It's not your typical coleslaw. The sweet pickle relish and green onion is a nice touch, and all that parsley really sets this dish apart from other slaws I've tried. If you've never had this version at the restaurant, you'll want to give my Houston's coleslaw copycat recipe a try.
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 8 cups chopped green cabbage (1 head)
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped green onion (green part only)
- 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1. Whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Combine cabbage, parsley, green onion, and relish in a large bowl.
3. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and mix well. Add the celery seed and mix, then cover the bowl and chill it for at least 4 hours before digging in. Chilling the slaw overnight is even better.
Makes 8 servings.
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This 220-unit downscaled version of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro targets the lunch crowd with a smaller menu that features bento boxes, bowls, and small plates. Obviously, a clone is needed for this one, stat.
The name “Wei Better Orange Chicken” is a competitive callout to Panda Express's signature orange chicken, which is made with pre-breaded and frozen chicken. Pei Wei claims its orange chicken is prepared each day from scratch with chicken that is never frozen, so we’ll craft our clone the same way. But rather than assemble the dish in a wok over a high-flame fast stove like they do at the restaurant, we’ll prepare the sauce and chicken separately, then toss them with fresh orange wedges just before serving.
By the way, Pei Wei Better Orange Chicken goes very well with white or brown rice, so don’t forget to make some.
This recipe was our #4 most popular in 2020. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce (#1), Olive Garden Lasagna Classico (#2), King's Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Rolls (#3), Chipotle Mexican Grill Carnitas (#5).
The talented chefs at Benihana cook food on hibachi grills with flair and charisma, treating the preparation like a tiny stage show. They juggle salt and pepper shakers, trim food with lightning speed, and flip the shrimp and mushrooms perfectly onto serving plates or into their tall chef's hat.
One of the side dishes that everyone seems to love is the fried rice. At Benihana this dish is prepared by chefs with precooked rice on open hibachi grills, and is ordered a la cart to complement any Benihana entrée, including Hibachi Steak and Chicken. I like when the rice is thrown onto the hot hibachi grill and seems to come alive as it sizzles and dances around like a bunch of little jumping beans. Okay, so I'm easily amused.
My Benihana Japanese fried rice copycat recipe will go well with just about any Japanese entrée, and can be partially prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until the rest of the meal is close to done.
In the Bush’s Beans commercials, Duke, the family golden retriever, wants to sell the secret family recipe, but the Bush family always stops him. The dog is based on the Bush family’s real-life golden retriever, and the campaign, which began in 1995, made Bush’s the big dog of the canned baked beans market practically overnight. Their confidential baked beans formula is considered one of the top 10 biggest recipe secrets in the U.S.
Bush Brothers & Company had been canning a variety of fruits and vegetables for over 60 years when, in 1969, the company created canned baked beans using a cherished recipe from a family matriarch. Sales jumped from 10 thousand cases in the first year to over 100 thousand cases in 1970. And just one year later sales hit a million cases. Today Bush’s makes over 80 percent of the canned baked beans sold in the U.S., and the secret family recipe remains a top food secret, despite Duke’s attempts. A replica of the original recipe book—without the original recipe in it (drat!)—is on display at the company's visitor center in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee.
I chose to hack the “Country Style” version of Bush’s Beans because I don’t think the Original flavor has enough, uh, flavor. Country Style is similar to Original, but richer, with more brown sugar. My Bush's Country Style baked beans copycat recipe starts by soaking dry small white beans in a brine overnight. The salt in the water helps to soften the skins, but don’t soak them for more than 14 hours or the skins may begin to fall off. You can skip this step if you've got a fancy Instant Pot using my directions below.
My first versions tasted great but lacked the deep brown color of the real Bush’s beans, which include caramel coloring—an ingredient that can be hard to find on its own. I eventually discovered that the “browning” sauce, Kitchen Bouquet, will add the dark caramel color needed to our home version of the beans so that they’ll look just like the real thing.
This recipe was our #5 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1) KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4).
This delicious house vinaigrette is a Houston's favorite, and a home carbon copy is just minutes away. All you'll need are a few basic ingredients, plus tarragon-infused white wine vinegar. If you have trouble tracking down the tarragon vinegar, plain white wine vinegar will work just fine. Use a measuring cup with a spout or a squirt bottle to slowly drizzle the oil into the other ingredients while mixing. This technique will create a thick emulsion that won't separate as your dressing chills out in the fridge.
Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.
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...
