THE MOST TRUSTED COPYCAT RECIPES
THE MOST TRUSTED COPYCAT RECIPES
Sonic Drive-In Ocean Water

Sonic Drive-In Ocean Water

Score: 4.25 (votes: 8)
Reviews: 8
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Any Sonic Drive-In regular knows the three or four unique Sonic drink flavors favorites on the menu: there's the Limeade, the Diet Limeade, and, of course, the Cherry Limeade. But that bright blue stuff called Ocean Water has become a recent favorite for anyone who likes the taste of coconut—it's like piña colada soda. The server squirts a bit of blue coconut syrup into some cold Sprite. 

The big secret to making Sonic Ocean Water at home is re-creating that syrup. After that's done, make the drink as they do at the restaurant in less time than it takes to say, "Does my blue tongue clash with what I'm wearing?"

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

Get This

_main
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon imitation coconut extract
  • 2 drops blue food coloring
  • 2 12-ounce cans cold Sprite
  • Ice
Do This

1. Combine the water and the sugar in a small bowl. Microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, then stir to dissolve all of the sugar. Allow this syrup to cool.

2. Add the coconut extract and food coloring to the cooled syrup. Stir well.

3. Combine the syrup with two 12-ounce cans of cold Sprite. Divide and pour over ice. Add straws and serve.

Makes two 12-ounce servings.

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Reviews
Sonic Wife
Dec 19, 2008, 22:00
My husband is a manager at sonic and the ocean water is a drink that I bug him to bring home almost daily. I tried this and it tastes just like the real thing! My husband is thrilled and so am I. Now I can have this anytime I want.
HolyCowMyWifeRocks!!!
Feb 16, 2007, 22:00
Dude I grew up in Lubbock Tx. and this is a staple back Home and so when she sprang this Ocean Water Recipe on me the other day I flipped my lid! So with blue smiles, teeth, and tongue *just like the real deal I SMILE and thank your site for giving my wife this great idea!!!!! Sincerely, Happy Blue Mouthed Husband

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    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.

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    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.

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    Fried rice is one of life’s simple pleasures, but add kimchi, edamame, mushrooms, tender short rib, and a wasabi-mayo drizzle, and you’ve just elevated a common dish to something truly special. That’s why P.F. Chang’s new Short Rib Fried Rice is so popular. And that’s why it needed to be cloned, ASAP.

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    Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream

    If I told you that Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream was formulated generations ago on a dairy farm in the rolling hills of Denmark, you’d probably believe me. It sounds true and that’s precisely what Rueben Mattus wanted you to think when he created his new ice cream brand in 1960. In the Bronx in New York City.

    Mattus used a marketing technique called “foreign branding.” To set his brand apart from others, Mattus created the impression that his new ice cream was an exotic, special recipe made with hard-to-obtain ingredients. To come up with the name, Mattus sat at his kitchen table in the mornings blurting out non-sensical words until he eventually landed on one that sounded Danish: Häagen-Dazs. The word is meaningless, it’s not Dutch, and it even includes an umlaut, which doesn’t exist in the Danish alphabet.

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    Wendy's Seasoned Potatoes

    Reviewers of Wendy’s tasty seasoned potatoes point out that the skin-on slices stay crispy even when cool. That tells us the breading is most likely made with a non-wheat flour blend, an assumption confirmed by the website ingredients list for the potatoes where nary a gram of wheat flour is included. Yep, these seasoned potatoes are gluten-free.

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    California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) Butter Cake

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    Bonchon Wings

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    Chipotle Carnitas

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    Wingstop Lemon Pepper Wings

    The Wingstop menu offers nearly a dozen flavor variations of fried chicken wings, including original hot buffalo-style, Parmesan-garlic, and mango habanero, but it’s the lemon pepper wings that get the most raves. And even though they’re referred to as “dry rub” wings on the menu, the secret to a perfect Wingstop lemon pepper wings copycat recipe is in the wet baste that goes on first.

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    Texas Roadhouse Rolls & Cinnamon Butter

    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.

    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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    Panda Express Fortune Cookies

    I like making fortune cookies because it means I get to write fortunes. My fortunes are sometimes ridiculous (“No matter what, be sure you don’t…ah, never mind. Have a cookie.”), sometimes sarcastic (“Wow, you broke a cookie! Have you been working out?”), and sometimes paradoxical (“These cookies are filled with lies.”). But’s let’s face it, the fortune isn't the best part. What matters most is that the cookie tastes good.

    Contrary to popular belief, fortune cookies are not from China. They don’t even serve them in China. Fortune cookies are an American invention, created either in San Francisco or Los Angeles in the early 1900s—the exact origin is in dispute. Originally, I set out to clone the best-selling fortune cookie in the U.S., called Golden Bowl, made by Wonton Foods. But I found out that I don’t like those cookies. They're thin and tasteless and have an unnatural orange tint to them. Instead, I chose to hack the thicker, tastier, golden brown Panda Express fortune cookies.

