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Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli Reduced-Fat copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli Reduced-Fat

Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
Reviews: 1
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One of the most popular and hard-to-pronounce items on the Olive Garden menu is found in the soup column. It's more like chili than a soup, really, with all those beans and veggies and ground beef in there. The reduced-fat grams in this clone are especially important when we consider that this dish makes an excellent meal by itself, and you may want to eat more than the 1 1/2-cup serving size measured for the nutrition stats.

We'll keep the added fat to a minimum by sauteing the veggies in what little fat is not drained off from browning the lean ground beef. The soup will fill your mouth with flavor so it won't matter that we aren't adding additional fat. You'll have a hard time distinguishing between this version and the original. Try it.

This recipe makes about eight 1 1/3-cup servings. If you can't eat it within a few days, it freezes well.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size–1 1/2 cups
Total servings–8
Calories per serving–312 (Original–416)
Fat per serving–4g (Original–17.5g)

Source: Top Secret Recipes Lite by Todd Wilbur.

Get This

_main
  • 1 pound super-lean ground geef (7% fat)
  • 1 small onion, diced (1 cup)
  • 1 large carrot, julienned (1 cup)
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can red kidney beans (with liquid)
  • 15-ounce can great northern beans (with liquid)
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 12-ounce can V-8 juice
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 pound (1/2 package) ditalini pasta
Do This

1. Brown the ground beef in a very large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. Drain off the fat.

2. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Add the remaining ingredients, except the pasta, and simmer for 1 hour.

4. About 50 minutes into the simmer time, cook the pasta in 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of boiling water over high heat. Cook for 10 minutes or just until pasta is al dente, or slightly tough. Drain.

5. Add the pasta to the large pot of soup. Simmer for 5 minutes and serve.

Serves 8.

Tidbits: Ditalini pasta is small 1/4-inch tubes of pasta.

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Reviews
Lisa
Jan 30, 2014, 22:00
I use Boca veggie crumbles in mine for a vegetarian version. It tastes great and my kitchen smells heavenly when it's cooking.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Olive Garden Italian Salad Dressing Fat-Free

    We love to eat salad because it seems so healthy. But add just a couple tablespoons of salad dressing and you've gone from no fat to lots of fat, before your main course has even hit the table. If the salad dressing is delicious, as is Olive Garden's, you might be pouring on more than just a couple tablespoons. Here's a way to eliminate the fat grams from the dressing, but keep all the flavor.

    We'll take out the oil, and add dry pectin to thicken the dressing, along with more water than used in the original version of this recipe. We can add a decent amount of Romano cheese and a single serving of the dressing still comes in under 1/2 gram of fat. Add some vinegar, a little corn syrup and lemon juice, some spices—mission accomplished.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–2 tablespoons
    Total servings–11
    Calories per serving–42 (Original–90)
    Fat per serving–0g (Original–8g)

    Click here for my original version of Olive Garden Salad Dressing

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Lite by Todd Wilbur. 

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    Olive Garden Minestrone Soup

    Menu Description: "Fresh vegetables, beans and pasta in a light tomato broth—a vegetarian classic."

    This copycat Olive Garden minestrone soup recipe is jam-packed with beans, zucchini, onion, tomatoes, carrots, pasta, and spices; but O.G.'s secret formula doesn't include chicken broth. Canned vegetable broth found in the soup aisle of most markets works as a base here in this secret formula that bursts with flavor as a purely vegetarian dish.

    Check out my other Olive Garden copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Reduced-Fat

    It's the white, creamy broth in the original version of this delicious soup that adds unnecessary fat grams. By replacing the fat-filled dairy ingredients from the original with fat-free milk and chicken broth, and by using lean Italian turkey sausage, we can whack around fifteen grams of fat off the original version.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 1/2 cups
    Total servings–3
    Calories per serving–196 (Original–275)
    Fat per serving–4.5g (Original–19g)

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

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  • Score: 4.38 (votes: 8)
    Olive Garden Breadsticks

    Anyone who loves Olive Garden is probably also a big fan of the bottomless basket of warm, garlicky breadsticks served before each meal at the huge Italian casual chain. My guess is that the breadsticks are proofed, and then sent to each restaurant where they are baked until golden brown, brushed with butter and sprinkled with garlic salt. Getting the bread just right for a good Olive Garden breadstick recipe was tricky—I tried several different amounts of yeast in all-purpose flour, but then settled on bread flour to give these breadsticks the same chewy bite as the originals. The two-stage rising process is also a crucial step in this much requested homemade Olive Garden breadstick recipe. Also check out our Olive Garden Italian salad dressing recipe.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Olive Garden Hot Artichoke-Spinach Dip

    Menu Description: "A creamy hot dip of artichokes, spinach and Parmesan with pasta chips."

    Just about every aspect of the Olive Garden restaurants was developed from consumer research conducted in a corporate think tank by the General Mills Corporation. Restaurant-goers were questioned about preferences, such as the type of food to be served, the appearance and atmosphere of the restaurant, even the color of the candleholders on each table. The large tables and the comfy chairs on rollers that you see at the Olive Garden restaurants came out of those vigorous research sessions.

    I'm not sure if this dish came from those sessions, but according to servers at the Olive Garden, the Hot Artichoke-Spinach Dip is one of the most requested appetizers on the menu. The restaurant serves the dip with chips made from fried pasta, but you can serve this version of the popular appetizer with just about any type of crackers, chips, or toasted Italian bread, like bruschetta.

    I've cloned a ton of famous dishes from Olive Garden. See if I hacked your favorites here.



    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Olive Garden Italian Salad Dressing

    In the 1970's, food conglomerate General Mills expanded its growing restaurant business. A research team was organized to study the market, and to conduct interviews with potential customers on what they want in a restaurant. Seven years later, in 1982, the first Olive Garden restaurant opened its doors in Orlando, Florida. Today it is the number one Italian restaurant chain in the country with over 470 stores.