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
Applebee's White Peach Sangria
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
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
Margaritaville Havanas and Bananas Cocktail
Margaritaville Incommunicado Cocktail
Margaritaville Volcano Nachos
Margaritaville Jerk Salmon
Mastro's Steakhouse Gorgonzola Macaroni & Cheese
Mastro's Steakhouse Steak Seasoning
Mastro's Steakhouse Warm Butter Cake
Max & Erma's Tortilla Soup
Mimi's Cafe Buttermilk Spice Muffins
Mimi's Cafe Carrot Raisin Nut Muffins
Mimi's Cafe Five-Way Grilled Cheese
Olive Garden Breadsticks
Olive Garden Dipping Sauces for Breadsticks
Olive Garden Chicken and Gnocchi Soup
Olive Garden Black Tie Mouse Cake
Olive Garden Mango Martini
Olive Garden Pomegranate Margarita Martini
Olive Garden Smoked Mozzarella Fonduta
Olive Garden Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo
On the Border Guacamole Live!
On the Border Mexican Mojito
On the Border Smoke Jalapeno Vinaigrette
Outback Steakhouse Bleu Cheese Chopped Salad
Outback Steakhouse Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Outback Steakhouse Outback Rack
Outback Steakhouse Three Cheese Au Gratin Potatoes
Outback Steakhouse Victoria "Crowned" Filet w/Horseradish Crumb Crust
Outback Steakhouse Chocolate Thunder from Down Under
P.F. Chang's Asian Pear Mojito
P.F. Chang's Chang's Key Lime Martini
P.F. Chang's Spicy Green Beans
P.F. Chang's Kung Pao Chicken
P.F. Chang's Chicken in Soothing Lettuce Wraps--Improved
P.F. Chang's Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps
Pizza Hut WingStreet Traditional Chicken Wings--Hot, Med, Mild
Pizza Hut Tuscani Creamy Chicken Alfredo Pasta
Pizza Hut Pan Pizza
Red Lobster Peach-Bourbon BBQ Scallops
Red Lobster Maple-Glazed Salmon & Shrimp
Red Robin Campfire Sauce
Red Robin Creamy Artichoke & Spinach Dip
Red Robin Red's Homemade Chili Chili
Red Robin The Royal Red Robin Hamburger
Romano's Lemon Passion
Roy's Hawaiian Martini
Roy's Classic Roasted Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi
Roy's Melting Hot Chocolate Soufflé
Ruby Tuesday Apple Salad
Ruby Tuesday Queso Dip & Beef Queso Dip
Ruby Tuesday Thai Phoon Shrimp
Serendipity 3 Frrrozen Hot Chocolate
Simon Kitchen & Bar Wok-Seared Edamame
Spago Butternut Squash Soup
Spago Pumpkin Cheesecake
T.G.I. Friday's Candy Apple Martini
T.G.I. Friday's Crispy Green Bean Fries
T.G.I. Friday's Parmesan-Crusted Sicilian Quesadilla
T.G.I. Friday's Jack Daniel's Glaze
T.G.I. Friday's Sesame Jack Strips
T.G.I. Friday's Bruschetta Chicken Pasta
T.G.I. Friday's Dragonfire Chicken
T.G.I. Friday's Fried Mac & Cheese
T.G.I. Friday's Pomegranate Martini w/Candy Apple
T.G.I. Friday's Tuscan Portobello Melt
T.G.I. Friday's Tuscan Spinach Dip
Trader Vic's World-Famous Mai Tai
Traders Vic's Tom Ka Gai Soup
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.
These days, it seems there are less and less Long John Silver restaurants. Good thing you can follow my Long John Silver's Batter-Dipped Fish copycat recipe below and enjoy that same great flavor at home.
Make my Islands French Fries copycat recipe for the classic fish 'n chips experience.
Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.
I never thought dinner rolls were something I could get excited about until I got my hand into the breadbasket at Texas Roadhouse. The rolls are fresh out of the oven and they hit the table when you do, so there’s no waiting to tear into a magnificently gooey sweet roll topped with soft cinnamon butter. The first bite you take will make you think of a fresh cinnamon roll, and then you can’t stop eating it. And when the first roll’s gone, you are powerless to resist grabbing for just one more. But it’s never just one more. It’s two or three more, plus a few extra to take home for tomorrow.
Discovering the secret to making rolls at home that taste as good as Texas Roadhouse Rolls involved making numerous batches of dough, each one sweeter than the last (sweetened with sugar, not honey—I checked), until a very sticky batch, proofed for 2 hours, produced exactly what I was looking for. You can make the dough with a stand mixer or a handheld one, the only difference being that you must knead the dough by hand without a stand mixer. When working with the dough add a little bit of flour at a time to keep it from sticking, and just know that the dough will be less sticky and more workable after the first rise.
Roll the dough out and measure it as specified here, and after a final proofing and a quick bake—plus a generous brushing of butter on the tops—you will produce dinner rolls that look and taste just like the best rolls I’ve had at any famous American dinner chain.
This recipe was our #1 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).
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 Recipes, but 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).
