THE MOST TRUSTED COPYCAT RECIPES
Cracker Barrel Cole Slaw copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Cracker Barrel Coleslaw

Score: 4.75 (votes: 8)
Reviews: 8
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Similar to cloning the coleslaw at KFC, the secret technique for duplicating Cracker Barrel's delicious coleslaw 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 coleslaw chill out for several hours so the mixture can get its flavor on and ends up tasting just like Cracker Barrel's famous dish. An overnight chill is even sweeter.

Try more of my Cracker Barrel recipes here.

Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

Get This

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  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 8 cups finely shredded green cabbage
  • 1 cup finely shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
Do This

1. Whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, milk, buttermilk, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and celery seed in a large bowl until sugar is dissolved.

2. Stir in the cabbage and shredded carrots. Cover and chill for at least four hours. Stir before serving.

Serves 6.

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Reviews
Beverly
Sep 1, 2015, 22:00
I made this exactly as written. It was creamy and delicious. I think I won't add all of the dressing to the cabbage next time, maybe reserve 1/4-1/2 cup and add just before serving. We use this to top pulled pork sandwiches
Rock
Oct 6, 2008, 22:00
Your KFC version was my favorite cole slaw, but this one is above! The celery seeds gives it a nice flavor. Thank you

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    Starbucks Pumpkin Bread

    A thick slice of moist pumpkin bread Starbucks-style is the perfect companion for your morning cup of Joe. Many other pumpkin bread recipes produce sad, squatty loaves—but not this clone. 

    Use my custom Starbucks Pumpkin Bread recipe below that makes enough batter to fill up a medium loaf pan. And when the bread is done, you'll slice the moist loaf into eight thick slices of goodness that perfectly mimic the look and flavor of the real thing, right down to the chopped pumpkin seeds on top.

    Craving your favorite Starbucks coffee drink? Click here for all of my Starbucks copycat recipes.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Cracker Barrel Hash Brown Casserole

    Menu Description: "Made from scratch in our kitchens using fresh Grade A Fancy Russet potatoes, fresh chopped onion, natural Colby cheese and spices. Baked fresh all day long."

    In the late sixties, Dan Evins was a Shell Oil "jobber" looking for a new way to market gasoline. He wanted to create a special place that would arouse curiosity, and would pull travelers off the highways. In 1969 he opened the first Cracker Barrel just off Interstate 40 in Lebanon, Tennessee, offering gas, country-style food, and a selection of antiques for sale. Today there are over 529 stores in 41 states, with each restaurant still designed as a country rest stop and gift store. In fact, those stores which carry an average of 4,500 different items apiece have made Cracker Barrel the largest retailer of American-made finished crafts in the United States.

    Those who know Cracker Barrel love the restaurant for its delicious home-style breakfasts. This casserole, made with hash brown-sliced potatoes, Colby cheese, milk, beef broth, and spices, is served with many of the classic breakfast dishes at the restaurant. My Cracker Barrel Hash Brown Casserole recipe is designed for a skillet that is also safe to put in the oven (so no plastic handles). If you don't have one of those, you can easily transfer the casserole to a baking dish after it is done cooking on the stove.

    Love Cracker Barrel? Check out my other clone recipes here.

    Source Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

     

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  • Score: 4.67 (votes: 6)
    Panda Express Chow Mein

    I got lucky on the day I picked up a box of chow mein from this huge Chinese chain because they had just run out. This meant that I could watch from the sidelines as they whipped up a fresh batch in a giant wok over a high flame in the completely visible kitchen, and I was able to take plenty of mental notes. The whole dish took just a few minutes for the enthusiastic chef to prepare, and before I knew it I was out the door with a huge box of hot chow mein ready for hacking. 

    Just like the real Panda Express Chow Mein, the beauty in this re-creation is its simplicity. There are only seven ingredients, and the prep work is low-impact. I used dry chow mein noodles (also called Chinese stir fry noodles) which are easy to find and cheap, and dark soy sauce to get that great caramel color. And if you don’t have a wok for this, a large skillet with sloped sides for tossing will work just fine.

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    Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3

    Exclusive signed copy. America's best copycat recipes! Save money and amaze your friends with all-new culinary carbon copies from the Clone Recipe King!

    For more than 30 years, Todd Wilbur has been obsessed with reverse-engineering famous foods. Using every day ingredients to replicate signature restaurant dishes at home, Todd shares his delectable discoveries with readers everywhere.

    Now, his super-sleuthing taste buds are back to work in the third installment of his mega-bestselling Top Secret Restaurant Recipes series, with 150 sensational new recipes that unlock the delicious formulas for re-creating your favorite dishes from America's most popular restaurant chains. Todd's top secret blueprints and simple step-by-step instructions guarantee great success for even novice cooks. And when preparing these amazing taste-alike dishes at home, you'll be paying up to 75 percent less than eating out!

    Find out how to make your own home versions of: Pizza Hut Pan Pizza, T.G.I. Friday's Crispy Green Bean Fries, Buca di Beppo Chicken Limone, Serendipity 3 Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, P.F. Chang's Kung Pao Chicken, Max & Erma's Tortilla Soup, Cracker Barrel Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake, Olive Garden Breadsticks, Cheesecake Factory Fresh Banana Cream Cheesecake, Carrabba's Chicken Bryan, Famous Dave's Corn Muffins, Outback Steakhouse Chocolate Thunder from Down Under, T.G.I. Friday's Jack Daniel's Glazed Ribs, and much, much more...

    Simple. Foolproof. Easy to Prepare. And so delicious you'll swear it's the real thing!

