili's was the first chain to popularize the Southwestern-style eggroll, but as with any successful menu item, clones have been popping up on other major chains' appetizer menus over the past several years. Even though it's more like a small chimichanga than an eggroll, this appetizer is a fabulous creation with monster flavor. A flour tortilla is stuffed with a spicy blend of corn, green onions, black beans, spinach, jalapeno peppers, Monterey Jack cheese and spices; then it's deep-fried. Slice the fried rolls diagonally, dunk the wedges into a creamy avocado ranch sauce, and you've done your taste buds a solid. Make these several hours before you plan to serve them so that they can freeze before frying (it's a great dish to make a day ahead of a party or event). This freezing step will help the outside fry to a golden brown, but the eggrolls will stay folded, and oil won't seep in. Assembling the eggrolls takes a little time, so if you like these, I suggest making a double batch. Since you'll be freezing them, you'll have extra on hand in the freezer ready to cook with just a little additional effort.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 3.54 (votes: 48)
    Starbucks Lemon Loaf

    It would take quite a bit of real lemon juice to give this moist loaf clone the perfect lemony zip of the original. With too much liquid we wind up with thin batter, and ultimately a baked lemon loaf that lacks the dense and flavorful quality of the coffeehouse original.  So, to avoid producing a batter that's too runny, we must turn to lemon extract. It's over by the vanilla extract in the baking aisle. This concentrated lemon flavoring works well alongside real lemon juice to give us the perfectly intense lemon flavor we need for a killer Starbucks lemon loaf cake true copycat recipe. The lemon extract also works like a charm to flavor the icing that will top off your fauxed food.

    Re-create more of your favorite Starbucks drinks and treats here

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.86 (votes: 56)
    Outback Steakhouse Ranch Salad Dressing

    Outback Steakhouse makes a tasty version of creamy ranch dressing for its house and Queensland salads. To get the same flavor and creaminess of the original at home, you'll need to add one teaspoon of Hidden Valley Ranch instant salad dressing mix. Since there's three teaspoons of dressing mix per packet, you can make three batches of Outback Steakhouse ranch salad dressing with one envelope of dressing mix.

    Pair your salad with an appetizer, entrée and dessert from Outback to complete the experience.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 10)
    Olive Garden Stuffed Mushrooms

    Menu Description: "Parmesan, Romano and mozzarella cheese, clams and herb breadcrumbs baked in mushroom caps."

    Breadcrumbs, clams and three types of cheese are baked into white mushroom caps in this clone of a top pick from Olive Garden's appetizer menu. Mix all the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl, fill the mushroom caps, sprinkle on some minced red bell pepper, cover the mushrooms with a blanket of mozzarella cheese slices, and bake. After 15 minutes you'll have a great appetizer or hors d'oeuvre for 4 to 6 people—that's twice the serving size of the dish from the restaurant.

    Did you love this copycat Olive Garden stuffed mushrooms recipe? Check out more of my clone recipes here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.57 (votes: 7)
    Cheesecake Factory Chicken Madeira

    Menu Description: "Our most popular chicken dish! Sauteed chicken breast topped with fresh asparagus and melted mozzarella cheese, covered with fresh mushroom madeira sauce. Served with mashed potatoes."

    What makes this Cheesecake Factory's "most popular chicken dish" is the sweet madeira wine reduction sauce spooned over the top. Man, I could slurp that stuff straight from a glass. It's that good. And—get this—it's easy. Even though the real stuff appears to include veal stock, we can concoct a great knockoff using canned beef stock. Get sliced mozzarella cheese from your deli section and be sure to pound the chicken breasts very thin using plastic wrap to cover each one before you get medieval on it. Also, in typical Cheesecake Factory style, their entrée is huge, including two chicken fillets and a giant pile of mashed potatoes on the side. This Cheesecake Factory Chicken Madeira recipe makes a total of four chicken fillets, which divides into two servings if you're at the restaurant. At home though, this is probably the perfect amount for a tribe of four.

    Check out more of my copycat Cheesecake Factory recipes here

    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: 2)
    Great American Cookies White Chunk Macadamia

    When Arthur Karp shared his grandmother's favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe with Michael Coles, the business partners knew they had a hit on their hands. They opened their first Great American Cookies store in 1977 in The Perimeter Mall in Atlanta, Georgia. Now with more than 350 stores in the chain, these cookies have quickly become a favorite, just begging to be cloned. The chain bakes the cookies in convection ovens at the low temperature of 280 degrees for around 16 to 17 minutes. But since most of us don't have convection ovens and may have a hard time getting the oven temperature to this odd setting, I have made some adjustments. Just be sure, when you remove the cookies from the oven, that they appear undercooked and only slightly browned around the edges. This will give the cookies the perfect chewy texture when they cool.