    One of the all-time favorites at Olive Garden is the Italian salad dressing served on the bottomless house salad that comes with every meal. The dressing was so popular that the chain sells the dressing by the bottle "to go." You won't need to buy a bottle, though. With my Olive Garden Italian salad dressing recipe you can make your own version that tastes just like the original, and it's way cheaper.

    The secret to thickening this dressing is to use dry pectin, a natural ingredient often used to thicken jams and jellies. Pectin can be found in most stores in the aisle with baking and cooking supplies or near the canning items.

    Now, what's for dinner? Check out all of my copycat entrées here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3

    Exclusive signed copy. America's best copycat recipes! Save money and amaze your friends with all-new culinary carbon copies from the Clone Recipe King!

    For more than 30 years, Todd Wilbur has been obsessed with reverse-engineering famous foods. Using every day ingredients to replicate signature restaurant dishes at home, Todd shares his delectable discoveries with readers everywhere.

    Now, his super-sleuthing taste buds are back to work in the third installment of his mega-bestselling Top Secret Restaurant Recipes series, with 150 sensational new recipes that unlock the delicious formulas for re-creating your favorite dishes from America's most popular restaurant chains. Todd's top secret blueprints and simple step-by-step instructions guarantee great success for even novice cooks. And when preparing these amazing taste-alike dishes at home, you'll be paying up to 75 percent less than eating out!

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    Contents
    Applebee's Apple Walnut Chicken Salad
    Applebee's Chocolate Mousse Dessert Shooter
    Applebee's Grilled Shrimp 'N Spinach Salad
    Applebee's Key Lime Pie Dessert Shooter
    Applebee's Red Apple Sangria
    Applebee's Strawberry Cheesecake Dessert Shooter
    Applebee's Tomato Basil Soup
    Applebee's White  Peach Sangria
    Bahama Breeze Island Onion Rings
    Bahama Breese West Indian Patties
    BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse Chili
    BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse Famous Pizookie
    BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast
    BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
    Bonefish Grill Bang Bang Shrimp
    Bonefish Grill Citrus Herb Vinaigrette
    Bonefish Grill Saucy Shrimp
    Buca di Beppo Garlic Bread and Garlic Bread with Mozzarella
    Buca di Beppo Chicken Limone
    Buffalo Wild Wings Asian Zing Sauce
    Buffalo Wild Wings Parmesan Garlic Sauce
    California Pizza Kitchen The Original BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad
    California Pizza Kitchen Original Chopped Salad
    Carrabba's Spicy Sausage Lentil Soup
    Carrabba's Chicken Bryan
    Cheeseburger in Paradise BBQ Jerk Ribs
    Cheeseburger in Paradise Sweet Potato Chips
    Cheeseburger in Paradise El Cubano Sandwich
    Cheesecake Factory Famous Factory Meatloaf
    Cheesecake Factory Miso Salmon
    Cheesecake Factory Pineapple Pisco Sour
    Cheesecake Factory Thai Lettuce Wraps
    Cheesecake Factory Banana Cream Cheesecake
    Cheesecake Factory Stefanie's Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake
    Chili's Honey-Chipotle Chicken Crispers
    Chili's Cajun Ribeye
    Chili's Firecracker Tilapia
    Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad
    Chili's Nacho Burger
    Chili's White Chocolate Molten Cake
    Cracker Barrel Cole Slaw
    Cracker Barrel Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake
    Cracker Barrel Macaroni n' Cheese
    Denny's Cherry Cherry Limeade
    Denny's Pancake Puppies
    Denny's Broccoli Cheese Soup
    Famous Dave's Corn Muffins
    Famous Dave's Smoked Salmon Spread
    Famous Dave's Wilbur Beans
    Fleming's Prime Steakhouse Wicked Cajun Barbecue Shrimp
    Fleming's Prime Steakhouse Chipotle Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese
    Fleming's Prime Steakhouse Fleming's Potatoes
    Fuddruckers Hamburger Seasoning
    Gordon Biersch Cran Blueberi Lemonade Cocktail
    Gordon Biersch Garlic Fries
    Gordon Biersch Raspberry Iced Tea Cocktail
    Gordon Biersch Warm Apple Bread Pudding
    Hard Rock Cafe Tupelo Style Chicken
    Hard Rock Cafe Twisted Mac & Cheese
    Hooter's Fried Pickles
    Houston's House Vinaigrette
    Houston's Couscous
    IHOP Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes
    IHOP Corn Cake Pancakes
    IHOP Funnel Cakes
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    Joe's Crab Shack Crab Nachos
    Joe's Crab Shack Great Balls of Fire
    Joes Crab Shack Spicy Boil
    Joe's Crab Shack BBQ Crab
    Joe's Stone  Crab Garlic Creamed Spinach
    Joe's Stone  Crab Grilled Tomatoes
    Joe's Stone  Crab Jennie's Potatoes
    Joe's Stone  Crab Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes
    Margaritaville Havanas and Bananas Cocktail
    Margaritaville Incommunicado Cocktail
    Margaritaville Volcano Nachos
    Margaritaville Jerk Salmon
    Mastro's Steakhouse Gorgonzola Macaroni & Cheese
    Mastro's Steakhouse Steak Seasoning
    Mastro's Steakhouse Warm Butter Cake
    Max & Erma's Tortilla Soup
    Mimi's Cafe Buttermilk Spice Muffins
    Mimi's Cafe Carrot Raisin Nut Muffins
    Mimi's Cafe Five-Way Grilled Cheese
    Olive Garden Breadsticks
    Olive Garden Dipping Sauces for Breadsticks
    Olive Garden Chicken and Gnocchi Soup
    Olive Garden Black Tie Mouse Cake
    Olive Garden Mango Martini
    Olive Garden Pomegranate Margarita Martini
    Olive Garden Smoked Mozzarella Fonduta
    Olive Garden Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo
    On the Border Guacamole Live!
    On the Border Mexican Mojito
    On the Border Smoke Jalapeno Vinaigrette
    Outback Steakhouse Bleu Cheese Chopped Salad
    Outback Steakhouse Mashed Sweet Potatoes
    Outback Steakhouse Outback Rack
    Outback Steakhouse Three Cheese Au Gratin Potatoes
    Outback Steakhouse Victoria "Crowned" Filet w/Horseradish Crumb Crust
    Outback Steakhouse Chocolate Thunder from Down Under
    P.F. Chang's Asian Pear Mojito
    P.F. Chang's Chang's Key Lime Martini
    P.F. Chang's Spicy Green Beans
    P.F. Chang's Kung Pao  Chicken
    P.F. Chang's Chicken in Soothing Lettuce Wraps--Improved
    P.F. Chang's Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps
    Pizza Hut WingStreet Traditional Chicken Wings--Hot, Med, Mild
    Pizza Hut Tuscani Creamy Chicken Alfredo Pasta
    Pizza Hut Pan Pizza
    Red Lobster Peach-Bourbon BBQ Scallops
    Red Lobster Maple-Glazed Salmon & Shrimp
    Red Robin Campfire Sauce
    Red Robin Creamy Artichoke & Spinach Dip
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    Trader Vic's World-Famous Mai Tai
    Traders Vic's Tom Ka Gai Soup

