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Soups

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 soups here. New recipes added every week.

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    Panera’s turkey chili is a wholesome and flavorful mix of dark meat turkey, beans, tomatoes, chilies, carrots, onions, and spices that’s easy to hack at home, once you know the secrets. I found that adding turkey in two forms—ground and sliced—resulted in the best copy. The sliced turkey should be dark meat, if possible, but if you can’t find uncooked, sliced dark meat, white meat is fine. It doesn’t finish quite as tender and flavorful as the dark meat, but it still works.

    To further improve flavor, I’m slipping in some nutritional yeast, which acts like MSG. Panera uses a natural yeast extract similar to this in many of their soups to improve flavor, so we’ll do the same. You can find nutritional yeast, or “nooch,” at Whole Foods or another well-stocked food store. If you can’t track it down, add another ¼ teaspoon of salt to the pot.

    And take note that you won’t be adding the edamame until the latter half of the cooking process. We do it this way so that when the chili is ready, the edamame will still be green, rather than the unappetizing grey color that can curse overcooked soybeans.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Menu Description: “Creamy potato soup topped with melted cheese, bacon, and green onions.”

    It’s not called baked potato soup because the potatoes in it are baked. It’s called baked potato soup because it’s topped with shredded cheese, bacon, and green onion, and it tastes like a baked potato. Other hacky hacks for this recipe miss that point and add over an hour to the preparation process by preheating an oven and baking the potatoes, all while hungry stomachs are growling on the sidelines. My version skips that part by adding the raw potatoes directly into the pot with the other ingredients, where they cook in 20 minutes, and the soup is ready to eat in less time than other recipes take just to get the potatoes done.

    Also, other clones add way too much flour to thicken the soup—¾ cup! Sure, flour is good at thickening, but it doesn’t add any flavor, so I found a better way. I ended up using just a little flour to make the roux, then later thickening the soup mostly with dehydrated potato flakes, which are usually used to make quick mashed potatoes. The flakes not only do a great job of thickening the soup, but they also add more delicious potato flavor to the pot.

    Top your finished soup with shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, and green onion, and every spoonful will taste like a fully loaded baked potato.

    Finish off your meal with a famous entrée from Outback like Alice Springs Chicken, or Toowoomba Steak

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    Like at Wendy’s, where unsold and broken burger patties provide the beef for their famous chili, Chick-fil-A gets the chicken for this delicious noodle soup by chopping up the leftover chicken used on their grilled chicken sandwiches. But grilling isn’t the first step to take when whipping up a home hack of this famous soup. First, you must brine the chicken to fill it with flavor and keep it juicy like the real thing. A couple of hours later, when the brining is done, it’s grilling go-time.

    The pasta shape Chick-fil-A uses in their soup is an uncommon one, and you might have a hard time finding it at your local market. It’s called mafalda corta (upper right in the photo), which is a miniature version of the ruffled-edge malfadine pasta used in my hack for Olive Garden Beef Bolognese. It also goes by the name “mini lasagna.” If you can’t find mafalda corta (I found it online), you can instead use your favorite small fancy pasta here, such as farfalle, rotini, fusilli, or whatever looks good at the store.

    Looking to make the popular Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich or their Mac & Cheese? Click here for more of my Chick-fil-A clone recipes.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Over the years I've hacked a bunch of items from Chili's menu, including their FajitasBaby Back RibsSalsaChili QuesoSouthwestern EggrollsChicken CrispersBoneless Wings, and more, but it wasn’t until recently that I got the chance to work on a hack for the chain’s award-winning Original Chili. Why it took so long, I have no idea.

    The chili served at Chili’s is a Texas-style con carne recipe, which traditionally means no beans and no tomato. You won’t find any beans in this recipe or chunks of tomato, but their chili does have a tomato base to boost flavor, so I’m adding that into the mix by including one 6-ounce can of tomato paste. As it turns out, that small can is just the right amount.

    The preparation technique is simple: brown the beef, drain off the fat, then add some of the fat back to the empty pan to sauté the onions and peppers in. When those are done, you add the beef back to the pan along with the remaining ingredients and simmer for 1½ hours. That will be just long enough to braise the beef and tenderize it, and to thicken the chili to a perfect consistency.

    When the chili’s done, top each serving with a cheddar/pepper Jack blend, and some crispy tortilla bits. Then pass out the spoons.

    Check here more of my Chili's copycat recipes.

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    It’s a good thing that Panera’s delicious tomato soup is made with pear tomatoes so we can use canned San Marzano-style tomatoes for a quick and easy hack, and we’ll pump up the tomato flavor with added tomato paste.

    Other hacks will call for some form of broth here, but the broth is unnecessary and it's not in the real thing so a good clone recipe wouldn't include it. There is plenty of flavorful liquid in the canned tomatoes and we’ll sculpt the final flavor with herbs and spices, sugar, and lemon juice.