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    Olive Garden Garlic Mashed Potatoes

    Garlic mashed potatoes are a great side for many entrées, especially when the mashed potatoes are as creamy and flavorful as those at Olive Garden. In our hack, the cloves of peeled garlic are boiled with the potatoes. When the potatoes get passed through a potato ricer (or mashed) the softened garlic cloves go along for the ride and get mashed up too. This way, you’re guaranteed to get the perfect amount of flavorful garlic in every bite.

    I settled on cream as the dairy here in my Olive Garden Mashed Potatoes copycat recipe after my attempts using milk and half-and-half resulted in thin and runny potatoes. I found that cream adds the perfect thickness and smooth richness to the mashers, and it made the closest duplicate to the original potatoes.

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    Panera Bread Cinnamon Crunch Scone

    After the success of Panera Bread’s Cinnamon Crunch Bagels, the popular sandwich chain went back into the development kitchen and came out with these incredible scones, filled with the same crunchy cinnamon drops found in the bagels and drizzled with cinnamon icing.

    When first released, these scones were cut as triangles and frosted, but in 2018 the shape was changed to more “rustic”-shaped round blobs with drizzled or piped icing on top. I like to hack the newest version, so my Panera Bread Cinnamon Crunch Scones recipe here re-creates that scone.

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    Thomas' English Muffins

    Samuel Bath Thomas immigrated from England to New York City and opened his first bakery there in 1880. That is where Thomas created skillet bread that would one day become the famous muffins known for their craggy texture when split in half. This hack for Thomas’ English Muffins uses a special kneading process to give the muffins the "nooks and crannies" they are famous for, making craters in the finished bread to better hold on to melted butter and jam.

    I have seen several recipes that claim to re-create these muffins, but none produce the large air pockets that a proper Thomas' English Muffin recipe requires, in addition to great flavor and a perfectly cooked interior. To ensure proper nooks and crannies and muffins that are cooked all the way through, I've included some important steps.

    The dough you'll make here is like a ciabatta dough in that it is very wet. So rather than kneading the dough, you stretch and fold it over several times on a well-oiled surface. Then, when the portioned-out dough has proofed on baking sheets for another 1½ to 2 hours, you par-bake the muffins.

    After baking, the muffins are cooked on a griddle or in a pan until dark brown on both sides, then they must cool. This is the hardest part. The muffins will be too soft to open for at least four hours, and now you have to fight off the temptation to eat one. It’s hard, I know. The muffins smell great and you’ve waited all this time, but resist for now and your patience will be rewarded.

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  • Score: 4.74 (votes: 39)
    Applebee's Tomato Basil Soup

    Menu Description: "A tasty twist on a family favorite. Red, ripe tomatoes slowly simmered in a rich cream sauce and seasoned with basil and select herbs."

    My easy copycat recipe requires two large cans of crushed tomatoes. Your homemade soup will still have the impressive taste and texture of gourmet tomato bisque, requiring fresh tomatoes and more work. 

    You may notice that the large amount of basil used here contributes an overwhelming flavor and aroma when first added, but as the soup simmers, the herb mellows to create the perfect clone of the original. And there's no need to make croutons from scratch for the garnish when you can buy lightly seasoned packaged croutons in just about any market.

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    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.
     

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  • Score: 4.67 (votes: 6)
    T.G.I. Friday's Potato Skins

    Menu Description: "Loaded with cheddar cheese and bacon. Served with sour cream and chives."

    Perfume salesman Alan Stillman was a single guy in New York City in 1965, looking for a way to meet women who lived in his neighborhood. He figured out a way to get their attention: buy a broken-down beer joint in the area, jazz it up, and call it "The T.G.I.F." to attract the career crowd. Within a week, police had barricaded the area to control crowds flocking to Alan's new restaurant. The restaurant made $1 million in its first year—a lot of dough back then. Soon restaurateurs across the country were imitating the concept.

    In 1974 T.G.I. Friday's invented an appetizer that would also be copied by many in the following years. Potato skins are still the most popular item on the T.G.I. Friday's menu, with nearly 4 million orders served every year. The recipe has the added benefit of providing you with leftover baked potato ready for mashing.

    T.G.I Friday's has several popular dishes. See if I cloned your favorites here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.40 (votes: 15)
    Chili's Honey Mustard Salad Dressing

    One of America's favorite casual chains brings us a popular salad dressing that you can't buy in stores. Instead, buy these six simple ingredients at a store and use my Chili's Honey Mustard Salad Dressing recipe below to make your own version cheaply and quickly.

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    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.29 (votes: 7)
    Taco Bell Baja Sauce

    This is the spicy sauce that comes on your Gordita or Chalupa at Taco Bell. But the only way to get a significant amount of the delicious creamy sauce to use at home on tacos, fajitas, and burritos is by making some yourself. With my Taco Bell Baja Sauce recipe below, you will make enough to hold you over for a while. 

    You need a food processor to purée the vegetables, but don't expect to use all the purée. I've made the measurements for the purée larger than required so that your food processor will have something to grab on to. This is a mayo-based sauce, so if you want to eliminate some fat, use light mayonnaise in the recipe and make low-fat homemade Baja Sauce. You can't get that at Taco Bell.