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    Auntie Anne's Pretzels

    The first Auntie Anne's pretzel store opened in 1988 in the heart of pretzel country—a Pennsylvanian Amish farmers' market. Over 500 stores later, Auntie Anne's is one of the most requested secret clone recipes around, especially on the internet. Many of the copycat Auntie Anne's soft pretzel recipes passed around the Web require bread flour, and some use honey as a sweetener. But by studying the Auntie Anne's home pretzel-making kit in the secret underground laboratory, I've discovered a better solution for re-creating the delicious mall treats than any clone recipe out there. For the best quality dough, you just need all-purpose flour. And powdered sugar works great to perfectly sweeten the dough. Now you just have to decide if you want to make the more traditional salted pretzels, or the sweet cinnamon sugar-coated kind. Decisions, decisions.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 6)
    Texas Roadhouse Rolls

    I never thought dinner rolls were something I could get excited about until I got my hand into the breadbasket at Texas Roadhouse. The rolls are fresh out of the oven and they hit the table when you do, so there’s no waiting to tear into a magnificently gooey sweet roll topped with soft cinnamon butter. The first bite you take will make you think of a fresh cinnamon roll, and then you can’t stop eating it. And when the first roll’s gone, you are powerless to resist grabbing for just one more. But it’s never just one more. It’s two or three more, plus a few extra to take home for tomorrow.

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    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.

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    Chili's Chicken Enchilada Soup

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

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    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.90 (votes: 39)
    Olive Garden Lemon Cream Cake

    Menu Description: "Delicate white cake and lemon cream filling with a vanilla crumb topping."

    To make this clone easy I've designed the recipe with white cake mix. I picked Betty Crocker brand, but any white cake mix you find will do. Just know that each brand (Duncan Hines, Pillsbury, etc.) requires slightly different measurements of additional ingredients (oil, eggs). Follow the directions on the box for mixing the batter, then pour it into 2 greased 9-inch cake pans and bake until done. The filling recipe is a no-brainer and the crumb topping is quick. When your Olive Garden lemon cream cake recipe is assembled, stick it in the fridge for a few hours, and soon you'll be ready to serve 12 slices of the hacked signature dessert.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 36)
    Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits

    Order an entree from America's largest seafood restaurant chain and you'll get a basket of some of the planet's tastiest garlic-cheese biscuits served up on the side. For many years, the Cheddar Bay Biscuits recipe has been the most-searched-for clone recipe on the Internet, according to Red Lobster. As a result, several versions are floating around, including one that was at one time printed right on the box of Bisquick baking mix.

    The problem with making biscuits using Bisquick is that if you follow the directions from the box you don't end up with a very fluffy or flakey finished product, since most of the fat in the recipe comes from the shortening that's included in the mix. On its own, room temperature shortening does a poor job creating the light, airy texture you want from good biscuits, and it contributes little in the way of flavor. So, we'll invite some cold butter along on the trip -- with grated Cheddar cheese and a little garlic powder. Now you'll be well on your way to delicious Cheddar Bay. Wherever that is.

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  • Score: 4.81 (votes: 47)
    Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls

    In early 1985, restaurateur Rich Komen felt there was a specialty niche in convenience-food service just waiting to be filled. His idea was to create an efficient outlet that could serve freshly made cinnamon rolls in shopping malls throughout the country. It took nine months for Komen and his staff to develop a cinnamon roll recipe he knew customers would consider the "freshest, gooiest, and most mouthwatering cinnamon roll ever tasted." The concept was tested for the first time in Seattle's Sea-Tac mall later that year, with workers mixing, proofing, rolling, and baking the rolls in full view of customers. Now, more than 626 outlets later, Cinnabon has become the fastest-growing cinnamon roll bakery in the world.

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    Carrabba's Spicy Sausage Lentil Soup

    It's not served every day at Carrabba's Italian Grill, but when this amazing soup is on the menu consider yourself lucky and snag a bowl. It's chock-full of lentils and other good bits of vegetables and herbs, plus there are big chunks of spicy Italian sausage in every bite. Best of all, Carrabba's sausage and lentil soup recipe is a cinch to clone. Most of the work here is just chopping stuff up, including a small ham steak which you can find where the bacon is sold in your market. If you can't find a ham steak, you can slice up some deli ham. Get everything in a pot and let it simmer. In 1 hour you'll have enough hot, chunky soup for at least a dozen cup-size servings. Also enjoy our Carrabba's chicken marsala recipe.

