THE MOST TRUSTED COPYCAT RECIPES
THE MOST TRUSTED COPYCAT RECIPES
T.G.I. Friday's Dijon Chicken Pasta Reduced Fat copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

T.G.I. Friday's Dijon Chicken Pasta Reduced Fat

Score: 4.00 (votes: 1)
Reviews: 1
  • $0.00
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That creamy, white Dijon sauce that smothers the original version of this delicious pasta is luscious indeed but cursed by oodles of flabby fat grams. This can be fixed in our reduce-fat clone by using strained fat-free yogurt-an ingredient apparently inspired by the ancient Mediterranean technique of straining yogurt through a cheesecloth-that adds a thick, creamy conistency to our sauce without adding fat.

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

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size - 1 Entree
Total Servings - 4
Calories - 730 / Original - 930
Fat - 8 g / Original - 45g

Get This

Dijon Pasta Sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup evaporated skim milk
  • 1/4 cup fat-free milk
  • 2 teaspoons Grey Poupon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Chicken Spice Blend
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Pinch or two ground black pepper
  •  
  • Fat-free butter-fllavored spread or spray
  • 4 skinless chicken breast fillets
  • 1-pound package penne pasta
  • 3 to 4 quarts water
Garnish
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
Do This

1. Preheat barbecue or stovetop grill to medium/high heat.

2. Prepare pasta sauce by first sauteing the pressed garlic in the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Saute only for a minute or two over medium heat. Do not let the garlic brown or it will become bitter. Remove pan from heat.

3. Combine the Greek yogurt with the cornstarch in a medium bowl. Add the evaporated milk, fat-free milk, and mustard, and mix. Pour the mixture into the saucepan and place it back over heat. Add the Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper, and stir.

4. When the sauce thickens, add the parsley and turn the heat to low, stirring often.

5. As the sauce cooks, prepare the chicken by combining all of the spice blend ingredients in a small bowl. Rub a light coating of butter-flavored spread or spray over each breast, and sprinkle some of the spice blend over both sides of each chicken breast. Cook the chicken on the grill for 4 to 5 minutes per side. Turn the chicken at a 45-degree angle halfway through the cooking time on each side, so that you get criss-crossed grill marks on the surface.

6. While the chicken is grilling, prepare the pasta by bringing 3 to 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pan. Add the pasta to the water and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until the pasta is tender. Strain.

7. Divide the strained pasta into four portions on four plates, and pour a generous portion of the sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle some diced tomato over the pasta on each plate. Sprinkle some additional fresh parsley over the pasta.

8. Slice each chicken breast across the grain, and arrange each sliced breast on top of the pasta on each plate, being careful to retain the shape of the chicken as you position it.

Serves 4 as an entree.

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Reviews
Michelle
Feb 2, 2011, 22:00
I don't remember this ever being on Friday's menu, but it sounded tasty, so I gave it a try. It came out very good, but I didn't think it tasted Dijon-y enough, so I stirred in another 2 t. At the very end and I thought that was just about perfect. My 3-year old ate it, so even after adding the extra mustard it wasn't overpowering.

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Dickey's Barbecue Pit Cabbage Slaw

    Here’s an easy secret recipe for a great coleslaw that’s as good, if not better, than the world-famous cole slaw from KFC (which I hacked here). And making a home copy with this exclusive original secret formula is about as easy as it gets.

    To make my Dickie’s Barbecue Pit coleslaw recipe, you won’t have to mince the cabbage as fine as you would for some of the other clones. For this hack, thin-slice the cabbage first, then give those slices a medium chop and you're good to go. A medium head of cabbage will give you around 8 cups chopped—the perfect amount for this recipe.

    After you mix in the dressing, let the finished slaw sit in your refrigerator for at least an hour so that the flavor develops and improves, and be sure to give it a good stir before you serve it. Your patience will be rewarded.

    For another awesome Dickie's clone, check out my copycat of the chain's original BBQ sauce here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Outback Steakhouse Spicy Jammin' Meatloaf

    You may never use traditional meatloaf toppings again once you taste how Outback Steakhouse kicks up its ground steak meatloaf entrée. Ketchup and barbecue sauce seem like mundane toppers after you taste these clones of the chain’s amazing Fresno chili jam and creamy peppercorn sauce—one sweet, the other savory—that take your meatloaf to the next level.

