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Welcome. You just found copycat recipes for all of your favorite famous foods! Bestselling author and TV host Todd Wilbur shows you how to duplicate the taste of iconic dishes and treats at home. Todd's recipes are easy to follow and fun to make. Search for recipes by category here. New famous food recipes added every week.
Cheesecake Factory Key Lime CheesecakeRead more
Just 15 minutes after the very first Cheesecake Factory opened in Beverly Hills back in 1978, the lines began forming. These guys know how to make a dang good cheesecake!
Here's my recipe for Cheesecake Factory's Key Lime Cheesecake. A yummy twist on Key lime pie. Since Key limes and Key lime juice can be hard to find, I decided to use standard lime juice, which can be purchased bottled or squeezed fresh. If you can find Key lime juice, bear in mind that Key limes are more tart, so you'll need only half as much juice. You'll also need a springform pan. If you don't have one, you can use two 9-inch pie pans and make two smaller cheesecakes.
Try more of my Cheesecake Factory hacks here.
Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.
Hooters Buffalo Chicken Wings (Improved)Read more
Menu Description: "The one and only! The style we invented over 30 years ago; they're breaded by hand, tossed in your choice of wing sauce and served by your favorite Hooters girl."
When I first hacked this recipe back in 1997 for the book Top Secret Restaurant Recipes, Hooters wings looked different than they do today. The chain used to leave the pointy end of the wing attached to the middle piece, or “flat,” which, frankly, is unnecessary because there is very little meat on the tip segment. Today the chain serves wings like everyone else, with drumettes and flats completely separated, and delivered by waitresses in the same bright orange shorts as when the chain started in 1983.
One thing that wasn't available to me back then was the opportunity to examine the chain’s packaging for the lists of ingredients on signature items like sauces and breading. Today, since they sell these items as retail products, I can take advantage of labeling laws that require ingredients to be clearly listed and see what really goes into these recipes. Using that new information, I’ve made a few small tweaks to improve my Hooters Wings recipe from over 20 years ago, including two versions of the kickass wing sauce—medium and hot—for your wing-devouring pleasure.
Find more of my Hooters copycat recipes here.
Olive Garden Chicken MargheritaRead more
Menu Description: "Grilled chicken breasts topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil pesto, and a lemon garlic sauce.”
My Olive Garden grilled chicken margherita recipe starts with a quick 30-minute brine to bless the chicken with flavor and juiciness. While the chicken is marinating and then grilling, you’ll have plenty of time to make the basil pesto and lemon garlic sauce knockoffs.
When the chicken comes off the grill, top it with cheese and pop under the broiler for a nice melt. Once plated, the chicken is doused with the delicious lemon garlic sauce, topped with pesto, and dressed up with colorful grape tomatoes.
And if you’re into it, I’ve also worked up a clone for the side served with this entrée at Olive Garden—Parmesan zucchini. The hack is in the Tidbits below if you’d like to include this simple side with your copycat plate, like they do in the restaurant.
This recipe makes four servings, which is four lunch-size servings at Olive Garden, or two dinner portions. Now, how hungry are you?
Find more of my Olive Garden recipes here.
Bush's Country Style Baked BeansRead more
In the Bush’s Beans commercials, Duke, the family golden retriever, wants to sell the secret family recipe, but the Bush family always stops him. The dog is based on the Bush family’s real-life golden retriever, and the campaign, which began in 1995, made Bush’s the big dog of the canned baked beans market practically overnight. Their confidential baked beans formula is considered one of the top 10 biggest recipe secrets in the U.S.
Bush Brothers & Company had been canning a variety of fruits and vegetables for over 60 years when, in 1969, the company created canned baked beans using a cherished recipe from a family matriarch. Sales jumped from 10 thousand cases in the first year to over 100 thousand cases in 1970. And just one year later sales hit a million cases. Today Bush’s makes over 80 percent of the canned baked beans sold in the U.S., and the secret family recipe remains a top food secret, despite Duke’s attempts. A replica of the original recipe book—without the original recipe in it (drat!)—is on display at the company's visitor center in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee.
I chose to hack the “Country Style” version of Bush’s Beans because I don’t think the Original flavor has enough, uh, flavor. Country Style is similar to Original, but richer, with more brown sugar. My recipe for Bush's Country Style baked beans starts by soaking dry small white beans in a brine overnight. The salt in the water helps to soften the skins, but don’t soak them for more than 14 hours or the skins may begin to fall off. You can skip this step if you've got a fancy Instant Pot using my directions below.
My first versions tasted great but lacked the deep brown color of the real Bush’s beans, which include caramel coloring—an ingredient that can be hard to find on its own. I eventually discovered that the “browning” sauce, Kitchen Bouquet, will add the dark caramel color needed to our home version of the beans so that they’ll look just like the real thing.
This recipe was our #5 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1) KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4).
Cheesecake Factory Pork Belly SlidersRead more
The delicious Cheesecake Factory Pork Belly Sliders appetizer features four little sandwiches, each packing big flavor. Smoked pork belly is slathered with barbecue sauce, then stacked on soft slider buns with spicy sauce, creamy coleslaw, and crispy fried pickles. Smoked pork belly is the star, so you’ll either smoke some yourself using a smoker or use your grill with the technique described in the Tidbits below. You need around 10 ounces of pork belly to get 6 ounces when smoked, or 1½ ounces per sandwich.