Menu Description: "Quickly-cooked steak with scallions and garlic."
Beef lovers go crazy over this one at P.F. Chang's. Flank steak is cut into bite-sized chunks against the grain, then it's lightly dusted with potato starch, flash-fried in oil, and doused with an amazing sweet soy garlic sauce. The beef comes out tender as can be, and the simple sauce sings to your taste buds.
I designed my P.F. Chang's Mongolian Beef recipe using a wok, but if you don't have one, a sauté pan will suffice. You may need to add more oil to the pan to cover the beef in the flash-frying step.
P. F. Chang's secret sauce is what makes this dish so good, and it's versatile. If you don't dig beef, you can substitute with chicken. Or you can brush it on grilled salmon.
Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.
These days, just about every casual dining chain has its version of this appetizer: spinach and artichoke hearts mixed with cheese and spices, served up hot with chips or crackers for dipping. Making the rounds over the years, I've tried many of them, and most formulas are nearly identical. That is, except for this one. Houston's makes their spinach dip special by using a blend of sour cream, Monterey Jack cheese and Parmegiano Reggiano; the ultimate Parmesan cheese. Parmegiano Reggiano is born in Italy and is usually aged nearly twice as long as other, more common Parmesan cheeses. That ingredient makes the big difference in this dip. So hunt down some of this special Parm at your well-stocked market or gourmet store, and you'll find out why Houston's spinach dip has been one of the most requested recipe clones here at TSR.
Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.
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.
This recipe was our #1 most popular in 2021. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Qdoba 3-Cheese Queso (#2), Panda Express Fried Rice (#3), Outback Baked Potato Soup (#4), Chipotle Carne Asada (#5).
You might also like my #1 recipe of 2020, Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce.
Menu Description: “A deliciously different way to taco. Tangy grilled chicken, sweet Asian chile sauce and dumpling sauce stuffed into crispy wonton shells and topped with a crunchy slaw and cilantro mix.”
Re-creating Applebee's Chicken Wonton Tacos requires cloning four parts; none of which are difficult: grilled chicken, coleslaw, secret dumpling sauce, and the crispy wonton shell to hold it all together. For the chicken, we’ll grill a couple of thighs and chop them up. Then we’ll use bottled sweet chili sauce—usually found in your grocery store where Asian foods are parked—to punch up the flavor.
The coleslaw is easy with a dressing that has only five ingredients, and it’s best when it has some time to sit and marinate. You can slice the cabbage yourself, but a coleslaw kit that’s a combo of sliced cabbage and shredded carrots is a big time-saver. Just measure out 4 cups of the cabbage blend and mix it with the minced cilantro and dressing.
Wonton taco shells are not a thing you can usually find in stores, so we’ll make our own using wonton wrappers and a skillet of hot oil. When the oil is hot, add a wonton wrapper and use tongs to fold it over diagonally as it fries until it’s crispy on both sides. It takes less than a minute to fry each wonton taco shell, and you’ll get better as you go. Just be sure to leave plenty of room in the shell for the delicious fillings to come.
Try my Applebee's Chicken Wonton Tacos recipe below, and find more copycat recipes from Applebee's here.
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).
There are many acceptable ways to formulate good queso, but to make this specific queso the ingredients must be correct, and most copycat recipes seem to get it wrong. A few recipes get one of the peppers and two of the cheeses right, but pretty much every recipe out there is a bit of a mess that I will now save you from.
Quesos can be made with a variety of cheeses that include queso fresco, asadero, and Muenster, but this particular queso includes a cheese you probably didn’t expect: Swiss. That cheese is slow to melt, so we’ll shred it first, along with the Jack. And you won't need to gum up the queso with flour or cornstarch by making a roux because the white American cheese in the mix contains sodium citrate or sodium phosphate—additives that help the cheese melt smoothly and stay that way.
Authors of recipes that call for tomatoes in this dish haven’t looked closely. Those are red bell peppers and they are roasted, peeled, and seeded along with the poblano and jalapeños before they are diced and added to the cheese sauce. The sauce cooks on low heat, never bubbling, so that it stays smooth and creamy.
When done, your queso might seem thin in the pan, but it will thicken as it cools to a perfect consistency for dipping tortilla chips, or as a topping for tacos and burrito bowls.
My Qdoba 3-cheese queso recipe was our #2 most popular in 2021. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Panda Express Chow Mein (#1), Panda Express Fried Rice (#3), Outback Baked Potato Soup (#4), Chipotle Carne Asada (#5).
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.
Other recipes I’ve seen that claim to duplicate the fabulous flavor of this popular soup do not make good clones, yet the long grain and wild rice mix that many of these recipes call for is a great way to get the exact amount of rice you need in a perfect blend. Just be sure not to use the flavor packet that comes with those rice kits, or you won’t get a good clone of the Panera original. Toss out that blend (or you can use it elsewhere; see Tidbits) and use my recipe below to make a better flavoring for the soup.
