THE MOST TRUSTED COPYCAT RECIPES
THE MOST TRUSTED COPYCAT RECIPES
Wendy's Chicken Caesar Fresh Stuffed Pita Reduced-Fat copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Wendy's Chicken Caesar Fresh Stuffed Pita Reduced-Fat

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Publicity stunt alert. For one day in 1997, St. Petersburg, Florida, became "St. Pitas-burg" to celebrate the introduction of Wendy's Fresh Stuffed Pita sandwiches. Over 40,000 balloons formed a giant pita sandwich at a local Wendy's restaurant, while local residents and Wendy's staff learned the "art of eating a pita" from pita eating experts.

The Chicken Caesar Fresh Stuffed Pita was one of those pitas introduced on that glorious day. See if you can figure how to eat this clone version, made with much less fat, all on your own.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size–1 sandwich
Total servings–4
Calories per serving–283 (Original–490)
Fat per serving–5g (Original–18g)

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

Get This

Dressing
  • 2 teaspoons arrowroot
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely minced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • Pinch dried parsley
  • Pinch dried oregano
  • Pinch dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon grated Romano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon egg substitute
_main
  • Oil cooking spray
  • 2 skinless chicken breast fillets
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 6 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 cup carrot, shredded
  • 4 large pita breads
  • 4 teaspoons shredded, fresh Parmesan cheese
Do This

1. Make the dressing by dissolving the arrowroot in the water. Heat the water in the microwave for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until it begins to boil. Add the remaining ingredients except the Romano cheese and egg substitute, and let the mixture cool. When the mixture has reached room temperature, add the cheese and egg substitute. Cover and chill this dressing until it's thick.

2. Preheat a barbecue or indoor grill to medium heat. Spray a little oil cooking spray on each chicken breast. Salt and pepper the chicken, then grill it for 5 minutes per side or until done. Remove the chicken from the grill and dice it.

3. While chicken cooks, prepare the salad by combining the romaine lettuce, red cabbage, and shredded carrot in a large bowl and toss.

4. Prepare the sandwiches by first microwaving each pita for 20 seconds. Fold each pita in half like a taco, then fill them with 1 to 1 1/2 cups of romaine salad each.

5. Add about 1/3 cup of diced chicken on top of the salad in the pita.

6. Pour about a tablespoon of dressing over each sandwich.

7. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of shredded fresh Parmesan on top of each sandwich, and serve.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

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    KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) Buttermilk Biscuits

    In 1991 Kentucky Fried Chicken bigwigs decided to improve the image of America's third-largest fast-food chain. As a more health-conscious society began to affect sales of fried chicken, the company changed its name to KFC and introduced a lighter fare of skinless chicken.

    In the last forty years KFC has experienced extraordinary growth. Five years after first franchising the business, Colonel Harland Sanders had 400 outlets in the United States and Canada. Four years later there were more than 600 franchises, including one in England, the first overseas outlet. In 1964 John Y. Brown, Jr., a young Louisville lawyer, and Jack Massey, a Nashville financier, bought the Colonel's business for $2 million. Only seven years later, in 1971 Heublein, Inc., bought the KFC Corporation for $275 million. Then in 1986, for a whopping $840 million, PepsiCo added KFC to its conglomerate, which now includes Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. That means PepsiCo owns more fast food outlets than any other company including McDonald's.

    At each KFC restaurant, workers blend real buttermilk with a dry blend to create the well-known KFC buttermilk biscuits recipe that have made a popular menu item since their introduction in 1982. Pair these buttermilk biscuits with my KFC mac and cheese recipe and the famous KFC Original Recipe Chicken to complete your meal.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Chick-fil-A Carrot and Raisin Salad

    The secret to cloning Chick fil-A's popular carrot raisin salad lies in proper carrot shredding technique. A standard shredder, like the type you might use to shred a hunk of cheddar cheese, creates a coarse shred that makes the salad taste much too "carroty." Instead, find yourself the type of fine shredder that is often used for Parmesan cheese. Sure, it'll take a little more elbow grease to reduce 5 or 6 carrots to ultra thin strips, but I guarantee you'll end up with a superior finished product that will help you forget all about the extra effort.

    Try more of my Chick-fil-A copycat recipes, like their famous chicken sandwich here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Not rated yet
    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 a 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.

    Try my Hard Rock Cafe Twisted Mac & Cheese copycat recipe below, and find more of your favorite Hard Rock Cafe dishes here.
     
