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    It was a heart attack that inspired Charles M. Harper of ConAgra Foods to come up with a new product line. In 1988, the Healthy Choice brand introduced frozen dinners with reduced fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Hundreds of other products followed through the '90s, including this fat-free pasta sauce, which hit stores in 1992. It's a cinch to make and goes great on any pasta, pizza, or meatball sandwich.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1/2 cup
    Total servings–5
    Calories per servings–50
    Fat per serving–0g

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

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    Healthy Choice was one of the first low-fat brands to hit the stores. The Wall Street Journal reported in 1993, "When Healthy Choice dinners first arrived in stores, big competitors were caught off guard: nothing quite like it had ever been marketed on a large scale." But nowadays the competition ain't so lean. You'll find more than a dozen brands devoted to the same low-fat, healthy claims in stores, all fighting it out for shelf space and market share.

    If you like your marinara sauce with big chunks of veggies in it, then this is the one you'll want to make. The canned tomatoes, plus fresh mushrooms, onion, and garlic make for a thicker sauce that works great over your favorite pasta dish.

    Nutrition Facts
    Servings size–1/2 cup
    Total servings–5
    Calories per serving–45
    Fat per serving–0g

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

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    Inside each Rainforest Cafe, customers are immersed in a thunder and lightning storm every twenty minutes. But don't worry, you don't have to bring your umbrella, since the rain only falls over specially designed troughs that recycle the water and ready it for the next down pour.

    This sandwich was introduced in 1998 and uses Rainforest Cafe's delicious balsamic vinaigrette to marinate the mushrooms, making it one of the most delicious portobellos you've ever munched on. For this clone, prepare the vinaigrette and marinate the mushrooms a couple hours before you plan to assemble the sandwich.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving Size–1 Sandwich
    Total Servings–4
    Calories per serving–335
    Fat per serving–11g

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

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    Score: 3.00. Votes: 1

    Menu Description: "Grilled eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, and roasted red peppers. Served on a sourdough French roll with your choice of fries or watermelon."

    If you don't eat meat—or even if you do—you'll find this grilled vegetable sandwich makes a great meal in itself for lunch or dinner. I'm not usually one to go for vegetarian sandwiches, but when I tried this one I was surprised at how good it was. Now I veg out with this sandwich regularly. Maybe you will too.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.25. Votes: 4
    Along with your order from this 250-unit Western U.S. chain, comes a delicious, yet simple to clone, fat-free salsa. If you don’t have a food processor, never fear. You can also make the salsa by hand with a large, sharp knife and some steady-handed chopping. Keep your head down and watch the fingers.

    Nurtrition facts:
    Serving size–1oz
    Total servings–8
    Calories per serving–6
    Fat per serving–0g 
     
    Source: Top Secret Recipes Lite 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: 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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    Score: 4.67. Votes: 3

    Menu Description: "Jumbo mushroom caps filled with herb and garlic cheese, lightly battered and fried. Served with zesty horseradish and mustard dip made with Grey Poupon."

    In a March 1986 story which ran in the Kansas City Times, a feud erupted between Gilbert/Robinson, the parent company of Houlihan's restaurant at the time, and two guys building their own chain of bars called Mike Houlihan's. The president of the Houlihan's chain, Fred Hipp, said that at first Houlihan's didn't mind so much, asking kindly that the name not be used. But when Mike Heyer and John Houlihan opened a Mike Houlihan's in St. Louis only a few blocks away from an original Houlihan's restaurant, Fred saw no choice but to sue. Soon, residents with the surname were writing to Fred urging him to drop the lawsuit. "You'll feel better, thirteen hundred Houlihans will beel better, and two Irishmen will have $50,000 to buy more Irish whiskey," said one letter.

    Here's another Houlihan's classic recipe called "Shrooms"—cheese-filled, batter-fried mushrooms served piping hot. You have the choice of making the herb-flavored cheese filling from the recipe here, or if you're feeling especially lazy, you can buy a similar premade filling. Be careful when you first bite into these dudes. Straight out of the fryer, the hot cheese filling is like molten lava on your tongue and lips. Consume with care.

    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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    Score: 4.80. Votes: 5

    This restaurant boasts a unique "Texas roadhouse" ambiance. When you walk into any Lone Star restaurant, the first thing you'll notice is the crackling peanut shells beneath your feet. When seated you'll get your own free bucket of peanuts to munch on, and feel free to toss the shells onto the wood plank floors. Western music plays over the speakers, and every hour or so the wait staff breaks into a honky tonk line dance next to your table.

    The spicy black bean soup is a popular item on the Lone Star menu. Here's a way to make a version of your own that can be served as an appetizer or as a meal in itself. It's great with a garnish of freshly diced red onion, jalapenos, and sour cream on top.

    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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