THE MOST TRUSTED COPYCAT RECIPES
THE MOST TRUSTED COPYCAT RECIPES
Panda Express Orange-Flavored Chicken Reduced-Fat

Panda Express Orange-Flavored Chicken Reduced-Fat

Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
Reviews: 1
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Andrew J. C. Cherng lived in China, Taiwan, and Japan before he came to the United States to study mathematics at Baker University. After graduation in 1973, Andrew used his extensive education and business savvy to open an Asian restaurant in Pasadena with his father; Master Chef Ming Tsai Cherng. Southern Californians went crazy for Andrew's Panda Inn and its cutting-edge menu that blended the styles of Szechwan and Mandarin cooking.

Today the chain—now called Panda Express—includes more than 320 units in thirty-two states and is famous for the addictive fried chicken dish with the tangy orange sauce. We can re-create this dish using a baking technique to avoid the fat that's unavoidable when frying.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size–1 sliced chicken breast
Total servings–4
Calories per serving–400 (Original–580)
Fat per serving–12g (Original–30g)

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

Get This

Sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced water chestnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 rounded teaspoon chopped green onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 5 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspooons arrowroot
Chicken
  • 4 skinless chicken breast fillets
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable cooking spray
Do This

1. Combine all of the sauce ingredients—except the cornstarch and arrowroot—in a small saucepan over high heat. Stir often while bringing mixture to a boil. When the sauce reaches a boil, remove it from heat and allow it to cool a bit, uncovered.

2. Slice the chicken breasts into bite size chunks. Remove exactly 1 cup of the marinade from the pan and pour it over the chicken in a large resealable plastic bag or other container that allows the chicken to be completely covered with the marinade. The chicken should marinate for at least a couple hours. Cover the remaining sauce and leave it to cool until the chicken is ready.

3. When the chicken has marinated, preheat your oven to 475 degrees F.

4. Combine the cornstarch with arrowroot in a small bowl, then add 3 tablespoons of water. Stir until the cornstarch and arrowroot have dissolved. Pour this mixture into the sauce, and set the pan over high heat. When the sauce begins to bubble and thicken, cover and remove it from heat.

5. Beat the ice water and egg together in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, combine the flour and salt.

6. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with a generous coating of oil cooking spray.

7. First dip each piece of chicken into the four, then into the egg mixture, and finally back into the flour. Arrange the coated chicken pieces on the baking sheet. When all of the chicken is positioned on the baking sheet, spray a coating of the oil cooking spray over the top of the chicken.

8. Bake the chicken for 4 to 6 minutes or until it begins to brown on top. Turn the oven up to high broil for 2 to 3 minutes or until the chicken has browned and has a crispy coating.

9. As the chicken cooks, reheat the sauce left covered on the stove. Stir it occasionally.

10. Pour the chicken into a large serving dish. Cover it with the thickened sauce. Stir gently until all of the pieces are well coated.

Serves 4.

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Reviews
Kelly pellegrino
Apr 7, 2011, 22:00
This is spot on! Tastes the exact same as the chain.

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    When I heard about all the commotion over this new secret recipe, I immediately locked myself up in the underground lab with a 12-piece bucket of the new grilled chicken, plus a sample I obtained of the proprietary seasoning blend, and got right to work. After days of nibbling through what amounts to a small flock of hens, I'm happy to bring you this amazing cloned version of this fast food phenomenon so that you can now reproduce it in your own kitchen. 

    Find the smallest chicken you can for my KFC grilled chicken copycat recipe, since KFC uses young hens. Or better yet save some dough by finding a small whole chicken and cut it up yourself. The secret preparation process requires that you marinate (brine) your chicken for a couple of hours in a salt and MSG solution. This will make the chicken moist all the way through and give it great flavor. After the chicken has brined, it's brushed with liquid smoke-flavored oil that will not only make the seasoning stick to the chicken, but will also ensure that the chicken doesn't stick to the pan. The liquid smoke in the oil gives the chicken a smoky flavor as if it had been cooked on an open flame barbecue grill.