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    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.96 (votes: 26)
    Pizza Hut Pan Pizza

    The secret to perfect pan pizza is pressing the dough into a well-oiled pan (Pizza Hut uses soybean oil), then the pan is covered and the dough rises in a heated cabinet for 45 to 60 minutes. When the dough is topped, the edge is sprayed with a butter-flavored “food release” and the pie is baked at 500 degrees F until perfectly browned on top. You can use a 9-inch, 12-inch, or 15-inch deep dish pizza pan or cake pan for my Pizza Hut Pan Pizza recipe, and you’ll want to preheat your oven with a pizza stone in it to simulate the type of oven used at the chain. The hot ceramic surface of the pizza stone will cause the oil in the pan to cook the bottom of the dough so that it’s brown and crispy, like an authentic pan pizza crust should be. 

    I tried making the dough with cake flour, all-purpose flour, superfine “00” flour, bread flour and many combinations of these different flours which all contain varying amounts of gluten. I even tried rising the dough slowly in the refrigerator for various lengths of time, as long as up to four days. But after a month of testing and about 30 pan pizzas later, I found the best dough to be straight bread flour, and to let the dough rise at room temperature. I did find that if you let the dough rest for at least 4 hours before the final rise in the pizza pan you will get the best texture with the perfect chewy bite to it, just the Pizza Hut Pan Pizza. 

    Try my clone recipes for Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Pizza and Giordano's Famous Stuffed Deep Dish Pizza.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 5)
    Marie Callender's Chicken Pot Pie

    Menu Description: "Tender chunks of chicken with seasonings and vegetables."

    All the Marie Callender's restaurants try to maintain a homestyle ambiance, kind of like being at Grandma's house for dinner. The wallcoverings reflect styles of the thirties and forties and are complemented by dark mahogany-stained, wood-paneled walls and brass fixtures. You'll also find old-fashioned furnishings, many of them throwbacks to the forties, the time of this restaurant chain's founding fifty years ago.

    The menu, which features meatloaf, pot roast, and country fried steak, reflects a satisfying homestyle cuisine that today is all too rare. If you wondered whether a company that is known for its great dessert pies could make a great pot pie...it can.

    For my Marie Callender's Chicken Pot Pie copycat recipe, try to use small 16-ounce casserole dishes that measure 4 or 5 inches across at the top. Any casserole dishes that come close to this size will probably work; the yield will vary depending on what size dishes you decide to use.

    Checkout my recipe for Marie Callender's cornbread and of course, pie

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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

    My 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 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: 4.83 (votes: 6)
    Bennigan's The Monte Cristo

    Menu Description: "A delicious combination of ham and turkey, plus Swiss and American cheeses on wheat bread. Lightly battered and fried until golden. Dusted with powdered sugar and served with red raspberry preserves for dipping."

    It sounds crazy, but it tastes great: a triple-decker ham, turkey, and cheese sandwich is dipped in a tempura-style batter; fried to a golden brown; then served with a dusting of powdered sugar and a side of raspberry preserves. For over ten years, tons of cloning requests for this one have stacked up at TSR Central, so it was time for a road trip. There are no Bennigan's in Las Vegas, and since the Bennigan's chain made this sandwich famous, I headed out to the nearest Bennigan's in San Diego.

    Back home, with an ice chest full of the original Bennigan's Monte Cristo sandwiches well-preserved and ready to work with, I was able to come up with this simple clone for a delicious sandwich that is crispy on the outside, and hot, but not greasy, on the inside (the batter prevents the shortening from penetrating). My Bennigan's Monte Cristo recipe makes one sandwich, which may be enough for two. If you want to make more, you'll most likely have to make more batter so that any additional sandwiches get a real good dunking.

    Recently, Bennigan's restaurants across the country have been closing, but with this secret formula you can still experience the taste of the chain's signature sandwich. 

    Try more of my copycat recipes for famous sandwiches here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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

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

    Take Applebee's delicious chicken chipotle chicken, roll it up in a large flour tortilla with lettuce, cheeses and fresh pico de gallo, and you've got a meal to wrap your hands around. Use my Applebee's Chicken Fajita Roll-up recipe below to make it at home. 

    The Mexi-ranch dipping sauce is the perfect creamy compliment for this wrap, and you can use what's left over for a dressing on your next salad. The sauce recipe is actually just a kicked-up ranch dressing that includes a small amount of buttermilk in the ingredients list. But if you don't want to buy a whole carton of buttermilk to use just a tablespoon for this recipe, that's okay. Substitute the regular moo juice you've got sitting in the fridge. 

    For the spicy marinade recipe, it's best to use ground chipotle pepper (dried smoked red jalapeño) made by McCormick. If you can't find that stuff, cut the amount in half and use cayenne pepper. For the cheeses, many major brands make a cheddar/Jack blend that will work great here if you'd rather not buy the cheeses separately. That's helpful if you're about to tip the limit for the express lane checkout line.

    Find more recipes for your favorite Applebee's dishes 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 using my Panda Express Mandarin Chicken recipe below. You'll make the sauce right on your stove-top, then fire up the barbecue or indoor grill for the chicken. Then, 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. 

    You might also want try my Panda Express Honey Walnut Shrimp Recipe.

