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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

    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 noodles that 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.

    Find more of my famous side-dish copycat recipes here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.25. Votes: 4

    It's not your typical coleslaw. The sweet pickle relish and green onion is a nice touch, and all that parsley really sets this dish apart from other slaws I've tried. If you like coleslaw, and you've never had this version at the restaurant, you might want to give it a try.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.55. Votes: 11

    Sweet potatoes are not related to the more common russet potatoes and are often confused with yams in the grocery store and on menus (the yam is actually starchier and less flavorful). Just be sure you're buying sweet potatoes when you get to the produce section—even the produce stockers get mixed up. Bake these up, and when you spoon on some butter and sprinkle cinnamon/sugar over the top, you've got a treat that tastes more like dessert than a side dish.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.57. Votes: 14

    If you like traditional BBQ beans, you've got to love El Pollo Loco's sweet-and-spicy variation with black beans. The light smokiness in this clone comes from bacon fat, then cayenne pepper and green chiles give the beans a Southwestern flavor that's perfect on burritos or as a delicious side. The prep is a breezer, since you conveniently combine two 15-ounce cans of black beans with the other secret ingredients in a saucepan and just let it simmer for an hour or so. When the beans are soft and the mixture is thick, on with the eating.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 3.00. Votes: 2

    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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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    The low-carb craze is influencing menus of America's restaurant chains, but no chain has embraced the trend as enthusiastically as Ruby Tuesday. Nation's Restaurant News awarded the chain "Best Healthy Choice Menu Selection for 2004," based on more than 30 new low-carb dishes added to the menu, including low-carb cheesecake, burgers in high-fiber tortilla wraps, and other low-carb stand-ins such as Creamy Mashed Cauliflower. This most talked-about of the new selections is a side dish stunt double for mashed potatoes, with a carb count coming in at a measly 9 net carbs per 3/4-cup serving, according to the menu. Spices and cream are added to steamed and pureed cauliflower to give this dish the taste, texture and appearance of America's favorite side. Serve this up with any entree that goes well with mashed potatoes, and you'll never miss the spuds.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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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: 4.75. Votes: 8

    Similar to cloning the cole slaw at KFC, the secret technique for duplicating Cracker Barrel's delicious slaw starts with slicing the cabbage into very small pieces. A mandoline works great for this or use whatever slicing contraption you have. Slice the heads of green and red cabbage on the thinnest setting, and then chop those strips into small bits. The carrot can be shredded using a cheese grater. Mix it all up and then let the cole slaw chill out for several hours so the mixture can get its flavor on. An overnight chill is even sweeter.

    Try more of my Cracker Barrel recipes here.

    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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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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