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Cookies & Brownies

Nice work. You just found copycat recipes for all of your favorite famous foods! Bestselling author and TV host, Todd Wilbur shows you how to easily duplicate the taste of iconic dishes and treats at home for less money than eating out. See if Todd has hacked your favorite cookies & brownies here. New recipes added every week.

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    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 is also a brand of delicious preserves, jams, and other foods, including these fantastic little jam-filled shortbread 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. 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.

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    Bob Evans built his first restaurant on a farm in Rio Grande, Ohio in 1962, primarily to sell his own brand of high-quality sausage. Business was good. Really good. There are now over 500 Bob Evans Restaurants in 18 states, each one decorated in a country-living theme that reminds us of the original farm location. Customers seem to like it. They also seem to like the packaged baked goods sold at each of the restaurants under the Bob Evans Farms brand, especially this top-selling, chewy, chocolate chunk cookie that can now be hacked in a snap by you. Try this Bob Evans chocolate chunk cookies recipe today. Make sure to buy chocolate chunks for baking!

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    One of the most-loved treats at the Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant chain are the crescent-shaped lemon cookies served at the end of your meal. The cookies are soft, chewy, and coated with a bright lemon icing, and it’s impossible to eat just one.

    Well, now you can eat as many as you like because this knockoff recipe makes five dozen lemony taste-alike cookies. And you won’t have to worry about getting a crescent cookie cutter to get the shapes right. First, cut out a circle using a round 2-inch biscuit cutter, then use the cutter to slice a chunk out of the round, making a crescent.

    You might also like my copycat recipe for Maggiano's Beef Tenderloin Medallions

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

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

    Fortune cookies start their life looking like pancake batter. The batter is formed into 3-inch circles that, when baked, become thin cookies. These are pliable when warm and crispy when cool—so you’ll need to work fast when forming them. Because they’re so thin, it’s best to bake the cookies on a silicone pad or nonstick foil. You can also use parchment paper, but it tends to ripple from the moisture of the batter, and that ripple shows up on the surface of the cookies.

    I suggest baking just three or four cookies at a time so that they'll all be warm and pliable while you add the fortunes and shape them. And if you're very fortunate, you can find a helpful someone to assist you with that part, so you'll be able to make more cookies faster. 

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 2

    The Chesapeake brand of cookies from Pepperidge Farm are crispy cookies with a light crunch and filled with various chunks of chocolate and nutty bits. One of the most popular choices features big chunks of dark chocolate along with pecan bits, and it can be duplicated at home with a few twists to one of my chocolate chip cookie recipes.

    To make a crispy cookie that’s tender and not tough, I’ve replaced some of the butter with shortening, replaced one egg with an egg white, and tweaked the baking powder/baking soda ratio.

    Nestle makes a 10-ounce bag of oversized dark chocolate chips that are delicious and work nicely for this clone. If you can’t find those, you can chop up a couple of your favorite dark chocolate bars into small chunks and add those to the mix.

    When the cookies are cool, they should be lightly crispy and filled with flavor. Store them in a covered container in a dry spot.  

    Try more famous copycat cookies and brownie recipes here.  

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    These candy-coated biscuit sticks come in dozens of flavors today, but for years the original chocolate flavor invented by Yoshiaki Koma in Japan in 1966 was the only Pocky you could eat. Almond and strawberry were introduced in the ‘70s, and as Pocky sales grew throughout Asia and the world, more flavors were added including the popular matcha and cookies and cream found just about everywhere these days.

    Our homemade version starts by making a proper biscuit stick with a buttery flavor like the original. We’ll use real butter here rather than butter flavoring found in the real thing because we can. To give the stick its tender bite I found that pastry flour, with its lower gluten content, worked much better than all-purpose. I recommend Bob’s Red Mill brand pastry flour. And to further tenderize the sticks we’ll use both yeast and baking powder for leavening, just like the real ones.