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Kellogg's Low-Fat Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts

    Not even Tony the Tiger is a match for the world’s most beloved toaster pastries. Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes is the best-selling cereal in the U.S., but Pop-Tarts are an even bigger seller for the food manufacturer, with $330 million in sales in 1996. The two-to-a-pack rectangular snacks were born in 1964, when Kellogg’s followed a competitor’s idea for breakfast pastries that could be heated through in an ordinary toaster. With the company’s experience in cereals and grains it was able to create pastries in a variety of flavors. Pop-Tarts have always dominated the toaster pastry market, but in the first half of the 1990s Nabisco was coming on strong with its own toaster pastries called Toastettes. Toastettes became so appealing to consumers because the package held eight pastries, while Pop-Tarts had six to a box. In June of 1996, Kellogg’s added two more Pop-Tarts to each box without changing the price, and Toastettes sales quickly dropped by 45 percent.

    Another move against competitor Nabisco came that same year when Kellogg’s introduced its new line of low-fat Pop-Tarts. Nabisco had earlier introduced low-fat toaster-pastries in its SnackWell’s line, but Kellogg’s low-fat version of Pop-Tarts was a much better seller.

    My Kellogg's Low-Fat Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts recipe makes eight, or a box’s worth of the toaster pastries. Be sure to roll the dough very flat when preparing the pastries, and toast them on the very lowest setting of your toaster. Watch the pastries closely and pop ‘em up if the frosting begins to turn brown.

    Find recipes for more of your favorite Kellogg's products here.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 pastry
    Total servings–8
    Calories per serving–219
    Fat per serving–3g

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 5)
    Applebee's Santa Fe Chicken Salad

    Menu Description: "Grilled chipotle chicken breast with guacamole and sour cream on a bed of greens tossed with two cheeses, pico de gallo, tortilla strips and our Mexi-ranch dressing."

    Follow my Applebee's Santa Fe Salad recipe below to create a robust chipotle marinade that fills your chicken fillets with flavor. As you wait for the chicken to marinate, you have plenty of time to throw together the Mexi-ranch dressing and fresh pico de gallo. Now most of the work is done, and you're standing in front of the gate to salad heaven. When you're ready to enter, simply grill the chicken, assemble your salads and open wide.

    You should know that if you don't have buttermilk for the dressing, and don't want to buy a whole carton to use just a single tablespoon, simply substitute regular milk. You'll find ground chipotle pepper where all the spices are stocked in the market: I use McCormick. If you can't track down ground chipotle, use ground cayenne pepper. Just be sure to measure roughly half the amount, since cayenne packs more heat than chipotle.

    Find more recipes of your favorite Applebee's dishes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.26 (votes: 27)
    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 copycat 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.

    Re-create more of your favorite dishes from Benihana here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Jack in the Box Smashed Jack Burger & Boss Sauce

    In 2024, Jack-in-the-Box introduced the chain’s best-reviewed burger, the Smashed Jack, with a ¼-pound “smashed-inspired” burger, grilled onions, and a new secret sauce. A press release from Jack-in-the-Box claimed that consumers in a taste test picked the new Smashed Jack as the best burger compared to McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King burgers.

    You may have guessed that “smashed-inspired” means that these burgers aren’t prepared like burgers that are smashed with a press or heavy spatula on the grill—a process that triggers the Maillard reaction when amino acids and sugars are browned to give food a flavorful crust. But Jack-in-the-Box created a secret shortcut for speed and consistency that still gives the burgers that crust and the appearance of smashing without relying on cooks to actually smash them.

    For my Jack-in-the-Box Smashed Jack copycat recipe, we’ll smash the burger for real, but we’ll start with a knockoff of the new Boss Sauce, which gets its smokey flavor from just a little bit of liquid smoke. Once that sauce is done, it’s time to cook the burger patty, which I found is best copied with ground Angus beef. Use a press or heavy spatula to press down on the burger as it cooks to create a browned crust on both sides of the patty.

    After the burger is flipped, grilled onions are stacked on top, followed by American cheese. Then, the burger is finished with thick pickles and lots of your copycat Boss Sauce. This recipe shows you how to make one burger, but you’ll have enough leftover secret sauce to make several more.

    If you're a fan of Jack in the Box Jumbo Jack or any of Jack's Shakes, or their famous tacos, click here for my clone recipes.

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  • Not rated yet
    Marie Callender's Fresh Strawberry Pie

    Every March through November, Marie Callender’s sells fresh strawberry pies made with the chain’s signature flakey crust piled high with whole strawberries tossed in a sweet glaze and finished with a crown of whipped cream.

    The pies are made-to-order to ensure the freshness of the berries, but the glaze that’s added to the beautiful berries tastes like the everyday goopy red stuff found in grocery store produce sections that’s usually made with corn syrup and other crud, and no natural fruit. For my Marie Callender’s Fresh Strawberry Pie copycat recipe, I set out to improve the glaze by making it with real strawberry puree, hoping to get a tastier finished product. Thankfully, it worked out. The new glaze was vibrant and fruity; it transformed into a nice gel and didn’t upstage the strawberries. This small change makes a strawberry pie that’s even better than the original.