    The Fresno chili jam presented the biggest hacking challenge of the two sauces. I had to work through several batches to find the perfect ratio of red bell peppers to Fresno chilies to tone the heat down to an edible level. Also, I was not expecting tomato juice. My first batches left that ingredient out until I returned to Outback, where my helpful server provided valuable intel.

    At the restaurant, this meatloaf is pre-baked and chilled. When an order comes in, a couple of slices are seared in a sauté pan or on a flat grill until browned and hot, then they’re topped with the two warmed sauces and served. You can use the same trick in my Outback Spicy Jammin' Meatloaf recipe below: make the meatloaf in advance of the meal, then just slice what you need and sear it before serving.

    Find copycat recipes for more of your favorite Outback dishes here

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Domino's Loaded Tots

    Domino’s oven-baked starter, which debuted in early 2023, reveals a great way to transform a boring bag of potato tots into a dish with pizzazz. The pizza chain’s new Loaded Tots are built with a delicious pile of crispy potato tots, topped with cheese, a secret sauce, and other good stuff that I probably should have been stacking on potato tots years ago.

    For my Domino’s Loaded Tots recipe, I picked the two bestsellers of the three versions offered at Domino’s for you to clone: Philly Cheesesteak and Cheddar Bacon. The Philly Cheesesteak version includes onion, green pepper, steak, and Alfredo sauce, and the Bacon Cheddar is topped with crispy crumbled bacon and garlic Parmesan sauce. Which one will you be making?  

    Once you decide, simply arrange a couple of dozen cooked tots on a baking sheet and smother them with the mozzarella/cheddar cheese blend, a few toppings, and the secret sauce hack, then bake for just 8 minutes until it’s melty and magnificent.

    Find more of my Domino's copycat recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Red Lobster Walt's Favorite Shrimp

    Many identify Red Lobster as the restaurant that serves free cheesy Cheddar Bay Biscuits with every meal, but the chain has another claim to fame as the first chain to make popcorn shrimp a thing.

    Introduced in 1974, Walt’s Favorite Shrimp is butterflied, breaded, and lightly fried, making the crustaceans a simple-to-eat finger food. But there’s more to my Red Lobster Walt’s Favorite Shrimp copycat recipe than simply breading and frying a pound of large shrimp. First, we’ll need to add flavor to the shrimp with a brine. And instead of using a salt brine, I found that a brine of concentrated chicken bouillon worked wonders for flavoring the shrimp all the way through.

    After brining the shrimp give them three coats of flour and one with breadcrumbs, then it takes just a minute or so until they’re golden brown and crispy, and ready to serve with a side of cocktail sauce.

    Find more of my Red Lobster copycat recipes here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Panda Express Sizzling Shrimp

    At the restaurant, onion, red bell pepper, broccolini, and extra-large shrimp are tossed with a new spicy sweet-and-sour sauce in Panda’s giant wok over ultra-high heat. But you won’t need a huge wok, or any wok at all for that matter, to make a home version of the new offering so that when this “limited-time-only” dish is long gone, you’ll still be able to experience its awesomeness.

    Once you make the secret sauce for my Panda Express Sizzling Shrimp recipe, most of the work is done. It only takes a few minutes to sauté everything over high heat until seared, then you toss in the secret sizzling sauce to coat, and it’s done.

    Serve this dish over white or brown rice, or with one of my popular clones here for Panda Express Fried Rice or Panda Express Chow Mein.

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  • Not rated yet
    BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse Bacon Jam Wings

    The sweet bacon and onion sauce often used to dress up steaks and burgers is now a fantastic wing topper in this addictive new appetizer from the 215-unit West Coast chain. I've hacked the secret bacon jam recipe here along with a special 2-step cooking process so that you can make perfect wings with great flavor all the way through.

    My BJ’s Bacon Jam Wings copycat recipe starts by brining the wings, then baking them with moist heat to simulate the special CVap commercial moist ovens BJ’s uses to cook ribs and wings. When you’re ready to serve the dish, the wings are fried until crispy, tossed with the addictive bacon jam, and served with celery and ranch dressing on the side.

    After you polish off your first pile of wings, you should have plenty of bacon jam left over for more wings or as a flavorful spread on burgers.