    The grilled chicken at KFC is probably cooked on ribbed metal plates in specially designed convection ovens to get those grill marks. I duplicated that process using an oven-safe grill pan, searing the chicken first on the stove top to add the grill marks, then cooking the chicken through in the oven. If you don't have a grill pan or a grill plate, you can just sear the chicken in any large oven safe sauté pan. If you have a convection function on your oven, you should definitely use it, but the recipe will still work in a standard oven with the temperature set just a little bit higher. After baking the chicken for 20 minutes on each side, you're ready to dive into your own 8-piece bucket of delicious indoor grilled chicken that's as tasty as the fried stuff, but without all the fat.

    Check out the video demonstration of this recipe.

    You might also like my copycat recipes for KFC's signature sauces and sides. Find all of my KFC copycat recipes here.

    Source: "Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step" by Todd Wilbur

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  • Score: 4.83 (votes: 12)
    Hooters Buffalo Chicken Wings

    Menu Description: "Nearly world-famous. Often imitated, hardly ever duplicated."

    "Hooters is to chicken wings what McDonald's is to hamburgers," claims promotional material from the company. True, the six fun-loving Midwestern businessmen who started Hooters in Clearwater, Florida, on April Fool's Day in 1983 chose a classic recipe for chicken wings as their signature item. But while some might say it's the buffalo wings that are their favorite feature of the restaurant, others say it's the restaurant chain's trademark Hooters girls—waitresses casually attired in bright orange short-shorts and skin tight T-shirts.

    Today there are over 375 Hooters across the United States serving more than 200 tons of chicken wings every week. The original dish can be ordered in 10-, 20-, or 50-piece servings; or if you want to splurge, there's the "Gourmet Chicken Wing Dinner" featuring 20 wings and a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne, for only $125. To further enhance the Hooters experience when you serve these messy wings, throw a whole roll of paper towels on the table, rather than napkins, as they do in the restaurants.

    Try my Hooters Buffalo Chicken Wings copycat recipe below, and find more Hooters copycat recipes here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant 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: 5.00 (votes: 10)
    Roadhouse Grill Baby Back Ribs

    Menu Description: "Our award-winning Baby Back Ribs are slow-roasted, then basted with Jim Beam Bourbon BBQ Sauce and finished on our Mesquite grill."

    When your crew bites into these baby backs they'll savor meat so tender and juicy that it slides right off the bone. The slow braising cooks the ribs to perfection, while the quick grilling adds the finishing char and smoky flavor. But the most important component to any decent rack of ribs is a sauce that's filled with flavor, and this version of Roadhouse Grill's award-wining sauce is good stuff. I ordered the ribs naked (without sauce) so that I could see if there was any detectable rub added before cooking and I didn't find anything other than salt and a lot of coarse black pepper. So that's the way I designed my Roadhouse Grill Baby Back Ribs recipe, and it works.

    Now, how about a copycat Roadhouse Grill Roadhouse Rita to wash down those ribs.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.92 (votes: 12)
    KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) Honey BBQ Wings

    Once a regular menu item, these sweet, saucy wings are now added to the KFC menu on a "limited-time-only" basis in many markets. So how are we to get that sticky sauce all over our faces and hands during those many months when we are cruelly denied our Honey BBQ Wings? Now it's as easy as whipping up my KFC honey BBQ wings recipe that re-creates the crispy breading on the chicken wings, and the sweet-and-smoky honey BBQ sauce. "Limited-time-only" signs—we laugh at you.

    How about some famous coleslaw or wedge potatoes? Check out my collection of KFC clone recipes here.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 6)
    Olive Garden Lasagna Classico

    Crafting an Olive Garden’s signature Lasagna Classico recipe became the perfect opportunity to create a beautiful multi-layered lasagna hack recipe that uses up the whole box of lasagna noodles and fills the baking pan all the way to the top. This Top Secret Recipe makes a lasagna that tips the scale at nearly 10 pounds and will feed hungry mouths for days, with every delicious layer copied directly from the carefully dissected Olive Garden original.