    I designed the glaze to use frozen strawberries, so it’s quick and easy, and I’m also including scratch recipes here for the whipped cream and pie crust. You can buy each of these pre-made to speed up your build, but taking a little time to make the whipped cream and/or crust from scratch will absolutely be worth the extra effort. Also, I slightly tweaked my previous Marie Callender’s pastry formula to make it more closely match the current pie crust served at the chain.

    Try my Marie Callender's Fresh Strawberry Pie copycat recipe below, and find more of my Marie Callender's pie recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    The Old Spaghetti Factory Rich Meat Sauce

    Since 1969, The Portland, Oregon-based Old Spaghetti Factory has been filling bellies with a comfort food menu full of fabulous pasta choices, and this signature meat sauce has been the sauce of choice at the 43-unit chain for more than five decades.

    To reverse-engineer the sauce for my Old Spaghetti Factory Rich Meat Sauce copycat recipe, I started by rinsing the original sauce in a wire mesh strainer to see what secrets could be revealed. Once the solids were visible, I noted the size and ratios of ground beef, onion, celery, and garlic, and I also noticed that there were no bits of tomato left behind. This meant the tomato was puréed, but rather than using canned tomato purée, I opted for richer tomato paste. Lemon juice helped match the zing of the original, and I rounded out the flavor with just a bit of sugar.

    This recipe will make 3½ cups of meat sauce, which is enough for several huge plates of pasta. Use it on spaghetti as they do at the restaurant, or whatever pasta shape you prefer.

    Find more copycat recipes for famous sauces here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Manwich Original Sloppy Joe Sandwich

    Loose meat sandwiches were born in Iowa in 1926 when Maid-Rite started selling burgers made with ground beef that isn’t pressed into patties. These sandwiches quickly became a Midwest phenomenon, and they were often served with a spoon to scoop up the loose meat that would inevitably fall out. This dry and crumbly characteristic of the loose meat sandwich might be why, in 1930, a chef named Joe, as legend has it, created a tomato-based sauce, possibly with ketchup, which he mixed into the loose ground beef. Joe’s new sandwich had more flavor than its drier cousin, and the loose meat stayed in the bun.

    Sloppy Joes became a common restaurant and diner menu choice for decades, with the sandwiches selling for as little as 10 cents. In 1969, Hunts brought Sloppy Joes home with the introduction of the first canned Sloppy Joe sauce that, when added to 1 pound of browned ground beef, made enough filling to feed a family of four. It was easy, and it was cheap.

    The original sauce lists corn syrup as the second ingredient, but for my Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce copycat recipe, I chose to avoid corn syrup and even ketchup and instead built the sauce with ketchup ingredients, including tomato paste, sugar, vinegar, and spices. My version is also easy and cheap and tastes like the real thing, but because it’s fresher, it tastes a little bit better.

    Find more of my copycat recipes for iconic sandwiches here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Taco Bell Avocado Verde Salsa

    In March 2024, Taco Bell debuted the Cantina Chicken menu, featuring 2 types of tacos, a burrito, a quesadilla, and a chicken bowl, each starring the chain’s new slow-roasted chicken. The Mexican chain also introduced avocado salsa made with peppers, tomatillos, lime, cilantro, and avocado as a companion to the latest items. But unlike all the other hot sauces, extra packets of the new sauce cost 20 cents each. And the 2½ teaspoons of salsa they hold doesn’t go very far. But 3½ cups sure does.

    For my Taco Bell Avocado Verde Salsa copycat recipe, I found there was no need to go through the extra time-consuming step of roasting fresh tomatillos and peppers when canned ingredients worked so great. The avocado, lime juice, and cilantro will be fresh, and the dry ingredients, namely the onion and garlic, will rehydrate nicely as the salsa rests.

    The first ingredient in Taco Bell’s version is oil, but for our purposes, we can reduce the ratio. Taco Bell chefs most likely add all that oil to their salsa to prevent the avocado from oxidizing and turning brown, thereby extending its shelf life. The oil has the same function in my version, but I call for ½ cup, which is much less percentage-wise than the real thing. The oil will indeed extend the life of your salsa, but feel free to reduce the amount substantially if you plan to eat the salsa within a couple of days and prefer to avoid the added fat.

    Followed as written, this recipe makes 3 1/2 cups of salsa or the equivalent of 67 Taco Bell blister packs. 

    Try more of my Taco Bell copycat recipes here.

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

    A great buttermilk pancake recipe will produce fluffy, tangy, and slightly sweet pancakes—the same qualities as the popular pancakes served at Cracker Barrel restaurants nationwide. But Cracker Barrel’s flapjacks have a secret ingredient that sets the chain’s morning stack apart from other restaurants. And this Top Secret Recipe will reveal it.

    To create my Cracker Barrel Buttermilk Pancakes copycat recipe, I first purchased a box of the chain’s pancake mix at the restaurant’s store to examine the list of ingredients on the package. In the list were the ingredients you'd expect, like wheat flour, sugar, salt, and leavening. But there was also a surprise: yellow corn flour. When added to the mix in the right ratio, the yellow corn flour contributed great cornbread-like flavor and gave the pancakes a unique crumbly texture that many seem to love.

