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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

    This limited-time-only new product from the country’s biggest Mexican fast food chain is easy to make with bagged fries found in the freezer section of your food store, and you can make as many or as few as you want at one time since there is enough seasoning and cheese sauce for one 2-pound bag. Get Ore-Ida Golden Fries if you can find them, and if you want the best clone you really should fry them, although baking works too.

    The secret spicy ingredient in the nacho cheese sauce is brine from the bottled jalapeno nacho slices, plus a little cayenne for extra boom.

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    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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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    This 8-unit Scottsdale Arizona-based chain founded in 1999 was named one of the top 10 steakhouses in the country by the Gayot restaurant and travel guide, and is planning to build 40 additional restaurants over the next 10 years. Mastro’s restaurants are known for their elegant settings and delicious prime beef served on 400-degree plates, but this side dish ranks high among the most popular menu choices. As if the creamy gorgonzola cheese sauce isn’t incredible enough, this dish is topped with a bubbling cheese layer that includes mozzarella, Fontina, and Pecorino; plus a little Grana Padano, which is similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano. You can track down all of these cheeses separately and make your own cloned blend, or you can use a pre-shredded Italian cheese blend found in most markets that will include from 4 to 6 Italian cheeses in one bag. Even though the bagged blend is not exactly what is used at the restaurant, I found these cheese blends to be an easy and inexpensive substitute that taste very close to the original. When using the pre-blended cheese spread 1½ cups over the top of the pasta and get on with the broiling.

    Source: "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3" by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.88. Votes: 8

    You're grilling some steaks or baking some chicken and don't know what to serve on the side? Try out this simple clone for a dish that's served along with several of Applebee's entrees. Since the recipe requires converted rice because instant rice is gross, you have to plan ahead about 25 minutes to give the rice time to cook. It's worth the wait. The secret to an authentic, great-tasting rice pilaf is sauteing the uncooked rice kernels in butter first, before adding the liquid—in this case chicken broth. Then, as the rice is cooking, you have plenty of time to saute the almonds, celery, and onions that are tossed into the rice at the end.

    Want some more of my Applebee's recipes? I've got a bunch right here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.18. Votes: 28

    The talented chefs at Benihana cook food on hibachi grills with flair and charisma, treating the preparation like a tiny stage show. They juggle salt and pepper shakers, trim food with lightning speed, and flip the shrimp and mushrooms perfectly onto serving plates or into their tall chef's hat.

    One of the side dishes that everyone seems to love is the fried rice. At Benihana this dish is prepared by chefs with precooked rice on open hibachi grills, and is ordered a la cart to complement any Benihana entree, including Hibachi Steak and Chicken. I like when the rice is thrown onto the hot hibachi grill and seems to come alive as it sizzles and dances around like a bunch of little jumping beans. Okay, so I'm easily amused.

    This Benihana Japanese fried rice recipe will go well with just about any Japanese entree and can be partially prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until the rest of the meal is close to done.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.38. Votes: 13

    Here's a simple copycat recipe for KFC potato salad that's no longer sold as a side dish at America's largest fast food chicken chain. Some of the skin is left on the potatoes in the real thing, so you don't have to peel yours too thoroughly. Just be sure to chop your potatoes into cubes that are approximately 1/2-inch thick, and then let the salad marinate for at least 4 hours so that the flavors can properly develop. If you let the salad chill overnight, it tastes even better.

    Create your own KFC fried chicken, baked beans, coleslaw, and more KFC copycat recipes here.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.50. Votes: 4

    With Southwestern-style dressing, corn, peppers and fresh cilantro, this is a great-tasting clone. Koo Koo Roo's "California Style" flame-broiled and rotisserie chicken meals come with a wide selection of very tasty side dishes, including Tangy Tomato Salad, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Confetti Rice. This cold Santa Fe Pasta salad is one of the favorites on the long list of 24 sides. And here's the TSR hack recipe to help you make a version of your own that tastes as good as the real thing.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–6 ounces
    Total servings–10
    Calories per serving–230
    Fat per serving–5g

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

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    Score: 3.89. Votes: 18

    I first created the clone for this Cajun-style recipe back in 1994 for the second TSR book, More Top Secret Recipes, but I've never been overjoyed with the results. After convincing a Popeyes manager to show me the ingredients written on the box of red bean mixture, I determined the only way to accurately clone this one is to include an important ingredient omitted from the first version: pork fat. Emeril Lagasse—a Cajun food master—says, "pork fat rules," and it does. We could get the delicious smoky fat from rendering smoked ham hocks, but that takes too long. The easiest way is to cook 4 or 5 pieces of bacon, save the cooked bacon for another recipe (or eat it!), then use 1/4 cup of the fat for this hack. As for the beans, find red beans (they're smaller than kidney beans) in two 15-ounce cans. If you're having trouble tracking down red beans, red kidney beans will be a fine substitute.

    Can't get enough Popeyes? Find all of my recipes here

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked 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: 5.00. Votes: 4

    Chi-Chi's cofounder Marno McDermott named his restaurant chain after his wife Chi Chi. He claims the name is quite memorable as it translates in Spanish into something like "hooters" in English. The Minneapolis Star quoted McDermott in 1977 shortly after the first Chi-Chi's opened in Richfield, Minneapolis, "English-speaking patrons remember it because it's catchy. And the Spanish-speaking customers are amused. Either way, it doesn't hurt business."

    One of the side dishes included with several of the entrees at Chi-Chi's is the Sweet Corn Cake. It's sort of like cornbread, but much softer, almost like corn pudding. You'll find it goes well with just about any Mexican dish. The recipe requires a bain marie, or water bath—a baking technique commonly used to keep custards from cracking or curdling. This is done by baking the corn cake in another larger pan filled with a little hot water.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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