The coleslaw is easy, the spicy sauce is easy, the barbecue sauce is premade (bottled), and the fried pickles are a simple exercise in breading and frying that anyone can master. After the pork belly is perfectly smoked and fall-apart tender, stack everything on your favorite toasted soft slider rolls and let the devouring begin.
Click here for more clone recipes for Cheesecake Factory's famous cheesecakes, appetizers, entrees, soups and more!
Knott's Berry Farm Shortbread CookiesRead more
It’s been nearly 100 years since Walter and Cordelia Knott first started selling berries, preserves, and pies from their roadside produce stand in Buena Park, California. Walter Knott’s berry stand and farm was a popular stop throughout the 1920s for travelers heading to the Southern California beaches.
But Walter’s big claim to fame came in 1932 when he cultivated and sold the world’s first boysenberries—a hybrid of raspberry, blackberry, loganberry, and dewberry. This new berry brought so many people to the farm that they added a restaurant, featuring Cordelia’s secret fried chicken recipe, and the Knotts struck gold again.
The fried chicken was a huge hit, and the restaurant got so crowded the Knotts added rides and attractions to the farm to keep customers occupied while they waited for a table. Over the years the real berry farm transformed into an amusement park called Knott’s Berry Farm—one of my favorites as a kid—which is now ranked as the tenth most visited theme park in North America.
Knott’s Berry Farm also makes delicious packaged preserves, jams, and other foods, including these fantastic little jam-filled shortbread thumbprint cookies that everyone seems to love. The shortbread dough is piped into closed “c” shapes with a pastry bag onto baking sheets, then a little bit of jam is spooned into the center. For my Knott's Berry Farm Shortbread Cookies recipe below, you’ll need a pastry bag and a 1M open star tip, plus your favorite seedless jam. Once you’ve got all that, the rest is pretty easy.
Follow this link for more copycat cookies, brownies and treats.
Hooters Daytona Beach Style WingsRead more
Hooters debuted a new flavor and style of their famous chicken wings in 2013 with the introduction of Daytona Beach Style Wings—naked wings (not breaded) that are fried, sauced, and grilled. The new menu item was a sales success, eclipsing the famous buffalo-style wings the chain had become known for, making it imperative that we have a delicious and accurate Hooters Daytona Beach style wings copycat recipe. And now we do.
To build an identical home version of Hooters Daytona Wings, you’ll first need to make a knockoff of the delicious Daytona sauce to brush over the wings. It’s a combination of barbecue sauce and the same cayenne sauce used to coat traditional buffalo wings, plus a few other important ingredients that make the sauce special—and things you won’t find in other hacks—like Worcestershire sauce and minced jalapeños. The wings are coated, grilled for just a minute on each side, then sauced again for maximum flavor. Stack the napkins close by and get something tall to drink, because these messy wings are guaranteed to deliver a super-spicy kick to your food hole.
Olive Garden Chicken PiccataRead more
Menu Description: “Grilled chicken topped with a lemon garlic butter sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, and capers.”
For many years this traditional chicken dish has been a top choice at the nation’s largest Italian restaurant chain, so an Olive Garden Chicken Piccata recipe is long overdue. Brined chicken breast fillets are grilled and topped with a lemon butter sauce made with garlic, sundried tomatoes, and capers in this copycat clone that will fool even the biggest Olive Garden fans.
Two large chicken breasts get sliced into four fillets here, so you’ll have either four lunch-size portions or two double-sized dinner meals. And if you need even more servings, you can easily double up the recipe.
In the Tidbits, I’ve added a quick recipe for the optional side of Parmesan-crusted zucchini served with the actual dish if you want to make an even more authentic clone.
Craving more dishes from Olive Garden? Check out my copycat recipes here.
Starbucks Petite Vanilla Bean SconesRead more
Good things come in small packages - just like these hit scones that have been a staple Starbucks favorite for years.
Unlike many scones that end up too dry and tasteless, these miniature scones are moist and full of great vanilla flavor. They’re deliciously sweet and creamy, with real vanilla bean in both the dough and the glaze. Want to make some great scones? Make my Starbucks Petite Vanilla Bean scones recipe.
Panera Bread Vegetarian Summer Corn ChowderRead more
Panera’s top soup pick in the summer is a creamy vegetarian chowder that’s full of flavor and easy to copy at home once you know an important flavor secret. I started my hack using a vegetable broth, since that’s what all the other “copycats” call for, but I found its strong vegetable flavor dominated the soup, so I quickly bailed on that plan.
Starting over, I referred to the soup’s ingredients posted online by Panera Bread and noticed there is no broth in the soup, which means every copycat recipe online is wrong. I didn’t want to make the same mistake in my Panera Bread Vegetarian Summer Corn Chowder recipe, but without the broth my soup would be lacking some important flavor components, and that’s no good either.
In many soup recipes, the broth or stock is important for the umami quality provided by the yeast extract added to the product. Yeast extracts are one of the many ways food manufacturers add an MSG flavor-enhancing effect without adding MSG. Panera does in fact list “yeast extract” as one of the ingredients in the soup, so I needed to find a readily available ingredient that would provide the same savory quality.
Enter nutritional yeast—or “nooch” as it’s often called—a flakey, nutrient-packed, vegan ingredient that’s growing quickly in popularity thanks to the savory, cheesy flavor it adds to a variety of foods (it’s great on popcorn). Nooch is also popular with vegans and vegetarians since it’s fortified with vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that's mainly found in animal-sourced foods.