    Does this special ingredient produce buttermilk pancakes which are superior to a more traditional recipe? It's easy to find out. Once you have corn flour and just a handful of other common ingredients, it takes just minutes to produce enough pancakes for you and everyone else to get a taste and decide if these are indeed the best buttermilk pancakes in the biz.

    Try more of my Cracker Barrel copycat recipes here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Charms Blow Pop

    The fruity lollipop with gum inside is Charms' bestselling product, but the cool combo candy was the brainchild of a different candy company. Thomas T. Tidwell of Triple T Co. invented and patented his method for encasing gum inside candy in the 1960s, and sold his new lollipop, Triple Treat, for a short time. In 1973, Tidwell sold the product idea to the Charms Candy Company who renamed it Blow Pop, and for over 50 years the famous pop has been enjoyed by millions of happy mouths.

    I’m not privy to the details of Tidwell’s method, but I can see by the vertical seam on a real Blow Pop that it's probably made by sealing two halves of the pop together, one half with gum and one half without. I tried various silicone lollipop molds for my Charms Blow Pop copycat recipe with little success and decided instead to create a technique using half of a slightly altered cake pop mold. I first poured half of the pop into the molds, added the gum on a stick, and when it hardened I removed it, poured the other half of the candy into the mold, and added the hardened first half on top. When all was set, I had perfectly spherical pops with seams just like the original. And it didn’t seem to bother anyone that my pops were more than twice as big as the real thing.

    I designed my recipe to call for 1 dram of LorAnn Oils which you can find online. The original Blow Pops come in five flavors, and I’ve got four of them for you here: cherry, grape, watermelon, and sour apple. I also made a batch of cinnamon pops just for fun and added those instructions to the Tidbits below. Real Blow Pops don’t come in cinnamon flavor, but after tasting these, you might wish they did.

    Click here to make more famous candy at home. 

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  • Not rated yet
    Starbucks Pink Drink

    Many new food product ideas emerge from corporate test kitchens, but Starbucks’ Pink Drink was born on social media. That’s where customers learned to request coconut milk in their order of the chain’s strawberry-acai refreshers drink, and when they gave it a good shake it turned pink. That was in 2016. When high demand persisted for the “secret menu” item, Starbucks added the Pink Drink to its permanent menu one year later, in 2017.

    You'll have no trouble creating my Starbucks Pink Drink copycat recipe as long as you procure a bottle of the strawberry acai flavor of Dr. Smoothie Refreshers. This lightly caffeinated concentrated drink mix can be found online in 46-ounce bottles and will be enough to make 11 (16-ounce) Pink Drink clones. You’ll also need coconut milk, preferably one that isn’t too thick or chunky (Goya brand is good), and freeze-dried strawberries.

    Finish the drink by shaking everything together in a shaker with ice, then pour the pink goodness into a 16-ounce glass and consume with glee.

    Find more of my Starbucks copycat recipes here

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Marie Callender's Coconut Cream Pie

    For a delicious slice of your favorite iconic American pie, Marie Callender’s is the place to go. The chain serves tasty breakfast, lunch, and dinner entrees, but it's mostly famous for great homestyle pies, and the classic coconut cream pie is no exception. Like many other pies I’ve hacked from Marie Callender's (Pumpkin Pie, Double Cream Blueberry Pie, Chocolate Satin Pie), the Coconut Cream Pie is sold in your store’s freezer section. But none of these frozen pies are as good as a fresh one you make from scratch. 

    The filling for my Marie Callender's Coconut Cream Pie copycat recipe takes just 10 minutes to make, and if you use a premade pie crust, this becomes a very low-impact recipe. I recommend you make the whipped cream topping from scratch using the recipe here that will produce much better whipped cream than anything from a can, and it's also quick. The most time-consuming step is making the dollops of whipped cream that cover the top of the pie, but even that’s pretty fun.

    If you’d like to make your pie crust from scratch, I’m including a recipe from my previous Marie Callender’s pie hacks. It’ll add time to your build, but the extra effort will be worth it.

    Try more of my Marie Callender's copycat recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Cheesecake Factory Shrimp Scampi

    This top entrée pick from Cheesecake Factory is a classic dish, but its preparation is far from traditional, and perhaps that's why it's so popular.

    The creamy scampi sauce is flavored with a handful of whole roasted garlic cloves, plus shallot, basil, and tomato. The shrimp are lightly battered and fried until golden, then arranged upright around the plate to keep their crunching coats from sogging.

    In addition to all the secrets you’ll need to assemble two servings of my Cheesecake Factory Shrimp Scampi copycat recipe, I’ve also included a cool technique for easily roasting the garlic cloves in just 15 to 20 minutes, and you won’t even need to peel the cloves. After your garlic cools, the skins will slip right off.

