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Chili's Southwestern Vegetable Soup copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Chili's Southwestern Vegetable Soup

Score: 5.00 (votes: 11)
Reviews: 11
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If you like soup that's packed with veggies, that's low in fat, and has some Southwestern punch to it, this is the soup for you. Just toss all the ingredients in a pot and simmer. Garnish with some shredded cheese and crumbled tortillas, and warm up your insides.

Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

Get This

_main
  • 6 cups chicken broth (Swanson is best)
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup canned dark red kidney beans, with liquid
  • 1 cup frozen yellow cut corn
  • 1 cup frozen cut green beans
  • 1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
  • 1/2 cup diced Spanish onion
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 6 corn tortillas, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • Pinch garlic powder
Garnish
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar/Jack cheese blend
  • 1 cup crumbled corn tortilla chips
Do This

1. Combine all the soup ingredients in a large saucepan or soup pot over high heat. Be sure to mince the corn tortillas into small pieces with a sharp knife before adding them to the soup.

2. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the soup has thickened and tortilla pieces have mostly dissolved.

3. To serve the soup ladle 1 1/2 cups into a bowl. Sprinkle a heaping tablespoon of the grated Cheddar/Jack cheese blend over the top of the soup, and then a heaping tablespoon of crumbled corn tortilla chips over the cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

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Reviews
Helen C
Dec 26, 2014, 22:00
Todd was right on with this soup!
Todd Brown
Dec 12, 2010, 22:00
I am so glad I found this recipe here. I ordered this soup almost every time I went to Chili's so I was pretty upset when they took it off the menu. Now I can make it anytime I want.

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    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    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!

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    Contents
    Applebee's Apple Walnut Chicken Salad
    Applebee's Chocolate Mousse Dessert Shooter
    Applebee's Grilled Shrimp 'N Spinach Salad
    Applebee's Key Lime Pie Dessert Shooter
    Applebee's Red Apple Sangria
    Applebee's Strawberry Cheesecake Dessert Shooter
    Applebee's Tomato Basil Soup
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    Bahama Breeze Island Onion Rings
    Bahama Breese West Indian Patties
    BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse Chili
    BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse Famous Pizookie
    BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast
    BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
    Bonefish Grill Bang Bang Shrimp
    Bonefish Grill Citrus Herb Vinaigrette
    Bonefish Grill Saucy Shrimp
    Buca di Beppo Garlic Bread and Garlic Bread with Mozzarella
    Buca di Beppo Chicken Limone
    Buffalo Wild Wings Asian Zing Sauce
    Buffalo Wild Wings Parmesan Garlic Sauce
    California Pizza Kitchen The Original BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad
    California Pizza Kitchen Original Chopped Salad
    Carrabba's Spicy Sausage Lentil Soup
    Carrabba's Chicken Bryan
    Cheeseburger in Paradise BBQ Jerk Ribs
    Cheeseburger in Paradise Sweet Potato Chips
    Cheeseburger in Paradise El Cubano Sandwich
    Cheesecake Factory Famous Factory Meatloaf
    Cheesecake Factory Miso Salmon
    Cheesecake Factory Pineapple Pisco Sour
    Cheesecake Factory Thai Lettuce Wraps
    Cheesecake Factory Banana Cream Cheesecake
    Cheesecake Factory Stefanie's Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake
    Chili's Honey-Chipotle Chicken Crispers
    Chili's Cajun Ribeye
    Chili's Firecracker Tilapia
    Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad
    Chili's Nacho Burger
    Chili's White Chocolate Molten Cake
    Cracker Barrel Cole Slaw
    Cracker Barrel Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake
    Cracker Barrel Macaroni n' Cheese
    Denny's Cherry Cherry Limeade
    Denny's Pancake Puppies
    Denny's Broccoli Cheese Soup
    Famous Dave's Corn Muffins
    Famous Dave's Smoked Salmon Spread
    Famous Dave's Wilbur Beans
    Fleming's Prime Steakhouse Wicked Cajun Barbecue Shrimp
    Fleming's Prime Steakhouse Chipotle Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese
    Fleming's Prime Steakhouse Fleming's Potatoes
    Fuddruckers Hamburger Seasoning
    Gordon Biersch Cran Blueberi Lemonade Cocktail
    Gordon Biersch Garlic Fries
    Gordon Biersch Raspberry Iced Tea Cocktail
    Gordon Biersch Warm Apple Bread Pudding
    Hard Rock Cafe Tupelo Style Chicken
    Hard Rock Cafe Twisted Mac & Cheese
    Hooter's Fried Pickles
    Houston's House Vinaigrette
    Houston's Couscous
    IHOP Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes
    IHOP Corn Cake Pancakes
    IHOP Funnel Cakes
    IHOP Shortcake Pancakes
    Joe's Crab Shack Crab Nachos
    Joe's Crab Shack Great Balls of Fire
    Joes Crab Shack Spicy Boil
    Joe's Crab Shack BBQ Crab
    Joe's Stone  Crab Garlic Creamed Spinach
    Joe's Stone  Crab Grilled Tomatoes
    Joe's Stone  Crab Jennie's Potatoes
    Joe's Stone  Crab Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes
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    Margaritaville Incommunicado Cocktail
    Margaritaville Volcano Nachos
    Margaritaville Jerk Salmon
    Mastro's Steakhouse Gorgonzola Macaroni & Cheese
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    Mastro's Steakhouse Warm Butter Cake
    Max & Erma's Tortilla Soup
    Mimi's Cafe Buttermilk Spice Muffins
    Mimi's Cafe Carrot Raisin Nut Muffins
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    Olive Garden Dipping Sauces for Breadsticks
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    Outback Steakhouse Bleu Cheese Chopped Salad
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    Outback Steakhouse Victoria "Crowned" Filet w/Horseradish Crumb Crust
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    P.F. Chang's Asian Pear Mojito
    P.F. Chang's Chang's Key Lime Martini
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    :
    Serving size–1 1/2 cups
    Total servings–4
    Calories–260 (Original–305)
    Fat–2g (Original–14g)