    You may also like Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2, and Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step

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    To get their Extra Crispy Chicken so crispy, KFC breads the chicken two times. This double breading gives the chicken its ultra craggy exterior and extra crunch, which is a different texture than the less crispy original recipe fried chicken that’s breaded just once and pressure fried.

    As with my KFC Original Fried Chicken recipe, we must first brine the chicken to give it flavor and moisture all the way through, like the real thing, then the chicken is double breaded and deep-fried until golden brown. KFC uses small chickens which cook faster, but small chickens can be hard to find. If your chicken parts are on the large side, they may not cook all the way through in the 12 to 15 minutes of frying I’m specifying here. To be sure your chicken is cooked, start frying with the thickest pieces, like the breasts, then park them in a 300-degree oven while you finish with the smaller pieces. This will keep the chicken warm and crispy, and more importantly, ensure that they are cooked perfectly all the way through.

    On my CMT show Top Secret Recipe I chatted with Winston Shelton, a long-time friend of KFC founder Harland Sanders. Winston saw the Colonel's handwritten secret recipe for KFC Original Recipe chicken, and he told me one of the secret ingredients is Tellicherry black pepper. It's a more expensive, better-tasting black pepper that comes from the Malabar coast in India, and you should use it here if you can find it. Winston pulled me aside and whispered this secret to me when he thought we were off-camera, but our microphones and very alert cameramen caught the whole thing, and we aired it.

    I first published my KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken recipe in Even More Top Secret Recipesbut recently applied some newly acquired secrets and tips to make this much-improved recipe of one of the most familiar fried chicken recipes in the world. 

    My improved KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken copycat recipe below was our #2 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).

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    Margaritaville Key Lime Pie

    Menu Description: "A true taste of the tropics. National award-winning recipe."

    Many of the key lime pie recipes circulating, including the recipe found on bottles of key lime juice, have a glaring error: they don't make enough filling to fit properly into a standard 9-inch graham crust pie shell. That's probably because those recipes are designed around one 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk. But if we're going to make a beautifully thick key lime pie like the one served at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurants, we need to use something like 1 1/2 cans of sweetened condensed milk, or more accurately, two cups of the stuff. 

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    Chipotle Barbacoa Burrito

    Menu Description: "Spicy, shredded beef, braised with our own chipotle adobo, cumin, cloves, garlic and oregano."
     
    The original Mexican dish barbacoa was traditionally prepared by cooking almost any kind of meat goat, fish, chicken, or cow cheek meat, to name just a few, in a pit covered with leaves over low heat for many hours, until tender. When the dish made its way into the United States via Texas the word transformed into "barbecue" and the preparation changed to incorporate above-ground techniques such as smoking and grilling.

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    P.F. Chang's Mongolian Beef

    Menu Description: "Quickly-cooked steak with scallions and garlic."

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    Sherwood Johnson survived a case of malaria while serving in World War II, which left him with some residual nerve damage and a new nickname: Shakey. Despite his affliction, Shakey Johnson was still able to bang out toe-tapping Dixieland jazz on the piano night after night in the pizza parlor he opened in Sacramento in 1954, where live jazz accompanied the thin crust pizza and cold pitchers of beer.

    Shakey’s became the first franchised pizza restaurant in the U.S., and by 1974 the chain had 500 stores across the U.S. The #1 dish is clearly the made-to-order pizza, but the chain’s trademarked crispy battered potato slices are a close runner-up and a perfect tasty subject to hack.

    Recipes that claim complete pancake mix is the secret breading ingredient in Mojo Potatoes fail to observe that pancake mix contains sugar, and there is no noticeable sweetness in the breading of the Mojos. I also decided that dry breading wouldn't work since in my tests the paprika failed to bloom and give the coating a perfect hue like it does when the mixture is wet.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Panda Express Fried Rice

    A popular staple of any Chinese chain is fried rice, so it better be good, and the version served at Panda Express most certainly is. Here's my easy Panda Express Fried Rice recipe for when you need a stress-free, low-cost side for your entrées. But I do suggest that you cook the white rice several hours or even a day or two before you plan to make the finished dish. I found that the cooked rice called for in this recipe works best when it's cold. 

    As for a shortcut, bagged frozen peas and carrots will save you from the hassle of petite-dicing carrots since the carrots in those bags are the perfect size to produce an identical clone. And they're already cooked. 

    This recipe was our #3 most popular in 2021. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Panda Express Chow Mein (#1), Qdoba 3-Cheese Queso (#2), Outback Baked Potato Soup (#4), Chipotle Carne Asada (#5).

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 5)
    Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce

    Getting a table at the 123-year-old original Rao’s restaurant in New York City is next to impossible. The tables are “owned” by regulars who schedule their meals months in advance, so every table is full every night, and that’s the way it’s been for the last 38 years. The only way an outsider would get to taste the restaurant’s fresh marinara sauce is to be invited by a regular.

    If that isn’t in the stars for you, you could buy a bottle of the sauce at your local market (if they even have it). It won't be fresh, and it's likely to be the most expensive sauce in the store, but it still has that great Rao's taste. An even better solution is to copy the Rao's Marinara sauce for yourself using this new and very easy recipe.

    The current co-owner of Rao’s, Frank Pellegrino Jr., told Bon Appetit in 2015 that the famous marinara sauce was created by his grandmother many years ago, and the sauce you buy in stores is the same recipe served in his restaurants. The ingredients are common, but correctly choosing the main ingredient—tomatoes—is important. Try to find San Marzano-style whole canned tomatoes, preferably from Italy. They are a little more expensive than typical canned tomatoes, but they will give you some great sauce.