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

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

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

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

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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

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

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

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.41 (votes: 17)
    Waffle House Waffles

    Two friendly Atlanta, Georgia neighbors built the first Waffle House in 1955. With the dimpled breakfast hotcake as a signature item, the privately held chain grew into 20 Southern U.S. states. Today tasty food at rock-bottom prices, plus 24-hours-a-day service, makes Waffle House a regular stop for devoted customers any time of the day or night. And don't even think about referring to your server as a waitress—they're called "associates."

    For the best clone of the 50-year-old secret waffle recipe you should chill the batter overnight in the fridge, just as they do in each of the restaurants. But sometimes you can't wait. If you need instant gratification, the recipe still works if you make the waffles the same day. Wait for at least 15 to 20 minutes before using the batter so that it can thicken a bit. That'll give you time to dust off the waffle iron and heat it up.

    How about some homemade Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage to go with those waffles? Check out my recipes for famous breakfast items here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.88 (votes: 17)
    Chili's Salsa

    This super simple Chili's salsa recipe can be made in a pinch with a can of diced tomatoes, some canned jalapeños, fresh lime juice, onion, spices, and a food processor or blender.  Plus you can easily double the recipe by sending in a larger 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes, and simply doubling up on all the other ingredients. Use this versatile salsa as a dip for tortilla chips or plop it down onto any dish that needs flavor assistance—from eggs to taco salads to wraps to fish. You can adjust the Chili's salsa recipe heat level to suit your taste by tweaking the amount of canned jalapeños in the mix. 

    Now, what's for dinner? Check out some copycat entrees from your favorite restaurants here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.18 (votes: 28)
    Benihana Japanese Fried Rice

    The talented chefs at Benihana cook food on hibachi grills with flair and charisma, treating the preparation like a tiny stage show. They juggle salt and pepper shakers, trim food with lightning speed, and flip the shrimp and mushrooms perfectly onto serving plates or into their tall chef's hat.

    One of the side dishes that everyone seems to love is the fried rice. At Benihana this dish is prepared by chefs with precooked rice on open hibachi grills, and is ordered a la cart to complement any Benihana entrée, including Hibachi Steak and Chicken. I like when the rice is thrown onto the hot hibachi grill and seems to come alive as it sizzles and dances around like a bunch of little jumping beans. Okay, so I'm easily amused.

    My Benihana Japanese fried rice recipe will go well with just about any Japanese entrée, and can be partially prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until the rest of the meal is close to done.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.25 (votes: 8)
    Wendy's Hot Chili Seasoning

    The little red packets of viscous hot sauce at the fast food giant have a cult following of rabid fans who will do whatever it takes to get their hands on large quantities. One such fan of the sauce commented online, "Are there any Wendy's employees or managers out there who will mail me an entire case of Hot Chili Seasoning? I swear this is not a joke. I love the stuff. I tip extra cash to Wendy's workers to get big handfuls of the stuff." Well, there's really no need to tip any Wendy's employees, because now you can clone as much of Wendy's Hot Chili Seasoning as you want in your own kitchen with this Top Secret Recipe.

    The ingredients listed on the real Hot Chili Seasoning are water, corn syrup, salt, distilled vinegar, natural flavors, xanthan gum, and extractives of paprika. We'll use many of those same ingredients for our clone, but we'll substitute gelatin for the xanthan gum (a thickener) to get the slightly gooey consistency right. For the natural flavor and color we'll use cayenne pepper, cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, then filter the particles out with a fine wire-mesh strainer after they've contributed what the sauce needs.

    My Wendy's Hot Chili Seasoning recipe makes 5 ounces of sauce— just the right amount to fit nicely into a used hot sauce bottle—and costs just pennies to make. 

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Chipotle Mexican Grill Carnitas

    Braised and shredded pork shoulder is a staple of Mexican cuisine that Chipotle prepares with a simple blend of flavors, and a surprising ingredient you may not have expected: juniper berries. Once you track those down (they’re easy to find online), the berries are combined with thyme and bay leaves in a braising liquid that will transform your own pork roast into an easily shreddable thing of beauty in under 3 hours. Then you can use your Chipotle carnitas clone on tacos, in burritos, or in a bowl over rice and beans just like they do in the restaurant.

    When picking your pork roast, try to find one without too much fat. If your roast has a thick cap of fat on it, trim off the excess. You want some fat in your braising liquid, but if the cap of fat is too thick, it may not fully render down and you’ll get chunks of fat in the shred.

    It’s often assumed that the pork butt is from the rear end of the pig, even though cuts from the back region already have a name: ham. The pork butt, also known as a Boston butt, is cut from the other end, the upper shoulder of the pig. It’s called a “butt” because in pre-Revolutionary War New England the roasts were stored and transported in barrels called “butts”, and the confusing name stuck.

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

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  • Score: 4.89 (votes: 44)
    Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup

    For two years after the first Olive Garden restaurant opened in 1982, operators were still tweaking the restaurant's physical appearance and the food that was served. Even the tomato sauce was changed as many as 25 times. It's that sort of dedication that creates fabulous dishes like this popular soup. It blends the flavors of potatoes, kale, and Italian sausage in a slightly spicy chicken and cream broth. 

    How about creating your own bottomless Olive Garden House Salad and Breadsticks? Find more of my Olive Garden clone recipes here!

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.88 (votes: 16)
    Cheesecake Factory Original Cheesecake

    Menu Description: "Our famous Original cheesecake recipe! Creamy and light, baked in a graham cracker crust. Our most popular cheesecake!"

    Oscar and Evelyn Overton's wholesale cheesecake company was successful quickly after it first started selling creamy cheesecakes like this clone to restaurant chains in the early 1970's. When some restaurants balked at the prices the company was charging for high-end desserts, Oscar and Evelyn's son David decided it was time to open his own restaurant, offering a wide variety of quality meal choices in huge portions, and, of course, the famous cheesecakes for dessert. Today the chain has over 87 stores across the country, and consistently ranks number one on the list of highest grossing single stores for a U.S. restaurant chain.