    Now, how about dessert? Find my copycat recipes for Cheesecake Factory's signature cheesecakes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Cheesecake Factory Steak Diane

    Fans of Cheesecake Factory’s Steak Diane don’t seem to care that the dish isn’t a traditional take on the classic dish. The restaurant chain’s version is indeed served with mushrooms and medallions of beef tenderloin just like the old-school recipe, but you won’t find any Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, cognac, or cream that one would expect in a true Steak Diane. Instead, the chain douses steak with the same Madeira sauce served with its Chicken Madeira entrée, and it's delicious.

    I hacked the chain’s Chicken Madeira many years ago in Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 but was happy for the chance to go back and improve the great sauce. After some fiddling, I came up with an improved formula that calls for less wine and uses a more thorough reduction to intensify the flavors. When shopping for ingredients for my Cheesecake Factory Steak Diane copycat recipe, it's okay to pick the least expensive Madeira wine on the shelf. Just know that Madeira wines have different characteristics, so your final flavor may slightly vary from the restaurant version.

    For your tenderloins, start with thick steaks, since you’ll be slicing the portions in half through the middle, making them thinner. You’ll need 7 to 8 small steak portions to be sliced in half for 14 to 16 medallions. 

    Now, how about dessert? Find my copycat recipes for Cheesecake Factory's signature cheesecakes here.

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  • Not rated yet
    McDonald's Mambo Sauce

    One of two new sauces McDonald’s debuted in late 2023 is inspired by the famous Washington D.C.-area sauce originally offered at chicken wing restaurants and Chinese takeout joints in the 1960s. The sweet, sour, and spicy mambo sauce—also called mumbo sauce—is used as a dip for all kinds of finger foods including fried chicken, chicken wings, chicken nuggets, French fries, and eggrolls.

    But McDonald’s only offered the sauce in small blister packs, which were available for about a month. So, if we want to bring back the great flavor of the limited-time-only sauce we'll need a handy home hack. Fortunately, I got my mitts on enough of the sauce before it went away to whip up this exclusive knockoff.

    My McDonald's Mambo Sauce copycat recipe is super easy, requires only common ingredients, and will make 1½ cups of the versatile stuff you can use for dipping anything that needs to be perked up.

    You might also like my clones for McDonald's sweet and spicy jam, hot mustard, sweet and sour, honey mustard, and Szechuan dipping sauces. Find all my McDonald's copycat recipes here.

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  • Not rated yet
    McDonald's Sweet & Spicy Jam

    Sugar and spice make this rare McDonald’s sauce very nice, but it was only available for a limited time at the chain. Fortunately, that short time window was long enough for me to procure several samples of the new McNuggets dipping sauce, and reverse-engineer a sweet copycat that can step up now that the tasty original is gone.

    This flavorful jelly brings the heat with ground cayenne pepper and cayenne pepper sauce, which, along with the minced red bell, give the sauce its red tint. The real thing also contains Szechuan peppercorn extract which adds a magical numbing effect to the flavor profile. So, for my McDonald's Sweet & Spicy Jam copycat recipe, I’m including just a bit of ground Szechuan peppercorn, which you can grind from whole peppercorns, or buy pre-ground.

    When your cooked sauce cools it will thicken and become jelly, thanks to the magical properties of pectin. Loosen it up by stirring it before serving alongside a variety of finger foods, including crispy chicken strips and nuggets, fried shrimp, eggrolls, jalapeño poppers, baked brie, and lamp chops.

    Find more McDonald's famous dipping sauces here.

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  • Not rated yet
    See's Candies Chocolate Walnut Fudge

    Fudge can be finicky. It's created by combining hot candy syrup with chocolate, which can result in a grainy mess if the chocolate seizes and gets clumpy. This undesirable situation can be avoided by closely monitoring the temperature, but even then your chocolate could still lock up, and your fudge will be ruined. I couldn't let that happen in my recipe re-creation of the famous fudge from the 100-year-old West Coast candy chain. 

    For my See's Chocolate Walnut Fudge copycat recipe, I made over 56 pounds of fudge on my quest to develop a recipe that works every time, even if the chocolate seizes. And in most of my batches, it usually did. So I came up with a secret trick: reserve a little cream for later, then after the hot candy syrup is mixed with the chocolate and the chocolate begins to seize, send the cream to the rescue and the fudge will become smooth, as if by magic. 

    Stir in some walnuts, then pour the fudge into a wax paper-lined pan, and when it cools, you'll have over 3 1/2 pounds of thick fudge that tastes just like the real thing. That's more than $110 of fudge if you buy it at the candy store!

    Fans of the cinnamon lollipop will love my See's Cinnamon Lollypop recipe here.

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  • Not rated yet
    KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) Hot & Spicy Wings

    If you like chicken wings with a strong, spicy punch that doesn't overwhelm the great flavor, these are the wings for you. The Colonel's new extra-crispy chicken wings don’t rely on a zesty sauce for heat because it’s built into the delicious extra-crispy breading. And by soaking the wings in a chili brine, you'll get great flavor that goes through to the bone.

    The secret ingredient in my KFC Hot & Spicy Wings copycat recipe is ground habanero pepper, which you can find online. For wings as hot as the originals, you'll need this ground pepper to add to the breading and the brine.

