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Taco Bell Soft Taco copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Taco Bell Soft Taco

Score: 3.86 (votes: 35)
Reviews: 35
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The packet of Taco Bell spices you buy in grocery stores makes delicious spicy beef for tacos, but don't expect it to taste exactly the same as the beef at the giant Mexican food chain. For a better clone, use this recipe. Once the meat is prepped, it's simple to build soft tacos the Taco Bell way using these steps. If you want crispy tacos, replace the soft flour tortillas with crunchy corn shells.

Source: More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

Get This

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  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • Pinch garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12 soft taco flour tortillas (6-inch tortillas)
  • 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Do This

1. In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef with the flour, chili powder, salt, minced onion, paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder. Use your hands to thoroughly mix the ingredients into the ground beef. 

2. Add the seasoned beef mixture to the water in a skillet over medium heat. Mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula, and break up the meat as it cooks. Heat for 5 to 6 minutes, or until browned. The finished product should be very smooth, somewhat pasty, with no large chunks of beef remaining.

3. Heat up the flour tortillas in your microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, or until warm.

4. Build each taco by spooning 2 to 3 tablespoons of the meat into a warm tortilla. Spread some of the shredded lettuce over the meat and then sprinkle some cheese over the top. Repeat with the remaining ingredients and serve immediately.

Makes 12 soft tacos.

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Reviews
Amy Walter
Feb 18, 2020, 15:57
This recipe is spot on! The texture and flavor is exactly Taco Bell. Todd Wilbur is a genius!
Jessie
Sep 30, 2007, 22:00
Yum, Yum, and Yum! I've made this for my family again, and again since buying your book and we all LOVE it! The Taco meat is smooth and yummy and is SOOOO go in burritos or taco shells. This is now a family favorite!

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    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
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    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
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    Fuddruckers Hamburger Seasoning
    Gordon Biersch Cran Blueberi Lemonade Cocktail
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    They're the world's most famous French fries, responsible for one-third of all U.S. French fry sales, and many say they're the best. These fried spud strips are so popular that Burger King even changed its own recipe to better compete with the secret formula from Mickey D's. One-quarter of all meals served today in American restaurants come with fries; a fact that thrills restaurateurs since fries are the most profitable menu item in the food industry. 

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  • Score: 4.83 (votes: 6)
    Long John Silver's Batter-Dipped Fish

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

    These days, it seems there are less and less Long John Silver restaurants. Good thing you can follow my Long John Silver's Batter-Dipped Fish recipe below and enjoy that same great flavor at home. 

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    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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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. 

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  • Score: 4.83 (votes: 12)
    Hooters Buffalo Chicken Wings

    Menu Description: "Nearly world-famous. Often imitated, hardly ever duplicated."

    "Hooters is to chicken wings what McDonald's is to hamburgers," claims promotional material from the company. True, the six fun-loving Midwestern businessmen who started Hooters in Clearwater, Florida, on April Fool's Day in 1983 chose a classic recipe for chicken wings as their signature item. But while some might say it's the buffalo wings that are their favorite feature of the restaurant, others say it's the restaurant chain's trademark Hooters girls—waitresses casually attired in bright orange short-shorts and skin tight T-shirts.

    Today there are over 375 Hooters across the United States serving more than 200 tons of chicken wings every week. The original dish can be ordered in 10-, 20-, or 50-piece servings; or if you want to splurge, there's the "Gourmet Chicken Wing Dinner" featuring 20 wings and a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne, for only $125. To further enhance the Hooters experience when you serve these messy wings, throw a whole roll of paper towels on the table, rather than napkins, as they do in the restaurants.

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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: 11)
    Wendy's Spicy Chicken Fillet Sandwich

    When sales of this once limited-offering sandwich exceeded expectations, Wendy's made it a permanent menu item. Now you can re-create the spicy kick of the original with a secret blend of spices in the chicken's crispy coating. Follow the same stacking order as the original, and you will make four sandwich clones here at a fraction of the cost of the real thing.

    Check out more Wendy's copycat recipes like their famous chili here.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    KFC Buttermilk Biscuits

    In 1991 Kentucky Fried Chicken bigwigs decided to improve the image of America's third-largest fast-food chain. As a more health-conscious society began to affect sales of fried chicken, the company changed its name to KFC and introduced a lighter fare of skinless chicken.