    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Not rated yet
    IHOP Swedish Crepes

    Menu Description: “Four delicate crepes topped with sweet-tart lingonberries and lingonberry butter.”

    Good crepes should be soft in the middle, crispy around the edges, buttery, custardy, a bit sweet, and slightly salty, and there are many ways to achieve all this. But to make crepes like those served at IHOP, the formula needs to be specific.

    Over two days I made dozens of crepes with minor adjustments to all seven ingredients until I finally settled on the version here that best mirrors the look and taste of the delicious IHOP Swedish Crepes. You'll get ten tasty crepes using a 10-inch non-stick skillet, and the recipe is very easy.

    Top them with my simple formula here for the lingonberry butter using bottled lingonberries and softened butter, and now your IHOP Swedish Crepe recipe hack is complete. If you like crepes, you’ll definitely love these.

    I cloned a ton of items from IHOP. See if I hacked your favorite 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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  • Not rated yet
    Chick-fil-A Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette

    The country’s largest chicken chain offers some of the best choices for salad dressings you’ll find at any fast food restaurant. But good luck sweet-talking your order-taker into floating you a few extra packets of this great fruity vinaigrette to use on your home salads—they are under strict orders to be stingy. And that could be why you’re here.

    Apple cider vinegar, pineapple juice, honey, lemon juice, and lime juice are just a few of the secret ingredients that make this dressing so great. Another secret you'll find here is xanthan gum, a natural thickener often used as an emulsifier to hold salad dressing together so that it doesn’t need shaking. You can find xanthan online or at Whole Foods, and you won't need much.

    Try my Chick-fil-A Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette copycat recipe below, and find my recipes for Chick-fil-A Mac & Cheese, and their famous chicken sandwiches here.  

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 5)
    Jack Link's Original Beef Jerky

    Using his grandfather’s old recipes for sausage and smoked meats, Jack Link created his first kippered beef sticks in Wisconsin in 1986, and they quickly became a popular snack throughout the state. But that wasn’t enough for Jack, so he invested in a packaging machine to expand into other markets, and eventually—with the help of a successful Sasquatch-themed marketing campaign—Jack Link’s became the #1 jerky brand in the country.

    Beef jerky is usually made in a dehydrator designed to circulate air around the food at a low temperature. The temperature for drying beef jerky in a dehydrator is typically 130 to 140 degrees, which is a lower temperature than you can reach with a conventional home oven. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use our home oven to make a perfectly acceptable beef jerky hack that tastes like Jack’s. And even though Jack uses a smoker for his beef jerky, you won’t need one to give your jerky a similar smoky flavor.

    The pineapple juice in the marinade is an important part of the taste, but its primary contribution is a unique enzyme that helps break down the proteins in the tough cut of meat to tenderize it. Soy sauce and beef bouillon contribute to the umami savoriness of the jerky, and liquid hickory smoke is used in my Jack Link's Original Beef Jerky copycat recipe as a quick way to add the smoky flavor.

    The marinating takes 24 hours and the oven drying takes between 6 to 8 hours, so get the sliced beef into the bath in the morning, and you’ll be munching on homemade Jack Link's beef jerky by dinnertime the next day. And to help you out, I'm including step photos.

    Find more cool recipes for your favorite snacks here.

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  • Not rated yet
    The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Vanilla Ice Blended

    Starbucks’ Frappuccino, the most famous blended coffee drink in the world, is actually a clone of this blended concoction invented at the California-based chain, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. In the mid-80s, a store manager at the Westwood, California location mixed diet drink powder with ice, milk, and coffee in a blender and was pleasantly surprised by how delicious it was. They tweaked the recipe to include the chain’s chocolate powder instead of the diet powder, and a new hit product was born.

    To make Coffee Bean vanilla ice blended at home, we must first make the secret flavoring powder that starts with a base of dry coffee creamer. I recommend using superfine sugar (Baker’s sugar) and superfine salt (popcorn salt) if you can find them. The fine crystals will dissolve better in the cold drink. You’ll also need vanilla extract powder, which can be found online.

    Once your secret powder is made, measure 1/3 cup of it into a blender with ice, cold espresso, and milk, and blend on high until smooth. In a matter of just a few minutes, you will have a 16-ounce re-creation of the original blended coffee drink now served at 1,200 Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf locations in 30 countries.