Now, with nooch in there, along with yellow corn, red-skin potatoes, poblano peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and other tasty things, no broth is required. Just give your Panera Bread Vegetarian Summer Corn Chowder some water and a little patience.
Find more of your favorite Panera Bread recipes here.
Olive Garden Warm Apple CrostataRead more
Menu Description: “Northern Spy apples baked in a pastry crust topped with vanilla ice cream and a caramel drizzle.”
The most important component of a good crostata, or Italian baked tart, is a great crust. When cloning this top Olive Garden dessert, that's where I first focused my efforts, baking dozens of slightly different unfilled sugared crusts. Thankfully, flour is cheap. Once I had an easy, yet still delicious and flakey crust that was as good, if not better, than the real thing, I turned to the filling.
Olive Garden uses Northern Spy apples in the crostata, which are somewhat tart, firm apples often used in pies. But they are hard to find. If you can’t find Northern Spy apples, the much more common Granny Smith apples work just fine here. As for chopping the apples, I noted that the apple pieces in the real crostata have no uniformity—the apples appear to be sliced, then those slices are coarsely chopped, resulting in a mixture of small and large apple pieces. We'll do the same here.
After your crostatas have been baked to a golden brown, top each one with a scoop of ice cream and drizzle some caramel sauce over the top for a beautiful dessert no one will have the power to resist.
My Olive Garden Warm Apple Crostada recipe makes four crostatas, which is enough for eight people to share. If you have crostatas left over, they can be stored in a covered container for a couple of days, then reheated under a broiler until hot just before serving.
Want some more of my Olive Garden clone recipes? I've got a bunch right here.
Cheesecake Factory Oreo Dream Extreme CheesecakeRead more
The Cheesecake Factory’s latest decadent dessert goes extreme with America’s favorite cookie. You’ll find Oreos in the middle of the cheesecake, in the cookie mousse layer, pressed onto the edge, sprinkled on the whipped cream, and even up on top where an Oreo wafer crowns each slice. In fact, I’ve designed my copycat Cheesecake Factory Oreo cheesecake recipe to use every Oreo in a standard size-package—all 36 of them!
This beautiful cheesecake starts with a chocolate cake layer, topped with a layer of chocolate buttercream icing, followed by a no-bake cheesecake layer, Oreo cookie mousse, and more chocolate icing. It’s a chocolate lover’s—and Oreo lover’s—dream, and not surprisingly, one of Cheesecake Factory’s best sellers.
When creating your own version of this dessert masterpiece at home, be sure to use a 10-inch springform pan. This is a big cheesecake, so you'll get 12 large slices out of it. The restaurant charges around 56 bucks for a whole cheesecake this big, but thankfully, a homemade version will cost you much less than that.
Hellmann's - Best Foods Real KetchupRead more
Hellmann’s—or Best Foods as the company is known west of the Rockies—recently debuted this new ketchup for customers looking to avoid high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, and artificial ingredients. The label lists only six ingredients: tomato puree, honey, white wine vinegar, salt, onion powder, and spices. It wasn’t immediately clear what the “spices” referred to until I wiped a wide smear of the ketchup across a white plate, making the blacks specks of fine grind pepper clearly stand out. After that, creating my Best Foods Real Ketchup recipe was just a matter of getting the ratios right.
If you're a fan of the original Heinz Ketchup, check out my clone recipe here.
Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish PizzaRead more
A requirement of any visit to Chicago is eating at least one slice of deep dish pizza in the city that perfected it. Deep dish pizza quickly became a Chicago staple after Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo opened the first Pizzeria Uno in 1943 and served a hearty new style of pizza constructed in a high-rimmed cake pan. The yeast crust was tender and flakey, like a pastry, and the cheese was layered under the sauce so that it wouldn’t burn in a hot oven for the long cooking time.
While researching a home hack of this now-iconic recipe, I discovered an unexpected technique that I hadn’t seen in other deep dish recipes. Employees told me the pizza crusts are partially cooked each morning to cut down on the wait time for customers. Before the restaurant opens each day, cooks press the dough into a pan and then sprinkle it with a little shredded cheese. The shells are then partially baked and set aside. Later, when an order comes in, the pizza is built into one of the par-baked crusts and finished off. This way customers get their food faster, and the tables turn over quicker.
Copying that delicious, flakey crust was the task that took me the longest. After two weeks of baking, I finally settled on a formula that was a mash-up of yeast dough and pie crust and made a perfectly tender deep dish crust, with great flavor that exactly mimicked the original. If you like Uno, you'll love this!
Regarding the cheese: be sure your cheese is at room temperature, not cold, or it may not melt all the way through. Also, it’s best if you buy cheese by the block and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheese is dusted with cornstarch so that the shreds don’t stick together in the bag, and it won’t melt as smoothly as cheese you shred by hand.
My Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza recipe will make enough sauce for two pizzas. I just thought you should know that in case you get the urge to make another deep dish after this one disappears.
This recipe was our #4 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1) KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).
Panda Express Honey Walnut ShrimpRead more
Three components must be mastered to properly hack this top menu pick at the country’s largest fast Chinese chain: candied nuts, honey sauce, and perfectly battered shrimp. For the candied walnuts, I came up with a technique using the oven, which means there’s no candy thermometer required and it’s a no-brainer. For the sauce, you just whisk the ingredients together in a bowl.