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    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 dish is a big favorite of Olive Garden regulars. Chicken tenderloins are lightly breaded and sauteed 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 this dish 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. 

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    The easy-melting, individually-wrapped Kraft Cheddar Singles are a perfect secret ingredient for this Panera Bread broccoli cheddar soup recipe that's served at this top soup stop. In this clone, fresh broccoli is first steamed, then diced into little bits before you combine it with chicken broth, half-and-half, shredded carrot, and onion. Now you're just 30 minutes away from soup spoon go-time.

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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. The recipe here 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.

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    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.

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    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    Tony Roma's Baked Potato Soup

    Menu Description: "A house specialty full of baked potatoes and topped with Cheddar cheese, bacon and green onions."

    The thick-and-creamy texture and rich taste of Tony Roma's best-selling soup is duplicated with a little flour, some half-and-half, and most notably, instant mashed potatoes. Give yourself an hour to bake the potatoes and around 30 minutes to prepare the soup. Garnish each serving with shredded cheese, crumbled bacon and green onions, and then humbly await your due praise.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Chili's Firecracker Tilapia

    Menu Description: "A grilled tilapia fillet brushed with a sweet and spicy glaze and garnished with red chili tapenade, cilantro and sesame seeds." 

    Here's a great way to prepare that next batch of fresh fish fillets when you're contemplating a new taste. If you and your diners love spicy food this is the perfect clone, since the top secret glaze and tapenade recipes I've included here both come packing heat. You can make the sauces several hours—or even days—ahead of time, and then when you're ready to eat, the fish will cook up in less than 10 minutes. Chili's calls this "grilled" tilapia on the menu, but don't expect to find grill marks on the fish. It appears the restaurant uses a flat griddle or saute pan to cook the fish, since the tender tilapia would fall through the grate on a barbecue grill. Don't limit this recipe to tilapia. The intense glaze and tapenade will perk up a variety of fish fillets, from sea bass to salmon.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Benihana Japanese Onion Soup

    Menu Description: "It takes half a day to make this perfect combination of onion, celery, carrot and garlic."