Thanks to Panera Bread's policy of completely transparent ingredients, I discovered a surprising ingredient or two (wow, cabbage!), and was able to craft the best Panera Bread Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup copycat recipe you’ll find.
Click here for more of my Panera Bread copycat recipes.
Menu Description: "Oven baked with fresh apples and pure Sikiyan cinnamon glaze."
Fresh, high-quality ingredients and traditional recipes are what makes this growing chain a frequent favorite for anyone who stops in. The star of the show is the incredible apple pancake, the chain's signature dish. To make a dead-on clone, Granny Smith apples are sautéed in butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, then allowed to cool for a bit. That way, when the batter is poured into the pan, the apples and glaze stay anchored to the bottom. This technique also prevents the glaze from penetrating into the batter as the pancake bakes since there is now an apple barrier preventing any mixing of the ingredients. When the pancake comes out of the oven, it's flipped over onto a plate and the apples are right there on top, dripping with a delicious cinnamon-sugar glaze. You won't need any syrup for this one, that's for sure. Just a light dusting of powdered sugar on top. Then dig into an apple pancake unlike any other.
Try my Original Pancake House Apple Pancake recipe below, and check out my recipe for the Original Pancake House German Pancake aka "Dutch Baby".
Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.
This 38-unit casual dining chain may be small compared to many of the other chains whose food I've cloned, but Houston's has a huge following of loyal customers throughout the country. I know this because for many years the restaurant sat at the top of my "most requested clones" list. I was finally ready to take on the challenge, but since there are no Houston's where I live in Las Vegas, it required a road trip—this time to Orange County, California. A couple plane rides, a bit of driving, some walking and a stumble or two later, I had a cooler full of Houston's goodies secured safely back at the lab. After a few hours of measuring and mixing this simple sweet-and-sour salad slather from Houston's was cracked.
Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.
When Johnny Carrabba and his uncle Damian Mandola opened the first Carrabba's restaurant in 1986, they used a collection of their own traditional family recipes to craft a terrific Italian menu. You'll even find the names of friends and family in several of those dishes including Pollo Rosa Maria, Chicken Bryan, Scampi Damian and Insalata Johnny Rocco.
Now you can easily re-create the taste of the delicious creamy Parmesan dressing that's tossed into the salad and served before each Carrabba's entrée. And you need only six ingredients. For the grated Parmesan cheese, go ahead and use the stuff made by Kraft that comes in the green shaker canisters. And if you don't have any buttermilk, you can substitute regular milk. Since it's so thick, this dressing is best when tossed into your salad before serving it, just like the real thing.
Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.
Menu Description: "Chunks of Fresh Avocado, Sun-Dried Tomato, Red Onion and Cilantro Deep Fried in a Crisp Chinese Wrapper."
In 1995, Forbes Magazine named The Cheesecake Factory in its list of the 200 best small companies in America. At more than 90 stores now, The Cheesecake Factory plans to continue growing at a rate of about 11 new restaurants per year, and still does not franchise.
The avocado egg rolls are one of the most popular appetizers on the menu at the Cheesecake Factory, and it's not hard to see why. The combination of avocado, sun-dried tomatoes, and the cilantro-tamarind sauce makes this one of the tastiest appetizers I've had at any restaurant chain.
The trickiest part of my Cheesecake Factory avocado egg rolls recipe might be finding the tamarind pulp at your market. It's a brown, sticky pulp that looks like puréed prunes, and can be found in the spice section or near the ethnic foods—or try a Middle Eastern market. The pulp sometimes contains the large seeds of the fruit, so be sure to remove them before measuring. If you can't find the tamarind paste, you can get by substituting smashed raisins or prunes.
Menu Description: "Lightly-dusted, stir-fried in a sweet Szechwan sauce." (Our version of General Chu's.)
The delicious sweet-and-spicy secret sauce is what makes this dish one of P. F. Chang's top picks. Once the sauce is finished, all you have to do is sauté your chicken and combine. You'll want to cook up some white or brown rice, like at the restaurant. If you can't find straight chili sauce for my P.F. Chang's spicy chicken recipe, the more common chili sauce with garlic in it will work just as well.
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.
Menu Description: "Tossed in our honey-chipotle sauce."
After cloning the plain version of these breaded, cripsy chicken fingers in Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2, I received requests to knockoff this more flavorful sweet-and-spicy version. If you like big flavor and some heat, my Chili's Honey-Chipotle Chicken Crispers recipe is for you. The breading technique is the big secret: first use a wet batter and then toss the tenders in a dry breading. When the chicken tenders are fried to a golden brown they are gently tossed in the honey-chipotle sauce and served either as an appetizer, or with corn on the cob and French fries as an entrée.
