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Islands Yaki Soft Tacos copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Islands Yaki Soft Tacos

Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
Reviews: 4
  • $0.79
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Menu Description: "Three flour tortillas stuffed w/marinated chicken, teriyaki sauce, Jack cheese, pineapple, lettuce, tomatoes & scallions."

If you love the sweet taste of teriyaki marinated chicken, you'll dig my Yaki Soft tacos recipe that's just like the dish at the Hawaiian-themed burger chain. Sure, Islands is famous for its burgers, but many also go for the several choices of soft tacos—and Islands Yaki soft tacos that I've cloned here is the top-seller. 

After testing all popular brands of teriyaki sauce on the market, I found that none have the heavy ginger notes of the chain's version, so you'll want to make the sauce from scratch. Which is really no big deal, since it's an easy process. You'll end up with a Teriyaki sauce/marinade that's better than any store version, and you can use it in all sorts of recipes. When you buy the canned pineapple, go for the 20-ounce can or get two 8-ounces cans. You'll need that much since you'll use the pineapple chunks in both the sauce and on the tacos (and you'll even use some of the juice from the can in your Teriyaki sauce). When chopping the chunks, take the time to slice each chunk into quarters (lengthwise, with the grain) so you get thin pineapple pieces that are the exact size of the stuff they use in the restaurant. Or you can find smaller  pineapple chunks in some stores (see Tidbits).

Source: "Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2" by Todd Wilbur.

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Reviews
Charlotte
Jun 26, 2013, 22:00
I always order these yummy tacos when I go to Island's. This recipe recreates it perfectly. Thanks!
houdini
Sep 19, 2005, 22:00
This is one of my new favorite recipes! really good!

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    Margaritaville Key Lime Pie

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

    Many of the key lime pie recipes circulating, including the recipe found on bottles of key lime juice, have a glaring error: they don't make enough filling to fit properly into a standard 9-inch graham crust pie shell. That's probably because those recipes are designed around one 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk. But if we're going to make a beautifully thick key lime pie like the one served at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurants, we need to use something like 1 1/2 cans of sweetened condensed milk, or more accurately, two cups of the stuff. The clone recipe for Margaritaville Key Lime pie is a simple one, that's for sure, with only four ingredients including the pie shell. But don't stop there. I'm also including an easy way to make mango sauce by reducing a couple cans of Kern's mango juice. And there's a raspberry sauce recipe here that's made easily with frozen raspberries. These two sauces are used to jazz up the plate at the restaurant and are certainly optional for your clone version, even though I've made this Margaritaville Key Lime Pie recipe as easy as, um, you know.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Shakey's Mojo Potatoes

    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.

    There's your appetizer, now what's for dinner? Find clones for some of your favorite famous entrées here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Pei Wei Pad Thai

    If you’re ranking Pad Thai served at U.S. chains, Pei Wei’s tasty take on the dish comes in at the top. The secret sauce is perfectly sweet, sour, salty, and lightly spicy, and the chicken is moist, tender, and filled with great flavor.

    To duplicate Pei Wei Pad Thai at home, you'll first brine the chicken so it doesn't dry out as white meat tends to do. The secret marinade here includes fish sauce; Thailand's MSG. When soaked in the salty sauce the natural aminos contribute fantastic umami goodness to the chicken, and when you cook it with moist heat as described in the steps below it will come out fork-tender and juicy.

    The noodles at Pei Wei are thin, so grab the skinniest rice noodles on the shelf. Then prepare them for stir fry by steeping them in a bowl of hot water rather than in a pan of boiling water on the stovetop as may be suggested on the package. When they're done, give the noodles a rinse under cold water and they’ll hold until you need them. 

    This hack will make two large meal-size entrées—just like you get at the restaurant—which can easily be split into four more modest side servings. And I've included a bunch of step photos to help you along so you can serve a picture-perfect dish.

    Check out my recipe for Pei Wei Better Orange Chicken here

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Olive Garden Five Cheese Ziti al Forno

    Menu Description: “A baked blend of Italian cheeses, pasta, and our signature five-cheese marinara.”