    Before a skilled chef appears tableside to perform his culinary prestidigitation on the hot hibachi grill at Benihana, you're treated to a tasty bowl of chicken broth-based soup with fried onions, sliced mushrooms and green onions floating cheerfully on top. The restaurant menu claims this soup takes a half a day to make, but we can clone it in a fraction of that time using canned chicken broth (I use Swanson brand). This soup works great as a prelude to your favorite Asian dishes or other Benihana clones since it's so light and won't fill up anyone before the main course. I've included a simple technique here for making the breaded fried onions from scratch (for the most accurate clone), but you can skip that step by substituting French's canned French Fried Onions that are sold in most markets.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 6)
    Panera Bread Spinach Artichoke Baked Egg Souffle

    Panera Bread's Baked Spinach and Artichoke Egg Souffle reminds me of a breakfast Hot Pocket, if a Hot Pocket tasted really good. With eggs, cheese, spinach, and artichoke hearts baked into a buttery crust, this super-cool presentation will earn you big bonus points from your crew in the a.m. And the best part about this copycat Panera spinach souffle recipe is you won't stress out over making the dough from scratch since you use premade Pillsbury Crescent Dough that comes in a tube. Just be sure when you unroll the dough that you don't separate it into triangles. Instead, pinch the dough together along the diagonal perforations to make four squares. After the dough is rolled out, line four buttered ramekins with each square, fill each ramekin with the secret egg mixture, and bake. 

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    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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    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. Here's my recipe for Cheesecake Factory's Key Lime Cheesecake. A 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 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.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (Improved)

    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 Chicken that’s breaded just once and pressure fried.

    As with my KFC Original Recipe hack, 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 the 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 this hack in Even More Top Secret Recipesbut recently applied some newly acquired secrets and tips to make this much-improved version of one of the most familiar fried chicken recipes in the world. 

    This recipe 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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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Red Robin Red's Homemade Chili

    Menu Description: "Lots of fresh ground beef and red kidney beans with a perfect blend of fresh Poblano & Chipotle peppers and plenty of seasoning. Topped with Cheddar cheese, diced red onions and tortilla strips. Not too hot, but enough flavor to know you ate it."

    Ah yes, nothing like a hot bowl of homemade chili on a cool day. Red Robin serves hot, chunky chili topped with cheddar cheese, onions and crunchy tortilla strips that'll warm your soul. The Top Secret Recipes hack here can be served up the same fashion, or you can use this chili as they do in the restaurant to top homemade nachos or an open-faced chili cheeseburger. If you're one of those who prefer a higher-octane, spicier chili, just use more canned chipotles, or add some of the delicious adobo sauce that's in the can with the chilies. 

    Do you love Red Robin? Find more cool copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.95 (votes: 22)
    BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast

    Menu Description: "Our marinated chicken breast coated with Parmesan cheese and crunchy panko breadcrumbs, lightly pounded and pan fried to a golden brown. Served with white cheddar mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli and topped with a lemon Chardonnay butter sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil and Parmesan cheese." 

    This re-creation lays out a great way to prepare that 4-pack of chicken breasts you dropped into your shopping cart. While you're at the market, head down the aisle where the Asian foods are parked and pick up some Japanese breadcrumbs, also called "panko" breadcrumbs. Combining these coarse breadcrumbs with shredded Parmesan cheese makes a crispy breading for the chicken that doesn't even need a sauce to taste good. Still, the lemony Chardonnay butter sauce used at the restaurant is cloned here too, so you'll have the complete flavor experience. You'll want to plan ahead a bit for this dish since the chicken fillets will need to marinate in the brine solution for 2 to 3 hours. This dish goes great with the clone recipe for BJ's White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.71 (votes: 24)
    Bonefish Grill Bang Bang Shrimp

    Menu Description: "Tender, crispy wild gulf shrimp tossed in a creamy, spicy sauce."

    Bonefish Grill proudly refers to this appetizer as the "house specialty." And why not, it's an attractive dish with bang-up flavor, especially if you like your food on the spicy side. The heat in this Bang Bang Shrimp recipe comes from the secret sauce blend that's flavored with chili garlic sauce, also known as sambal. You can find this bright red sauce where the Asian foods in your market—and while you're there, pick up some rice vinegar. Once the sauce is made, you coat the shrimp in a simple seasoned breading, fry them to a nice golden brown, toss them gently in the sauce, and then serve them up on a bed of mixed greens to hungry folks who, hopefully, have a cool drink nearby to mellow the sting.