To make your shrimp look like the shrimp at Panda Express, you don’t want them tightly curled up when they fry. You can keep them from curling by pinching the tail end of each shrimp after it has been floured and dipping it into the batter headfirst. When you pull it out, the weight of the batter will help unfurl the shrimp a bit, and if you then lower it slowly into the oil it will mostly stay that way.
When all the shrimp have been fried, bake them in the oven so that they are crispy and warm, then toss the shrimp and the nuts in the sweet honey sauce and serve. You'll swear you're eating Panda Express Honey Walnut Shrimp straight from the restaurant.
Cheesecake Factory Cinnamon Roll PancakesRead more
Menu Description: "Two fresh breakfast favorites are even better together with our buttermilk pancakes swirled with cinnamon-brown sugar."
This new Cheesecake Factory brunch item packs everything you love about cinnamon rolls into an extra-wide stack of pancakes, including buttery icing on top. To make pancakes that are caramel brown on their faces and super spongy with lots of air pockets, you’ll need a tablespoon of baking soda in the batter. When the alkaline baking soda collides with the acidic buttermilk, the batter will instantly puff up, making pancakes that are extra light and airy, and very dark on their surface, like pretzels.
My Cheesecake Factory cinnamon roll pancake recipe here makes plain buttermilk pancakes until the secret cinnamon filling is swirled over the top of the batter when it's poured into the pan. The combination of brown sugar, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and butter will melt into the pancake, making it look and taste like a sweet, buttery cinnamon roll. Hopefully you have a big griddle or very large skillet to cook these on. The real Cheesecake Factory Cinnamon Roll pancakes are 7 to 8 inches across, so you’ll need a big cooking surface if you want to cook more than one at a time. Or you could just make smaller pancakes.
Find your favorite cheesecake, appetizers, and entrée recipes from Cheesecake Factory here.
Costco (Kirkland) Blueberry MuffinsRead more
Three things make Costco Blueberry Muffins special: they’re huge, they’re moist, and berries are bursting out of the top of each one. Now your home muffins can be just as special using a similar recipe and freshly unlocked tricks from our favorite big-box store.
Obviously, you get huge muffins by using a huge muffin pan, so you’ll need a jumbo or “Texas-size” muffin pan if you want your muffins the same size as the originals. You can certainly make standard muffins with this batter in a standard-size muffin pan, but in this case, bigger is definitely better.
To get muffins that are moist like Kirkland's, you’ll need oil. I noticed many muffin recipes use butter, but I found it made the muffins taste more like butter cake or pound cake than true muffins. Looking at the ingredients listed on the package of Kirkland muffins, you won’t find any butter in there. Just oil. For this hack, some of that oil comes from margarine (for a mild butter flavor and thicker batter), and the rest is vegetable oil.
As for the blueberries, if you add them straight into the batter the juice frozen on the outside of the berries will streak your batter blue, so be sure to rinse the berries before you add them. And to make your muffins look as irresistible as those at Costco, we’ll use another one of their tasty tricks: press 4 blueberries into the batter in each cup just before the pan goes into the oven so that every baked muffin is sure to have several tantalizing berries popping out of the top.
Find more favorite famous bread recipes here.
Kraft Jet-Puffed MarshmallowsRead more
The most popular recipe circulating on the internet and among Food Network chefs who claim it as their own makes decent marshmallows, but the ubiquitous formula won’t pass as a hack for America’s favorite marshmallows, Jet-Puffed. I know this for sure because my eleven-year-old daughter says so, and she’s the House Marshmallow Expert (HME).
According to our HME, the internet recipe makes marshmallows that are too sweet, and they don't have the right flavor. After testing the sweetness for myself I decided she was right, so I reduced the sugar for my Jet-Puffed Marshmallow recipe. I also adjusted the flavor by adding more vanilla, and after another taste test, my batch of fresh marshmallows got the HME seal of approval.
But the shape was still wrong.
One thing you’ll notice about homemade marshmallow recipes is that they all make cubic marshmallows, which are hand-sliced from one sheet of marshmallow that has set up in a square pan. But Jet-Puffed Marshmallows aren’t cubes, they’re cylindrical, and I wanted marshmallows like that. So, borrowing a technique for cornstarch molds used by candy manufacturers, I came up with a way you can make cylindrical marshmallows just like the big boys do. All you need is cornstarch and a muffin pan. You’ll find instructions for cylindrical marshmallows at the bottom of the recipe in the Tidbits if you want to give the more authentic shape a try.
Regardless of what shape you decide to make, a stand mixer and a candy thermometer will help you turn out the best-ever homemade marshmallows—which, by the way, make fantastic s'mores.TRANSLATE with xEnglishTRANSLATE withEnable collaborative features and customize widget: Bing Webmaster Portal
Swiss Chalet Dipping SauceRead more
Swiss Chalet is one of the biggest Canada-based restaurant chains, with over 200 stores, and it’s the place our northern neighbors go when they want delicious rotisserie chicken and ribs. At one time there were a few Swiss Chalet restaurants in the U.S., but the last of those closed in 2010. So if you want to taste the food from Swiss Chalet and you live in the States, you’re out of luck—unless you do some food hacking.
Fortunately, the Canadian chain makes a few of its products available to purchase outside of the restaurant, including its most sought-after recipe: the dipping sauce. The famous dipping sauce is used on the chain’s popular chicken, fries, and rolls, and the instant version of the sauce comes in 36-gram envelopes, but even those are tough to find in the States. Luckily, I found some on eBay and got to work.