    Find more incredible copycat recipes from BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse Root Beer Glazed Ribs

    The secret recipe for BJ’s great fall-off-the-bone ribs requires a specialty moist oven called a CVap, made specifically for commercial kitchens, with a price tag in the thousands of dollars. This controlled vapor oven cooks food with moist heat to braise meats, like ribs, so they're fork-tender. If you want to make ribs like that at home, but don’t have a CVap in your kitchen (or if yours is currently in the shop) you’ll need to incorporate a similar technique using a standard conventional oven. And that’s where I can help.

    For my BJ’s Root Beer Glazed Ribs recipe, I first made a hack of the Big Poppa’s rub the chain uses to season the ribs, then I cooked the seasoned ribs on a rack over water mixed with liquid smoke. The liquid smoke infuses the ribs with smoke flavor, and the water in the pan will keep the ribs from drying out. Once the ribs are cooled, they are sliced, sauced, and reheated in a super-hot oven to simulate the pizza oven used at BJ’s.

    When buying your ribs, pick the smallest rack of ribs with the least meat to better resemble the real recipe. Also, you’ll want to plan ahead for this recipe since the ribs take several hours to bake and chill before they’re finished in the hot oven before serving. Because of that long slow-bake time, you’ll want to start this dish early in the day, or even the day before.

    Find more of my B.J.'s copycat recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Marie Callender's Double Cream Blueberry Pie

    Vanilla custard and whipped cream make up the delicious “double cream” that tops this ultra-popular blueberry pie from the West Coast chain that is most famous for its homestyle pies. Finally, I got the chance to give this great dessert the hack it deserves—from what I've seen, no other "copycat" recipe even comes close.

    For my Marie Callender’s Double Cream Blueberry Pie recipe, it was important that the custard be creamy but not too runny, so in addition to cornstarch, I’ve included just enough gelatin in the mix to stabilize the filling, but not so much that it becomes rubbery. The blueberry filling, made with frozen blueberries, needs only cornstarch to thicken it because there is also apple in the filling which contributes pectin, a natural thickening gel. Just be sure to dice your apple very small before cooking it so that the pieces will soften and work well with the frozen blueberries.

    There’s no need to make the crust from scratch when you can use an unbaked 9-inch pie shell in the frozen food aisle—preferably the one made by Marie Callender’s—but any brand will do.

    Then, to finish your pie, the gelatin steps up again, stabilizing the whipped cream topping so that it holds its shape for as long as it takes to eat the whole pie. Which probably won't be long at all.

    Try more of my Marie Callender's copycat recipes here.

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  • Not rated yet
    P.F. Chang's Fire-Braised Short Ribs

    Good short ribs should practically melt in your mouth, and my P.F. Chang’s Fire-Braised Short Ribs recipe below will produce flavor-pumped short ribs that will do just that. Just as in the restaurant, these sliced boneless short ribs sit on a bed of pineapple fried rice and come with a side of the sweet-and-savory Asian braising sauce to pour over the top. If you dig short ribs, you're going to love this dish.

    To craft the 30-dollar entrée at home (but for much less) the short ribs are braised for 3 hours in a secret liquid made with Chinese cooking wine, garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and a few other key ingredients. The cooked short ribs are then chilled, sliced, and seared while being doused with the robust braising liquid for a perfect burst of flavor.

    When you arrange the sliced short ribs on the pineapple fried rice made with the Top Secret Recipe I’m including below, and sprinkle the plate with some micro sprouts, you’ll have created a dish that looks and tastes just like the fabulous original restaurant version, but at a mere fraction of the cost.

    For a great side, try this hack for P.F. Chang's Short Rib Fried Rice, and get more P.F. Chang's copycat recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Panda Express SweetFire Chicken Breast

    It’s not a regular menu item at Panda Express, so if the chain’s great SweetFire Chicken Breast isn’t available at a restaurant near you, you can use my Panda Express SweetFire Chicken Breast recipe below to get your fix. 

    I've worked up a simple hack here for the sweet-and-spicy sauce that gets poured over the crispy chicken chunks, and I’m also including a breading technique for perfect bite-size portions of crispy chicken. Add some onions, red bell pepper, and pineapple chunks, and you’ve just made a spot-on copy of the popular limited dish.