    You might also like my recipes for Bonefish Grill's Saucy Shrimp and Citrus Herb Vinaigrette

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.81 (votes: 16)
    Islands Tortilla Soup

    The entire process for making this soup which Islands serves in "bottomless bowls" takes as long as 3 hours, but don't let that discourage you. Most of that time is spent waiting for the chicken to roast (up to 90 minutes -- although you can save time by using a precooked chicken, see Tidbits) and letting the soup simmer (1 hour). The actual work involved is minimal -- most of your time is spent chopping the vegetable ingredients. This recipe produces soup with an awesome flavor and texture since you'll be making fresh chicken stock from the carcass of the roasted chicken. As for the fried tortilla strip garnish that tops the soup, you can go the hard way or the easy way on that step. The hard way makes the very best Islands tortilla soup recipe and it's really not that hard: Simply slice corn tortillas into strips, fry the strips real quick, then toss the fried strips with a custom seasoning blend. The easy way is to grab a bag of the new habanero-flavored Doritos, which happen to be similar in spiciness to the strips used at the restaurant. Simply crumble a few of these chips over the top of your bowl of soup, and dive in.

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  • Score: 3.67 (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 clone 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.

    How about a cold margarita to wash down those tacos? Find your favorite famous drink recipes here

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.78 (votes: 18)
    Chipotle Mexican Grill 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.

    The good news is that we can re-create the beef barbacoa that Chipotle has made popular on its ginormous burritos without digging any holes in our backyard or tracking down a local source for fresh cow faces. After braising about 30 pounds of chuck roasts, I finally discovered the perfect Chipotle Mexican Grill barbacoa burrito copycat recipe with a taste-alike adobo sauce that fills your roast with flavor as it slowly cooks to a fork-tender delicacy on your stovetop over 5 to 6 hours.

    Part of the secret for great adobo sauce is toasting whole cumin seeds and cloves and then grinding them in a coffee grinder (measure the spices after grinding them). Since the braising process takes so long, start early in the day and get ready for a big dinner, because I've also included clones here for Chipotle's pico de gallo, pinto beans, and delicious cilantro-lime rice to make your burritos complete. You can add your choice of cheese, plus guacamole and sour cream for a super-deluxe clone version. 

    If you prefer chicken burritos, head on over to my clone recipe for Qdoba Grilled Adobo Chicken

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked 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 this clone, 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. The round shape of the bread is perfect for topping this Applebee's French onion soup recipe.

    Find more of your favorite dishes from Applebee's here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 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.

    Cayenne pepper and white pepper bring the heat to this crispy fried chicken hack.   

    Did you like this recipe? Get your hands on my secret recipe for Popeyes Chicken Sandwich and other Popeyes dishes here.

    Source: More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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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 your copycat Chipotle carne asada across the grain and use it in burritos, tacos, bowls, or as a Southwest-style salad topper.

    Click here for more of my Chipotle copycat recipes. 

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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. 

    Now, how about some Honey Walnut Shrimp, or Beijing Beef to go with that rice? Find all my Panda Express copycat recipes here

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    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).

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Bojangles' Buttermilk Biscuits

    There’s one copycat recipe for these famous biscuits that’s posted and shared more than any other, and it’s downright awful. The dough is formulated with self-rising flour, baking powder, powdered sugar, shortening, and buttermilk, and many complain that the recipe creates dough that’s much too loose and the resulting biscuits are a complete disaster. Yet there the recipe remains on blogs and boards all over the interweb for unsuspecting home cloners such as yourself to waste time on. But that won’t happen anymore, because I have made a good copycat Bojangles' buttermilk biscuits recipe that works the way it should, guaranteeing you’ll get amazing golden buttermilk biscuits that look and taste just like a trained Bojangles’ pro made them.