An instant mix like this sauce powder is often tough to copy since many ingredients in the packet are hard to find in supermarkets. For this hack though, I found Knorr tomato bouillon cubes to be incredibly useful. These cuboids of concentrated flavor contain many of the ingredients we need for a great Swiss Chalet dipping sauce recipe, including tomato powder and chicken fat, both of which can be found in the original sauce packet.
After you pulverize the bouillon cube into powder, combine it with the other ingredients in a small bowl, and you’ve got an instant dry blend that can be converted into a flavorful sauce in minutes, just like the real thing.
Bahama Breeze Rum CakeRead more
Nothing finishes a meal in the islands better than traditional rum cake. And the 37-unit island-themed Bahama Breeze chain knows how to do rum cake right with a mini Bundt-style serving, topped with ice cream, and smothered in three delicious sauces. It's no less than pure paradise for your mouth.
At the restaurant, they bake this single-serving cake in a mini Bundt cake pan, but if you don't have one of those you can use a jumbo muffin pan, or use small cake pans and slice the cake before serving.
What makes this rum cake presentation special are the sauces: a rum sauce that soaks into the cake, a vanilla sauce that’s spooned onto the bottom of the plate, and the delicious raisin butterscotch sauce that oozes over the top and down the sides of the ice cream and cake. Of course, all these amazing sauces are hacked here for your food-cloning pleasure, and they're a breeze to make.
Combine all the flavors in one bite, and you'll experience one of the best rum cakes you've ever tasted.
Find more of my copycat Bahama Breeze recipes here.
Barney's Beanery Classic ChiliRead more
Barney's Beanery, the self-proclaimed "third oldest restaurant in Los Angeles," has a long history of celebrity patrons dropping by for a hot bowl of chili and a beer or three. John "Barney" Anthony opened the first Barney's Beanery in Berkley, California in 1920, and seven years later relocated the restaurant to its current location on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.
Barney's soon became a popular watering hole for film stars from the 1920s and '30s, such as Clara Bow, Clark Gable, and John Barrymore. In the '50s and '60s Lou Costello was a regular, and so were Donald O'Connor, Charles Bukowski, and Dennis Hopper. Jim Morrison and his Doors bandmates were frequent customers since the offices of their record label, Elektra, were nearby. Janis Joplin was said to have had a drink there the night she died. The Brat Pack of the '80s—Charlie Sheen, Rob Lowe, John Cusack, Emilio Estevez, and Demi Moore—would often come in to play pinball and video games. And Quentin Tarantino wrote most of his screenplay for Pulp Fiction while sitting at his favorite booth at Barney's.
This original chili was a favorite of Peter Falk's character on Columbo, who ate it often at the restaurant on the TV show. But the show wasn't filmed at the actual location. The Barney’s Colombo viewers saw on their TV was a sound-stage replica.
I found the secret to the flavor in Barney's chili comes from two chili powders that were popular in the West over 100 years ago, around the time Barney's first opened: Gebhardt and Mexene. Chili powders were new at that time, and there were very few on the market, so it's highly likely these ingredients were used in the recipe that made Barney's Beanery famous. Find those two chili powders, and you're well on your way to making Barney's Beanery classic chili at home.
Cheddar's Monte CristoRead more
Menu Description: "Smoked ham, smoked turkey, two cheeses, battered and fried until golden with raspberry preserves and dusted with powdered sugar."
When pondering casual chains with the best Monte Cristo sandwiches, two come to mind: Bennigan's and Cheddar's recipes. At each chain the sandwich is built with turkey, ham, and cheese, then it’s battered and fried, dusted with powdered sugar, and served with raspberry preserves for dipping. It probably sounds strange if you've never had one, but Monte Cristo alums know it all tastes pretty darn great together. I hacked Bennigans' version years ago for my cookbook Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2, and recently, on a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, I was able to get my hands on Cheddars' signature version of this famous sandwich.
I planned for the mission by bringing along a cooler of ice so that I could get a fresh sample safely back home. Once I was back in the lab in Vegas, I subjected the sandwich to a series of tasty tests, burned through several versions of batter, and eventually assembled this new Cheddar's Monte Cristo copycat recipe that I think is even better than my previous Bennigan's hack. The better batter is the big secret here—it's light and crispy and perfectly golden brown, and the sandwich features two kinds of cheese, both white and yellow American. Will this be the best Monte Cristo you've ever had? You’re about to find out.
Cheddar's Spiked Strawberry LemonadeRead more
Here's a refreshing warm weather (or any weather!) cocktail that’s considered one of Cheddar's signature drinks. It's served in a huge 18-ounce schooner glass, but you can use any glass that will hold 18-ounces of liquid goodness. For the strawberries, find them in the freezer section and get kind that are frozen in sweet syrup, and let them thaw out before you measure. Be sure to include lots of the syrup when you measure the strawberries to help mellow the tart juice from the two lemon wedges.
Cheddar's Santa Fe Spinach DipRead more
Spinach dips are a great finger food appetizer and just about every chain has its own version, but Cheddar's has one of the best in the business with a unique, slightly spicy southwestern twist. Just like the original, four different kinds of cheese are used in my Cheddar's Santa Fe Spinach dip recipe: three are blended into the spinach, then mozzarella is melted over the top just before serving.
