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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: 4.43. Votes: 14

    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.

    Try my recipes for KFC fried chicken, baked beans, coleslaw, and many more 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: 5.00. Votes: 5

    Other Mexican food chains such as Chi-Chi's and El Torito call it "Sweet Corn Cake." But at Chevys, the corn-filled, pudding-like stuff that's served with most entrees is known as "Tomalito." That masa harina in there corn flour is what's used to make tamales, and it can be found in your supermarket either with the corn meal and flour, or where the other Mexican/Spanish items are stocked. Everything else here is basic stuff. While other corn cake recipes may require canned corn or canned cream-style corn, Chevys "no cans in the kitchen" commandment requires that we use frozen corn for a proper clone. You may also use corn that's been cut fresh from the cob.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.67. Votes: 3

    Menu Description: "Our famous fries are fresh cut daily from whole potatoes with the skins left on."

    Not only can I show you the best way to make french fries at home in this clone of Islands top-selling version, but I'm also supplying you with a super simple way to make the same type of salt blend that Islands uses to make those fries so dang addicting. As with any good french fry recipe, you'll need to slice your potatoes into strips that are all equal thickness. That means you need a mandoline, or similar slicing device, that makes 1/4-inch slices. Once you've got your potatoes cut, you must rinse and soak them in water to expel the excess starch. The frying comes in two stages: A quick blanching stage, and the final frying to put a crispy coating on the suckers. Islands uses a combination of peanut and vegetable oils in their fryers, so you simply combine the two in your home fryer. The whole process is not that tough once you get going, and certainly worth the effort if hungry mouths are waiting for the perfect homemade french fries. However, if you want to simplify the process because your hungry mouths aren't of the patient sort, you could certainly buy frozen french fries, cook 'em up following the instructions on the bag, and then sprinkle on this garlic/onion salt blend for a quick-and-easy kitchen clone.

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    Score: 4.63. Votes: 8

    Menu Description: "Stir-fried with garlic."

    This is a standard side dish at the country's biggest Chinese dinner chain, and it'll take you just a couple of minutes to duplicate at home as a good veggie side for any meal, Chinese or otherwise. It's especially good when you're pressed to slam together a last minute vegetable for tonight's dinner. You can use a wok for this, but I always just use a medium-size sauté pan. The trick is to sauté the snap peas quickly over high heat, tossing often, until they're hot, yet still crispy and bright green. You get the garlic in right at the end, and then quickly pull the pan off the heat, so the garlic doesn't scorch. 

    Have you decided on an entrée? There's a lot more P.F. Chang's copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 5

    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.

    Try more of my Chi-Chi's copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.85. Votes: 26

    What is it about Stouffer's Macaroni & Cheese that makes it the number one choice for true mac & cheese maniacs? It's probably the simple recipe that includes wholesome ingredients like skim milk and real Cheddar cheese, without any preservatives or unpronounceable chemicals. The basic Stouffer's Mac and Cheese ingredients are great for kitchen cloners who want an easy fix that doesn't require much shopping.  I found the recipe to work best as an exact duplicate of the actual product: a frozen dish that you heat up later in the oven. This way you'll get slightly browned macaroni & cheese that looks like it posed for the nicely lit photo on the Stouffer's box. Since you'll only need about 3/4 cup of uncooked elbow macaroni for each recipe, you can make several 4-person servings with just one 16-ounce box of macaroni, and then keep them all in the freezer until the days when your troops have their mac & cheese attacks. Be sure to use freshly shredded Cheddar cheese here, since it melts much better than pre-shredded cheese (and it's cheaper). Use a whisk to stir the sauce often as it thickens, so that you get a smooth—not lumpy or grainy—finished product. 

    If you're still hungry, check out my copycat recipes for famous entrées here. 

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Menu Description: "Crisp, lightly fried carrots, choice of two dips."

    In 1992, Steven Spielberg organized a search for a hoagie sandwich like those he remembered from his childhood in Phoenix, Arizona. The famed director sent his assistants out to search L.A. for the perfect submarine sandwich, and from the 20 sandwiches brought back to him, not one passed the test. Former chairman of Walt Disney Studios and close friend Jeffrey Katzenberg was in on the taste test that day and agreed that most of the sandwiches were either too soggy or too leathery. The two began tossing around the idea of opening their own restaurant to reinvent the submarine sandwich with fresh baked bread and unique combinations of ingredient—like what Spago's and California Pizza Kitchen were doing with pizza. Partnered with Mark and Larry Levy of Levy Restaurants, the two movie moguls tasted over 100 sandwich recipes before finding two dozen they liked. A year of planning went by to build a deep-sea theme around the recipes, and in 1994, the first Dive! restaurant opened in L.A.

    In addition to the gourmet sandwiches on the menu, Dive! features pastas, salads, burgers, and delicious appetizers like carrot chips complete with your choice of dipping sauces. Because the carrots need to be sliced no thicker than 1/16 inch, you'll probably have to use a thin-slicing machine such as a mandoline for this recipe. I tried slicing the carrots by hand, but it's practically impossible to get the carrots a uniform thickness without using a gadget.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Here's a great way to make mashed potatoes, Houlihan's style. The Smashed Potatoes at the restaurant chain are considered one of Houlihan's specialty signature dishes. This a la carte dish is unique because of the added fresh onion, spices, and sour cream; and especially because of the finishing touch—some onion straws sprinkled on top. It's important when making your own version that you not entirely mash the potatoes, but instead leave a few small potato chunks for texture. Try making mashed potatoes like this, and you may never want to make them any other way.

    Want more Houlihan's? See if I cloned your favorites here.

    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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