    In addition to the obvious overuse of buttermilk, the popular recipe I found online has many problems. The author gets it right when calling for self-rising flour, which is flour containing salt and a leavening agent (aka baking powder), but why would the copycat Bojangles biscuit recipe be designed to use self-rising flour and then add additional leaving? Well, it probably wouldn’t. Biscuits are job number 1 for self-rising flour, and the leavening in there is measured for that use, so there’s no need to add more. If you were planning to add your own leavening, you’d probably start with all-purpose flour, which has no leavening in it. And let's just be clear: baking powder tastes gross, so we want to add as little as possible, not more than necessary.

    It’s also important to handle the dough the same way that workers at Bojangles’ do. They make biscuits there every 20 minutes and there are plenty of YouTube videos showing the preparation technique. In a nutshell, the dough is mixed by hand (in the restaurant they use their hands because the quantity is so large, but for this recipe use a mixing spoon), then it’s folded over a few times on a floured countertop before it’s rolled out. This gentle handling of the dough prevents the gluten in the flour from toughening and adds layers, so your biscuits come out of the oven tender and flakey.

    For the best results, find White Lily flour. This self-rising flour is low in gluten and makes unbelievably fluffy biscuits. If you use another self-rising brand, you’ll still get great biscuits, but the gluten level will likely be higher, the biscuits will be tougher, and you’ll probably need more buttermilk. Head down to the Tidbits below for details on that.

    And I noticed another thing most copycat Bojangles biscuit recipes get wrong. For biscuits that are beautifully golden brown on the top and bottom, you’ll want to bake them on a silicone baking mat (or parchment paper) at 500 degrees F. Yes, 500 degrees. That may seem hot, but this high temp works well with self-rising flour, and in 12 to 15 minutes the biscuits will be perfectly browned.

    Counterintuitively, it’s the lower temperatures that end up burning the biscuits, while the higher temperature cooks them just right. At lower temps the biscuits must stay in the oven longer to cook through, which exposes the surfaces to more heat, and they end up too dark on the outside, especially the bottom. For even better results, if you have a convection setting on your oven, use that and set the temp to 475 degrees F. Your biscuits will look like they came straight from the drive-thru.

     

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  • Score: 4.38 (votes: 8)
    Olive Garden Breadsticks

    Anyone who loves Olive Garden is probably also a big fan of the bottomless basket of warm, garlicky breadsticks served before each meal at the huge Italian casual chain. My guess is that the breadsticks are proofed, and then sent to each restaurant where they are baked until golden brown, brushed with butter and sprinkled with garlic salt. Getting the bread just right for a good Olive Garden breadstick recipe was tricky—I tried several different amounts of yeast in all-purpose flour, but then settled on bread flour to give these breadsticks the same chewy bite as the originals. The two-stage rising process is also a crucial step in this much requested homemade Olive Garden breadstick recipe. Also check out our Olive Garden Italian salad dressing recipe.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.84 (votes: 25)
    Carrabba's Spicy Sausage Lentil Soup

    It's not served every day at Carrabba's Italian Grill, but when this amazing soup is on the menu consider yourself lucky and snag a bowl. It's chock-full of lentils and other good bits of vegetables and herbs, plus there are big chunks of spicy Italian sausage in every bite. Best of all, Carrabba's sausage and lentil soup recipe is a cinch to clone. Most of the work here is just chopping stuff up, including a small ham steak which you can find where the bacon is sold in your market. If you can't find a ham steak, you can slice up some deli ham. Get everything in a pot and let it simmer. In 1 hour you'll have enough hot, chunky soup for at least a dozen cup-size servings. Also enjoy our Carrabba's chicken marsala recipe.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad

    Menu Description: "Fajita-marinated chicken, corn relish, mixed cheese, cilantro, diced tomato and crispy tortilla strips. Garnished with a chipotle-ranch drizzle and cheese quesadilla wedges. Served with our citrus-balsamic dressing."

    I'm a happy camper on a Saturday afternoon when diving into one of these big salads, served up with a Presidente Margarita to help relieve my hangover from a Friday night hoo-ha. For the last several years, this has been the go-to salad when you're dining at Chili's. The chicken marinade is delicious, the corn relish is a great touch, and the citrus-balsamic vinaigrette totally rocks. And where else can you get a salad that includes slices of cheese quesadilla on the side? I love it. If you're a fan of the original, this 4-serving clone will bring it home.

