Denny's BBQ Chicken Sandwich copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur
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Denny's BBQ Chicken Sandwich

Score: 4.67. Votes: 3
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Menu Description: "A seasoned, grilled chicken breast topped with Cheddar cheese and a stack of thin crisp onion rings on a sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato and a sweet hickory spread. Served with a side of BBQ sauce."

With 1527 restaurants across the country, Denny's is on top as America's largest full-service family restaurant chain. Sure, the chain's famous for its Grand Slam Breakfasts, but Denny's menu is filled with tasty choices for grub way past breakfast time. One such item is this chicken sandwich built with grilled chicken breast, lettuce, tomato, Cheddar cheese, crispy onion rings, and a secret sweet hickory spread. That hickory spread is one of the ingredients that makes this sandwich special so the clone is here, and it requires an ingredient called hickory salt. You can find this blend of salt and hickory flavoring in the spice section from Spice Islands under the name "Old Hickory Smoked Salt." If you can't find that stuff, just substitute with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke flavoring. For even more flavor, Denny's serves the sandwich with a small dish of barbecue sauce that tastes remarkably similar to Bull's-Eye Original, so that's what well use. While homemade crunchy onion rings are the way to go for a true clone, you can certainly shortcut this step by using the canned French's French Fried Onions found in practically every supermarket.

I've cloned a ton of items from Denny's, see if I hacked your favorites here.

Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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Sweet Hickory Spread
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon hickory salt - OR -
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon liquid hickory smoke
Crunchy Onion Rings (see Tidbits)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion, separated into rings
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 2 skinless chicken breast fillets
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 sesame seed hamburger buns
  • 2 leaves green leaf lettuce
  • 4 tomato slices
  • 2 slices Cheddar cheese
On the Side
  • Bull's-Eye Original Barbecue Sauce
  • Do This
    • Restaurant/Brand
    • Instructions

      1. Prepare sweet hickory spread by melting 3 tablespoons butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add 1 cup minced onion and saute for 7 to 10 minutes or until the onions start to brown. Turn the heat down to medium/low and add 2 teaspoons of flour and stir until the flour is mixed in. Let this simmer for a minute or two, then add molasses, water, vinegar, and hickory salt. If you can't find hickory salt, replace it with 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon liquid hickory smoke. Simmer sauce for 4 to 5 minutes or until thick. Remove from the heat and cover.

      2. Make the crunchy onion rings by pouring milk into a large bowl. Combine the flour, salt, and black pepper in another bowl. Dip onion rings in the flour mixture first, then into the milk and back into the flour. Arrange all of the coated rings on a plate to rest while you heat up 2 cups canola oil in a large saucepan over medium/low heat (you can also use a deep fryer for this step, just use the amount of oil required by the fryer manufacturer and set the temperature to 375 degrees F). Test the oil by dropping in a pinch of flour. It should bubble. When the oil is hot, fry a handful of onion rings at a time in the oil until golden brown (3 to 5 minutes). Drain them on paper towels.

      3. To cook the chicken, preheat a saute or griddle pan over medium heat. Pound your chicken with a kitchen mallet so that it has a uniform thickness of about 1/2 inch (it will plump a bit as you cook it), then trim any excess meat away that would hang off the sandwich. Rub each chicken breast with some vegetable oil, then sprinkle each breast with salt and a pinch of pepper. Grill chicken breast fillets for 4 to 6 minutes per side until done. 

      4. As your chicken cooks, spread a little melted butter on the faces of your two hamburger buns and toast the faces of the buns on another pan or griddle set to medium heat until light brown.

      5. Build each sandwich by first spreading some of the sweet hickory spread on the face of the bottom bun. 

      6. Tear a leaf of green leaf lettuce to fit on the bottom bun.

      7. Arrange two tomato slices on the lettuce on each sandwich.

      8. Stack the grilled chicken breast on the tomato slices.

      9. Place a slice of Cheddar on the chicken breast on each sandwich.

      10. Stack a handful of crunchy onion rings on the sandwich, then top the sandwich off with the crown bun. Serve with a small bowl of barbecue sauce on the side.

      Makes 2 sandwiches.

      Tidbits: You can skip step 2 by using the canned French's French Fried Onions. A small can will be plenty.

Average rating:

Score: 4.67. Votes: 3
Rating of votes (3)
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Leigh Ann
Nov 1, 2008, 22:00

My husband and I LOVE this recipe!!! It is restaurant quality, like you just sat down to order and it taste amazing!! I bought the book, can't find it, so I had to look online, and this is highly, highly recommended!!!!

Sep 4, 2006, 22:00

My best friend made this recipe when we went to her home for a BBQ. Except she used Durkee's french Fried Onions in the can. IT WAS AWESOME. I came right home and printed off the recipe for my family.

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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