    After 30 minutes of cooking, you’ll end up with about the same amount of sauce as in a large jar of the real thing. Your version will likely be just a little bit brighter and better than the bottled stuff, thanks to the fresh ingredients. But now you can eat it anytime you want, with no reservations, at a table you own.

    This recipe was our #1 most popular in 2020. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Olive Garden Lasagna Classico (#2), King's Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Rolls (#3), Pei Wei Better Orange Chicken (#4), Chipotle Mexican Grill Carnitas (#5).

    You might also like my #1 recipe of 2019, Texas Roadhouse Rolls.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Panda Express Beijing Beef

    The problem with adding sauce to fried food is that the wet sauce makes the crunchy fried food not so crunchy. Panda Express manages to keep the crispy beef in Beijing Beef crispy even though it may be sitting for over 20 minutes in the sauce on its way to a hungry you. My early attempts at hacking my favorite dish at the massive Chinese food chain all resulted in gummy, soggy beef pieces that were more like flat dumplings than the delicious, crunchy strips of joy they were meant to be.

    Then finally, on one batch, I decided to fry the coated beef for much longer than I intuitively felt it should be cooked, resulting in dark browning on the cornstarch coating and an even darker piece of meat beneath it. I anticipated a beef jerky experience, but when I took a bite, I found it to be delicious! It wasn’t tough and chewy as I expected it to be. And when this seemingly overcooked beef was stirred into the sauce, it stayed crispy until served, just like the real thing. Now, with the soggy beef problem solved, we’ve finally got a great Panda Express Beijing Beef copycat recipe.

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  • Score: 4.80 (votes: 5)
    BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse Avocado Egg Rolls

    Menu Description: "Crispy golden wontons wrap a tantalizing blend of avocados, cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, pine nuts, chipotle peppers and spices. Served with a sweet tamarind sauce."

    Avocado egg rolls or spring rolls seem to be increasing in popularity as an appetizer at casual chains, but they are a bit more of a high maintenance menu item than, say, southwestern egg rolls, or other spring roll variations. Since avocados are quick to oxidize and turn brown, these rolls must be made and served within a 2 to 12-hour timeframe. Also, cooks must be careful not to over fry the egg rolls or the avocado inside will become too hot, turn brown, and taste pretty gross. So, if you're planning to serve these later in the day, make them in the morning and let them chill out in your fridge until it's time to fry them up. You can also make the tamarind sauce early in the day and park it in the fridge. You'll need a little tamarind paste for this sauce, which can be found at Whole Foods or specialty stores. If you don't want to clone the sauce as served in the restaurant, you can always use your favorite sweet and/or spicy bottled dipping sauces. Creamy southwestern-style dipping sauces are also awesome on these. 

    Try my BJ's avocado egg rolls copycat recipe below, and find of your favorite BJ's recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.
     

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  • Score: 4.28 (votes: 25)
    Wienerschnitzel Chili Sauce

    The real version of this chili sauce comes to each Wienerschnitzel unit as concentrated brown goo in big 6-pound, 12-ounce cans. After adding 64 ounces of water and 15 chopped hamburger patties the stuff is transformed into the familiar thick and spicy chili sauce dolloped over hot dogs and French fries at America's largest hot dog chain. The proper proportion of spices, tomato paste, and meat is crucial; but the real challenge in creating my Wienerschnitzel chili copycat recipe is finding a common grocery store equivalent for modified food starch that's used in the real chili sauce as a thickener. 

    After a couple of days in the underground lab with Starbucks lattes on intravenous drip, I came out, squinting at the bright sunshine, with a solution to the chili conundrum. This secret combination of cornstarch and Wondra flour and plenty of salt and chili powder makes a chili sauce that says nothing but "Wienerschnitzel" all over it.

    Now, what incredible side dish will you make?

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.91 (votes: 11)
    HoneyBaked Ham Glaze

    By sneaking around to the back of a HoneyBaked Ham store, I witnessed the glazing process through an open door. The hams are delivered to each of the 300 HoneyBaked outlets already smoked, but without the glaze. It is only when the ham gets to your local HoneyBaked store that a special machine thin-slices the tender meat in a spiral fashion around the bone. Then, one at a time, each ham is then coated with the glaze—a blend that is similar to what might be used to make pumpkin pie. This sweet coating is then caramelized with a blowtorch by hand until the glaze bubbles and melts, turning golden brown. If needed, more of the coating is added to the HoneyBaked Glazed Ham, and the blowtorch is fired up until the glaze is just right. It's this careful process that turns the same size ham that costs 20 dollars in a supermarket into one that customers gladly shell out 3 to 4 times as much to share during the holiday season.

    For my HoneyBaked Ham glaze copycat recipe, we will re-create the glaze that you can apply to a smoked/cooked bone-in ham of your choice. Look for a ham that is pre-sliced. Otherwise, you'll have to slice it yourself with a sharp knife, then the glaze will be applied. To get the coating just right, you must use a blowtorch. Get the kind that is used for crème brûlée from almost any kitchen supply store. They're usually pretty cheap. And don't worry—I didn't leave out an ingredient. No honey is necessary to re-create this flavorful glaze.

    Now, what's for dessert?

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Olive Garden Italian Salad Dressing Fat-Free

    We love to eat salad because it seems so healthy. But add just a couple tablespoons of salad dressing and you've gone from no fat to lots of fat, before your main course has even hit the table. If the salad dressing is delicious, as is Olive Garden's, you might be pouring on more than just a couple tablespoons. Here's a way to eliminate the fat grams from the dressing, but keep all the flavor.