    Craving more of your favorite dishes from Chili's? See if I hacked your favorites here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Chili's Cajun Ribeye

    Menu Description: "12 oz. ribeye steak seasoned with Cajun spices and topped with roasted herb jus and spicy Cajun butter."

    Three secret formulas must be hacked before we can consider this dish a complete culinary carbon copy of Chili's signature Cajun Ribeye. The Cajun seasoning, the herb jus and the Cajun butter comprise the flavorful hat trick that earns this dish its signature-item status. We'll make each component from scratch and everything is pretty easy. Sprinkle the seasoning on the steak before it's grilled, and then add the jus and herb butter just before serving. That's it. Rustle up some ribeyes from your favorite butcher, and fire up the grill. Once you've assembled these three simple secret recipes below, you're just minutes away from an impressive, flavor-filled steak.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.74 (votes: 19)
    Chili's Chicken Crispers and Honey Mustard Dressing

    Menu Description: "Strips of hand-battered chicken fried to perfection. Served w/sweet corn on the cob, honey-mustard dressing and homestyle fries."

    When biting into Chili's delicious trademarked Chicken Crispers, I detect the distinct flavor of MSG, or monosodium glutamate. Although there is no English word for it, the Japanese call this flavor "umami", and it delivers a taste sensation that is different from bitter, salty, sweet, or sour flavors. This "fifth flavor" is created naturally by glutamic acid, an amino acid, and it can be found in mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, fish and dairy products. But rather than adding something like Accent flavor enhancer—which is pure MSG—to this recipe, I thought of another approach. To clone the flavorful batter for this Chili's entrée, I decided to bring canned chicken broth into the mix. Most chicken broths, including Swanson brand, contain autolyzed yeast extract. These yeast enzymes release flavor-enhancing compounds that work just like MSG, amplifying flavors in much the same way. Plus, the chicken broth is made with other goodies such as carrot, onion, and celery that will contribute to a tasty, crunchy coating. As for the frying, Chili's has recently switched to a shortening that contains no trans fat. So, if you want the best clone of Chili's Chicken Crispers, use shortening, but find the kind that has no trans fat. Crisco now makes a version, and so does Smart Balance. Shortening produces a superior clone and it will release less "fry smell" into your house. You can also use vegetable or canola oil.

    I've also included the recipe for Chili's Honey Mustard Dressing that's easy to make with just 5 ingredients.

    Try my Chili's Crispy Honey Chipotle Chicken Crispers recipe here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.
     

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 14)
    Carrabba's Chicken Marsala

    Menu Description: "Fire-roasted chicken breast topped with mushrooms, prosciutto and our Florio Marsala wine sauce." 

    To reverse-engineer this big-time favorite entree, I ordered the dish to go, with the sauce on the side, so that I could separately analyze each component. After some trial and error in the underground lab, I found that recreating the secret sauce from scratch is easy enough with a couple small cans of sliced mushrooms, a bit of prosciutto, some Marsala wine, shallots, garlic and a few other good things. Cooking the chicken requires a very hot grill. The restaurant chain grills chicken breasts over a blazing real wood fire, so crank your grill up high enough to get the flames nipping at your cluckers (not a euphemism) for this Carrabba's chicken marsala recipe. If your grill has a lid, keep it open so you can watch for nasty flare-ups.

    Click here for more of your favorite dishes from Carrabba's. 

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.85 (votes: 26)
    Stouffer's Macaroni & Cheese

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

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

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 36)
    Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits

    Order an entree from America's largest seafood restaurant chain and you'll get a basket of some of the planet's tastiest garlic-cheese biscuits served up on the side. For many years, the Cheddar Bay Biscuits recipe has been the most-searched-for clone recipe on the Internet, according to Red Lobster. As a result, several versions are floating around, including one that was at one time printed right on the box of Bisquick baking mix.