Find my recipe for Chili's Chicken Crispers here.
Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.
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).
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.
I eventually settled on a simple wet batter made with seasoned salt, flour, and little cornstarch for crunch to best match the flavor, crispiness, and red/orange tint of the real thing from America’s first pizza chain. Use this original technique, and these handy step photos, to make extra crispy potatoes the Shakey's way.
Menu Description: “Sauteed seasoned chicken, shrimp, and spaghetti tossed in a creamy sauce with bacon and roasted red peppers.”
Re-creating this top entrée from Olive Garden allowed me to come up with an easy way to assemble a delicious carbonara from scratch. Traditional carbonara sauce in Italy is usually made with guanciale and sometimes pancetta. But in America and other English-speaking countries carbonara is typically made with bacon, as is this one served at Olive Garden, so that’s what we’ll do for our clone.
Many traditional carbonara recipes also call for egg, but Olive Garden makes the carbonara sauce for this dish in a different, and much simpler, way: they combine bits of bacon with their classic Alfredo sauce which I cloned long ago. In this tweaked version of that sauce, the bacon flavors the sauce while it simmers, resulting in a perfect match.
The red pepper gets roasted in your oven, and the chicken and shrimp are sautéed on the stove top. Put it all together, and you've got four generous servings of Olive Garden Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara with that fabulous sauce, and an impressive dinner for your hungry carbonara cravers.
This huge chicken chain offers seven delicious dressings to top three salad choices, and this is my current favorite of the bunch. The Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing is best on a Southwestern-style salad like the one on Chick-fil-A’s menu with mixed greens, black beans, corn, spicy chicken, and tortilla strips on top. But it’ll work on just about any mixed greens salad or burrito bowl you come up with at home, or use it as a dip for chicken fingers, taquitos, and Southwestern eggrolls.
For a good home clone, be sure to smash the avocado until no chunks remain and let the dressing sit for at least an hour before you use it so the dried herbs, onion, and garlic can rehydrate and the flavors can bloom.
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).
When Taco Bell introduced breakfast to America in 2014, the company had high hopes for its new Waffle Taco: a waffle shaped like a taco, filled with scrambled eggs and sausage, and served with a side of syrup. But the Waffle Taco had less-than-stellar sales and the product was eventually yanked off the breakfast menu.
But another clever morning item, the Breakfast Crunchwrap, continues to sell well at the Mexican food chain. This hexagonal grill-pressed wrap is a variation of the Crunchwrap Supreme, made by wrapping a large flour tortilla around a crispy corn tortilla, meat, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and tomato (i hacked it in TSR Step-by-Step). When it was introduced in 2005, the Crunchwrap Supreme was Taco Bell’s most successful new product launch.
The Breakfast Crunchwrap looks exactly like a Crunchwrap Supreme from the outside—albeit slightly smaller—but the inside has been swapped out for morning food. The flour tortilla is wrapped around a crispy hash brown patty that’s been slathered with creamy jalapeño sauce and topped with cheese, eggs, and bacon (or sausage). The flour tortilla is folded over six times to make a pinwheel wrap, then the wrap is pressed on a flat grill until golden brown on both sides.
In my Taco Bell Breakfast Crunchwrap recipe, I’ll show you how to clone the creamy jalapeño sauce, build the wraps, and flat grill them until golden brown using just your stovetop, a skillet, and a saucepan half-full of water.
A relaxed island look that feels like you’re always at the beach is the vibe that helped grow the Tommy Bahama clothing brand into a worldwide 160-store retail chain. But Tommy Bahama is more than just a kick-back clothes boutique. Eighteen of those stores also feature a Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar, which serves a great menu of island-inspired grub including killer Mai Tais and da bomb coconut shrimp (which they claim is “world-famous,” here’s the recipe and it’s legit).
Alongside many of the chain’s dishes, including the World-Famous Coconut Shrimp, is Tommy Bahama’s famous island slaw. But unlike the coconut shrimp, the restaurant doesn’t share the coleslaw recipe, and I found no other recipe that worked. I did find a helpful tip or two (soaking the red onions in water for 20 minutes to mellow them), but the finished products were disappointing. So I headed to the kitchen lab for some experimenting, and I came up with a dressing that worked well when tossed with nearly a whole head of cabbage, plus onions and cilantro, and then allowed to sit in the fridge for a bit.
The addition of the crunchy wonton strips at the end is a big part of what makes the Tommy Bahama's island coleslaw so good. But don’t mix them in too early or they get soggy. I prefer to leave them out of the coleslaw and mix in a fresh handful just before serving. You can make the crunchy wonton strips yourself with some wonton wrappers, oil, and the directions in the Tidbits below.