    We'll take out the oil, and add dry pectin to thicken the dressing, along with more water than used in the original version of this recipe. We can add a decent amount of Romano cheese and a single serving of the dressing still comes in under 1/2 gram of fat. Add some vinegar, a little corn syrup and lemon juice, some spices—mission accomplished.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–2 tablespoons
    Total servings–11
    Calories per serving–42 (Original–90)
    Fat per serving–0g (Original–8g)

    Click here for my original version of Olive Garden Salad Dressing

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Lite by Todd Wilbur. 

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  • Score: 4.87 (votes: 15)
    Olive Garden Chicken Scampi

    Menu Description: "Chicken breast tenderloins sauteed with bell peppers, roasted garlic and onions in a garlic cream sauce over angel hair."

    This chicken scampi dish is a big favorite of Olive Garden regulars. Chicken tenderloins are lightly breaded and sautéed along with colorful bell peppers and chopped red onion. Angel hair pasta is tossed into the pan along with a healthy dose of fresh scampi sauce. 

    The sauce is really the star, so you might think about doubling the recipe. If you're cooking for two, you can prepare my Olive Garden Chicken Scampi copycat recipe for the table in one large skillet, saving the remaining ingredients for another meal. If you're making all four servings at once, you need two skillets. If you can't find fresh chicken tenderloins (the tender part of the chicken breast), you can usually find bags of them in the freezer section. 

    Find more delicious recipes for Olive Garden's most famous dishes here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.10 (votes: 21)
    Buffalo Wild Wings Caribbean Jerk Sauce

    This quickly growing chicken wing chain sells each of its 12 signature sauces in the restaurant because many of them work great as a baste or side sauce for a variety of home cooked masterpieces. The Caribbean Jerk sauce is a favorite for that reason (ranking at the top of the list with Spicy Garlic as the chain's best-seller), so I thought creating a Buffalo Wild Wings Caribbean Jerk Sauce recipe would be a useful clone that doesn't require you to fill up the fryer to make chicken wings. You can use this sauce on grilled chicken, pork, ribs, salmon or anything you can think of that would benefit from the sweet, sour and spicy flavors that come from an island-style baste.

    Find more Buffalo Wild Wings copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur

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  • Score: 4.75 (votes: 4)
    P.F. Chang's Orange Peel Chicken

    Menu Description: "Tossed with orange peel and chili peppers for a spicy/citrus combination."

    Several of P.F. Chang's top-selling items are similar in preparation technique: bite-size pieces of meat are lightly breaded and wok-seared in oil, then doused with a secret sauce mixture. This dish is made the same way. The heat in the citrusy sauce comes from chili garlic sauce, which you'll find in the aisle with the Asian foods in your supermarket—the rest of the sauce ingredients are common stuff. The orange peel is julienned into thin strips before adding it to the dish. Since the flavor from the peel is so strong, we won't need to add it until the end. Cook up some white or brown rice to serve alongside your homemade P.F. Chang's Orange Peel chicken and get the chopsticks ready

    What else are you craving from P.F. Chang's? See if I hacked your favorite dish here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 13)
    Outback Steakhouse Grilled Shrimp on the Barbie & Remoulade Sauce

    My Outback Steakhouse Grilled Shrimp on the Barbie recipe makes the same size appetizer serving that you get in the restaurant. That's only 6 shrimp—enough for me, but what are you guys having? That's why I've designed the formulas for the remoulade sauce and the shrimp seasoning for a bigger serving, so you can grill up to a pound of shrimp and chow down. Find bags of frozen uncooked shrimp that have been peeled, but with the tails left on.

    Try more of my copycat recipes from Outback here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur. 

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    P.F. Chang's Chang's Spare Ribs

    Menu Description: "Wok-seared with Chang's barbecue sauce."

    One of the most popular eats on P. F. Chang's appetizer menu is the Chinese spare ribs that arrive slathered with Asian-style barbecue sauce. The Asian flavor comes from the addition of sweet hoisin sauce to a fairly rudimentary barbecue sauce formula. Chang's menu says these ribs are spare ribs, although they appear to be much smaller, more like baby backs. You can certainly use either for my P.F. Chang's Spare Ribs recipe below. Just be sure to trim the ribs first, since the restaurant version is lean, clean ribs with no extra meat or fat hanging off. T

    There are several ways to cook pork ribs—P. F. Chang's boils theirs first, then fries them. After that, the ribs are tossed with the sauce in the wok and served piping hot. A serving of these ribs at the restaurant is 6 individual ribs, but since a full rack is as many as 12 ribs, this recipe will make twice what you get in a serving at the bustling bistro chain.

    Find more of your favorite P.F. Chang's dishes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.50 (votes: 8)
    Olive Garden Minestrone Soup

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

    Olive Garden's minestrone soup 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.

    Try my Olive Garden minestrone soup recipe below, and 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: 8)
    Taco Bell Mexican Pizza

    Hope your crew is hungry because my Taco Bell Mexican Pizza copycat recipe makes four pizzas like those served at the Bell: seasoned ground beef and refried beans are sandwiched between two crispy flour tortillas, topped with melted cheddar cheese, salsa, diced tomato, and chopped green onion. Slice it like a pizza and serve it with a smile. Prepare to blow your diners away with my recipe if they're at all familiar with the real thing.