And for speed, we’ll use a microwave oven to quickly defrost the box of frozen spinach so that you’ll have a delish copycat Cheddar's Santa Fe spinach dip on the table in just 20 minutes.
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Steak 'N Shake The Original Double 'N Cheese SteakburgerRead more
Rather than adding any seasoning, including salt and pepper, to their classic Steakburgers, Steak 'N Shake solely relies on the Maillard reaction for flavor. This is the browning that occurs when amino acids and sugars combine with high heat. I was able to peek into the grilling station at the restaurant to see cooks squashing ground beef "pucks" flat onto the hot grill to trigger the fast browning process. This was good information, but no amount of spying into the kitchen provided me with any information about which cuts of beef are used to make those burgers.
The term "Steakburger" doesn't tell us much, since practically any cut of beef can be a steak until it's ground up, and there are conflicting reports about which cuts up beef are used. One article I found states that the burgers are made with chuck, rib-eye, and brisket, while another claims it's a combination of ground round, sirloin, and T-bone steaks. A waiter at the restaurant told me it's all from porterhouse steak, which is both strip and tenderloin.
Completely confused by my research, I decided to bust out the meat grinder and taste test all three combinations, plus several others. My tests paid off. Follow my Steak 'N Shake Double 'N Cheese Steakburger recipe, and you'll have a perfect match to the eighty-year old Midwest original.
Get the full recipe in Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step by Todd Wilbur.
Steak 'N Shake Classic Genuine ChiliRead more
Examining the list of ingredients on a can of this 500-unit Midwestern chain's chili reveals a traditional chili con carne formula with beans as the only vegetable ingredient. There is no tomato sauce in the recipe, as stated by Internet copycats. Nor is there any chocolate or cola in the mix, as some recipes claim.
Rinsing a portion of the chili through a wire mesh strainer reveals both small bits and large chunks of tender meat in the chili. But, what kind of met is it? Well, considering the significant amount of fat floating on top of the chili and the tenderness of the chunks, I concluded that it's most likely an inexpensive, heavily marbled cut that braises well. Most likely chuck. Get 8 ounces ground up, and another 8 ounces that you slice into bite-sized chunks. The flour and the cornstarch are added to my Steak 'N Shake chili recipe to simulate modified food starch, and the dry beef bouillon punches up the flavor along with all the spices. After a two-hour simmer, serve this chili in a bowl on its own, or with shredded cheese and onion on top, or on top of spaghetti noodles in traditional Midwestern style.
Get the full recipe in Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step by Todd Wilbur.
Jason's Deli Irish Potato SoupRead more
Traditional Irish potato soup—a simple formula made with potatoes, onions, stock, and cream—gets an upgrade with cheddar cheese, carrots, green onions, and sour cream in Jason’s Deli's delicious take on the classic recipe. These improvements make a great soup that's still easy to make, but it also may be the best-tasting potato soup I’ve ever hacked.
The secret to this soup recipe is that it starts life as a cheddar cheese sauce, which may worry you if you’ve ever made cheese sauce that wound up “grainy." But that won’t happen here if you're sure to use mild or medium cheddar cheese. Older (sharper) cheddar contains less water and doesn’t melt as well as younger cheese, so the first important step is to choose your cheddar wisely.
Also, shred your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheese won’t melt as well, since shredded cheese is usually drier and often dusted with cornstarch to keep the shreds from clumping. For my Jason's Deli Irish Potato Soup recipe below, I highly recommend that you shred your own cheese to get the best results.
After an hour or so of simmering, you’ll have eight beautiful bowls of soup, all topped with cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon before serving, just like the real thing.
Find more amazing copycat soup recipes here.
Chipotle Tomatillo-Red Chili SalsaRead more
This is my go-to salsa at Chipotle, so it was only a matter of time before I tackled a hack for the famous secret recipe. And now that I can make it at home with just 7 ingredients and about 20 minutes of prep, this salsa replaces several grocery store brands I was previously loyal to.
The process for my Chipotle red chili Salsa recipe is simple: roast tomatillos, Fresno peppers, and garlic under your broiler for a few minutes, then purée everything in a blender with vinegar and seasoning. The trick is to not over-blend the mixture. Once the tomatillos are added, purée the mixture until no chunks of tomatillo are visible, but stop blending while you can still see tomatillo seeds in the sauce.
Add this great-tasting salsa to anything that needs a hit of hotness—tacos, burritos, salads, and bowls. Just know that it's a hack of Chipotle’s spiciest salsa, so be ready for the boom.
You could also use this great salsa on Chipotle's famous barbacoa, carnitas, carne asada, or pollo asado. Find all of those recipes and more here.
Jimmy Dean Pancakes and Sausage on a StickRead more
When Jimmy Dean debuted Pancakes and Sausage on a Stick in 2006, Jon Stewart held up a box on The Daily Show declaring it an example of how America continues “to push the envelope for what could technically be defined as food.” But the unusual—and apparently humorous—combination of salty breakfast sausage encased in sweet pancake batter, all on a stick, might surprise you. This innovative product probably tastes better than you expect—as good as eating maple pancakes with a side of sausage, but simultaneously and with one hand. In fact, this quirky treat became popular that other companies joined the party, and now several brands have their own versions in the freezer aisle.
As I worked on my Jimmy Dean Pancakes and Sausage on a Stick recipe I realized that there is no breakfast sausage you can buy that’s as big as the sausage used in the original. It's very long! So, for the best clone, I made the Jimmy Dean sausage from scratch using my Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage hack. That slightly tweaked recipe is included here along with everything you need to know to make dippable pancake batter than can be fried.