    Creating a recipe for Olive Garden’s famous baked ziti would not be possible without a perfect clone of the chain’s popular five-cheese marinara sauce. I started with my previous hack of the plain marinara for Olive Garden’s Chicken Parmigiana and enhanced it with the addition of five kinds of Italian cheese and heavy cream.  

    Determining which five types of cheese are in a prepared sauce is tough without some insider assistance, so before cooking I focused my efforts on convincing a server to ask the chef for the list…and I got it! The blend of cheese used here in the sauce comes straight from the kitchen of my local Olive Garden. When you taste it, you’ll know the intel was legit.

    After the sauce is added to the pasta it’s topped with a cheese-and-breadcrumb mix called “ziti topping,” then it’s browned under a salamander (for the restaurant version) or a broiler (for your version). The result is a beautiful dish with great sauce and a cheesy topping that should satisfy even the pickiest baked ziti fanatics.

    I've cloned a ton of dishes from Olive Garden. See if I hacked your favorite here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Pei Wei Wei Better Orange Chicken

    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).

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese

    Braised Beef Pasta Menu Description: “Slow-simmered meat sauce with tender braised beef and Italian sausage, tossed with ruffled pappardelle pasta and a touch of alfredo sauce—just like Nonna’s recipe.”

    It’s a mistake to assume that a recipe posted to a restaurant chain’s website is the real recipe for the food served there. I’ve found this to be the case with many Olive Garden recipes, and this one is no exception. A widely circulated recipe that claims to duplicate the chain’s classic Bolognese actually originated on Olive Garden’s own website, and if you make that recipe you’ll be disappointed when the final product doesn’t even come close to the real deal. I won’t get into all the specifics of the things wrong with that recipe (too much wine, save some of that for drinking!), but at first glance it’s easy to see that a few important ingredients found in traditional Bolognese sauces are conspicuously missing, including milk, basil, lemon, and nutmeg.

    I incorporated all those missing ingredients into my Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese recipe, tweaked a few other things, and then tested several methods of braising the beef so that it comes out perfectly tender: covered, uncovered, and a combo. The technique I settled on was cooking the sauce covered for 2 hours, then uncovered for 1 additional hour so that the sauce reduces and the beef transforms into a fork-flakeable flavor bomb. Yes, it comes from Olive Garden, but this Bolognese is better than any I’ve had at restaurants that charge twice as much, like Rao’s where the meat is ground, not braised, and they hit you up for $30.  

    As a side note, Olive Garden’s menu says the dish comes with ruffled pappardelle pasta, but it’s actually mafaldine, a narrower noodle with curly edges (shown in the top right corner of the photo). Pappardelle, which is the traditional pasta to serve with Bolognese, is a very wide noodle with straight edges, and it’s more familiar than mafaldine, so perhaps that’s why the menu fudges this fact. In the end, it doesn’t really matter which pasta you choose. Just know that a wide noodle works best. Even fettuccine is good here.

    For the little bit of alfredo sauce spooned into the middle of the dish, I went with a premade bottled sauce to save time. You can also make this from scratch if you like (I’ve got a great hack for Olive Garden’s Alfredo Sauce), but it’s such a small amount that premade sauce in either a chilled tub from the deli section or in a bottle off the shelf works great here.

    This recipe was our #3 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), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).

    And browse my other Olive Garden clone recipes here.

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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: 5.00 (votes: 9)
    Cheesecake Factory Thai Lettuce Wraps

    Menu Description: "Create your own Thai lettuce rolls! Satay chicken strips, carrots, bean sprouts, coconut curry noodles and lettuce leaves with three delicious spicy Thai sauces—peanut, sweet red chili and tamarind-cashew."

    Cheesecake Factory's #1 appetizer is finally fauxed, and I've got every secret component for an impressive knockoff here in one recipe: delicious duplicates of the three amazing dipping sauces, perfect sweet-and-sour cucumber slices, and an easy coconut curry marinade clone for the chicken that also doubles as a sauce for the noodles. Get ready to blow everyone away when you unveil this build-it-yourself Thai-inspired lettuce wrap kit at the table. The final dish will serve twice as many people as the restaurant version, and you'll most likely have enough leftover sauces to serve it again if you want to get more chicken.

    Click here for more amazing Cheesecake Factory copycat recipes. 

