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Sauces

Good job. 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. See if Todd has hacked your favorite sauces here. New recipes added every week.

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    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 clone, 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.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 3

    Getting a table at the 123-year-old original Rao’s restaurant in New York City is next to impossible. The tables are “owned” by regulars who schedule their meals months in advance, so every table is full every night, and that’s the way it’s been for the last 38 years. The only way an outsider would get to taste the restaurant’s fresh marinara sauce is to be invited by a regular.

    If that isn’t in the stars for you, you could buy a bottle of the sauce at your local market (if they even have it). It won't be fresh, and it's likely to be the most expensive sauce in the store, but it still has that great Rao's taste. An even better solution is to copy the sauce for yourself using this new and very easy hack.

    The current co-owner of Rao’s, Frank Pellegrino Jr., told Bon Appetit in 2015 that the famous marinara sauce was created by his grandmother many years ago, and the sauce you buy in stores is the same recipe served in his restaurants. The ingredients are common, but correctly choosing the main ingredient—tomatoes—is important. Try to find San Marzano-style whole canned tomatoes, preferably from Italy. They are a little more expensive than typical canned tomatoes, but they will give you some great sauce.

    After 30 minutes of cooking, you’ll end up with about the same amount of sauce as in a large jar of the real thing. Your version will likely be just a little bit brighter and better than the bottled stuff, thanks to the fresh ingredients. But now you can eat it anytime you want, with no reservations, at a table you own.

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

    You might also like my #1 recipe of 2019, Texas Roadhouse Rolls.

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    Score: 4.33. Votes: 3

    The ridiculously popular crispy chicken sandwich at Popeyes comes with your choice of regular mayonnaise or kicked-up spicy mayonnaise. Fortunately, I was able to hack the sandwich before it sold out just a couple weeks after its debut (get the recipe here), but that recipe includes just plain mayonnaise. Recently I had the chance to hack the secret spicy mayonnaise, and I’m glad I did. Popeyes chicken sandwich with regular mayonnaise is crazy good, but with spicy mayonnaise, that sandwich is great.

    You can use this sauce on a variety of sandwiches and burgers, or as a dip for chicken fingers, nuggets, and fried shrimp.

    Check out my other Popeyes clone recipes for their famous red beans and rice, buttermilk biscuits and fried chicken.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    I’ve yet to taste a better habanero salsa at a quick-service Mexican chain than the one made daily at Qdoba Mexican Eats. Yes, it is very spicy, but the simple combo of fire-roasted habanero, tomatillo, and garlic is not as fiery as you might expect from a salsa that includes so much habanero in it.

    And that’s exactly what makes this salsa so good. Because the habanero peppers are roasted, and the seeds are removed, you can enjoy the complex flavor of the habanero without your taste buds being numbed by the heat. A good salsa should enhance your food, not upstage it.

    You can roast the peppers in your oven or by holding them over the high flame of a gas stove with a skewer until the skins have charred to black. Resting the blackened peppers in a covered container for a few minutes will help to steam the skins, and they will wash off easily under cold water. 

    How about using this salsa to spice up some Qdoba Grilled Chicken Adobo? Ger my recipe here

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    For 64 years KFC branded itself with the feelgood slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good,” but when the Coronavirus pandemic struck in 2020 that slogan didn’t feel so good anymore and the chain put it on pause. That also meant that KFC’s Finger Lickin’ Good Sauce, which I hacked here, was removed from the menu, and in its place KFC offers the new, and much better, KFC Sauce for dipping chicken fingers, popcorn chicken, and wings, or for slathering on a chicken sandwich.

    Finger Lickin’ Good Sauce tasted similar to the dipping sauces you get at the chicken finger chains like Zaxby’s and Raising Cane’s. But this new sauce is different. This time KFC seems to have been inspired by the sweet-and-smokey creamy mustard sauce at Chick-fil-A.

    For our clone we’ll use mostly regular Grey Poupon Dijon mustard, but since there are detectable mustard seeds in the sauce we’ll also bring in just a little bit of Grey Poupon Country Dijon. This type of mustard contains the mustard seeds we need to give our sauce the perfect texture and flavor.   

    I've cloned a lot of other stuff from KFC. See if I hacked your favorites here.

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    This super-spicy, slightly-sweet dipping sauce was introduced in the Fall of 2020 with the debut of the Spicy McNuggets, and it was the first new McDonald’s dipping sauce since the 2017 re-release of the infamous Szechuan Sauce (sauce mob details and hack here). The Mighty Hot Sauce was only offered for a limited time, and it vanished along with the Spicy McNuggets later that year. But not for long. Due to a social media outcry, Spicy McNuggets and Mighty Hot Sauce came back to the Golden Arches on February 1, 2021, for another limited-time-only run.

    Now you can get that same heavenly Mighty Hot Sauce heat any time you want at home with this simple formula and use it as a dip for chicken fingers, wings, or whatever. This hack will give you about ½ cup of the sauce, but feel free to double it for a mightier portion. Just add another 20 seconds to the cooking time.

    If you want the best McDonald’s match use Texas Pete’s cayenne sauce for your hack. If you can’t find that brand, go with Frank’s.

    Click here for more great McDonald's copycat recipes. 

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    For years, I’ve been hearing about a delicious seafood dipping sauce at Japanese steakhouses called "shrimp sauce" or "yum yum sauce." Research revealed many independent Japanese steakhouses with "the best sauce," but it was the name of an 11-unit chain called Kobe Ichiban in Central Florida that came up most often.

    When I next found myself in Orlando, Florida presenting some cooking demos at a home show, I dropped in on Kobe Ichiban for dinner and there it was: the light orange creamy dipping sauce that everyone was raving about. It was sweet and sour and salty and creamy, and it tasted amazing on the shrimp—as well as on everything else.

    I poured some into some small plastic storage bags I had with me (always come prepared!), then popped them into a cooler for the long trip back to Las Vegas, where, in the underground lab, a clone for this much-requested delicious dipping sauce was finally completed.

    Find more of my copycat recipes for famous sauces here.  

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    This combination of mayonnaise, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and spices for dipping chicken fingers was originally created at Guthrie's—the first chain to offer chicken-finger meals—by one of founder Hal Guthrie's kids, and the sauce became a big part of the restaurant's early success. Even though Guthrie's debuted the first version of this sauce, it’s the bigger chicken-finger chains that copied Guthrie’s concept (Zaxby's and Raising Cane's) that have made the secret recipe iconic.

    Here's how to join in on the fun and copycat your own version of this famous sauce at home, for dipping homemade Zaxby's Chicken Fingerz, or pre-breaded tenders, you buy in the frozen food aisle of your store.

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    Score: 4.79. Votes: 84

    A big part of the Big Mac's appeal is the tasty "secret" spread slathered onto both decks of the world's most popular double-decker hamburger. So what's so special about this sauce? It's basically just thousand island dressing, right? Pretty much. But this sauce has a bit more sweet pickle relish in it than a typical thousand island salad slather. Also, I found that this clone comes close to the original with the inclusion of French dressing. It's an important ingredient—ketchup just won't do it. That, along with a sweet-and-sour flavor combo from vinegar and sugar, makes this sauce go well on any of your home burger creations, whether they're Big Mac clones or not. 

    If you like this recipe, but don't feel like making it at home, buy it by the bottle with Todd Wilbur's McDonald's Special Burger Sauce.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.25. Votes: 8

    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 the spicy sauce 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.

    This 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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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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