    Make some Diablo, hot, or mild sauce for that authentic Taco Bell experience.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.71 (votes: 7)
    Panda Express Mandarin (Bourbon) Chicken

    Here's a dish from a rapidly growing Chinese food chain that should satisfy anyone who loves the famous marinated bourbon chicken found in food courts across America. The sauce is the whole thing here, and it's quick to make using my Panda Express Mandarin Chicken recipe below. You'll make the sauce right on your stove-top, then fire up the barbecue or indoor grill for the chicken. Then, whip up a little white rice to serve on the side. 

    Panda Express - now 370 restaurants strong - is the fastest-growing Asian food chain in the world. You'll find these tasty little quick-service food outlets in supermarkets, casinos, sports arenas, college campuses, and malls across the country passing out free samples for the asking. 

    You might also want try my Panda Express Honey Walnut Shrimp Recipe.

    Source: "Even More Top Secret Recipes" by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.96 (votes: 24)
    Boston Market Meatloaf

    In the early 90's Boston Chicken was rockin' it. The home meal replacement chain's stock was soaring and the lines were filled with hungry customers waiting to sink their teeth into a serving of the chain's delicious rotisserie chicken. The chain was so successful with chicken, the company quickly decided it was time to introduce other entrée selections, the first of which was a delicious barbecue sauce-covered ground sirloin meatloaf. 

    Offering the other entrées presented the company with a dilemma: what to do about the name. The bigwigs decided it was time to change the name to Boston Market, to reflect a wider menu. That meant replacing signs on hundreds of units and retooling the marketing campaigns. That name change, plus rapid expansion of the chain and growth of other similar home-style meal concepts, sent the company into a tailspin. By 1988, Boston Market's goose was cooked, and the company filed for bankruptcy. Soon McDonald's stepped in to purchase the company, with the idea of closing many of the stores for good, and slapping Golden Arches on the rest. But that plan was scrapped when, after selling many of the under-performing Boston Markets, the chain began to fly once again.  Within a year of the acquisition Boston Market was profitable, and those meals with the home-cooked taste are still being served at over 700 Boston Market restaurants across the country.

    Use my Boston Market Meatloaf copycat recipe below to copy the flavor of that first non-chicken dish, a delicious barbecue sauce-covered ground sirloin meatloaf. You might also like to try my Boston Market side-dish recipes here.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.90 (votes: 10)
    Applebee's Baked French Onion Soup

    It may not be listed on the menu, but this is Applebee's most ladled soup each and every day. Just be sure you have some oven-safe soup bowls on hand before you jump into my Applebee's Baked French Onion Soup recipe, since you're going to pop the dish under the broiler to brown and melt the cheese on top. Under the gooey melted provolone of the original version you get from Applebee's is a unique round crouton that's made from bread that looks like a hamburger bun. So that's what we'll use for our clone.

    Find more of your favorite dishes from Applebee's here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Not rated yet
    Cheesecake Factory Key Lime Cheesecake

    Just 15 minutes after the very first Cheesecake Factory opened in Beverly Hills back in 1978, the lines began forming. These guys know how to make a dang good cheesecake! 

    You'll love this yummy twist on Key lime pie. Since Key limes and Key lime juice can be hard to find, I decided to use standard lime juice in my Cheesecake Factory Key Lime Cheesecake copycat recipe, which can be purchased bottled or squeezed fresh. If you can find Key lime juice, bear in mind that Key limes are more tart, so you'll need only half as much juice. You'll also need a springform pan. If you don't have one, you can use two 9-inch pie pans and make two smaller cheesecakes.

    Try more of my Cheesecake Factory hacks here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.40 (votes: 5)
    Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken

    Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken and Biscuits has become the third-largest quick-service chicken chain in the world in the twenty-two years since its first store opened in New Orleans in 1972. (KFC has the number-one slot, followed by Church's Chicken). Since then, the chain has grown to 813 units, with many of them overseas in Germany, Japan, Jamaica, Honduras, Guam, and Korea.

    While making my Popeyes Fried Chicken recipe, I tested several spices and I found that the right blend of cayenne and white pepper bring the same heat as the original. Try my recipe below and see what you think. 

    You might also like to get your hands on my recipes for Popeyes Chicken Sandwich and Popeyes biscuits.

    Source: More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) Buttermilk Biscuits

    In 1991 Kentucky Fried Chicken bigwigs decided to improve the image of America's third-largest fast-food chain. As a more health-conscious society began to affect sales of fried chicken, the company changed its name to KFC and introduced a lighter fare of skinless chicken.

    In the last forty years KFC has experienced extraordinary growth. Five years after first franchising the business, Colonel Harland Sanders had 400 outlets in the United States and Canada. Four years later there were more than 600 franchises, including one in England, the first overseas outlet. In 1964 John Y. Brown, Jr., a young Louisville lawyer, and Jack Massey, a Nashville financier, bought the Colonel's business for $2 million. Only seven years later, in 1971 Heublein, Inc., bought the KFC Corporation for $275 million. Then in 1986, for a whopping $840 million, PepsiCo added KFC to its conglomerate, which now includes Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. That means PepsiCo owns more fast food outlets than any other company including McDonald's.