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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

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

    Presented beautifully on top of white rice and surrounded by sake butter sauce is a baked salmon fillet that tastes like candy. Miso is a salty fermented soy bean paste that combines well with sweet brown sugar and sake for a syrupy marinade that makes salmon taste so good that even salmon haters will devour it. Look for red miso in a refrigerator in your market. You can also find it in Asian markets and some health food stores. After cooking up your marinade, you should allow the salmon fillets to soak in it for up to six hours, so start this dish early in the day and plan to scarf out at dinnertime. The cool presentation starts by pressing cooked rice into a lightly greased 5-inch ramekin or small cake pan, and then turning it out onto the center of your serving plate. Add a moat of sake reduction sauce, a few steamed snow pea pods, and you will have re-created a dish that looks and tastes exactly like the number one fish dish at The Factory.

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

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.
     

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  • Score: 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: 9)
    Hard Rock Cafe Twisted Mac & Cheese

    Hard Rock Café Twisted Mac & Cheese Menu Description: "Twisted cavatappi pasta, tossed in a lightly spiced 3-cheese sauce with roasted red peppers and topped with Parmesan parsley breadcrumbs."

    The rock-and-roll theme chain peps up old-school macaroni and cheese with roasted red bell pepper, a breadcrumb topping, and a delicious sauce made from three cheeses. For a home clone of this hip appetizer, I found that it's best to shred your own Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, since the pre-shredded type sold in bags doesn't melt as well and you'll likely end up with grainy sauce. Grainy is not good for a sauce. You can use bottled roasted red bell pepper for convenience, or you can roast your own pepper with the tips provided in the Tidbits below. And don't worry about tracking down the hard-to-find cavatappi pasta twisted tubes. Any pasta shape will do here, including the ubiquitous mac & cheese standard: elbow macaroni.

    Find more of your favorite Hard Rock Cafe dishes here
     
    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.
     

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  • Score: 4.79 (votes: 39)
    Romano's Macaroni Grill Chicken Scaloppine

    Menu Description: "Chicken breast, mushrooms, artichokes, capers & smoked prosciutto in lemon butter with pasta."

    Mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and prosciutto in a creamy lemon butter sauce surround sauteed chicken breasts and angel hair pasta for this unique and satisfying take on a traditional dish. This clone ranks in the top three most requested recipes on my hit list from the 227-unit Romano's Macaroni Grill. The successful Italian chain is part of the Brinker group of restaurants that controls several other high-profile casual eateries including Border Mexican Grill, Maggiano's, and Chili's.

    Make my copycat Lemon Passion Cake for dessert to get the full Macaroni Grill experience.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.39 (votes: 54)
    Maid-Rite Loose Meat Sandwich

    It's been an Iowa tradition since 1926, and today this sandwich has a huge cult following. It's similar to a traditional hamburger, but the ground beef is not formed into a patty. Instead, the lightly seasoned meat lies uncompressed on a white bun, dressed with mustard, minced onion, and dill pickles. Since the meat is loose, the sandwich is always served with a spoon for scooping up the ground beef that will inevitably fall out.

    When this clone recipe for Maid-Rite was originally posted on our website several years ago, it elicited more e-mail than any recipe in the site's history. Numerous Midwesterners were keyboard-ready to insist that the clone was far from accurate without the inclusion of a few bizarre ingredients, the most common of which was Coca-Cola. One letter states: "You evidently have not ever had a Maid-Rite. The secret to the Maid-Rite is coke syrup. Without it you cannot come close to the taste." Another e-mail reads: "Having lived in the Midwest all of my life and knowing not only the owners of a Maid-Rite restaurant but also many people who worked there, I can tell you that one of the things you left out of your recipe is Coca-Cola. Not a lot, just enough to keep the meat moist."

    On the flip side, I received comments such as this one from an Iowa fan who lived near Don Taylor's original Maid-Rite franchise: "The secret to the best Maid-Rite is the whole beef. Don had a butcher shop in his basement where he cut and ground all his beef. Some people still swear they added seasoning, but that is just not true. Not even pepper."