    Find more of my Panda Express copycat recipes here

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Maggiano's Famous Rigatoni "D"

    “D” was chef David Di Gregorio’s nickname at the first Maggiano’s, which opened in Chicago, Illinois in 1991, and he’s the guy who developed the best-selling pasta dish on the menu. 

    Maggiano’s Famous Rigatoni “D” is a genuinely great dish that anyone can copy if they use the exclusive top secret techniques revealed here. After many trials and several errors, I finally replicated the amazing creamy marsala sauce by reducing two full bottles of inexpensive marsala wine down to just one-half cup of intensely flavored liquid. The alcohol cooks out, the mushrooms contribute their savory umami goodness, and after about an hour-and-a-half you have the perfect flavoring solution for your cream sauce.     

    The other mushrooms in the dish are served unsliced, so make sure they’re small enough to eat in one bite. Sometimes it’s tough to find 40 small mushrooms, so feel free to use your choice of white (button) or brown (cremini) mushrooms for this recipe. They are the same mushroom species with only minor differences (white mushrooms are a cultivated mutation of the brown ones), so either will work. But, if you have a choice, go with creminis since they tend to have a slightly deeper flavor.

    Try my Maggiano's Rigatoni "D" copycat recipe today, and complete the meal with my Maggiano's Vera's Lemon Cookies recipe here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Cheesecake Factory Orange Chicken

    With delicious versions on the menus at Panda Express, Pei Wei, and P.F. Chang’s, the orange chicken space is certainly competitive (click on the brands for my recipes). That’s why it’s so impressive that The Cheesecake Factory serves up one of the best orange chicken entrées of any chain, including chains that specialize in Chinese food.

    For this easy entrée hack, I’ve included a recipe for breading and frying the chicken yourself, but you may prefer to bake or fry pre-breaded frozen chicken strips or nuggets and toss them in the sauce you make here. The sauce is the big secret in this recipe, and the version I’ve whipped up for you has just the right amount of sweet, sour, and spicy to match the real thing.

    Add some rice and stir-fry vegetables, and you’ll have two large Cheesecake Factory-size entrées with this hack, or you can split it into four more modest portions.   

    Try my Cheesecake Factory Orange Chicken copycat recipe below, and check here for some great dessert ideas.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Cheesecake Factory Chicken Marsala and Mushrooms

    Menu Description: “Chicken breast sautéed with fresh mushrooms in a rich Marsala wine sauce. Served over bow tie pasta.”            

    Unlike the creamy Marsala sauce served at many restaurant chains (as with Olive Garden’s Stuffed Chicken Marsala), the sauce served at The Cheesecake Factory is rich and dark with an unctuous concentration of flavor seemingly created by a thorough reduction.

    For my Cheesecake Factory Chicken Marsala and Mushrooms copycat recipe, you'll reduce lightly seasoned marsala wine and chicken broth to less than one-quarter of its original volume. Once reduced, your cloned sauce is strained to remove the herbs, then butter and lemon are added, along with a browning sauce such as Kitchen Bouquet to match the deep color of the original.

    Browned mushrooms are added to the sauce, then it's all spooned over sautéed chicken cutlets arranged on a huge bed of farfalle pasta. Hope you're hungry, because this recipe makes two huge Cheesecake Factory-size servings. If it's too much for two of you, the dish can easily be portioned into three or four more modest servings.

    Find more of your favorite dishes from Cheesecake Factory hacked here

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  • Not rated yet
    Outback Steakhouse Twisted Ribs

    Creative chefs at Outback Steakhouse have transformed the chain’s fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs into a fantastic appetizer by adding crispy Bloomin’ Onion breading, sweet barbecue sauce, and a drizzle of Bloomin’ Onion dipping sauce. I reverse-engineered the Outback Twisted Ribs recipe thanks to a kind server who let me take some home with sauces on the side, and now you can copy every twisted bit of it yourself with this exclusive hack.

    Outback’s ribs are smoked, but we’ll duplicate the taste without a smoker using a liquid smoke brine. This marinade will not only add flavor to the ribs, but it will also help keep the meat moist and juicy when cooked twice. Tweaked hacks for my Bloomin’ Onion breading and dipping sauce are here to complete your twisted appetizer, and you'll also get my new easy way to knock off the chain’s tasty house-made spicy pickles that come on the side. Plus, I'm including a batch of step-by-step photos so your dish will come out picture-perfect.

