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Side Dishes

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 side dishes here. New recipes added every week.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    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. The recipe 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.

    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).

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    Outback takes a traditional Mexican street corn recipe and lightens it up for this new premium side menu addition. The corn comes off the cob after grilling it, and butter steps in where mayonnaise and Mexican sour cream are included in the traditional recipe. Want to do something cool for dinner tonight with those fresh ears of corn? Try this easy side.

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    Score: 4.75. Votes: 4

    If you like baked beans you'll want to try this clone recipe from the world's first theme restaurant chain. Combine ingredients in a covered casserole dish, and bake for an hour and a half. This makes the dish handy if transporting to another location for a party or potluck, since you can fill the dish, cover it, then pop it into the oven once you arrive. For the pulled pork you can either use the recipe here Hard Rock Cafe Pig Sandwich clone, or you can add some pre-made pulled pork found in most stores. Or just leave that ingredient out. Either way the beans you make here will be a tasty side dish or solo snack.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.70. Votes: 20

    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. Proper preparation steps were developed by McDonald's to minimize in-store preparation time, while producing a fry that is soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. This clone requires a two-step frying process to replicate the same qualities: the fries are par-fried, frozen, then fried once more to crispy just before serving. Be sure to use a slicer to cut the fries for a consistent thickness (1/4-inch is perfect) and for a cooking result that will make them just like the real thing. As for the rumor that you must soak the fries in sugar water to help them turn golden brown, I also found that not to be necessary. If the potatoes have properly developed they contain enough sugar on their own to make a good clone with great color.

    Now, how about a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder to go with those fries? Click here for a list of all my McDonald's copycat recipes. 

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.50. Votes: 6

    Smashing a guitar and hanging it on the wall will not give you the true Hard Rock Cafe experience unless you then eat a sandwich with this cole slaw served on the side. You have to be patient though since it's not something you can enjoy right away. Good cole slaw needs a little time to chill in the cool box—24 hours at least. The cabbage needs a chance to get it together with the other ingredients before rocking out at the gig inside your mouth.

    Now, how about a killer pulled pork sandwich or bar-b-que beans? I've got more Hard Rock Cafe hacks for you here. 

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.71. Votes: 28

    Menu Description: "Made from scratch in our kitchens using fresh Grade A Fancy Russet potatoes, fresh chopped onion, natural Colby cheese and spices. Baked fresh all day long."

    In the late sixties Dan Evins was a Shell Oil "jobber" looking for a new way to market gasoline. He wanted to create a special place that would arouse curiosity, and would pull travelers off the highways. In 1969 he opened the first Cracker Barrel just off Interstate 40 in Lebanon, Tennessee, offering gas, country-style food, and a selection of antiques for sale. Today there are over 529 stores in 41 states, with each restaurant still designed as a country rest stop and gift store. In fact, those stores which carry an average of 4,500 different items apiece have made Cracker Barrel the largest retailer of American-made finished crafts in the United States.

    Those who know Cracker Barrel love the restaurant for its delicious home-style breakfasts. This casserole, made with hash brown-sliced potatoes, Colby cheese, milk, beef broth, and spices is served with many of the classic breakfast dishes at the restaurant. The recipe here is designed for a skillet that is also safe to put in the oven (so no plastic handles). If you don't have one of those, you can easily transfer the casserole to a baking dish after it is done cooking on the stove.

    Love Cracker Barrel? Check out my other clone recipes here.

    Source Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.67. Votes: 6

    Menu Description: "Rotini, cukes, tomatoes, scallions and vinaigrette dressing on the side."

    On the back of each menu at this popular dinner house chain is the "Hooters Saga"—a tongue-in-cheek tale of the restaurant's origin. The story claims that the chain's founders, referred to as "The Hooters Six," were arrested shortly after opening the first Hooters restaurant "for impersonating restauranteurs (sic). There were no indictments," the story explains. "But the stigma lingers on."

    Even though the "saga" claims the building for the first Hooters restaurant was originally going to be used as a "giant walk-in dumpster," each Hooters outlet is designed to look like a Florida beachouse. And whether it's December or July, day or night, you'll notice the trademark multicolored Christmas lights are always on.

    Since Hooters is more than just Buffalo wings and shrimp, I thought I'd include a clone for a newer item on the menu. You'll love the tasty tri-color pasta salad tossed with tomatoes, cucumbers, and green onion, and a delicious vinaigrette. Use this Top Secret version of the pink vinaigrette dressing on a variety of salads or sub sandwiches, or even as a marinade.

    Get your wing fix with my copycat recipes for the wings that made Hooter's famous here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    This cold couscous salad side dish served at the 96-unit chain is very unique and seriously delicious. The secret is cooking the couscous with orange juice so that it is filled with flavor. Then you toss in some golden raisins, almonds, radishes, tomatoes, mint, green onion and parsley, and the couscous party is on. This is a great warm weather side for pool parties and picnics that can be made a day ahead. It’s easy. It’s tasty. It’s finally cloned.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 2.83. Votes: 6

    This KFC mashed potatoes and gravy recipe duplicates the tasty tan stuff that's poured over fluffy mashed potatoes at the Colonel's chain of restaurants. And since the original recipe contains MSG (as does their chicken), this mash potato & gravy sauce clone was designed with that "secret" ingredient. You may choose to leave out the MSG, which is a natural amino acid found in vegetables and other foods, but your clone won't taste like the real thing without it. Also try our KFC Potato Salad copycat recipe.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 3.00. Votes: 2

    Menu Description: "Mixed greens, carrots, zucchini, green onions, peanuts. Tossed in a sweet and spicy dressing."

    If you like the sweet, sour, and spicy flavor combinations of Thai food, you'll love this tasty twist on cole slaw. Just find yourself a medium-size head of napa cabbage and a few other special ingredients and you're on your way to a perfect side dish for grilled grub, sandwiches, or as a quick solo snack. The menu mentions cappellini but we'll substitute with soba noodlesthat can be found in the supermarket aisle with other Asian foods (the rice vinegar and chili paste will be over there too). If you can't find soba noodles, the thicker chow mien noodles will also work. The mixed baby greens can often be found in ready-to-serve-plastic bags in the produce section. But the real secret ingredient for great tasting slaw is patience. The flavors of cole slaw improve after several hours in the chill box, and letting it sit overnight is even better.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 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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