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 any 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.
Try my Bojangles' Buttermilk Biscuits copycat recipe below, and find more tasty Bojangles' copycat recipes here.
“Don’t call them fries,” says KFC about its popular side made with sliced, skin-on russet potatoes. What sets these potatoes apart from all the others is the secret breading made with a similar seasoning blend to the one used for Colonel's Original Recipe Fried Chicken. To achieve the proper crispiness, the potatoes are par-fried, frozen, then fried again until golden brown.
One important ingredient that completes the flavor is MSG. Monosodium glutamate is a food additive derived from glutamic acid, which is an important amino acid found in abundance in nature, food, and in you right now. Over the last 60 years of study and use, MSG has not only been found harmless in normal amounts, but tests have shown glutamate to be a chemical messenger that benefits gut health, immunity, and brain functions such as memory and learning. In addition to all of that, it imparts a unique savoriness that enhances flavors in other ingredients and makes your food taste amazing. Using MSG in your food is, literally, smart cooking.
Another important ingredient is ground Tellicherry black pepper, a select black pepper from India. Winston Shelton, a friend of Harland Sanders who invented the first high-volume pressure fryers for KFC, confirmed this. Shelton recalled seeing the ingredient when Sanders showed him the secret formula for the fried chicken seasoning he had scribbled on a piece of paper.
While we were shooting the first episode of my TV Show, Top Secret Recipe, Winston pulled me aside and whispered to me that Tellicherry pepper is crucial to creating the unique KFC aftertaste. It was a great tip, and fortunately, we caught that moment on camera and you can see it in the show. Later, I conducted a side-by-side taste test with common black pepper and Tellicherry black pepper and discovered Winston was right. If you want the best taste for your copycat KFC Potato Wedges, you'll need Tellicherry pepper, which you can find online and in some food stores. Be sure to grind it fine before using it.
For my KFC Potato Wedges recipe, just two russet potatoes are all it takes to make the equivalent of a large serving of fried potato wedges, which will be enough for at least four people.
With a simple stack of meat, bacon, cheese, and secret sauce, the original BK Stacker was introduced in 2006 as a product targeted to men. Hungry men. The Stacker came with one, two, three, or four 2-ounce beef patties, and several slices of bacon on top, along with a slathering of the top secret Stacker sauce. Even though the sandwich had developed something of a cult following over the years, it was dropped from the menu in 2012.
Today, the BK Stacker has been revived, but this time as a bigger, badder version with a new name, and beefier beef patties that weigh in at a whopping quarter-pound each. And just like the original, you can stack the patties, but this time up to a max of three because the patties are so darn big. Good luck getting your mouth around a triple with nearly a pound of meat between the buns.
As with the original Stacker, this sandwich’s big secret is the Stacker sauce. Its base is a typical burger spread combo of mayo/ketchup/sweet pickle relish, but this one has a hint of celery flavor and rosemary not found in other burger sauces. To get the celery juice you can grate a stalk of celery on a grater or Microplane then press the pulp through a wire mesh strainer. You’ll get plenty of juice, but you just need a little bit to make your hacked sauce a perfect taste-alike. Just so you know, all other Stacker Sauce hacks I researched leave out the celery juice and rosemary.
My Burger King BK Stacker King copycat recipe below makes four single hamburgers, but feel free to stack up as many patties as you can handle.
Menu Description: “Creamy marsala wine sauce with mushrooms over grilled chicken breasts, stuffed with Italian cheeses and sundried tomatoes. Served with garlic mashed potatoes.”
My Olive Garden Stuffed Chicken Marsala recipe includes a marsala sauce that even marsala sauce haters will like. My wife is one of those haters, but when she tried this sauce, her eyes lit up, and she begged for more. That’s great, now I won’t have to eat alone.
Not only is Olive Garden's delicious marsala sauce hacked here (and it’s easy to make), you’ll also get the copycat recipe for the chain's awesome Italian cheese stuffing that goes between the two pan-cooked chicken fillets. Build it, sauce it, serve it. The presentation is awesome, and the flavor will soothe your soul.
Try this dish paired with my recent clone of Olive Garden’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes for the complete Olive Garden Stuffed Chicken Marsala experience.
I’m not sure when it happened, but it appears Taco Bell recently changed its seasoned beef recipe. I hacked the recipe several years ago for the book TSR Step-by-Step, and I recall the recipe had much more oat filler, so that’s how I cloned it. Taco Bell came under fire in 2011 for the significant amount of oats in the recipe that the chain was listing as “spices,” and after that, Taco Bell was more transparent about ingredients. But somewhere along the way it appears the company tweaked the recipe to include less filler and more flavor, so I decided I had to create a new Taco Bell seasoned beef copycat recipe.