    I found a few credible bits of intel in a video of an Olive Garden chef demonstrating what he claims is the real formula on a midday news show, but the recipe was abbreviated for TV and the chef left out some crucial information. One ingredient he conspicuously left out of the recipe is the secret layer of Cheddar cheese located near the middle of the stack. I wasn’t expecting to find Cheddar in lasagna, but when I carefully separated the layers from several servings of the original dish, there was the golden melted cheesy goodness in every slice.

    This clone recipe will make enough for 8 big portions, but if you make slightly smaller slices this is easily enough food to fill twelve lasagna-loving bellies. If you like lasagna, you're going to love this version.

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

    Check out this list of our most popular recipes of all-time.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 9)
    Cheesecake Factory Miso Salmon

    Menu Description: "Fresh salmon marinated in miso and baked. Served with a delicious miso sauce, snow peas and white rice."

    Cheesecake Factory's miso salmon is presented beautifully on top of white rice and surrounded by sake butter sauce that tastes like candy. Miso is a salty-fermented soy bean paste that combines well with sweet brown sugar and sake for a syrupy marinade that makes salmon taste so good that even salmon haters will devour it. Look for red miso in a refrigerator in your market. You can also find it in Asian markets and some health food stores. 

    After cooking up your marinade, you should allow the salmon fillets to soak in it for up to six hours, so start this dish early in the day and plan to scarf out at dinnertime. The cool presentation starts by pressing cooked rice into a lightly greased 5-inch ramekin or small cake pan, and then turning it out onto the center of your serving plate. Add a moat of sake reduction sauce, a few steamed snow pea pods, and you will have a copycat Cheesecake Factory Miso salmon recipe that looks and tastes exactly like the real thing.

    Click here for more of your favorite recipes from Cheesecake Factory.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.
     

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 11)
    Joe's Stone Crab Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes

    Joseph Weiss was living in New York with his wife and son when his doctor told him he would need a change of climate to help his asthma. He journeyed to Miami, Florida in 1913 and discovered he was able to breathe again. He quickly moved his family down South and opened his first restaurant, a little lunch counter. 

    Joe's restaurant business exploded in 1921 when he discovered how to cook and serve the stone crabs caught off the coast. Joe boiled the meaty claws and served them chilled with a secret mustard dipping sauce. Today only one pincer is removed from each stone crab, then the crab is tossed back into the ocean where it will regenerate the missing claw in about 2 years. The stone crabs, in addition to several other signature items, made Joe's a Miami hotspot, and these days Joe's restaurants can be found in Chicago and Las Vegas. 

    Here is my take on Joe's amazing giant crab cakes, which are made from lump crab meat. You can use my Joe's Stone Crab jumbo lump crab cakes recipe below and serve as them an appetizer or entrée like they do at the restaurant. Of course, you can't clone a Joe's crab dish without cloning the secret mustard sauce, so that recipe is here too.

    Try more of my clone recipes of other popular dishes from Joe's Stone Crab here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.89 (votes: 46)
    Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup

    For two years after the first Olive Garden restaurant opened in 1982, operators were still tweaking the restaurant's physical appearance and the food that was served. Even the tomato sauce was changed as many as 25 times. It's that sort of dedication that creates fabulous dishes like this popular soup. It blends the flavors of potatoes, kale, and Italian sausage in a slightly spicy chicken and cream broth. 

    Try my Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana copycat recipe below, and find more of my Olive Garden clone recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.65 (votes: 17)
    Chili's Chili Queso

    Menu Description: "Our appetizing cheese dip with seasoned beef. Served with warm tostada chips."

    Take your chips for a dip in this chili queso that comes to your table in a small cast iron skillet along with a big bowl of tortilla chips. A popular recipe that's been circulating calls for combining Velveeta with Hormel no-bean chili. Sure, it's a good start, but there's more to Chili's spicy cheese dip than that. Try my Chili's Skillet Queso copycat recipe below that includes a few other key ingredients. After about 20 minutes you'll have a great taste alike dip for picnic, party, or game time.

    Now, what's for dinner? Check out my other Chili's copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.
     