    Baking your cheesecakes in a water bath is part of the secret to producing beautiful cheesecakes at home with a texture similar to those sold in the restaurant. The water surrounds your cheesecake to keep it moist as it cooks, and the moisture helps prevent ugly cracking. You'll start the oven very hot for just a short time, then crank it down to finish. I also suggest lining your cheesecake pan with parchment paper to help get the thing out of the pan when it's done without a hassle.

    This recipe is so easy, even a 2-year old can make it. Check out the video

    More amazing Cheesecake Factory copycat recipes here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.91 (votes: 11)
    HoneyBaked Ham Glaze

    By sneaking around to the back of a HoneyBaked Ham store I witnessed the glazing process through an open door. The hams are delivered to each of the 300 HoneyBaked outlets already smoked, but without the glaze. It is only when the ham gets to your local HoneyBaked store that a special machine thin-slices the tender meat in a spiral fashion around the bone. Then, one at a time, each ham is then coated with the glaze—a blend that is similar to what might be used to make pumpkin pie. This sweet coating is then caramelized with a blowtorch by hand until the glaze bubbles and melts, turning golden brown. If needed, more of the coating is added to the HoneyBaked Glazed Ham, and the blowtorch is fired up until the glaze is just right. It's this careful process that turns the same size ham that costs 20 dollars in a supermarket into one that customers gladly shell out 3 to 4 times as much to share during the holiday season.

    For this HoneyBaked Ham glaze copycat recipe, we will re-create the glaze that you can apply to a smoked/cooked bone-in ham of your choice. Look for a ham that is pre-sliced. Otherwise you'll have to slice it yourself with a sharp knife, then the glaze will be applied. To get the coating just right you must use a blowtorch. Get the kind that is used for creme brulee from almost any kitchen supply store. They're usually pretty cheap. And don't worry—I didn't leave out an ingredient. No honey is necessary to re-create this flavorful glaze.

    Now, what's for dessert?

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.87 (votes: 15)
    Olive Garden Chicken Scampi

    Menu Description: "Chicken breast tenderloins sauteed with bell peppers, roasted garlic and onions in a garlic cream sauce over angel hair."

    This dish is a big favorite of Olive Garden regulars. Chicken tenderloins are lightly breaded and sauteed along with colorful bell peppers and chopped red onion. Angel hair pasta is tossed into the pan along with a healthy dose of fresh scampi sauce. The sauce is really the star, so you might think about doubling the recipe. If you're cooking for two, you can prepare this dish for the table in one large skillet, saving the remaining ingredients for another meal. If you're making all four servings at once, you need two skillets. If you can't find fresh chicken tenderloins (the tender part of the chicken breast), you can usually find bags of them in the freezer section. 

    Find more delicious recipes for Olive Garden's most famous dishes here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.78 (votes: 18)
    Chipotle Mexican Grill Barbacoa Burrito

    Menu Description: "Spicy, shredded beef, braised with our own chipotle adobo, cumin, cloves, garlic and oregano."
     
    The original Mexican dish barbacoa was traditionally prepared by cooking almost any kind of meat goat, fish, chicken, or cow cheek meat, to name just a few, in a pit covered with leaves over low heat for many hours, until tender. When the dish made its way into the United States via Texas the word transformed into "barbecue" and the preparation changed to incorporate above-ground techniques such as smoking and grilling.

    The good news is that we can re-create the beef barbacoa that Chipotle has made popular on its ginormous burritos without digging any holes in our backyard or tracking down a local source for fresh cow faces. After braising about 30 pounds of chuck roasts, I finally discovered the perfect Chipotle Mexican Grill barbacoa burrito copycat recipe with a taste-alike adobo sauce that fills your roast with flavor as it slowly cooks to a fork-tender delicacy on your stovetop over 5 to 6 hours.

    Part of the secret for great adobo sauce is toasting whole cumin seeds and cloves and then grinding them in a coffee grinder (measure the spices after grinding them). Since the braising process takes so long, start early in the day and get ready for a big dinner, because I've also included clones here for Chipotle's pico de gallo, pinto beans, and delicious cilantro-lime rice to make your burritos complete. You can add your choice of cheese, plus guacamole and sour cream for a super-deluxe clone version. 

    If you prefer chicken burritos, head on over to my clone recipe for Qdoba Grilled Adobo Chicken

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) Thai Crunch Salad

    Menu Description: "Shredded napa cabbage, chilled grilled chicken breast, julienne cucumbers, edamame, crispy wontons, peanuts, cilantro, julienne carrots, red cabbage and scallions tossed with a lime-cilantro dressing. Topped with crispy rice sticks and Thai peanut dressing."

    You can plan ahead for this delicious copycat CPK Thai Crunch salad recipe by first grilling the chicken and chilling it, then preparing the cilantro-lime dressing and the peanut sauce in advance. The menu description says that the salad is topped with "crispy rice sticks," but they look to me like crispy bean threads, cooked in a flash when dropped into hot oil for a few seconds. The crispy wontons are made from frying thinly sliced wonton wrappers in the same hot oil. For the edamame (soybeans), look in the frozen food section, and if they're still in their pods, be sure to take them out before measuring and tossing them into the salad. Once you've got everything chilled and chopped, building each dish is a breeze, and you'll have four huge dinner-size salads that will each be enough for an entire meal.

    I've cloned a ton of dishes from California Pizza Kitchen. See if I hacked your favorites here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 8)
    Cheesecake Factory Avocado Eggrolls

    Menu Description:  "Chunks of Fresh Avocado, Sun-Dried Tomato, Red Onion and Cilantro Deep Fried in a Crisp Chinese Wrapper."