    You might also like my recipe for Great American Snickerdoodles

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes 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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  • Not rated yet
    Outback Steakhouse Twisted Ribs

    Creative chefs at Outback Steakhouse have transformed the chain’s fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs into a fantastic appetizer by adding crispy Bloomin’ Onion breading, sweet barbecue sauce, and a drizzle of Bloomin’ Onion dipping sauce. I reverse-engineered the Outback Twisted Ribs recipe thanks to a kind server who let me take some home with sauces on the side, and now you can copy every twisted bit of it yourself with this exclusive hack.

    Outback’s ribs are smoked, but we’ll duplicate the taste without a smoker using a liquid smoke brine. This marinade will not only add flavor to the ribs, but it will also help keep the meat moist and juicy when cooked twice. Tweaked hacks for my Bloomin’ Onion breading and dipping sauce are here to complete your twisted appetizer, and you'll also get my new easy way to knock off the chain’s tasty house-made spicy pickles that come on the side. Plus, I'm including a batch of step-by-step photos so your dish will come out picture-perfect.

    Brush your ribs with Sweet Baby Ray's Original barbecue sauce since it tastes similar to what Outback uses, or use your favorite barbecue sauce, and you'll have a messy, but insanely delicious and exclusive new finger food favorite for your hungry crew.

    Check out more of my Top Secret Recipes for Outback Steakhouse favorites here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Pizza Hut Spicy Lover's Pizza

    To satisfy America’s growing desire for foods that bite back, Pizza Hut introduced its spiciest pizza ever in early 2022. The new peppery pies include Spicy Hawaiian Chicken and Spicy Veggie, but it’s the Spicy Double Pepperoni version, with both regular pepperoni and cupped pepperoni, that takes the top spot.

    This is Pizza Hut’s first pizza to be topped with brined red jalapeño slices, which are similar to those packed in a jar from Old El Paso. If you can’t find bottled slices, use sliced fresh red jalapeños or red Fresno peppers, or any other spicy red pepper you find in your produce section. Red jalapeños will certainly bring some sting, but most of the boom will come from the chain’s new spicy marinara sauce that’s been kicked up with added peppers, and it's hacked here for you.

    When your feisty pie comes out of the oven, hit it with some “fiery flakes” (crushed red pepper and parsley) and you’ve got a perfect hack of Pizza Hut Spicy Lover's Pizza for your pizza-loving, hungry home team who like some heat.

    You might also want to try my clone recipe for Pizza Hut Pan Pizza.

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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
    IHOP Swedish Crepes

    Menu Description: “Four delicate crepes topped with sweet-tart lingonberries and lingonberry butter.”

    Good crepes should be soft in the middle, crispy around the edges, buttery, custardy, a bit sweet, and slightly salty, and there are many ways to achieve all this. But to make crepes like those served at IHOP, the formula needs to be specific.

    Over two days I made dozens of crepes with minor adjustments to all seven ingredients until I finally settled on the version here that best mirrors the look and taste of the delicious IHOP Swedish Crepes. You'll get ten tasty crepes using a 10-inch non-stick skillet, and the recipe is very easy.

    Top them with my simple formula here for the lingonberry butter using bottled lingonberries and softened butter, and now your hack is complete. If you like crepes, you’ll definitely love these.

    I cloned a ton of items from IHOP. See if I hacked your favorite here.

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  • Not rated yet
    P.F. Chang's Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts

    Use my recipe for P.F. Chang’s incredible Kung Pao sauce and toss it with fried Brussels sprouts, peanuts, and Thai chilies and you get one of this Chinese bistro’s most popular new starters. And now, with this exclusive Top Secret Recipe, you'll have possibly one of your new favorite ways to serve Brussels sprouts. 

    You’ll get a half cup of the secret kung pao sauce—that will be enough to sauce 1 pound of Brussels sprouts in 2 separate batches.

    Oven baking, like other "hackers" recommend, will not give you the crispy texture of the original. These must be deep-fried. Even though you’ll be frying 8 ounces of Brussels sprouts at a time, you’ll want a wide-mouthed pan like a large saucepot, Dutch oven, or a deep fryer so that you don’t crowd the Brussels sprouts. Also, they will spatter for about 30 seconds when they first hit the oil, so a lid or a spatter guard will definitely come in handy.

    Once the oil is hot and the sauce is made, it takes just 5 minutes to get this delish dish on your table.      

    Have you decided on an entrée to serve with this? There are a lot more P.F. Chang's copycat recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Shakey's Mojo Potatoes

    Sherwood Johnson survived a case of malaria while serving in World War II, which left him with some residual nerve damage and a new nickname: Shakey. Despite his affliction, Shakey Johnson was still able to bang out toe-tapping Dixieland jazz on the piano night after night in the pizza parlor he opened in Sacramento in 1954, where live jazz accompanied the thin crust pizza and cold pitchers of beer.