    Brush your ribs with my Outback barbecue sauce copycat recipe here, or save time by using Sweet Baby Ray's Original barbecue sauce since it tastes similar to what Outback uses, and soon you'll have a messy, but insanely delicious and exclusive new finger food favorite for your hungry crew.

    Check out more of my Top Secret Recipes for Outback Steakhouse favorites here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Chickie’s & Pete’s Famous Crabfries

    Waiting for a plane in Philadelphia isn’t so bad if your gate is near the airport location of this 20-unit crab house and sports bar chain where weather delay frustrations melt away over a cold beer, a Philly cheesesteak, and a bucket of Chickie’s & Pete’s Famous Crabfries.

    Crabfries, despite the name, do not have any crab on them. When the first Chickie’s & Pete’s opened its doors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1977, the restaurant served crab only in the summer. While brainstorming off-season uses for the seafood seasoning, founder Pete Ciarrocchi sprinkled some over crinkle-cut fries, served them with a side of secret cheese dipping sauce, and the most popular dish at his crab house was born.

    The beauty of this Chickie’s & Pete’s Crabfries recipe is its simplicity since you’ll need to prepare only two things, and they’re both easy: the secret crab seasoning and the secret cheese sauce. Since the chain’s cheese sauce is also used on their cheesesteak sandwiches, I surmised that a combination of the two easy-melting cheeses most commonly used on Philly cheesesteaks—white American and Cheez Whiz—would make a sauce with the taste and color of the restaurant version. This smooth sauce goes great with the fries, and it also puts the "Philly" into your next homemade cheesesteak.

    Once your cheese sauce is done and your seasoning is mixed, cook up a bag of crinkle-cut fries following the directions on the package, toss them with the seasoning, and serve immediately with the warm cheese sauce on the side.

    Find more famous french fry recipes from KFC, Taco Bell, and McDonald's here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Cracker Barrel Country Fried Steak

    It finally happened. I recently created a new clone recipe for Cracker Barrel's Country Fried Steak only to realize much later that I had already cloned it eight years before in my book, Top Secret Recipes Step-by-Step. But I'm okay with the unplanned re-do because the final result turned out to be a more accurate re-creation, making several improvements on my first hack from many moons ago. 

    Most chicken-fried steak recipes, including my previous Cracker Barrel Country Fried Steak copycat recipe, call for cube steak—round steak that’s been scored in a butcher’s tenderizer—which isn’t always as tender as you may like it to be. Connective tissue that remains intact will make some bites too chewy, yet if the steak is over-tenderized it will fall apart when cooked.

    To ensure that every bite is perfectly tender, my solution is to avoid cube steak altogether and start with lean ground beef, as with recipes for Salisbury steak or Hamburg steak. Forming the ground beef into steaks and then freezing them so they hold together makes the breading and cooking process easy, and when served, every bite of the finished product is guaranteed to be fork-tender. 

    Of course, this iconic clone recipe wouldn’t be complete without a spot-on hack for the famous sawmill gravy that gets spooned over the top. I’m including a fresh hack for the gravy that improves on my original recipe, and it's super easy to make with just six ingredients.

    Try more of my Cracker Barrel recipes here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Applebee's Riblets

    Ever wonder where Riblets come from?

    "Riblets" is Applebee’s branded name for button ribs or rib tips (as they are called at Walmart), which is a short cut trimmed from the back end of pork spareribs, packed with lots of connective tissue. And that's a good thing because, after 3 to 4 hours of braising, the connective tissue will break down, producing fork-tender meat that slips off the bone. Of the cooking methods I tried for my version of Applebee's Riblets recipe, which included steaming, slow-roasting, and smoking; braising made the most tender, flavorful ribs—even before the sauce went on. 

    For the braising formula, I found that chicken broth infused with liquid smoke creates tender ribs that taste as if they came out of a smoker. Finish off the braised ribs on your grill and baste them with my original hack below that clones Applebee’s honey barbecue sauce, or use your favorite bottled sauce. 