    In 1995, Forbes Magazine named The Cheesecake Factory in its list of the 200 best small companies in America. At more than 90 stores now, The Cheesecake Factory plans to continue growing at a rate of about 11 new restaurants per year, and still does not franchise.

    The Avocado Eggrolls are one of the most popular appetizers on the menu at the Cheesecake Factory, and it's not hard to see why. The combination of avocado, sun-dried tomatoes, and the cilantro-tamarind sauce makes this one of the tastiest appetizers I've had at any restaurant chain. The trickiest part of this Cheesecake Factory avocado egg rolls recipe might be finding the tamarind pulp at your market. It's a brown, sticky pulp that looks like pureed prunes, and can be found in the spice section or near the ethnic foods—or try a Middle Eastern market. The pulp sometimes contains the large seeds of the fruit, so be sure to remove them before measuring. If you can't find the tamarind paste, you can get by substituting smashed raisins or prunes.

    Find more of my famous appetizer copycat recipes here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 8)
    Olive Garden Tiramisu

    Menu Description: "The classic Italian dessert. A layer of creamy custard set atop espresso-soaked ladyfingers."

    In Italian, tiramisu means "pick me up" or "cheer me up." And when you taste the delicious combination of mascarpone cheese (sometimes referred to as Italian cream cheese), cream cheese, ladyfingers, espresso and Kahlua it will be hard not to smile. So get out your double boiler for the egg yolks (a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water will also do) and get some ladyfingers (ladyfingers are miniature cakes about the size of two fingers side-by-side). You can either make your own espresso, use extra strong coffee as a substitute, or, next time you're at Starbucks, order up a quadruple shot of espresso to go.

    Find all of Olive Garden's hit dishes I've copied here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Olive Garden Toasted Ravioli

    No one is sure exactly which restaurant invented toasted ravioli, but we do know the dish originated in St. Louis sometime in the 40s. Olive Garden's delicious take on the appetizer can be cloned with ease using one of several varieties of pre-made raviolis carried in just about any supermarket. It's best to use the fresher raviolis found in the refrigerated section, but you can also use frozen ones in this copycat toasted ravioli recipe; you just have to let them thaw first before breading them. The original Olive Garden toasted ravioli recipe has a beefy inside, but you can use any ravioli that tickles your fancy including chicken, sausage, vegetarian, or cheese. As for the breading, find Progresso brand Italian style breadcrumbs. Contadina is another popular brand, but their version is much too salty for a good clone.

    Now you've got that appetizer going, what's for dinner? Try more of my Olive Garden copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.71 (votes: 28)
    Cracker Barrel Hash Brown Casserole

    Menu Description: "Made from scratch in our kitchens using fresh Grade A Fancy Russet potatoes, fresh chopped onion, natural Colby cheese and spices. Baked fresh all day long."

    In the late sixties Dan Evins was a Shell Oil "jobber" looking for a new way to market gasoline. He wanted to create a special place that would arouse curiosity, and would pull travelers off the highways. In 1969 he opened the first Cracker Barrel just off Interstate 40 in Lebanon, Tennessee, offering gas, country-style food, and a selection of antiques for sale. Today there are over 529 stores in 41 states, with each restaurant still designed as a country rest stop and gift store. In fact, those stores which carry an average of 4,500 different items apiece have made Cracker Barrel the largest retailer of American-made finished crafts in the United States.

    Those who know Cracker Barrel love the restaurant for its delicious home-style breakfasts. This casserole, made with hash brown-sliced potatoes, Colby cheese, milk, beef broth, and spices is served with many of the classic breakfast dishes at the restaurant. The recipe here is designed for a skillet that is also safe to put in the oven (so no plastic handles). If you don't have one of those, you can easily transfer the casserole to a baking dish after it is done cooking on the stove.

    Love Cracker Barrel? Check out my other clone recipes here.

    Source Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

     

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  • Score: 4.97 (votes: 33)
    P.F. Chang's Mongolian Beef

    Menu Description: "Quickly-cooked steak with scallions and garlic."

    Beef lovers go crazy over this one at the restaurant. Flank steak is cut into bite-sized chunks against the grain, then it's lightly dusted with potato starch (in our case we'll use cornstarch), flash-fried in oil, and doused with an amazing sweet soy garlic sauce. The beef comes out tender as can be, and the simple sauce sings to your taste buds. I designed this recipe to use a wok, but if you don't have one a saute pan will suffice (you may need to add more oil to the pan to cover the beef in the flash-frying step). P. F. Chang's secret sauce is what makes this dish so good, and it's versatile. If you don't dig beef, you can substitute with chicken. Or you can brush it on grilled salmon.

    I've cloned a lot of the best dishes from P.F. Chang's. Click here to see if I coped your favorite.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.81 (votes: 16)
    Olive Garden Bruschetta

    Menu Description: "A traditional topping of roma tomatoes, fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil. Served with freshly toasted ciabatta bread."

    Olive Garden's recently redesigned bruschetta recipe improves on the Italian chain's previous version. The tomato salad includes a little sun-dried tomato and balsamic vinegar, and it is now served in a separate dish rather than on the bread. Now the bread doesn't get soggy. The tomatoes are finely diced before mixing with the other ingredients, and the ciabatta bread is sprinkled with a little grated Parmesan cheese before it's toasted. Try to find a nice, chewy loaf of Italian bread for this dish—get the best bread in the store. The better your bread, the better your bruschetta.

    I've hacked a ton of dishes from Olive Garden. Find your favorites here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.71 (votes: 7)
    Panda Express Mandarin (Bourbon) Chicken

    Here's a dish from a rapidly growing Chinese food chain that should satisfy anyone who loves the famous marinated bourbon chicken found in food courts across America. The sauce is the whole thing here, and it's quick to make right on your own stove-top. Just fire up the barbecue or indoor grill for the chicken and whip up a little white rice to serve on the side. Panda Express - now 370 restaurants strong - is the fastest-growing Asian food chain in the world. You'll find these tasty little quick-service food outlets in supermarkets, casinos, sports arenas, college campuses, and malls across the country passing out free samples for the asking. 