    At each KFC restaurant, workers blend real buttermilk with a dry blend to create the well-known KFC buttermilk biscuits recipe that have made a popular menu item since their introduction in 1982. Pair these buttermilk biscuits with my KFC mac and cheese recipe and the famous KFC Original Recipe Chicken to complete your meal.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.14 (votes: 22)
    Soup Nazi's Cream of Sweet Potato Soup

    After the "Soup Nazi" episode of Seinfeld aired, Jerry Seinfeld and several members of his production crew went over to Soup Kitchen International in New York City for lunch. When owner Al Yegenah recognized Jerry he flew into a profanity-filled rant about how the show had "ruined" his business and he demanded an apology. According to writer Spike Feresten, Jerry gave "the most insincere, sarcastic apology ever given," Yegenah yelled, "No soup for you!" and immediately ejected them from the premises. Knowing that to upset Al was to risk being yelled at and possibly evicted like Jerry, it was with great caution that I approached the order window to ask the Soup Nazi a few questions about the November 1995 Seinfeld episode that made him famous. Needless to say, the interview was very brief.

    TW: How do you feel about all the publicity that followed the Seinfeld episode?
    AY: I didn't need it. I was known well enough before that. I don't need it.

    TW: But it must have been good for business, right?
    AY: He [Seinfeld] used me. He used me. I didn't use him, he used me.

    TW: How many people do you serve in a day?
    AY: I cannot talk to you. If I talk, I cannot work.

    TW: How many different soups do you serve?
    AY: (Getting very upset) I cannot talk! (Pointing to sign) Move to the left! Next!

    Hopefully, you won't get this same treatment in your own kitchen. Whip up my Soup Nazi's Cream of Sweet Potato Soup copycat recipe for a peaceful rendition of this wonderful soup.

    Check out my other Soup Nazi copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Not rated yet
    Panda Express Sizzling Shrimp

    At the restaurant, onion, red bell pepper, broccolini, and extra-large shrimp are tossed with a new spicy sweet-and-sour sauce in Panda’s giant wok over ultra-high heat. But you won’t need a huge wok, or any wok at all for that matter, to make a home version of the new offering so that when this “limited-time-only” dish is long gone, you’ll still be able to experience its awesomeness.

    Once you make the secret sauce for my Panda Express Sizzling Shrimp recipe, most of the work is done. It only takes a few minutes to sauté everything over high heat until seared, then you toss in the secret sizzling sauce to coat, and it’s done.

    Serve this dish over white or brown rice, or with one of my popular clones here for Panda Express Fried Rice or Panda Express Chow Mein.

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  • Not rated yet
    Carrabba's Calamari and Ricardo Sauce

    Searching for a great fried calamari recipe from a large chain to hack, I finally landed on Carrabba’s popular appetizer, with two dipping sauces, including the chain's top secret Ricardo Sauce.

    I like this preparation because it's super simple, with a two-stage breading process that calls for just egg whites to moisten the calamari before it gets dropped into the seasoned flour. The egg whites will give the breading a light texture and prevent your calamari from browning as it would with any milk or egg yolk in the mix. Browning is just fine for other fried calamari dishes, but a hack for Carrabba’s version needs to produce crispy calamari with a tender crunch and light golden color.

    A good Carrabba’s Calamari recipe will also need to include both dipping sauces, so hacks for the chain’s marinara sauce and famous Ricardo Sauce recipes are here. Ricardo Sauce is a creamy lemon butter sauce with added red bell peppers, pepperoncini, and crushed red peppers, and this exclusive TSR formula will give you the absolute best results of any recipe that exists in the known universe.

    I've hacked a ton of dishes from Carrabba's. Check to see if I hacked your favorites here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Wendy's Seasoned Potatoes

    Reviewers of Wendy’s tasty seasoned potatoes point out that the skin-on slices stay crispy even when cool. That tells us the breading is most likely made with a non-wheat flour blend, an assumption confirmed by the website ingredients list for the potatoes where nary a gram of wheat flour is included. Yep, these seasoned potatoes are gluten-free.

    Wendy’s uses a blend of food starches plus rice flour for the breading on their version, but my tests confirmed that cornstarch is all you’ll need for a great clone of Wendy's seasoned potatoes. The secret process starts by coating the potato slices with the dry breading mix, which contains salt. The salt in the blend will draw water out of the potatoes, magically transforming the dry breading into a wet batter in about 20 minutes.

    When all the breading is wet, the potatoes go into the oil for partial frying. After resting a bit, they get dropped in again until golden brown and crispy. And, thanks to the cornstarch, these potatoes will stay crispy, even when they’re completely cool. Pretty cool right? Give my Wendy's seasoned potatoes copycat recipe a try.

    This recipe was our #3 most popular in 2022. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Rao's Traditional Meatballs (#1), Chipotle Pollo Asado (#2), Cheesecake Factory Spicy Cashew Chicken (#4), McDonald's Chicken McNuggets (#5).

    Find copycat recipes for more of your favorite Wendy's dishes here

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Cracker Barrel Buttermilk Biscuits

    A great buttermilk biscuit isn’t hard to make. This is good news if you're serving hundreds each day as they do at this popular Southern kitchen chain. But a simple recipe such as this one is also a blessing when you need to whip up a modest batch at home for your hungry gang of biscuit fanatics, and it's an added bonus if they taste as good as the famous biscuits from Cracker Barrel. 

    The secret to tender, flakey biscuits like you get at the restaurant chain is using a lower-gluten self-rising flour such as White Lily; a staple for Southern biscuit recipes. A bit of shortening in the mix will help tenderize the finished product, as will a light mixing hand. Overmixing the dough may toughen your biscuits, so mix the dough gently and only as much as you have to.

    If you don’t use White Lily flour and go with a heavier self-rising flour such as Gold Medal, take note that you may have to add a couple of tablespoons more buttermilk to the dough to loosen it up. Good biscuit dough should be soft, but not sticky.