Alternatively, if you’d like to save some time, you can use frozen pre-made sausage, rather than making the sausage from scratch. The sausage won't taste like Jimmy Dean's, but the recipe will still work. I've got details on that in the Tidbits below.
After frying each of these breakfast snacks on a stick for 5 minutes, you can serve them right away, or you can freeze them and then heat them up later in a microwave minute, just like the real ones.
Check out more cool recipes for famous breakfast items here.
IHOP Thick 'N Fluffy French ToastRead more
IHOP upped its French toast game in 2022 with the introduction of a new recipe that suggests your French toast is only as good as the bread you start with, and IHOP’s new Thick ‘N Fluffy French Toast starts with thick specialty artisan bread, rather than the more commonly used Texas toast white bread.
For my IHOP Thick 'N Fluffy French Toast recipe, you can use any thick-sliced bread from your bakery, but there are two national brands that work well: Nature’s Own Perfectly Crafted Thick-Sliced White Bread and Sara Lee Artisano. Either of those will do, but of the two, Nature’s Own is shaped more like IHOP’s version.
Adding vanilla and a little cinnamon to the easy batter will set these waffles apart from most others, and in no time, you’ll have 6 beautiful slices of French toast for a total of 3 servings. Dust them with a little powdered sugar, add some butter and maple syrup on the side, and it’s like you just opened a mini IHOP in your house.
KFC Buffalo Ranch SauceRead more
The dipping sauce mashup that KFC debuted in late 2022 combines a smooth and creamy ranch sauce with the sour heat of cayenne pepper sauce. You might expect that a homemade version is as simple as combining ranch dressing with Frank’s RedHot in a bowl, but that did not result in a good clone.
Creating my KFC Buffalo Ranch Sauce recipe from scratch was the way to go. It takes less than 10 minutes to combine these 12 ingredients in a bowl, and after 30 minutes in the fridge, you’ll have ¾ cup of the new sauce for dipping your tenders and nuggets, or as a spread on crispy chicken sandwiches.
The color of this sauce will not be as bright orange as the real one, which is colored with paprika and annatto extractives. If you want your sauce to be more orange like the original, add the optional red and yellow food coloring as specified in the recipe to brighten it up.
I've cloned a lot of other stuff from KFC. See if I hacked your favorites here.
Chipotle Garlic Guajillo SteakRead more
In the Fall of 2022, Chipotle debuted Garlic Guajillo Steak, a variation of the chain’s classic steak made with a new secret seasoning starring the fruity and slightly smokey flavor of dry guajillo peppers, and, surprisingly, prepared using a gourmet French slow-cooking technique.
After an outbreak of E. coli bacteria at Chipotle infected 53 people in nine states, the chain changed the way it cooks steak. Rather than cooking the beef entirely on a Plancha, or flat griddle, Chipotle now pre-cooks the steaks with the sous vide method wherein vacuum-packed seasoned beef is cooked slowly in swirling, heated water. This cooking technique not only eliminates any potentially harmful bacteria before the beef is grilled, but it will also speed up the seasoning process and help tenderize tougher cuts.
But you shouldn't worry if you don’t have a sous vide setup. My Chipotle Garlic Guajillo Steak recipe will also work by simply chilling the seasoned steak overnight in a zip-top bag and later cooking it off in a heavy pan or on a hot griddle. After slicing the cooked steak, toss it with some freshly squeezed lime juice and fresh cilantro, and use it as you see fit for tacos, burritos, bowls, and salads.
If you prefer chicken, head over to my clone recipe for Chipotle's Pollo Asado.
Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que Cracked Out Deviled EggsRead more
The West Coast barbecue chain introduced these creative deviled eggs with the eye-catching name as a limited-time-only offer, but sales were so good that Lucille’s Cracked Out Deviled Eggs is now a permanent fixture on the menu.
For this dish, the deviled egg yolks are combined with a blend of bacon, green onion, red bell pepper, and the chain’s delicious barbecue blend, then arranged on crispy onion straws with seasoned chicken cracklings poked down into the top of each egg. These tasty deviled eggs are unlike any you've had before and all the secrets you need to make a perfect copy at home are "cracked" for you here, including my newly hacked recipe for the delicious onion straws.
Two chicken thighs will provide enough skin for you to make plenty of the cracklings, and I’ll give you all the prep details in the recipe below, along with a couple of good ways to hard cook your eggs. If you steam your eggs as described, and if they’re fresh, you’ll have no ugly green ring around the yolk and the shells will practically fall off.
Find more of your favorite famous appetizer recipes here.
Burger King French Toast SticksRead more
Many fast food chains have offered French toast sticks over the years, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Sonic, Roy Rogers, and Jack in the Box, but Burger King was first to introduce the morning finger food way back in 1985, and if staying power is any indication of preference, then BK is most deserving of this new top secret recipe.
Burger King French Toast Sticks are a perfect fast food item, since they come pre-battered and par-fried, and workers just need to toss a few frozen sticks into the fryer next to the French fries for 3 or 4 minutes, and they’re ready to go, along with a handy dipper pack of maple-flavored syrup.
But no deep-frying is necessary here for my French toast sticks recipe. Instead, you’ll cook your quartered and battered white bread slices in a combination of butter and oil in a sauté pan for a couple of minutes per side, or until the sticks are nicely browned. Serve them with a side of warm maple syrup, and you can even add a dusting of powdered sugar on top if you want to get fancy about it.