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 14)
    Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage

    Before he became America's sausage king, Jimmy Dean was known for crooning the country hit "Big Bad John." That song came out in 1962 and sold more than 8 million copies. His singing success launched a television career on ABC with The Jimmy Dean Show, where Roy Clark, Patsy Cline, and Roger Miller got their big breaks. The TV exposure led to acting roles for Jimmy, as a regular on Daniel Boone, and in feature films, including his debut in the James Bond flick Diamonds are Forever. Realizing that steady income from an acting and singing career can be undependable, Jimmy invested his show-biz money in a hog farm. In 1968 the Jimmy Dean Meat Company developed the special recipe for sausage that has now become a household name. Today the company is part of the Sara Lee Corporation, and Jimmy retired as company spokesman in 2004.

    My Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage recipe re-creates three varieties of the famous roll sausage that you form into patties and cook in a skillet. Use ground pork found at the supermarket—make it lean pork if you like—or grind some up yourself if you have a meat grinder.

    Check out more of my famous breakfast food clone recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Carnegie Deli Classic New York Cheesecake

    Carnegie Deli's huge pastrami sandwiches were selected as the best in New York by New York Magazine in 1975, but it's the cheesecakes, which can be shipped anywhere in the country, that really put this famous deli on the map. 

    The secret to accurately cloning Carnegie Deli traditional New York cheesecake is in creating the perfect not-too-sweet sugar cookie crust and varying the baking temperature so that you get a nicely browned top before cooking the cheesecake through. Get ready for the best deli-style cheesecake to ever come out of your oven.

    Find more famous dessert recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.59 (votes: 51)
    Soup Nazi's Mexican Chicken Chili

    In Zagat's 1995 New York City Restaurant Survey, Le Cirque 2000, one of the city's most upscale restaurants, received a 25 rating out of a possible 30. In the same guide, Al "The Soup Nazi" Yeganeh's Soup Kitchen International scored an impressive 27. That put the Soup Nazi's eatery in 14th place among the city's best restaurants for that year.

    It was common to see lines stretching around the corner and down the block as hungry patrons waited for their cup of one of five daily hot soup selections. Most of the selections changed every day, but of the three days that I was there, the Soup Nazi's Mexican Chicken Chili recipe was always on the menu. The first two days, it was sold out before I got to the front of the line. But on the last day, I got lucky: "One extra-large Mexican Chicken Chili, please." Hand over money, move to the extreme left. 

    Here is my recipe for what has become one of the Soup Nazi's most popular culinary masterpieces. If you like, you can substitute turkey breast for the chicken to make turkey chili, which was the soup George Costanza ordered on the show.

    Update 1/9/17: Replace the 10 cups of water with 8 cups of chicken broth for a shorter simmer time and better flavor. I also like using El Pato tomato sauce (recipe calls for 1/2 cup) for a bit more heat. 

    Find more of my Soup Nazi hacks here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Cheesecake Factory Bang-Bang Chicken and Shrimp

    Menu Description: "A spicy Thai dish with the flavors of curry, peanut, chili, and coconut. Sauteed with vegetables and served over rice."

    The Cheesecake Factory Bang Bang Chicken & Shrimp dish ranks very high among the most frequent entrée recipe requests I receive, and anyone who is a fan of Thai dishes falls in love with it. I dig recipes that include scratch sauces that can be used with other dishes. The curry and peanut sauces here are good like that. They can, for example, be used to sauce up grilled skewers of chicken or other meats, or as a flavorful drizzle onto lettuce wraps. 

    But even though I've included the peanut sauce recipe from scratch here, you can take the quick route and save a little prep time by picking up a pre-made sauce found near the other Asian foods in the market. Since the sauce is used sparingly in a drizzle over the top of this dish, it won't make a big difference which way you go. This recipe produces two Cheesecake Factory-size servings—which is another way of saying "huge." If your diners aren't prepared to process the gargantuan gastronomy and you're all out of doggie bags, you can easily split my Cheesecake Factory Bang-Bang Chicken and Shrimp recipe into four more sensible portions.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Not rated yet
    Chick-fil-A Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette

    The country’s largest chicken chain offers some of the best choices for salad dressings you’ll find at any fast food restaurant. But good luck sweet-talking your order-taker into floating you a few extra packets of this great fruity vinaigrette to use on your home salads—they are under strict orders to be stingy. And that could be why you’re here.

    Apple cider vinegar, pineapple juice, honey, lemon juice, and lime juice are just a few of the secret ingredients that make the Chick-fil-A Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette so great. Another secret you'll find here is xanthan gum, a natural thickener often used as an emulsifier to hold salad dressing together so that it doesn’t need shaking. You can find xanthan online or at Whole Foods, and you won't need much.

    Now, how about some Chick-Fil-A Mac & Cheese or a chicken sandwich? Check out more Chick-Fil-A copycat recipes here.  

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Chipotle Carne Asada

    Chipotle’s popular limited offering is a good example of how straightforward and flavorful carne asada can be. It’s not overly mysterious since Chipotle is transparent about the ingredients used for the restaurant's entire menu—53 ingredients in all—but identifying those is only the beginning of the process. There was still plenty of work to do in establishing ratios and settling on an ideal preparation method.

    Carne asada is almost always made with flank steak or skirt steak. A server at Chipotle told me they use skirt steak, which is surprising since that is the tougher of the two cuts. Perhaps she was wrong about that? Flank steak also has a better flavor than skirt steak, so I'm recommending flank here. Just be sure not to marinate it for more than 2 days or the acid in the marinade may toughen your steak and you certainly don't want that.