    The problem with making biscuits using Bisquick is that if you follow the directions from the box you don't end up with a very fluffy or flakey finished product, since most of the fat in the recipe comes from the shortening that's included in the mix. On its own, room temperature shortening does a poor job creating the light, airy texture you want from good biscuits, and it contributes little in the way of flavor. So, we'll invite some cold butter along on the trip -- with grated Cheddar cheese and a little garlic powder. Now you'll be well on your way to delicious Cheddar Bay. Wherever that is.

    Complete the Red Lobster experience and make favorite entrées and side dishes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Crab Bake

    Banking on the popularity of the chain's Cheddar Bay Biscuits, Red Lobster chefs created this pizza-shaped appetizer with a crust made from the biscuit dough, and crab and Cheddar cheese baked on top. If you like those tender, cheesy garlic biscuits that come with every meal at Red Lobster—and you like crab—then you'll definitely like this.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur. 

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  • Score: 4.89 (votes: 219)
    Wendy's Chili

    Dave Thomas, Wendy's late founder, started serving this chili in 1969, the year the first Wendy's opened its doors. Over the years the recipe has changed a bit, but this Wendy's copycat chili recipe is a great version of the one served in the early 90s. Try topping it with some chopped onion and Cheddar cheese, just as you can request in the restaurant.

    Now, on to the Wendy's Hot Chili Seasoning copycat recipe.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.71 (votes: 14)
    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.

    Re-create the whole El Pollo Loco experience at home with my copycat recipes for avocado salsa, pinto beansSpanish rice, and bbq black beans.

    Source: More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 6)
    Baja Fresh Salsa Baja

    You won't find freezers, can openers, or microwave ovens at this national Mexican food chain. Since 1990 Baja Fresh has been serving up great food, made fresh with each order. As you're waiting for your food to come out, that's when you hit up the salsa bar, where you'll find several varieties of delicious fresh salsa, from hot to mild, ready to be spooned into little tubs that you can take to your table or to your car. One of the most popular selections is called Salsa Baja—its medium spiciness, smoky flavor, and deep black color make the salsa unique and mysterious. That is, until now, since I've got a Top Secret formula for you right here. But the recipe wasn't as easy to create as I first thought. I figured the tomatoes would have to be extremely blackened over a hot grill, but I wasn't sure how to get them dark enough to turn the salsa black without the tomatoes getting all mushy and falling apart on the barbecue.

    So, I went back to Baja Fresh before they opened to peer through the window to see if I could catch some hot salsa production action. I waited and waited. After several hours as the lunch rush was beginning to wind down and no fresh salsa was in the pipeline, it was time for extreme measures to get things moving. I went in and ordered 30 tubs of Salsa Baja to go, and that did it. I ended up with a big bag filled with 2 gallons of salsa (thankfully they poured those 8-ounce portions into bigger bowls), and the restaurant went immediately into "salsa red alert" to replenished the now-dwindling salsa reserve. It was perfect. As I was grabbing my bag of salsa, a dude come out from the kitchen with a huge box of tomatoes and placed them all on the grill. I ordered a giant Diet Pepsi and parked myself at a close table to watch the process. That's when I discovered the secret. For super-charred tomatoes they start with firm, chilled tomatoes, that aren't too big or too ripe. I also found out that the tomatoes must start roasting on the grill with the stem-side down. The rest was simple...

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.83 (votes: 6)
    Long John Silver's Batter-Dipped Fish

    Jerrico, Inc., the parent company for Long John Silver's Seafood Shoppes, got its start in 1929 as a six-stool hamburger stand called the White Tavern Shoppe. Jerrico was started by a man named Jerome Lederer, who watched Long John Silver's thirteen units dwindle in the shadow of World War II to just three units. Then, with determination, he began rebuilding. In 1946 Jerome launched a new restaurant called Jerry's and it was a booming success, with growth across the country. Then he took a chance on what would be his most successful venture in 1969, with the opening of the first Long John Silver's Fish 'n' Chips. The name was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. In 1991 there were 1,450 Long John Silver Seafood Shoppes in thirty-seven states, Canada, and Singapore, with annual sales of more than $781 million. That means the company holds about 65 percent of the $1.2 billion quick-service seafood business.

    Make my McDonald's French Fries recipe for the classic fish 'n chips experience. 

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    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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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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