    In the last forty years KFC has experienced extraordinary growth. Five years after first franchising the business, Colonel Harland Sanders had 400 outlets in the United States and Canada. Four years later there were more than 600 franchises, including one in England, the first overseas outlet. In 1964 John Y. Brown, Jr., a young Louisville lawyer, and Jack Massey, a Nashville financier, bought the Colonel's business for $2 million. Only seven years later, in 1971 Heublein, Inc., bought the KFC Corporation for $275 million. Then in 1986, for a whopping $840 million, PepsiCo added KFC to its conglomerate, which now includes Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. That means PepsiCo owns more fast food outlets than any other company including McDonald's.

    At each KFC restaurant, workers blend real buttermilk with a dry blend to create the well-known KFC buttermilk biscuits recipe that have made a popular menu item since their introduction in 1982. Pair these buttermilk biscuits with my KFC mac and cheese recipe and the famous KFC Original Recipe Chicken to complete your meal.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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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.

    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.

    Roll the dough out and measure it as specified here, and after a final proofing and a quick bake—plus a generous brushing of butter on the tops—you will produce dinner rolls that look and taste just like the best rolls I’ve had at any famous American dinner chain.

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 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: 4.97 (votes: 32)
    Taco Bell Chicken Quesadilla with Creamy jalapeno (Ranchero) Sauce

    Taco Bell takes the fast food quesadilla into new territory with three different cheeses and a creamy jalapeño sauce, all of which you can now cheerfully re-create in the comfort of your warm kitchen. Gather up the crew, since my easy Taco Bell Chicken Quesadilla recipe will make four of the tasty tortilla treats.

    How about some homemade Diablo, hot, or mild sauce to go with your quesadilla? Check out all of my Taco Bell copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.60 (votes: 10)
    Skyline Chili

    There's no chocolate in it. Or coffee. Or Coca-Cola. The ingredient rumors for the Skyline Chili secret recipe are plentiful on the Internet, but anyone can purchase cans of Skyline chili from the company and find the ingredients listed right on the label: beef, water, tomato paste, dried torula yeast, salt, spices, cornstarch, and natural flavors. You can trust that if chocolate were included in the secret recipe, the label would reflect it—important information for people with a chocolate allergy. 

    Use my Skyline Chili recipe to re-create that unique flavor with a special blend of easy-to-find spices plus beef broth and a few other not-so-unusual ingredients. Let the chili simmer for an hour or so, then serve it up on its own or in one of the traditional Cincinnati-style serving suggestions (the "ways" they call 'em) with the chili poured over spaghetti noodles, topped with grated Cheddar cheese and other good stuff:

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

    Check out more of my recipes for other popular soups and chilis here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 3.60 (votes: 5)
    Popeyes Buttermilk Biscuits

    In 2007 America's number one Cajun-style restaurant celebrated its 35th birthday with 1,583 stores worldwide. But Popeyes didn't start out with the name that most people associate with a certain spinach-eating cartoon character. When Al Copeland opened his first Southern-fried chicken stand in New Orleans in 1972, it was called Chicken On The Run. The name was later changed to Popeyes after Gene Hackman's character in the movie The French Connection. In addition to great spicy fried chicken, Popeyes serves up wonderful Southern-style buttermilk biscuits that we can now easily duplicate to serve with a variety of home cooked meals. The secret is to cut cold butter into the mix with a pastry knife so that the biscuits turn out flaky and tender just like the originals.

    Source: "Top Secret Recipes Unlocked" by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 8)
    Taco Bell Mexican Pizza

    Hope your crew is hungry because this recipe makes four Mexican Pizzas like those served at the Bell: seasoned ground beef and refried beans are sandwiched between two crispy flour tortillas, topped with melted cheddar cheese, salsa, diced tomato, and chopped green onion. Slice it like a pizza and serve it with a smile. Prepare to blow your diners away with this Taco Bell Mexican pizza recipe if they're at all familiar with the real thing.

    Make some Diablo, hot, or mild sauce for that authentic Taco Bell experience.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.55 (votes: 44)
    Girl Scout Cookies Thin Mints

    If those cute little cookie peddlers aren't posted outside the market, it may be tough to get your hands on these thin mint cookies—the most popular cookies sold by the Girl Scouts every spring. One out of every four boxes of cookies sold by the girls is Thin Mints. 

    My Girl Scout cookie thin mint recipe uses an improved version of the chocolate wafers created for my Oreo cookie clone in the second TSR book, More Top Secret Recipes. That recipe creates 108 cookie wafers, so when you're done dipping, you'll have the equivalent of three boxes of the Girl Scout Cookies favorite. That's why you bought those extra cookie sheets, right? You could, of course, reduce this recipe by baking only one-third of the cookie dough for the wafers and then reducing the coating ingredients by one-third, giving you a total of 36 cookies. But that may not be enough to last you until next spring.