    After making these Cracker Barrel biscuits from scratch, try home versions of Cracker Barrel hash brown casserolebuttermilk piemeatloaf, and more.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Church's Chicken Honey Butter Biscuits

    It took more than good chicken for the small fried chicken shack in San Antonio, Texas to blow up into an international fried chicken superstar with over 1000 units in 35 countries. Thanks to these biscuits—so good they trademarked the name—hungry mouths have more than one reason for a quick Church’s run.

    No need for a biscuit cutter to make Church's Chicken Honey Butter Biscuits at home since these are drop biscuits you form by hand. But it is recommended to use a silicone baking pad if you have one to keep the bottoms as light as possible.   

    Brush on the honey butter the moment the biscuits come out of the oven, and when they cool they’ll have glistening tops just like the real ones.

    Now, what's for dinner? Check here for cool copycat recipes for famous entrees.

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  • Not rated yet
    Cracker Barrel Baked Apple Dumplin

    One of the best choices you will make in life is having this dish for dessert when you’re at Cracker Barrel. They call it a “dumplin” but it’s just a little streusel-covered apple pie, served up hot in its own small baking dish with two scoops of vanilla bean ice cream on top, and drizzled with warm apple/caramel sauce—it's good stuff. Take a bite and you may notice the apples inside taste like Cracker Barrel’s Fried Apples side dish, so we'll use my previous hack for that part to bring it all together.

    My Cracker Barrel Baked Apple Dumplin recipe makes two small pies that serve up to four. Check out more of my cool copycat recipes from Cracker Barrel here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Kobe Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse Shrimp (Yum Yum) Sauce

    For years, I’ve been hearing about a delicious seafood dipping sauce at Japanese steakhouses called "shrimp sauce" or "yum yum sauce." Research revealed many independent Japanese steakhouses with "the best sauce," but it was the name of an 11-unit chain called Kobe Ichiban in Central Florida that came up most often.

    When I next found myself in Orlando, Florida presenting some cooking demos at a home show, I dropped in on Kobe Ichiban for dinner and there it was: the light orange creamy dipping "yummy" sauce that everyone was raving about. It was sweet and sour and salty and creamy, and it tasted amazing on the shrimp—as well as on everything else.

    I poured some into some small plastic storage bags I had with me (always come prepared!), then popped them into a cooler for the long trip back to Las Vegas. Back in the underground lab, I developed my Kobe shrimp yum yum sauce recipe below. Now, you can enjoy this much-requested delicious dipping sauce anytime.

    Find more of my copycat recipes for famous sauces here.  

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  • Not rated yet
    Chick-fil-A Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette

    The country’s largest chicken chain offers some of the best choices for salad dressings you’ll find at any fast food restaurant. But good luck sweet-talking your order-taker into floating you a few extra packets of this great fruity vinaigrette to use on your home salads—they are under strict orders to be stingy. And that could be why you’re here.

    Apple cider vinegar, pineapple juice, honey, lemon juice, and lime juice are just a few of the secret ingredients that make this dressing so great. Another secret you'll find here is xanthan gum, a natural thickener often used as an emulsifier to hold salad dressing together so that it doesn’t need shaking. You can find xanthan online or at Whole Foods, and you won't need much.

    Try my Chick-fil-A Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette copycat recipe below, and find my recipes for Chick-fil-A Mac & Cheese, and their famous chicken sandwiches here.  

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 5)
    Jack Link's Original Beef Jerky

    Using his grandfather’s old recipes for sausage and smoked meats, Jack Link created his first kippered beef sticks in Wisconsin in 1986, and they quickly became a popular snack throughout the state. But that wasn’t enough for Jack, so he invested in a packaging machine to expand into other markets, and eventually—with the help of a successful Sasquatch-themed marketing campaign—Jack Link’s became the #1 jerky brand in the country.

    Beef jerky is usually made in a dehydrator designed to circulate air around the food at a low temperature. The temperature for drying beef jerky in a dehydrator is typically 130 to 140 degrees, which is a lower temperature than you can reach with a conventional home oven. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use our home oven to make a perfectly acceptable beef jerky hack that tastes like Jack’s. And even though Jack uses a smoker for his beef jerky, you won’t need one to give your jerky a similar smoky flavor.

    The pineapple juice in the marinade is an important part of the taste, but its primary contribution is a unique enzyme that helps break down the proteins in the tough cut of meat to tenderize it. Soy sauce and beef bouillon contribute to the umami savoriness of the jerky, and liquid hickory smoke is used in my Jack Link's Original Beef Jerky recipe as a quick way to add the smoky flavor.

    The marinating takes 24 hours and the oven drying takes between 6 to 8 hours, so get the sliced beef into the bath in the morning, and you’ll be munching on homemade Jack Link's beef jerky by dinnertime the next day. And to help you out, I'm including step photos.

    Find more cool recipes for your favorite snacks here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Starbucks Double Chocolate Brownie

    If you worship chocolate, this simple-to-make recipe of Starbucks' famous fudgy brownie is a blessing. The brownie is made with a double dose of chocolate—unsweetened cocoa and milk chocolate—and the top is sprinkled with chunks of dark chocolate.  The result is a moist, chewy brownie made with a perfect blend of chocolate. And it tastes like heaven.

    Prep your pan with a sling made from parchment paper. Slice the parchment long so that it fits into the bottom of the pan with each of the ends hanging over the top of the pan. I use two small binder clips to hold the paper in place so that it doesn’t fold into the pan during baking. When the brownies have cooled, remove the clips, grab the overhanging paper, and lift the brownies cleanly out of the pan to be sliced.