    You can buy premade croutons to use on top of your soup, but I’ve also included an easy hack to make black pepper croutons from focaccia or ciabatta bread just like those you get at the restaurant. 

    Check here for more of my Panera Bread copycat recipes. 

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    For a great chicken tortilla soup that doesn’t skimp on chicken and comes packed with other goodies like two kinds of beans, corn, chiles, onion, celery, garlic, and cilantro you’ll want to hack Chick-fil-A’s hearty version. Their soup is not only surprisingly good for a fast food chain, but it could also stand up to tortilla soups from any full-service chain, and these preparation secrets will guide you through a spot-on at-home clone.

    For the white beans look for canned navy beans or small white beans. Cannellini beans and Great Northern beans are too big for a perfect clone, but if that's all you can find they’ll still work here.

    The chicken is made the same way as in my Top Secret Recipe for Chick-fil-A Southwest Chicken Salad—it’s brined for four hours to infuse it with flavor before it gets grilled. Keep that extra prep time in mind when planning your soup.

    Chick-fil-A uses natural roasted chicken flavor in their version, and we can do the same by using Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base found in many stores and online. That particular ingredient will give you the best clone, but if you can’t track it down you can also use regular bouillon cubes.

    Top your soup with fried tortilla strips sold in bags or just crumble some of your favorite tortilla chips over the top, and grab a spoon. 

    Chick-fil-A makes amazing chicken sandwiches and mac & cheese. Find more of my recipes here.

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    If you want a tortilla soup that’s vegan (without the garnishes), this is the recipe for you. Unlike most tortilla soup recipes, Qdoba doesn’t use chicken broth for the soup base. So I tried vegetable broth, but every variety I tried threw the whole recipe off, and I was about to give up. As a last resort, I tried the soup again with Knorr vegetable bouillon cubes, and…bingo. The bouillon added the perfect flavor, and all was good in the world.

    For this soup, you’ll need to roast some peppers, but after that the recipe is a straightforward chop-and-simmer, and you should have a very easy time with it.

    This soup gets garnished with sour cream, shredded cheese and fried tortilla strips, but you can upgrade your soup by adding chopped adobo chicken (from the TSR version of Qdoba Adobo Chicken, black beans, rice, pico de gallo, and minced cilantro. Now you’ve just cloned the chain’s Loaded Tortilla Soup, and you’re a better person because of it. 

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 5

    Arthur Simms was in the restaurant business for many years before he opened the first Mimi's Cafe with his son, Tom, in Anaheim, California in 1978. Back in the Golden Age of Hollywood Arthur was the guy running things in the MGM Studios commissary where, on any given day, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable and Judy Garland might stop in for a grazing. Arthur named his New Orleans-influenced, bistro-style restaurant after a woman he met and fell in love with in Paris during the war. Today it's Tom who runs the show at this growing 93-unit chain where regulars return for the staple favorites including the French Market Onion SoupCarrot Raisin Bread and the delicious corn chowder, cloned right here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.50. Votes: 8

    Menu Description: "Fresh vegetables, beans and pasta in a light tomato broth—a vegetarian classic."

    This copycat Olive Garden minestrone soup recipe is jam-packed with beans, zucchini, onion, tomatoes, carrots, pasta, and spices; but O.G.'s secret formula doesn't include chicken broth. Canned vegetable broth found in the soup aisle of most markets works as a base here in this secret formula that bursts with flavor as a purely vegetarian dish.

    Check out my other Olive Garden copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Panera’s top soup pick in the summer is a creamy vegetarian chowder that’s full of flavor and easy to copy at home once you know an important flavor secret. I started my hack using a vegetable broth, since that’s what all the other “copycats” call for, but I found its strong vegetable flavor dominated the soup, so I quickly bailed on that plan.

    Starting over, I referred to the soup’s ingredients posted online by Panera Bread and noticed there is no broth in the soup, which means every copycat recipe online is wrong. I didn’t want to make the same mistake in my recipe, but without the broth my soup would be lacking some important flavor components, and that’s no good either.

    In many soup recipes, the broth or stock is important for the umami quality provided by the yeast extract added to the product. Yeast extracts are one of the many ways food manufacturers add an MSG flavor-enhancing effect without adding MSG. Panera does in fact list “yeast extract” as one of the ingredients in the soup, so I needed to find a readily available ingredient that would provide the same savory quality.

    Enter nutritional yeast—or “nooch” as it’s often called—a flakey, nutrient-packed, vegan ingredient that’s growing quickly in popularity thanks to the savory, cheesy flavor it adds to a variety of foods (it’s great on popcorn). Nooch is also popular with vegans and vegetarians since it’s fortified with vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that's mainly found in animal-sourced foods.

    Now, with nooch in there, along with yellow corn, red-skin potatoes, poblano peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and other tasty things, no broth is required. Just give it water and a little patience.

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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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