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Del Taco Crispy Fish Taco

    The number two Mexican fast food chain nicely duplicates the delicious fish tacos you'd find in coastal towns south of the border: two corn tortillas wrapped around a fried halibut fillet that's topped with cabbage, fresh salsa, and a creamy "secret sauce." It's practically impossible to eat just one—they're that good. And, thanks to the availability of breaded frozen fish sticks in just about every market, a home version of Del Taco Crispy Fish Tacos is stupidly simple. If you can't find crispy halibut sticks in your local store, the more common breaded pollock will work just fine here. You can also use frozen fish portions that are grilled if you're not into the breaded (fried) stuff. The real recipe at Del Taco comes with two thin corn tortillas, but sometimes the only available corn tortillas in consumer markets are the thicker ones. If that's the case, you'll need just one per taco.

    Try my Del Taco Crispy Fish Taco copycat recipe and find more of my Del Taco copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.77 (votes: 22)
    El Pollo Loco Creamy Cilantro Dressing

    Sliced chicken breast, romaine lettuce, pico de gallo, tortilla strips, and cotija cheese make up El Pollo Loco's Caesar Salad, but it is the fantastic creamy cilantro dressing recipe that gets the raves. Use my El Pollo Loco Creamy Cilantro Dressing recipe below and simply combine the ingredients in a blender. You'll soon have more than one cup of the delicious dressing cloned and ready to pour over any of your home salad creations.

    You can also make El Pollo Loco Flame Broiled Chicken, pinto beans, Spanish rice and more. Find my copycat recipes here

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 9)
    Olive Garden Tiramisu

    Menu Description: "The classic Italian dessert. A layer of creamy custard set atop espresso-soaked ladyfingers."

    In Italian, tiramisu means "pick me up" or "cheer me up." And when you taste the delicious combination of mascarpone cheese (sometimes referred to as Italian cream cheese), ladyfingers, espresso and Kahlua it will be hard not to smile. 

    For my Olive Garden Tiramisu recipe below, you'll want to get out your double boiler for the egg yolks (a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water will also do) and get some ladyfingers (ladyfingers are miniature cakes about the size of two fingers side-by-side). For this tiramisu dessert, you can either make your own espresso, use extra strong coffee as a substitute, or, next time you're at Starbucks, order up a quadruple shot of espresso to go.

    Find all of Olive Garden's hit dishes I've copied 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: 5.00 (votes: 18)
    Cheesecake Factory White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake

    Menu Description: "Our creamy cheesecake with chunks of white chocolate and swirls of imported seedless raspberries throughout. Baked in a chocolate crust and finished with white chocolate shavings and whipped cream."

    Use my Cheesecake Factory White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake recipe below to make a home version of the cheesecake that many claim is the best they've ever had. Raspberry preserves are the secret ingredient that is swirled into the cream cheese that's poured into a crumbled chocolate cookie crust. Yum. No wonder this cheesecake is the number one pick from the chain's massive list of cheesecake choices.

    Love Cheesecake Factory? Find more of my recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.
     

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 7)
    Applebee's Honey Grilled Salmon

    Menu Description: "Flame-grilled Atlantic Salmon with Applebee's Honey Pepper Sauce served with a side of almond rice pilaf, seasoned vegetables and toasted garlic bread."

    To make a spot on Applebee's Honey Grilled Salmon copycat recipe, it's all about getting the sauce right. This sweet, tangy and slightly spicy sauce goes perfectly with salmon, but can also be used on chicken or ribs. Just be sure to watch the sauce closely as it cooks in case it starts to bubble over. If it sounds like I'm speaking from experience, you're right—oh, what a beautiful mess I made on one attempt. So, cook the sauce slowly, and watch it closely as it thickens. If it gets too thick, you can always add a bit of water to thin it out. I suggest serving this salmon with almond rice pilaf as they do in the restaurant. You can find my recipe here on the site.