You can use my recipe below to make the famous Chalupa—which the restaurant makes by deep-frying the flatbread used for Gorditas. You can also use this new, improved Taco Bell seasoned beef recipe for anything you’re copying, whether it's tacos, burritos, Enchiritos, Mexican Pizzas, or a big pile of nachos.
The secret ingredient in our hack is Knorr tomato bouillon. This flavor powder adds many ingredients found in the original recipe and provides the umami savoriness that’s required for a spot-on clone of the famous seasoned ground beef. To get the right flavor, you need to find "Knorr Tomato Bouillon with Chicken Flavor" powder, in a jar. Not the bouillon cubes.
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.
Try more of my Panda Express copycat recipes here.
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.
I've never met a macaroni & cheese I didn't like. But there are a few restaurants that push this common side dish to a higher level. I've had mac & cheese made with three or four cheeses, and some that come drizzled with truffle oil. I've had mac & cheese with green pepper in it, and onion, and parsley, and bacon—it all works for me. But at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse, it's about the chipotle. The smoky jalapeño flavor sets this one apart from others, and makes this one of the top side dishes at the upscale steakhouse chain.
For my Fleming's Chipotle Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese recipe below, you'll start with a cheese sauce made with smoked cheddar. There's some minced jalapeño and green onion in there, plus a little ground chipotle pepper. A nice finishing touch comes from the breadcrumb topping that's made with Japanese breadcrumbs, or panko, which is flavored with more ground chipotle. The pasta shape used at Fleming's is called cellentani, which looks like long corkscrews. You could also use cavatappi pasta which are shorter corkscrews, or just go for the traditional elbow macaroni which can found pretty much anywhere.
Menu Description: "With vanilla ice cream and sticky bun caramel sauce."
I've been searching for the restaurant chain with the best bread pudding recipe, and I think I've found it here at Gordon Biersch. This small, yet growing, microbrewery chain serves great beer, awesome pizza, and a bread pudding that is downright amazing. It could be described as what would materialize out the other side if Jeff Goldblum threw an apple pie, some bread pudding and a cinnamon roll into his teleportation machine from "The Fly," and everything came out the other side combined into a single awesome dessert. The sautéed apples laid into the middle of the bread pudding make other bread puddings I eat now seem like they're missing something. And the homemade caramel sauce, with just a little brown sugar thrown into our clone version, adds a sticky bun flavor you'll have dreams about. No matter how big your dinner feast was, everyone will still somehow find room for this.
The original at the restaurant is baked in a deep pan, and the pudding is sliced and served on its side, so for my Gordon Biersch Warm Apple Bread Pudding recipe you'll want to use the biggest loaf pan you can find. I used a 3-inch deep 10x5-inch loaf pan, and it was full. If your pan is smaller, you may have to leave a bit out. The pudding will swell up out of the pan as it cooks, but it will shrink back down as it cools. Fun to watch. You may want to make this the day before so that the bread pudding can set up in the fridge. When you are ready to serve, nuke a serving for 1 minute until warm, then add the sauce and ice cream and a handful of pecans. It appears the restaurant chain uses egg bread in the pudding, but Texas Toast thick-sliced white bread may be easier to find, and it works just as well.
Menu Description: "Wild gulf shrimp sauteed in a Lime Tomato Garlic sauce with Kalamata olives and Feta cheese."
Restaurateurs Tim Curci and Chris Parker opened the first Bonefish Grill in St. Petersburg, Florida in 2000, and, with at least eight species of fresh oak-grilled fish to choose from on any given day, the chain has since exploded to over 100 units in 24 states. Yes, the fish is very good, and the oak grill is a nice touch, but you should also know that this is a restaurant that likes to have fun with sauces. This appetizer clone is a good example of that. The tartness of the lime works beautifully with the sweetness of the sundried tomato to create a scampi sauce unlike any you may have tasted before. Lay this simple dish on the troops before your main course and you will be tonight's kitchen hero.
Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.
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.
My Islands Tortilla Soup recipe produces a copycat with 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 tortilla strips, 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.
Find more cool Islands copycat recipes here.
Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur
In 1880s France, oranges were quite rare and exotic. When Louis Alexandre Marnier-Lopostolle traveled to the Caribbean in search of ingredients, he came back with bitter oranges to combine with his family's fine cognac. Other orange-flavored liqueurs such as triple sec and curacao are mixed with a neutral alcohol base. Grand Marnier took it to the next level with a more complex flavor that makes it today's top-selling French liqueur.
Now you too can combine cognac with a real orange to make a home version of the tasty—and pricey—stuff. By using an inexpensive cognac that costs around 18 to 20 dollars a bottle, you can create a clone cousin of the real thing that normally sells for around 30 bucks a bottle.