Next time you make breakfast, mix things up with some of these as a sweet, easy-to-eat starter.
Find recipes for more of your favorite items from Burger King here.
Chili's Secret Sauce BurgerRead more
In 2021, Chili’s added a new burger to its menu lineup of Big Mouth Burgers, and this one comes with a big saucy secret.
Chili's Secret Sauce Burger is simple in construction with a soft brioche bun, a huge ½-pound patty, sliced lettuce, and American cheese. It’s also got sautéed onion piled on it, which sets this burger recipe apart from typical fast food fare, but it’s the secret sauce that makes this big burger rock.
The sauce used on this burger is the same sauce the chain initially created for Chili’s Big Mouth Chicken Sandwich—a formula that appears to be inspired by the popular chicken sandwich sauce made famous at Chick-fil-A. You can make my Chili's Secret Sauce recipe revealed here in just a couple of minutes with a simple combination of mayonnaise, ketchup, barbecue sauce, honey, and mustard, plus a little turmeric to add a golden tint.
As for the burger patties, get ground chuck that has a fat content of at least 20%, or grind your own. As the burgers cook, press down on them with a spatula to release the melting fat like they do in the restaurant. This will trigger the Maillard reaction that browns the meat and adds a flavorful crust to your burgers, so your homemade Chili's Secret Sauce Burgers will taste just as good as the original.
Find more of your favorite recipes for Chili's famous dishes here.
Terry Ho's Spicy Yum Yum SauceRead more
The most famous recipe from Terry Ho’s Hibachi Express chain of fast casual Japanese restaurants located in Georgia and Alabama is the secret orange sauce served alongside every meal. In 2012, Terry bottled his famous Yum Yum sauce, claiming on the label that it’s “the best sauce ever” and is “good on everything.”
I chose to hack the kicked-up spicier version of the sauce since it had more character than the milder original version, but if this version is too hot for your taste, reduce or eliminate the cayenne pepper and pepper sauce.
Use my Terry Ho's Spicy Yum Yum Sauce recipe below to easily make the sauce at home. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, and then let it rest in your refrigerator. After about 30 minutes, you’ll have a cup of the delicious creamy stuff to use on shrimp, chicken, steak, or whatever you want.
Find more of my copycat recipes for famous sauces here.
P.F. Chang's Fire-Braised Short RibsRead more
Good short ribs should practically melt in your mouth, and my P.F. Chang’s Fire-Braised Short Ribs recipe below will produce flavor-pumped short ribs that will do just that. Just as in the restaurant, these sliced boneless short ribs sit on a bed of pineapple fried rice and come with a side of the sweet-and-savory Asian braising sauce to pour over the top. If you dig short ribs, you're going to love this dish.
To craft the 30-dollar entrée at home (but for much less) the short ribs are braised for 3 hours in a secret liquid made with Chinese cooking wine, garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and a few other key ingredients. The cooked short ribs are then chilled, sliced, and seared while being doused with the robust braising liquid for a perfect burst of flavor.
When you arrange the sliced short ribs on the pineapple fried rice made with the Top Secret Recipe I’m including below, and sprinkle the plate with some micro sprouts, you’ll have created a dish that looks and tastes just like the fabulous original restaurant version, but at a mere fraction of the cost.
For a great side, try this hack for P.F. Chang's Short Rib Fried Rice, and get more P.F. Chang's copycat recipes here.
P.F. Chang's Short Rib Fried RiceRead more
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.
As with my recipe for P.F. Chang’s Fire-Braised Short Ribs, you’ll make a tasty braising liquid with Chinese cooking wine, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar, green onions, and garlic, to pour over your short ribs before they slow-cook in your oven for 3 hours.
When you're ready to serve the dish, dice the cooled short ribs, then sear them and add them to the rice along with all the other ingredients in a hot pan or wok over high heat.
Plate the rice, drizzle wasabi-mayo sauce over the top, sprinkle on some fresh chopped green onions, and serve up a spot-on clone of the hit dish, and possibly the best fried rice you’ve ever crafted.
Try my P.F. Chang's Short Rib Fried Rice recipe below, and find more popular P.F. Chang's copycat recipes here.
Cheesecake Factory Bruléed French ToastRead more
On weekends, hungry patrons at The Cheesecake Factory are treated to a special menu of brunch selections where this thick-sliced, caramelized French toast is a stand-out. A plate comes with four battered bread slices, each browned on one side, then dusted with powdered sugar, and served with warm maple-butter syrup.
I obtained virtually no helpful prep tips from the servers in the restaurant, so I was left to deduce my copycat recipe from a simple inspection of the real thing once I got my take-out order home. I eventually settled on a batter that combines the same ingredients you'd find in crème brûlée: eggs, cream (in the half-and-half), sugar, and vanilla.
After lightly browning one battered side of each thick bread slice, the other side is battered and then sprinkled with a light coating of sugar. When the sugared bread is turned over onto the hot pan, the sugar cooks until browned, re-creating the taste experience of a traditional torched crème brûlée dessert.
Now, using my exclusive Cheesecake Factory Bruléed French Toast recipe, you can have great brunch food any day of the week without having to wait for a table, and without shelling out nearly 20 bucks for a plate of battered bread.
Find your favorite cheesecake, appetizer, and entrée recipes from Cheesecake Factory here.
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.