    Click here for more of your favorite Girl Scout Cookies

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

    Update 11/16/17: You can make an even better clone using a chocolate product that wasn't available when I created this recipe. Rather than using the semi-sweet chocolate chips combined with shortening and peppermint for coating the cookies, use Ghirardelli Dark Melting Wafers. You will need 2 10-ounce bags of the chips, mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract (and no shortening). Melt the chocolate the same way, and dip the cookies as instructed.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Olive Garden Dipping Sauces for Breadsticks

    Menu Description: "Freshly prepared alfredo or marinara sauce, served warm."

    The soft breadsticks served at Olive Garden (here's my clone) taste awesome by themselves, but dunk them in one of these warm sauces and...fahgeddaboutit. You can use these clones as dipping sauces or pour them over the pasta of your choice to duplicate a variety of entree items available at the chain. Use the Alfredo sauce over Fettuccine and you get Fettuccine Alfredo. Pour the marinara sauce on Linguine and you've cloned Olive Garden's Linguine alla Marinara. Make up your own dishes adding sausage, chicken or whatever you have on hand for an endless variety of Italian grub.

    Find more of your favorite copycat recipes from Olive Garden here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.28 (votes: 25)
    Wienerschnitzel Chili Sauce

    The real version of this chili sauce comes to each Wienerschnitzel unit as concentrated brown goo in big 6-pound, 12-ounce cans. After adding 64 ounces of water and 15 chopped hamburger patties the stuff is transformed into the familiar thick and spicy chili sauce dolloped over hot dogs and French fries at America's largest hot dog chain. The proper proportion of spices, tomato paste, and meat is crucial; but the real challenge in creating my Wienerschnitzel chili recipe is finding a common grocery store equivalent for modified food starch that's used in the real chili sauce as a thickener. After a couple days in the underground lab with Starbucks lattes on intravenous drip, I came out, squinting at the bright sunshine, with a solution to the chili conundrum. This secret combination of cornstarch and Wondra flour and plenty of salt and chili powder makes a chili sauce that says nothing but "Wienerschnitzel" all over it.

    Now, what incredible side dish will you make?

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.62 (votes: 13)
    Hot Dog on a Stick Hot Dog on a Stick

    One hot summer day in 1946 Dave Barham was inspired to dip a hot dog into his mother's cornbread batter, then deep fry it to a golden brown. Dave soon found a quaint Santa Monica, California location near the beach to sell his new creation with mustard on the side and a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade. For a perfect clone of Hot Dog On A Stick, be sure you find the shorter turkey hot dogs, not "bun-length". In this case, size does matter. Snag some of the disposable wood chopsticks from a local Chinese or Japanese restaurant next time you're there and start dipping.

    Update 5/3/17: If your hot dogs are browning too fast, turn the temperature of the oil down to 350 degrees. And rather than using chopsticks, thick round skewer sticks (corn dog skewers) found in houseware stores and online will work much better.

    Now, how about a tall glass of Hot Dog On A Stick Lemonade?

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.89 (votes: 9)
    Chili's Boneless Buffalo Wings

    Menu Description: "Breaded chicken breast tossed in spicy wing sauce. Served with cool bleu cheese dressing."

    My Chili's Boneless Buffalo Wings recipe re-creates the piquant flavor of traditional Buffalo chicken wings, but the bones and skin are left back in Buffalo. That's because these "wings" are actually nuggets sliced from chicken breast fillets, then breaded and fried, and smothered with the same type of spicy wing sauce used on traditional wings. If you like the flavor of Buffalo wings, but wish you could use a fork, your spicy dreams have come true. Serve up these copycat Chili's Boneless Buffalo Wings with some celery sticks and bleu cheese dressing on the side for dipping.

    Try more of my Chili's copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.10 (votes: 21)
    Buffalo Wild Wings Caribbean Jerk Sauce

    This quickly growing chicken wing chain sells each of its 12 signature sauces in the restaurant because many of them work great as a baste or side sauce for a variety of home cooked masterpieces. This Buffalo Wild Wings Caribbean Jerk sauce recipe is a favorite for that reason (ranking at the top of the list with Spicy Garlic as the chain's best-seller), so I thought it would be a useful clone that doesn't require you to fill up the fryer to make chicken wings. You can use this sauce on grilled chicken, pork, ribs, salmon or anything you can think of that would benefit from the sweet, sour and spicy flavors that come from an island-style baste.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur

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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.

    Complete the Red Lobster experience and make favorite entrées and side dishes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 7)
    Denny's Fabulous French Toast

    Menu Description: "Three thick slices grilled golden brown and sprinkled with powdered sugar."