    I've cloned a ton of dishes from Applebee's. See if I hacked your favorites here,

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.00 (votes: 20)
    Popeyes Red Beans and Rice

    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 create an accurate Popeyes Red Beans and Rice recipe 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 my Popeyes Red Beans and rice recipe below. 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)
    K.C. Masterpiece Original Barbecue Sauce

    Even though it's now owned and produced by the Clorox Company, Original K.C. Masterpiece barbecue sauce is the same as when it was first created in good ole Kansas City, USA. This is the sauce that steals awards from all the other popular sauces on the market. Now it's sold in a variety of flavors. 

    My K.C. Masterpiece barbecue sauce recipe below clones the original, and you'll find it very easy to make. Just throw all of the ingredients in a saucepan, crank it up to a boil, then simmer for about an hour. Done deal. And just like the original Masterpiece, this stuff will make a work of art out of any of your grilled meats, or burgers and sandwiches, and as a dipping sauce or marinade.

    Complete your meal with my KFC Cole Slaw recipe.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 15)
    Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage

    Before he became America's sausage king, Jimmy Dean was known for crooning the country hit "Big Bad John." That song came out in 1962 and sold more than 8 million copies. His singing success launched a television career on ABC with The Jimmy Dean Show, where Roy Clark, Patsy Cline, and Roger Miller got their big breaks. The TV exposure led to acting roles for Jimmy, as a regular on Daniel Boone, and in feature films, including his debut in the James Bond flick Diamonds are Forever. Realizing that steady income from an acting and singing career can be undependable, Jimmy invested his show-biz money in a hog farm. In 1968 the Jimmy Dean Meat Company developed the special recipe for sausage that has now become a household name. Today the company is part of the Sara Lee Corporation, and Jimmy retired as company spokesman in 2004.

    My Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage copycat recipe re-creates three varieties of the famous roll sausage that you form into patties and cook in a skillet. Use ground pork found at the supermarket—make it lean pork if you like—or grind some up yourself if you have a meat grinder.

    Check out more of my famous breakfast copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.75 (votes: 16)
    El Pollo Loco Flame-Broiled Chicken

    El Pollo Loco, or "The Crazy Chicken," has been growing like mad since it crossed over the border into the United States from Mexico. Francisco Ochoa unknowingly started a food phenomenon internacional in 1975 when he took a family recipe for chicken marinade and opened a small roadside restaurante in Gusave, Mexico. He soon had 90 stores in 20 cities throughout Mexico. The first El Pollo Loco in the United States opened in Los Angeles in December 1980 and was an immediate success. It was only three years later that Ochoa got the attention of bigwigs at Dennys, Inc., who offered him $11.3 million for his U.S. operations. Ochoa took the deal, and El Pollo Loco grew from 17 to more than 200 outlets over the following decade.

    Pair my El Pollo Loco Flame Broiled Chicken copycat recipe below with my recipes for their avocado salsa, pinto beans, Spanish rice, and bbq black beans.

    Source: More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 3.00 (votes: 2)
    El Pollo Loco Shredded Beef Birria

    Birria was invented over 400 years ago when an increasing goat population became a problem for residents of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Their solution: eat them.

    But goat meat can be tough and gamey, so a low and slow braising method was developed to make the meat tender and tasty. A broth flavored with chili peppers and spices was combined with the meat in a covered pot which was then buried in the ground with hot coals. Early the next day, the braised birria is ready to eat, which is why the dish became a traditional Mexican breakfast food.

    But customers at El Pollo Loco birria usually have their birria for lunch and dinner. And, while I lack a formal survey, I am nearly positive that everyone is happy that this version isn’t made with goat meat. Instead, my version of El Pollo Loco Shredded Beef Birria is made by braising a 2 to 3 pound chuck roast in a secret combination of peppers and spices for 3 hours, or until your beef is tender enough to shred with a couple forks.

    Strain the braising sauce left in the pan to make the delicious consommé, then use this shredded beef on tacos, burritos, quesadillas, or whatever sounds good. Add some cilantro and chopped onion to the consommé and serve it on the side for dipping, just like they do at the restaurant chain.

    Pair my El Pollo Shredded Beef Birria copycat recipe below with my copycat recipes for El Pollo Loco avocado salsa, pinto beans, Spanish rice, and bbq black beans.