    You can make dozens of very thin sticks by rolling the dough to 1/8-inch thick and about 5 inches wide. Use a sharp paring knife guided by a straight edge, like a metal ruler, to slice 1/8-inch wide strips of dough and arrange them on a lined baking sheet. I found that chilling the rolled-out dough in your freezer for 10 minutes makes the dough more manageable and the thin strips of dough will be less likely to break as you work with them.  

    Three coating flavors are included here: Chocolate, strawberry and matcha. The chocolate coating is made with chocolate-flavored melting chips or chunks and melts easily in your microwave. The strawberry and matcha are made with white chocolate or vanilla melting chips, with strawberry oil and real matcha powder added for flavor.      

    I've hacked a lot of famous candy over the years. See if I copied your favorites here

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    In 1891, a baker named Charles Rosen invented a machine that inserted fig paste into seamless pastry dough and was soon mass-producing one of the first commercially baked products in America. Rosen named his creation after the nearby town of Newton, Massachusetts, and eventually sold the recipe to the Kennedy Biscuit Company, which later became Nabisco. Today Nabisco sells over 1 billion Fig Newtons each year.

    It has long been my wish to create a satisfying clone of such an iconic snack, but I was never quite sure how to go about it. The fig filling needs to be sweet with a sour aftertaste, and thick like jam. The thin pastry would need to be tender, not tough, and should smoothly wrap around the figs without cracking. After a week or so of pureeing dry figs and testing pastry doughs, I finally had a hack that tasted great and looked just like the original.

    Since you likely don’t have a fig bar extruder in your kitchen like Charles Rosen did, we’ll use a dough folding technique to make nicely shaped bars with smooth sides, no cracks, and no visible seam. The trick is to roll out the dough on wax paper, then wrap the dough around the fig filling by lifting the wax paper up and over the filling. You can cleanly manipulate very thin dough this way, and when you flip the bar over, the seam will be hidden.

    Re-hydrating the dried figs will help make them easier to puree, and the dry pectin in the mix will thicken the figs to a jammy consistency and give the filling additional tartness (citric acid is in pectin to help activate it). This clone recipe will make 48 cookies, or more than twice what you get in two 10-ounce packages of the real thing.

    Get this recipe in "Top Secret Recipes Unleashed" exclusively on Amazon.com.

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    In 1987 the Mrs. Fields Corporation devised a rather clever treat called the Peanut Butter Dream bar-a delicious combination of peanut butter, chocolate, and a cookie-crumb crust. It was not only a tasty product but an economical one. Mrs. Fields has always had the policy of removing cookies that are more than two hours old from outlet display cases. Now, instead of being thrown away, the cookies are crumbled up and mixed with melted butter to form the Dream Bar crust. If you can't talk your local Mrs. Field's outlet into giving you old cookies for this Peanut Butter Dream Bar recipe, make your own cookies using my recipe found here.

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    Back in the 1870s, in the coastal city of Malmo, Sweden, a man named Anders Pahlsson baked the first of his soon-to-be famous gingersnaps in a bakery he named Pogen's. In 1970 Pogen's, Inc., opened in the United States, expanding the line of baked goods that Pahlsson developed in the nineteenth century.

    A legend that dates back many years says that if you place a gingersnap in the palm of your hand, press down in the middle, and it breaks into three pieces, good luck will follow. Today, more than 100 years later, good luck and hard work have made Pogen's the third-largest supplier of cookies to the growing vending business.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

    Update 1/26/17: Bump up the ginger flavor a little by adding another 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger to the recipe. Also, reduce the cinnamon, so that it doesn't dominate, by 1/2 teaspoon.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 8

    If you're a ginger snap fanatic, clone the cookie giant's store-bought version in a, uh, snap. And if you're watching the fat, four of these cookies check in with a total of around 2.5 grams of fat.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–4 cookies
    Total servings–30
    Calories per serving–110
    Fat per serving–2.5g

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

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I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker

For 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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