    Shakey’s became the first franchised pizza restaurant in the U.S., and by 1974 the chain had 500 stores across the U.S. The #1 dish is clearly the made-to-order pizza, but the chain’s trademarked crispy battered potato slices are a close runner-up and a perfect tasty subject to hack.

    Recipes that claim complete pancake mix is the secret breading ingredient in Mojo Potatoes fail to observe that pancake mix contains sugar, and there is no noticeable sweetness in the breading of the Mojos. I also decided that dry breading wouldn't work since in my tests the paprika failed to bloom and give the coating a perfect hue like it does when the mixture is wet.

    I eventually settled on a simple wet batter made with seasoned salt, flour, and little cornstarch for crunch to best match the flavor, crispiness, and red/orange tint of the real thing from America’s first pizza chain. Use this original technique, and these handy step photos, to make extra crispy potatoes the Shakey's way.

    There's your appetizer, now what's for dinner? Find clones for some of your favorite famous entrées here.

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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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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Church's Chicken Honey Butter Biscuits

    It took more than good chicken for the small fried chicken shack in San Antonio, Texas to blow up into an international fried chicken superstar with over 1000 units in 35 countries. Thanks to these biscuits—so good they trademarked the name—hungry mouths have more than one reason for a quick Church’s run.

    No need for a biscuit cutter to make Church's Chicken Honey Butter Biscuits at home since these are drop biscuits you form by hand. But it is recommended to use a silicone baking pad if you have one to keep the bottoms as light as possible.   

    Brush on the honey butter the moment the biscuits come out of the oven, and when they cool they’ll have glistening tops just like the real ones.

    Now, what's for dinner? Check here for cool copycat recipes for famous entrees.

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  • Not rated yet
    Olive Garden Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara

    Menu Description: “Sauteed seasoned chicken, shrimp, and spaghetti tossed in a creamy sauce with bacon and roasted red peppers.”

    Re-creating this top entrée from Olive Garden allowed me to come up with an easy way to assemble a delicious carbonara from scratch. Traditional carbonara sauce in Italy is usually made with guanciale and sometimes pancetta. But in America and other English-speaking countries carbonara is typically made with bacon, as is this one served at Olive Garden, so that’s what we’ll do for our clone.

    Many traditional carbonara recipes also call for egg, but Olive Garden makes the carbonara sauce for this dish in a different, and much simpler, way: they combine bits of bacon with their classic alfredo sauce which I cloned long ago. In this tweaked version of that sauce, the bacon flavors the sauce while it simmers resulting in a perfect match.

    The red pepper gets roasted in your oven, and the chicken and shrimp are sautéed on the stovetop. Put it all together, and you've got four generous servings of Olive Garden Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara with that fabulous sauce, and an impressive dinner for your hungry carbonara cravers.

    Find more of your favorite Olive Garden copycat recipes 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)
    Domino's Crispy Bacon & Tomato Specialty Chicken

    I imagine a chef at Domino's in the middle of the development kitchen, surrounded by all the toppings they use on pizza, experimenting with new combinations of these ingredients, trying to come up with something delicious that isn't pizza. And then this dish happens: crispy chicken topped with garlic-Parmesan sauce, Cheddar-mozzarella cheese, bacon, tomato, and baked until gooey.  

    Now, you can make your own Domino's Crispy Bacon & Tomato Specialty Chicken appetizer, and to make it simple, you'll start with crispy chicken strips or popcorn chicken from the freezer section. 

    All the assembly instructions are here including an original, and simple, hack for the garlic-Parmesan sauce that gets drizzled over the chicken before adding all the other good stuff.

    Build your dish on a strip of parchment paper, just like the restaurant does, and bake it until the cheese is bubbly. Now you have a cool new thing to make with frozen crispy chicken strips.    

    You may also want to try the Domino's Pizza hack I created for my TV show in my book Top Secret Recipes: Step-by-Step  

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  • Not rated yet
    Starbucks Double Chocolate Brownie

    If you worship chocolate, this simple-to-make recipe of Starbucks' famous fudgy brownie is a blessing. The brownie is made with a double dose of chocolate—unsweetened cocoa and milk chocolate—and the top is sprinkled with chunks of dark chocolate.  The result is a moist, chewy brownie made with a perfect blend of chocolate. And it tastes like heaven.

    Prep your pan with a sling made from parchment paper. Slice the parchment long so that it fits into the bottom of the pan with each of the ends hanging over the top of the pan. I use two small binder clips to hold the paper in place so that it doesn’t fold into the pan during baking. When the brownies have cooled, remove the clips, grab the overhanging paper, and lift the brownies cleanly out of the pan to be sliced.

    Find more of your favorite Starbucks copycat recipes here

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