    And if you'd like to serve these riblets with almond rice pilaf as they do in the restaurant, you can find my clone recipe here on the site.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    P.F. Chang's Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts

    Use my recipe for P.F. Chang’s incredible Kung Pao sauce and toss it with fried Brussels sprouts, peanuts, and Thai chilies and you get one of this Chinese bistro’s most popular new starters. And now, with this exclusive Top Secret Recipe, you'll have possibly one of your new favorite ways to serve Brussels sprouts. 

    You’ll get a half cup of the secret kung pao sauce—that will be enough to sauce 1 pound of Brussels sprouts in 2 separate batches.

    Oven baking, like other "hackers" recommend, will not give you the crispy texture of the original. These must be deep-fried. Even though you’ll be frying 8 ounces of Brussels sprouts at a time, you’ll want a wide-mouthed pan like a large saucepot, Dutch oven, or a deep fryer so that you don’t crowd the Brussels sprouts. Also, they will spatter for about 30 seconds when they first hit the oil, so a lid or a spatter guard will definitely come in handy.

    Once the oil is hot and the sauce is made, it takes just 5 minutes to get this delish dish on your table. Try my P.F. Chang's Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts copycat recipe below and find more P.F. Chang's recipes here.

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  • Not rated yet
    P.F. Chang's Crispy Honey Chicken

    I'm not sure why it took me so long to clone this dish, considering that it was my daughter's favorite thing to eat at P.F. Chang's when she was a kid. I recently tackled it and created a spot-on copy of the chain's signature sweet-and-sour honey sauce, and in the process found some new intel that improved on my earlier version of the chain's crispy chicken which I had already hacked for a different P.F. Chang's recipe. The dish came together beautifully on the plate, and it cleared the final taste test by earning an enthusiastic thumbs-up from my now-grown little girl.

    Since P.F. Chang’s sells a version of this dish in the freezer aisle of my local grocery store, I was able to improve my chicken batter formula by extracting some good info from the ingredients listed on the product box. Based on this new information, I added more cornstarch to the batter along with corn flour and egg whites for a much better, crispier coating.

    The sauce in my P.F. Chang's Crispy Honey Chicken copycat recipe is sweetened with honey and sugar, soured by wine and rice vinegar, and thickened with cornstarch and gelatin powder to create a flavorful finishing glaze that sticks to the crispy chicken like the real thing. In the restaurant, the chicken is served over a bed of fried maifun rice sticks so I’ve included prep notes for that in the Tidbits, but you may prefer to forego that step and serve the chicken over or alongside cooked white or brown rice.

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    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: 4.67 (votes: 6)
    Panda Express Chow Mein

    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).

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Cheesecake Factory Spicy Cashew Chicken

    This popular chain wrangles a wide variety of dishes and cooking styles day after day with consistently high quality. From pasta to burgers to tacos, from salads to pancakes to beautiful cheesecakes for dessert, there is something for everyone at the Cheesecake Factory.

    The diverse menu's Asia-inspired plates include Thai, Korean, and Chinese dishes, but one that consistently stands out is this excellent Mandarin-style spicy chicken entrée, served over your choice of white or brown rice.

    The secret of the great flavor is the sauce, which has now been hacked for you in my Cheesecake Factory Spicy Cashew recipe below. Plus, I’ll walk you through the process of creating perfect crispy chicken from scratch using juicy chicken tenderloins.

    Alternatively, if you’d like to save time, you can bake up some pre-cooked breaded chicken tenders and focus all your efforts on making the amazing sauce. Tips on that chicken shortcut can be found below in the Tidbits.

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

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

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  • Not rated yet
    Gatorade Orange Sports Drink

    Researchers at University of Florida’s College of Medicine developed Gatorade in 1965 when the head coach of the Florida Gators football team requested a specially designed drink that could replace lost fluids during hot weather games. With players pounding the new sports drink, the Gators went on to take their first Orange Bowl victory in 1967 against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. When the head coach of the Yellow Jackets was asked why his team lost, he said, “We didn’t have Gatorade. That made the difference.” Later that year, Gatorade became the official drink of the NFL.