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  • Score: 4.50 (votes: 2)
    Rao's Traditional Meatballs

    Tweaking a classic recipe with a few special prep tricks leaked to me by a server was the key to developing this spot-on hack for the famous meatballs from the iconic 125-year-old Italian dining room. With just two locations in the U.S. (Los Angeles and New York), sinking your fork into a fresh meatball at the restaurant requires quite a trip for most people, but my Rao's Traditional Meatballs recipe, refined through multiple batches, will make you a meatball master in your own kitchen, producing ten 5½-ounce meatballs that look and taste like the real thing.

    Fortunately, I could squeeze in a reservation at the Las Vegas Rao’s location a few weeks before it closed its doors forever at Caesar’s Palace in late November 2021. While there, I made sure to ask my server for any information about the recipe, and was informed about the secret two-step process described in this hack to create giant meatballs that are cooked through, but so moist that they practically crumble when cut with a fork.

    Rao’s has shared a meatball recipe in the past, but don’t be fooled. That recipe produces decent meatballs, but they are not the same as what’s served in the restaurant. If you want to make meatballs that taste like the classic original, use my Rao's meatballs recipe below.

    And when they're done, top the meatballs with your favorite marinara or use my hack here to re-create Rao’s famous sauce.

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

    Check out this list of our most popular recipes of all-time.

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  • Not rated yet
    Panda Express Firecracker Chicken Breast

    It’s not always on the menu at the huge Chinese take-out chain, but when this spicy special offering makes a limited-time-only appearance, I’m there. When it’s not on the menu, no problem, you can use my Panda Express Firecracker Chicken copycat recipe and make it at home in no time. 

    This dish owes its great flavor to black bean paste, which is full of umami savoriness, just like soy sauce, so it enhances the taste of everything around it. You'll have a good laugh when you notice most recipes attempt to hack this dish with canned black beans. That's ridiculous, since black bean paste is a traditional Asian flavoring ingredient made with fermented soybeans, not with black beans like the kind you get in your burrito at Chipotle.

    Plan ahead to brine your chicken breast for a couple of hours so that it's moist and flavorful. This is an important step for a spot-on hack.

    Find more of my Panda Express copycat recipes here

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  • Score: 4.87 (votes: 15)
    LongHorn Steakhouse Prairie Dust

    Peruse a menu at one of the 270-unit LongHorn Steakhouses located throughout the eastern half of the U.S. and you'll find this seasoning blend on battered onion petals, spicy fried shrimp, pork chops, and steaks. 

    Combine eight common ingredients in the comfort of your home with my LongHorn Steakhouse Prairie Dust copycat recipe, and you'll have quickly cloned a versatile seasoned salt that can be added to everything that needs flavor, from steaks to chicken to seafood. It's also good sprinkled over eggs, burgers, even popcorn.

    Try my LongHorn Steakhouse Firecracker Chicken Wraps copycat recipe here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.88 (votes: 16)
    Cheesecake Factory Original Cheesecake

    Menu Description: "Our famous Original cheesecake recipe! Creamy and light, baked in a graham cracker crust. Our most popular cheesecake!"

    Oscar and Evelyn Overton's wholesale cheesecake company was successful quickly after it first started selling creamy cheesecakes like this clone to restaurant chains in the early 1970's. When some restaurants balked at the prices the company was charging for high-end desserts, Oscar and Evelyn's son David decided it was time to open his own restaurant, offering a wide variety of quality meal choices in huge portions, and, of course, the famous cheesecakes for dessert. Today, the chain has over 87 stores across the country, and consistently ranks number one on the list of highest grossing single stores for a U.S. restaurant chain.

    Baking your cheesecakes in a water bath is part of the secret for producing beautiful cheesecakes at home with a texture similar to those sold in the restaurant. The water surrounds your cheesecake to keep it moist as it cooks, and the moisture helps prevent ugly cracking. You'll start the oven very hot for just a short time, then crank it down to finish. I also suggest lining your cheesecake pan with parchment paper to help get the thing out of the pan when it's done without a hassle.

    My Cheesecake Factory original cheesecake recipe is so easy, even a 2-year-old can make it as shown in this video.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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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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