    This popular breakfast choice at America's number one diner chain takes center stage on the cover of the menu. Three slices of thick bread are dipped in a slightly sweet egg batter, browned to perfection and served up with a dusting of powdered sugar, some soft butter and thick maple syrup on the side. Find the thick-sliced Texas toast bread in your bakery, or use any white bread that's sliced around 3/4-inch thick. My Denny's French toast recipe will make enough for two servings of three slices each, and it's the perfect recipe for waking up a special someone with breakfast in bed.

    Find more amazing breakfast ideas here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.89 (votes: 219)
    Wendy's Chili

    Dave Thomas, Wendy's late founder, started serving this chili in 1969, the year the first Wendy's opened its doors. Over the years, the recipe has changed a bit, but my Wendy's copycat chili recipe is a great version of the one served in the early 90s. Try topping it with some chopped onion and Cheddar cheese, just as you can request in the restaurant.

    Now, on to the Wendy's Hot Chili Seasoning copycat recipe.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.95 (votes: 22)
    BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast

    Menu Description: "Our marinated chicken breast coated with Parmesan cheese and crunchy panko breadcrumbs, lightly pounded and pan fried to a golden brown. Served with white cheddar mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli and topped with a lemon Chardonnay butter sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil and Parmesan cheese." 

    This re-creation lays out a great way to prepare that 4-pack of chicken breasts you dropped into your shopping cart. While you're at the market, head down the aisle where the Asian foods are parked and pick up some Japanese breadcrumbs, also called "panko" breadcrumbs. Combining these coarse breadcrumbs with shredded Parmesan cheese makes a crispy breading for the chicken that doesn't even need a sauce to taste good. Still, the lemony Chardonnay butter sauce used at the restaurant is cloned here too, so you'll have the complete flavor experience. You'll want to plan ahead a bit for this dish since the chicken fillets will need to marinate in the brine solution for 2 to 3 hours. This dish goes great with the clone recipe for BJ's White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.39 (votes: 54)
    Maid-Rite Loose Meat Sandwich

    It's been an Iowa tradition since 1926, and today this sandwich has a huge cult following. It's similar to a traditional hamburger, but the ground beef is not formed into a patty. Instead, the lightly seasoned meat lies uncompressed on a white bun, dressed with mustard, minced onion, and dill pickles. Since the meat is loose, the sandwich is always served with a spoon for scooping up the ground beef that will inevitably fall out.

    When this clone recipe for Maid-Rite was originally posted on our website several years ago, it elicited more e-mail than any recipe in the site's history. Numerous Midwesterners were keyboard-ready to insist that the clone was far from accurate without the inclusion of a few bizarre ingredients, the most common of which was Coca-Cola. One letter states: "You evidently have not ever had a Maid-Rite. The secret to the Maid-Rite is coke syrup. Without it you cannot come close to the taste." Another e-mail reads: "Having lived in the Midwest all of my life and knowing not only the owners of a Maid-Rite restaurant but also many people who worked there, I can tell you that one of the things you left out of your recipe is Coca-Cola. Not a lot, just enough to keep the meat moist."

    On the flip side, I received comments such as this one from an Iowa fan who lived near Don Taylor's original Maid-Rite franchise: "The secret to the best Maid-Rite is the whole beef. Don had a butcher shop in his basement where he cut and ground all his beef. Some people still swear they added seasoning, but that is just not true. Not even pepper."

    Back in my lab, no matter how hard I examined the meat in the original product—which was shipped to me in dry ice directly from Don Taylor's original store in Marshalltown, Iowa—I could not detect Coca-Cola. There's no sweetness to the meat at all, although the buns themselves seem to include some sugar. When the buns are chewed with the meat, the sandwich does taste mildly sweet. I finally decided that Coca-Cola syrup is not part of the recipe. If it is added to the meat in the Maid-Rite stores, it's an insignificant amount that does not have any noticeable effect on the flavor.

    Also, the texture is important, so adding plenty of liquid to the simmering meat is crucial. This clone recipe requires 1 cup of water in addition to 1/4 cup of beef broth. By simmering the ground beef in this liquid for a couple hours the meat will tenderize and become infused with a little flavor, just like the real thing.

    When the liquid is gone, form the ground beef into a 1/2 cup measuring scoop, dump it onto the bottom of a plain hamburger bun, then add your choice of mustard, onions, and pickles. Adding ketchup is up to you, although it's not an ingredient found in Maid-Rite stores. Many say that back in the early days "hobos" would swipe the ketchup and mix it with water to make tomato soup. Free ketchup was nixed from the restaurants way back then, and the custom has been in place ever since.