    The secret to making Gatorade at home is not just about getting the flavor right but also about locating a simple source of the drink’s important supplemental ingredients, potassium and dextrose. Potassium (along with salt) replaces electrolytes that are lost when you sweat to ensure proper functioning of your brain and organs. I discovered that a good source of potassium is Morton’s salt substitute, which is made with potassium chloride. Most supermarkets should have it stocked near the salt.

    Dextrose, on the other hand, is a natural sugar that absorbs quickly into your body to restore glycogen in muscles lost during physical activity. Bodybuilders and athletes use it during and after games and workouts to speed up recovery and stimulate muscle growth. Luckily, I was able to find the perfect product that added just the right amount of dextrose to 64 ounces of water and that also came in the perfect orange flavor: Willy Wonka Pixy Stix. Find the large 1-ounce size in the giant plastic straw, and grab two. I found them online for 50 cents each.

    For my Gatorade copycat recipe below, you'll dump all the ingredients into a 64-ounce pitcher of water, stir to dissolve, and in just a few minutes you’ll have the same taste and energy benefits of one of the two original flavors of Gatorade, but at about half the price.

    Find more recipes for more famous drinks here.

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Church's Chicken Original and Spicy Fried Chicken

    On the list of inspirational American food success stories is the small fried chicken restaurant George W. Church opened across the street from the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas in 1952. In the years since Church's Chicken exploded into a monster chicken chain with over 1000 restaurants in 35 countries.

    The truth is, no chain would grow that big without good food. George's special homestyle fried chicken formula was his secret recipe to success, and as far as I can tell, nobody has properly hacked it. Until now. 

    The ingredient list for this crispy chicken is smaller than what you might find in “The Colonel’s” kitchen, which is good because you won’t have to go out and buy 11 herbs and spices. Much of the flavoring in this chicken recipe develops during the brining process, which also has the added benefit of keeping the chicken moist and juicy inside. I discovered that Church’s marinates their chicken for 12 hours, so I worked backward and designed a brine that would do its job in exactly half a day.

    For my Church's Fried Chicken copycat recipe, you'll need to plan ahead to give your chicken time to marinate. But that's a good thing—your patience will be rewarded with the down-home taste of delicious fried chicken, just like what grandma used to make.

    And here's some more good news: this hack includes two recipes! I've created a Church's copycat recipe for the original recipe fried chicken, along with instructions for duplicating the spicy version if you're in the mood to pump up your jam.

    This recipe was my #1 most popular of 2023. Check out the other most popular unlocked recipes of the year: IKEA Swedish Meatballs (#2), Chipotle Guacamole (#3), Subway Cookies (#4), IHOP Thick 'N Fluffy French Toast (#5).

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Cracker Barrel Baked Apple Dumplin

    One of the best choices you will make in life is having this dish for dessert when you’re at Cracker Barrel. They call it a “dumplin” but it’s just a little streusel-covered apple pie, served up hot in its own small baking dish with two scoops of vanilla bean ice cream on top, and drizzled with warm apple/caramel sauce—it's good stuff. Take a bite and you may notice the apples inside taste like Cracker Barrel’s Fried Apples side dish, so we'll use my previous hack for that part to bring it all together.

    My Cracker Barrel Baked Apple Dumplin recipe makes two small pies that serve up to four. Check out more of my cool copycat recipes from Cracker Barrel here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Kobe Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse Shrimp (Yum Yum) Sauce

    For years, I’ve been hearing about a delicious seafood dipping sauce at Japanese steakhouses called "shrimp sauce" or "yum yum sauce." Research revealed many independent Japanese steakhouses with "the best sauce," but it was the name of an 11-unit chain called Kobe Ichiban in Central Florida that came up most often.

    When I next found myself in Orlando, Florida presenting some cooking demos at a home show, I dropped in on Kobe Ichiban for dinner and there it was: the light orange creamy dipping "yummy" sauce that everyone was raving about. It was sweet and sour and salty and creamy, and it tasted amazing on the shrimp—as well as on everything else.

    I poured some into some small plastic storage bags I had with me (always come prepared!), then popped them into a cooler for the long trip back to Las Vegas. Back in the underground lab, I developed my Kobe shrimp yum yum sauce recipe below. Now, you can enjoy this much-requested delicious dipping sauce anytime.

    Find more of my copycat recipes for famous sauces here.  

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I'm Todd Wilbur, Chronic Food Hacker

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

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