    Back in my lab, no matter how hard I examined the meat in the original product—which was shipped to me in dry ice directly from Don Taylor's original store in Marshalltown, Iowa—I could not detect Coca-Cola. There's no sweetness to the meat at all, although the buns themselves seem to include some sugar. When the buns are chewed with the meat, the sandwich does taste mildly sweet. I finally decided that Coca-Cola syrup is not part of the recipe. If it is added to the meat in the Maid-Rite stores, it's an insignificant amount that does not have any noticeable effect on the flavor.

    Also, the texture is important, so adding plenty of liquid to the simmering meat is crucial. This clone recipe requires 1 cup of water in addition to 1/4 cup of beef broth. By simmering the ground beef in this liquid for a couple hours the meat will tenderize and become infused with a little flavor, just like the real thing.

    When the liquid is gone, form the ground beef into a 1/2 cup measuring scoop, dump it onto the bottom of a plain hamburger bun, then add your choice of mustard, onions, and pickles. Adding ketchup is up to you, although it's not an ingredient found in Maid-Rite stores. Many say that back in the early days "hobos" would swipe the ketchup and mix it with water to make tomato soup. Free ketchup was nixed from the restaurants way back then, and the custom has been in place ever since.

    Just think of all the famous sandwiches you can make at home. I've hacked the Popeye's Chicken Sandwich, McDonald's Big Mac, Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich, and many more. See if I've duplicated your favorite here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked 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: 1)
    Chipotle Mexican Grill Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette

    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 recreate 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 clone 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.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked 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. 

    Find more of your favorite recipes from Panera Bread here

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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

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

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 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: 9)
    P.F. Chang's Chang's Spicy Chicken

    Menu Description: "Lightly-dusted, stir-fried in a sweet Szechwan sauce."

    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 saute 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 this recipe, the more common chili sauce with garlic in it will work just as well.

    Check out my other P.F. Chang's clone recipes here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.71 (votes: 28)
    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.

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

    Source Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

     

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 6)
    T.G.I. Friday's Black Bean Soup

    If you start making black bean soup in the morning using other recipes out there, you're lucky to be slurping soup by lunchtime. That's because most recipes require dry beans that have to re-hydrate for at least a couple hours, and many recipes say "overnight." But, you know, tomorrow is just too far away when you're craving soup right now. So, for this often requested clone recipe, I sped up the process by incorporating canned black beans, rather than the dry ones. That way, once you get all the veggies chopped, you'll be souped up in just about an hour. Friday's version of this soup has a slightly smoky flavor that's easily duplicated here with just a little bit of concentrated liquid smoke flavoring found in most supermarkets. Just be sure to get the kind that says "hickory flavor."

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.75 (votes: 4)
    Islands Island Fries

    Menu Description: "Our famous fries are fresh cut daily from whole potatoes with the skins left on."

    Not only can I show you the best way to make french fries at home in this clone of Islands top-selling version, but I'm also supplying you with a super simple way to make the same type of salt blend that Islands uses to make those fries so dang addicting. As with any good french fry recipe, you'll need to slice your potatoes into strips that are all equal thickness. That means you need a mandoline, or similar slicing device, that makes 1/4-inch slices. Once you've got your potatoes cut, you must rinse and soak them in water to expel the excess starch. The frying comes in two stages: A quick blanching stage, and the final frying to put a crispy coating on the suckers. Islands uses a combination of peanut and vegetable oils in their fryers, so you simply combine the two in your home fryer. The whole process is not that tough once you get going, and certainly worth the effort if hungry mouths are waiting for the perfect homemade french fries. However, if you want to simplify the process because your hungry mouths aren't of the patient sort, you could certainly buy frozen french fries, cook 'em up following the instructions on the bag, and then sprinkle on this garlic/onion salt blend for a quick-and-easy kitchen clone.

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

    Here's a dish from a rapidly growing Chinese food chain that should satisfy anyone who loves the famous marinated bourbon chicken found in food courts across America. The sauce is the whole thing here, and it's quick to make right on your own stove-top. Just fire up the barbecue or indoor grill for the chicken and whip up a little white rice to serve on the side. Panda Express - now 370 restaurants strong - is the fastest-growing Asian food chain in the world. You'll find these tasty little quick-service food outlets in supermarkets, casinos, sports arenas, college campuses, and malls across the country passing out free samples for the asking. 

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

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I'm Todd Wilbur, Chronic Food Hacker

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

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