    Just think of all the famous sandwiches you can make at home. I've hacked the Popeye's Chicken Sandwich, McDonald's Big Mac, Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich, and many more. See if I've duplicated your favorite here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked 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: 4.82 (votes: 17)
    Top Secret Steak Rub

    Just like the pro chefs use. A secret blend of herbs and spices that will make your homemade steaks taste like they came from a famous steakhouse chain. All-natural. Contains no MSG or preservatives. Great for anyone who likes a truly amazing steak.

    Top Secret Steak Rub is created by Food Hacker Todd Wilbur who has spent the last 30 years reverse-engineering popular menu items at the most-loved restaurant chains across America. By identifying the herbs, spices and other ingredients that make great restaurant food taste so good, Todd created this custom Top Secret Steak Rub to help you make restaurant-style steaks at home. All it takes is just a few shakes. Then cook the steaks your favorite way.

    7-ounce bottle. Money back guarantee. Kosher certified. Gluten-free.

    You may also like Top Secret Chicken RubTop Secret Fish Rub.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 10)
    Roadhouse Grill Baby Back Ribs

    Menu Description: "Our award-winning Baby Back Ribs are slow-roasted, then basted with Jim Beam Bourbon BBQ Sauce and finished on our Mesquite grill."

    When your crew bites into these baby backs they'll savor meat so tender and juicy that it slides right off the bone. The slow braising cooks the ribs to perfection, while the quick grilling adds the finishing char and smoky flavor. But the most important component to any decent rack of ribs is a sauce that's filled with flavor, and this version of Roadhouse Grill's award-wining sauce is good stuff. I ordered the ribs naked (without sauce) so that I could see if there was any detectable rub added before cooking and I didn't find anything other than salt and a lot of coarse black pepper. So that's the way I designed the recipe, and it works.

    Now, how about a copycat Roadhouse Grill Roadhouse Rita to wash down those ribs.

    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: 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: 4)
    Olive Garden Lasagna Classico

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

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

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

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Qdoba 3-Cheese Queso

    There are many acceptable ways to formulate good queso, but to make this specific queso the ingredients must be correct, and most copycat recipes seem to get it wrong. A few recipes get one of the peppers and two of the cheeses right, but pretty much every recipe out there is a bit of a mess that I will now save you from.

    Quesos can be made with a variety of cheeses that include queso fresco, asadero, and Muenster, but this particular queso includes a cheese you probably didn’t expect: Swiss. That cheese is slow to melt, so we’ll shred it first, along with the Jack. And you won't need to gum up the queso with flour or cornstarch by making a roux because the white American cheese in the mix contains sodium citrate or sodium phosphate—additives that help the cheese melt smoothly and stay that way. 

    Authors of recipes that call for tomatoes in this dish haven’t looked closely. Those are red bell peppers and they are roasted, peeled, and seeded along with the poblano and jalapenos before they are diced and added to the cheese sauce. The sauce cooks on low heat, never bubbling, so that it stays smooth and creamy.

    When done, your Qdoba 3-cheese queso might seem thin in the pan, but it will thicken as it cools to a perfect consistency for dipping tortilla chips, or as a topping for tacos and burrito bowls.

    Find my recipes for Qdoba Adobo Chicken and Habanero Salsa here

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Chili's Original Chili

    Over the years I've hacked a bunch of items from Chili's menu, including their Fajitas, Baby Back Ribs, Salsa, Chili Queso, Southwestern Eggrolls, Chicken Crispers, Boneless Wings, and more, but it wasn’t until recently that I got the chance to create a recipe for the Chili's award-winning Original Chili. Why it took so long, I have no idea.

    The chili served at Chili’s is a Texas-style con carne recipe, which traditionally means no beans and no tomato. You won’t find any beans in this recipe or chunks of tomato, but their chili does have a tomato base to boost flavor, so I’m adding that into the mix by including one 6-ounce can of tomato paste. As it turns out, that small can is just the right amount.

    The preparation technique for my Chili's Original chili recipe is simple: brown the beef, drain off the fat, then add some of the fat back to the empty pan to sauté the onions and peppers in. When those are done, you add the beef back to the pan along with the remaining ingredients and simmer for 1½ hours. That will be just long enough to braise the beef and tenderize it, and to thicken the chili to a perfect consistency.

    When the chili’s done, top each serving with a cheddar/pepper Jack blend, and some crispy tortilla bits. Then pass out the spoons.

    Check here more of my Chili's copycat recipes.

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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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