    After you grill it, slice your copycat Chipotle carne asada across the grain and use it in burritos, tacos, bowls, or as a Southwest-style salad topper.

    Click here for more of my Chipotle copycat recipes. 

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Panda Express Fried Rice

    A popular staple of any Chinese chain is fried rice, so it better be good, and the version served at Panda Express most certainly is. Here's my easy Panda Express Fried Rice recipe for when you need a stress-free, low-cost side for your entrées. But I do suggest that you cook the white rice several hours or even a day or two before you plan to make the finished dish. I found that the cooked rice called for in this recipe works best when it's cold. 

    As for a shortcut, bagged frozen peas and carrots will save you from the hassle of petite-dicing carrots since the carrots in those bags are the perfect size to produce an identical clone. And they're already cooked. 

    Now, how about some Honey Walnut Shrimp, or Beijing Beef to go with that rice? Find all my Panda Express copycat recipes here

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    KFC Secret Recipe Fries

    In the Summer of 2020, to the dismay of many fans, KFC stopped selling the famous potato wedges that had been on the menu for decades and replaced them with battered French fries.

    Like the wedges, these fries are coated with a flavorful batter, but the seasoning used on the fries is a different blend than what was used on the wedges. Are these new fries better than the classic wedges? That depends. Some may prefer the rare treat of fast food skin-on wedges, while others may prefer the crispiness of these new fries. Some don’t care and just want a clone, so here you go.

    My recipe for KFC Secret Fries is simplified by using par-fried French fries found in the freezer section of your store. After coating the fries with this clone of the seasoned breading, spray them with water, then fry them for 3 to 4 minutes. That’s it. Be sure to have a clean squirt bottle filled with water to transform the breading into a thin batter giving your finished product the same crispy coating as the original.

    KFC’s new fries are coated with a blend that includes onion, celery, and carrot powder. It’s easy to find onion powder in most supermarkets, but I had to go online to find celery and carrot juice powders. The blend of vegetable powders adds great flavor, but if you want to omit the celery and carrot powders and just use onion powder, the recipe will still make delicious copycat fries.

    Click here for my KFC Original Chicken recipe or search for your favorites here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Cracker Barrel Buttermilk Pie

    Not having ever lived in the southern US my experience with this dessert was about as minimal as it gets. The first buttermilk pie I tasted was at Cracker Barrel and I was immediately hooked on the sweetened vanilla custard with its distinct, but not overwhelming, tang from the buttermilk and lemon juice, balanced with a sweet garnish of strawberries and whipped cream. It’s a versatile dessert that is as well-suited for summertime get-togethers as it is for traditional southern winter holiday meals.

    Now I’ve tasted over a dozen variations of this decades-old favorite—all but one of them coming out of my own oven—on my quest to discover the best way to make Cracker Barrel’s popular dessert. And finally, I hacked it.

    The beauty of my Cracker Barrel Buttermilk Pie recipe is its simplicity: you’ll need just a handful of common ingredients, a whisk, and an unbaked pie shell. You can make your own pie shell using your favorite recipe or buy a frozen unbaked crust at the supermarket to save time. My pie shell was made by Marie Callender’s and it was delicious.

    Whisk together the filling in stages as described here, pour it into your pie shell, and bake it starting on the lowest rack so that the bottom of the pie gets browned. If you have a convection oven, this is a good time to use it so you’re sure to get even browning on top.

    After about an hour your pie will be done, and when it cools, it's slicing time.

    Find more of my Cracker Barrel copycat recipes here

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  • Not rated yet
    BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse Honey Sriracha Brussels Sprouts

    Menu Description: "Lightly fried Brussels sprouts tossed in Big Poppa Smokers Desert Gold seasoning with sweet sriracha crema."

    Brussels sprouts have been exploding on chain restaurant menus in recent years, and the best I've tasted are served as starters. The cruciferous wonders are usually roasted or fried, then dressed with a sauce meant to override the sprouts' inherent bitterness. And when they’re done right, those Brussels sprouts will be the most memorable dish at the table.

    BJ’s preparation technique of choice for Brussels sprouts is to fry them, then sprinkle them with a lemony seasoning blend by Big Poppa Smokers just before they get drizzled with sweet sriracha crema. For the seasoning, there’s no need to buy the real thing since I’ve come up with an easy hack. And the sriracha crema copycat couldn’t be simpler, with just four ingredients.

    My BJ's Honey Sriracha Brussels Sprouts recipe makes a share plate appetizer-size serving for 2 to 4 people, but you'll have enough seasoning and sauce here for a bigger serving (such as a side dish) if you just add more sprouts.  

    Now, how about a bowl of famous chili or a Pizookie from Bj's Brewhouse?

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Maggiano's Beef Tenderloin Medallions

    For many years this entrée 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 portabello mushrooms—but a home version of Maggiano's Beef Tenderloin Medallions 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 Maggiano's Beef Tenderloin Medallions 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: 3)
    Pei Wei Wei Better Orange Chicken

    This 220-unit downscaled version of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro targets the lunch crowd with a smaller menu that features bento boxes, bowls, and small plates. Obviously, a clone is needed for this one, stat.

    The name “Wei Better Orange Chicken” is a competitive callout to Panda Express's signature orange chicken, which is made with pre-breaded and frozen chicken. Pei Wei claims its orange chicken is prepared each day from scratch with chicken that is never frozen, so we’ll craft our clone the same way. But rather than assemble the dish in a wok over a high-flame fast stove like they do at the restaurant, we’ll prepare the sauce and chicken separately, then toss them with fresh orange wedges just before serving.

    By the way, Pei Wei Better Orange Chicken goes very well with white or brown rice, so don’t forget to make some.

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Olive Garden Stuffed Chicken Marsala

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

    My Olive Garden Stuffed Chicken Marsala 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 recipe 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 Olive Garden Stuffed Chicken Marsala experience.

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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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