    Find more of your favorite Starbucks copycat recipes here

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  • Not rated yet
    Chipotle Queso Blanco

    Social media shredded Chipotle’s first queso dip which debuted in 2017, calling it “gritty,” “bland,” “watered-down,” and “a crime against cheese.” Chipotle was in desperate need of a re-do.

    In early 2020, after months and months of test-marketing an improved cheesy dip recipe in Dallas, Detroit, and San Diego, the Mexican chain introduced Queso Blanco to the entire U.S., and this time the reviews were much better.

    Chipotle claims their new formula contains exactly 13 ingredients, including 2 kinds of cheese and 3 different chile peppers. With cornstarch as the thickening agent, the preparation starts by making a white sauce with milk and cream. When the cheese is fully melted and smooth, the veggies go in, and in about 10 minutes it’s ready to serve.

    Use my Chipotle Queso Blanco copycat recipe as a dip with tortilla chips or as a topping on your copycat Chipotle carne asada or carnitas tacos and barbacoa burritos. Find all my Chipotle recipes here

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Chipotle Carne Asada

    Chipotle’s popular limited offering is a good example of how straightforward and flavorful carne asada can be. It’s not overly mysterious since Chipotle is transparent about the ingredients used for the restaurant's entire menu—53 ingredients in all—but identifying those is only the beginning of the process. There was still plenty of work to do in establishing ratios and settling on an ideal preparation method.

    Carne asada is almost always made with flank steak or skirt steak. A server at Chipotle told me they use skirt steak, which is surprising since that is the tougher of the two cuts. Perhaps she was wrong about that? Flank steak also has a better flavor than skirt steak, so I'm recommending flank here. Just be sure not to marinate it for more than 2 days or the acid in the marinade may toughen your steak and you certainly don't want that.

    After you grill it, slice the meat across the grain and use it in burritos, tacos, bowls, or as a Southwest-style salad topper.

    My Chipotle carne asada recipe was our #5 most popular in 2021. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Panda Express Chow Mein (#1), Qdoba 3-Cheese Queso (#2), Panda Express Fried Rice (#3), Outback Baked Potato Soup (#4).

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Taco Bell Shredded Chicken Soft Taco

    In November 2020, Taco Bell said “adios” to several classic items from their menu including Mexican Pizza—one of my long-time favorites—and anything with shredded chicken in it, including the chicken soft taco. But teary goodbyes from fans of the tasty spiced chicken can be avoided if we have a good (and easy) recipe to craft a duplicate at home. Since the fast Mexican chain announced the changes several months in advance, I had time to work up a good hack before the tacos were gone forever.

    After cooking the chicken several ways, I settled on poaching the fillets in chicken broth, which kept them moist and added great umami flavor. When the chicken cooled, I shredded it, and added it to a sauce seasoned with spices and lime juice, and flavored with Knorr tomato chicken bouillon. 

    As the sauce thickens it will reduce and infuse the chicken with flavor, just like the original Taco Bell shredded chicken, then it’s ready for you to use on tacos, burritos, salads, or whatever. And don't forget the hot sauce

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  • Score: 3.00 (votes: 1)
    Popeyes Ghost Pepper Wings

    The Scoville heat rating of bhut jolokia, more commonly known as ghost pepper, is just over 1 million units, making it 200 times hotter than a jalapeno. But that didn’t stop Popeyes from creating an eye-watering breading for their scorching new crispy wings. Yes, these are seriously spicy wings, but they’re not so extreme as to be inedible, and the awesome flavor is guaranteed to tempt you back for more. Don't be scared.  

    My Popeyes Ghost Pepper Wings recipe starts by brining the wing segments in a buttermilk and pepper sauce marinade. Salt, MSG, and cayenne pepper sauce will fill the wings with flavor, and the breading, with a decent amount of ground ghost pepper in it, will bring on the sting. Ghost pepper has been quickly growing in popularity over the last several years, and you should have no trouble finding ground ghost pepper online. Even brick-and-mortar grocery stores are stocking it.

    Still, ghost pepper is crazy hot, so be careful with it. You may even want to use gloves when breading these wings. Especially if you’ll need clean fingers later for putting in a contact lens, holding a baby, or any other activity not favorable to ferociously spicy digits.    

    Get my secret recipes for all your favorite Popeyes food here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Cracker Barrel Meatloaf

    The Southern-themed chain famous for its gift shops filled with made-in-America products and delicious homestyle food is also known to have a particularly good meatloaf. This dish ranks high in popularity, right up there with the Chicken ‘n Dumplins and the Hash Brown Casserole, so a good Cracker Barrel Meatloaf recipe is long overdue.

    Making meatloaf is easy. What’s hard is making it taste like the meatloaf at Cracker Barrel which is tender and juicy, and flavored with onion, green pepper, and tomato. I sought to turn out a moist and tender loaf of meat, and one that’s not dry and tough, but my first attempts were much too dense. I wasn’t happy about that, but my dog was thrilled.

    After playing around with the eggs-to-breadcrumbs-to-milk ratios and being careful to use gentle hands when combining everything and pressing it into the loaf pan, the final batch was a winner and I get to pass it along to you.    

    It's best to use a meatloaf pan here which has an insert that lets the fat drip to the bottom, away from the meat. A regular loaf pan will still work, but you’ll want to pour off the fat in the pan before slicing. 

    Satisfy your Cracker Barrel cravings with more of my copycat recipes here.

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I'm Todd Wilbur, Chronic Food Hacker

For over 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original copycat recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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