    Another secret to re-creating the KFC experience is to let the fried wings rest in a warm, but not hot, oven for at least 20 minutes before serving as soon as they're done frying. An oven set to 250 degrees simulates the holding station at the restaurant where fried chicken pieces rest until an order comes in. This simple step is a crucial one for crispy wings that taste just like the real deal.

    How about some famous coleslaw or wedge potatoes? Check out my collection of KFC clone recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Southern Comfort Traditional Egg Nog

    Online taste tests and reviews routinely mention Farmland Fresh, Darigold, and Southern Comfort as America's best egg nog brands. And of the three, Southern Comfort, a brand famously known for fruit-flavored whiskey, often takes the top spot with its delicious “traditional” egg nog. Which, ironically, contains no booze.

    But the first egg nog, invented in medieval Britain, was quite intoxicating. It was a warm drink made with milk and sherry, and thickened with plenty of egg yolks. That’s a much different beverage experience than today’s branded egg nog, often served cold. And the cartons of egg nog from your market are now made with non-traditional ingredients such as corn syrup, and much of the egg yolk has been replaced with cheaper and longer-lasting natural gums, like carrageenan and guar gum.

    But, for my Southern Comfort Traditional Egg Nog copycat recipe, we'll turn back the clock and make egg nog more traditionally, with plenty of real egg yolks to thicken the batch, and no gums or corn syrup. My easy recipe will give you around 36 ounces of fresh homemade egg nog. And it’s up to you to add any booze.

    Make more fun, famous drinks with my recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Chick-fil-A Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich

    Chick-fil-A becomes the first fast food chain to feature pimento cheese—a traditional Southern spread made with cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and pimentos—on a sandwich. The chain’s Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich features a regular or spicy crispy chicken breast fillet­ stacked on sliced jalapeños, then drizzled with honey and topped with a healthy portion of their exclusive pimento cheese formula.

    For the chicken fillet, I was able to use my previous Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich copycat recipe, but the chain’s excellent pimento cheese spread is a new creation that needed to be hacked from scratch. Rinsing the real spread through a strainer revealed some hidden secrets, including tiny bits of green pepper, which I copied by adding a small amount of minced jalapeño.

    The chicken requires four hours to brine, and that’s a good time to make the pimento cheese so it can rest for a bit to improve its color and flavor. The recipe included here is for the original chicken fillet, but if you prefer the kicked-up spicy version of the sandwich, I’ve got the tweak for that variation down in the Tidbits.

    Try my Chick-fil-A Honey Pepper Pimento Chicken Sandwich copycat recipe below, and find more of my Chick-fil-A copycat recipes here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Cheesecake Soft Baked Cookies

    You might expect to find some sort of cheese in a product with “cheesecake” in the name, but that isn’t the case in this seasonal release from the famous bakery brand owned by Campbell’s Soup. There is real pumpkin in these chewy cookies that will appeal to lovers of the whole pumpkin spice thing, but the tiny drops in the cookies that I thought would taste like cheesecake, are just white chocolate chips. It’s up to us to imagine that white chocolate tastes like cheesecake, which it really doesn’t, but whatever. They’re still great cookies.

    My Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Cheesecake Soft Baked Cookies copycat recipe is a cinch and will produce around 32 cookies that look and taste like the originals, right down to the color which is re-created with red and yellow food coloring in a 1-to-3 ratio. The pumpkin adds some orange color to the cookies, but to re-create the bright orange of the real thing, the added colors are essential.

    This hack re-creates the cookies with plain white chocolate chips just like the real thing, but if you want real cheesecake-flavored chips, I’ve got a quick recipe below in the Tidbits that combines cream cheese and melted white chocolate chips to make little cheesecake chunks. Mix these into your cookie dough and in a matter of minutes you’ll be serving pumpkin cheesecake cookies that truly live up to their name.

    Find more of your favorite Pepperidge Farm cookie recipes here

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  • Not rated yet
    Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Dipping Taco

    Taco Bell chefs worked for two years perfecting the birria-inspired shredded beef introduced nationwide in the summer of 2023 for the chain’s new Grilled Cheese Dipping Taco. According to a company press release, the new beef is slow-braised in spices, then it’s loaded into a white corn tortilla that’s freshly fried each day, with melted cheese inside the taco and more cheese grilled onto the outside.

    For my Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Dipping Taco copycat recipe, you’ll slow-braise the beef like they do at the restaurant, but with a slimmed-down formula that won’t require you to chop vegetables as is called for in most birria recipes. One 2-pound chuck roast is all you’ll need to make enough tender shredded beef for at least 18 tacos. I’ve also got a great copycat formula here for the creamy jalapeno sauce that’s drizzled over the beef once it’s loaded into a freshly fried white corn tortilla.

    After adding the sauce, a 3-cheese blend is added to the taco, more cheese is grilled onto one side of the shell in a hot pan, then it’s served with two sauces for dipping: nacho cheese sauce and the chain’s signature red sauce, which you can make from scratch with the easy recipe I’m including as well so you can get the full flavor effect of the real deal.

    If shredded chicken is your thing, check out my Taco Bell Shredded Chicken Soft Taco copycat recipe here.

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I'm Todd Wilbur, Chronic Food Hacker

For over 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original copycat recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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