All you need for my Grand Marnier Liqueur recipe below is cognac, some sugar, an orange, and a little patience to wait at least 2 weeks.
Try more of my copycat cocktail and liquor recipes here.
Source: Top Secret Recipes: Sodas, Smoothies, Spirits & Shakes by Todd Wilbur.
Chili's Chicken Enchilada soup happens to be one of the chain's most raved-about items, and the subject of many a recipe search here on the site. Part of the secret in crafting your clone is the addition of masa harina—a corn flour that you'll find in your supermarket near the other flours, or where all the Mexican foodstuffs are stocked.
Menu Description: "Fire-roasted chicken breast topped with mushrooms, prosciutto and our Florio Marsala wine sauce."
To create my Carrabba's Chicken Marsala recipe, 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 re-creating 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). If your grill has a lid, keep it open, so you can watch for nasty flare-ups.
Menu Description: “Quick-fired with peanuts, chili peppers and scallions. Our hot favorite.”
My favorite chicken dish at P.F. Chang’s is also the top spicy chicken entrée at the 89-unit China bistro chain. The secret to homemade P.F. Chang's Kung Pao chicken is combining the right ingredients for the perfect marinade that will also become the sauce. Soy sauce and oyster sauce provide the saltiness. Mirin, which is sweetened sake, contributes the sweet flavor component. Chili oil gives the sauce its spicy kick, and a little rice vinegar adds the necessary acidy.
Sliced chicken breasts take a soak in this sauce for about an hour, then the chicken is dusted with a little cornstarch and flash-fried in peanut oil. You can use a wok for the frying stage and then rinse it out for use in the final sauté, or you can use a medium saucepan to fry the chicken and a sauté pan to finish cooking everything with the reserved sauce. Either way, you’ll get a great clone that goes perfect with a side of white or brown rice. Sure, I nailed the P.F. Chang's Kung Pao chicken copycat recipe, but I still can't pick up peanuts with chopsticks.
This 8-unit Scottsdale Arizona-based chain founded in 1999 was named one of the top 10 steakhouses in the country by the Gayot restaurant and travel guide, and is planning to build 40 additional restaurants over the next 10 years.
Mastro’s restaurants are known for their elegant settings and delicious prime beef served on 400-degree plates, but this side dish ranks high among the most popular menu choices. As if the creamy Gorgonzola cheese sauce isn’t incredible enough, this dish is topped with a bubbling cheese layer that includes mozzarella, Fontina, and Pecorino; plus a little Grana Padano, which is similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Track down these cheeses separately to make your own blend, or you can use a pre-shredded Italian cheese blend found in most markets that will include from 4 to 6 Italian cheeses in one bag. Even though the bagged blend is not exactly what is used at the restaurant, I found these cheese blends to be an easy and inexpensive substitute that taste very close to the original. When using the pre-blended cheese, spread 1½ cups over the top of the pasta and get on with the broiling.
Save money with this combo pack. You get all three of Todd Wilbur's "Top Secret Steak Rub," "Top Secret Chicken Rub," and "Top Secret Fish Rub" for more than $10 off the retail price!
A secret blend of herbs and spices that will make your homemade steaks, chicken, and fish taste like they came from a famous restaurant! All-natural. Contains no MSG or preservatives. Great for anyone who likes to make a truly tasty meal in no time!
These rubs were created by identifying the herbs, spices and other ingredients that make restaurant food taste so great. "Food Hacker," Todd Wilbur, who has been reverse-engineering popular menu items for the past 30 years, studied dishes at the most loved chains across the country to develop his own proprietary rubs with the best tasting combination of ingredients.
Your combo pack gives you THREE 6-ounce bottles. 1 Chicken Rub, 1 Steak Rub, 1 Fish Rub. (No substitutions please).
Money-back guarantee. Kosher certified. Gluten-free.
You may also like Todd Wilbur's "Hell Flakes".
The first Auntie Anne's pretzel store opened in 1988 in the heart of pretzel country—a Pennsylvanian Amish farmers' market. Over 500 stores later, Auntie Anne's is one of the most requested secret clone recipes around, especially on the internet.
Many of the copycat Auntie Anne's soft pretzel recipes passed around the Web require bread flour, and some use honey as a sweetener. But by studying the Auntie Anne's home pretzel-making kit in my secret underground laboratory, I've created a better Auntie Anne's copycat recipe with a superior way to re-create the delicious mall treats at home. For the best quality dough, you just need all-purpose flour. And powdered sugar works great to perfectly sweeten the dough. Now you just have to decide if you want to make the more traditional salted pretzels, or the sweet cinnamon sugar-coated kind. Decisions, decisions.
Find more of my copycat recipes for famous muffins, bagels, and rolls here.
Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.
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.