    Try my Coffee Bean Vanilla Ice Blended copycat recipe below, and check out my hack for these copycat Starbucks petite vanilla scones.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Panda Express Fried Rice

    A popular staple of any Chinese chain is fried rice, so it better be good, and the version served at Panda Express most certainly is. Here's my easy Panda Express Fried Rice recipe for when you need a stress-free, low-cost side for your entrées. But I do suggest that you cook the white rice several hours or even a day or two before you plan to make the finished dish. I found that the cooked rice called for in this recipe works best when it's cold. 

    As for a shortcut, bagged frozen peas and carrots will save you from the hassle of petite-dicing carrots since the carrots in those bags are the perfect size to produce an identical clone. And they're already cooked. 

    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).

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Taco Bell Shredded Chicken Soft Taco

    In November 2020, Taco Bell said “adios” to several classic items from their menu including Mexican Pizza—one of my long-time favorites—and anything with shredded chicken in it, including the chicken soft taco. But teary goodbyes from fans of the tasty spiced chicken can be avoided if we have a good (and easy) recipe to craft a duplicate at home. Since the fast Mexican chain announced the changes several months in advance, I had time to work up a good hack before the tacos were gone forever.

    After cooking the chicken several ways, I settled on poaching the fillets in chicken broth, which kept them moist and added great umami flavor. When the chicken cooled, I shredded it, and added it to a sauce seasoned with spices and lime juice, and flavored with Knorr tomato chicken bouillon. 

    As the sauce thickens it will reduce and infuse the chicken with flavor, just like the original Taco Bell shredded chicken, then it’s ready for you to use on tacos, burritos, salads, or whatever. And don't forget the hot sauce

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  • Not rated yet
    Lazy Dog Crispy Deviled Eggs

    Menu Description: “Lightly fried, topped with smoked paprika + bacon candy.”

    Lazy Dog Crispy Deviled eggs are hard-boiled egg whites that are breaded and fried until crispy, then filled with the creamy yolk mixture, sprinkled with smoked paprika, and topped with the best thing that ever topped a deviled egg: bacon candy! 

    We'll start with my preferred way to hard-boil the eggs, to get beautifully yellow yolks with no grey tint to them. Those bright yellow yolks are removed and flavored, then spooned back into the crispy breaded whites.

    I'm also including my hack for cloning two slices of the chain's great brown sugar candied bacon. If you want to make extra bacon candy to munch on check out my recipe for Lazy Dog's Bacon Candy appetizer and you’ll get five slices of bacon candy. That’s two for your Lazy Dog Crispy Deviled Eggs copycat recipe, and three for you to eat and share.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Cracker Barrel Meatloaf

    The Southern-themed chain famous for its gift shops filled with made-in-America products and delicious homestyle food is also known to have a particularly good meatloaf. This dish ranks high in popularity, right up there with the Chicken ‘n Dumplins and the Hash Brown Casserole, so a good Cracker Barrel Meatloaf copycat recipe is long overdue.

    Making meatloaf is easy. What’s hard is making it taste like the meatloaf at Cracker Barrel which is tender and juicy, and flavored with onion, green pepper, and tomato. I sought to turn out a moist and tender loaf of meat, and one that’s not dry and tough, but my first attempts were much too dense. I wasn’t happy about that, but my dog was thrilled.

    After playing around with the eggs-to-breadcrumbs-to-milk ratios and being careful to use gentle hands when combining everything and pressing it into the loaf pan, the final batch was a winner and I get to pass it along to you.    

    It's best to use a meatloaf pan here which has an insert that lets the fat drip to the bottom, away from the meat. A regular loaf pan will still work, but you’ll want to pour off the fat in the pan before slicing. 

    Satisfy your Cracker Barrel cravings with more of my copycat recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 5)
    Maggiano's Beef Tenderloin Medallions

    For many years this entrée has been a top menu choice at Maggiano's, the 54-unit Italian chain from Brinker, the same company that operates Chili’s Grill & Bar. The $30 restaurant dish consists of three 2½-ounce tenderloin steaks, swimming in a fantastic balsamic cream sauce with sliced portabello mushrooms—but a home version is only six easy steps away, and it won't hit you in the wallet as hard as the pricey original.

    Cracking this dish required a perfect hack of the balsamic cream sauce, and that came quickly after obtaining some very reliable information from my incredibly helpful server/informant at a Las Vegas Maggiano’s. Let’s call him Skippy.

    According to Skippy, the balsamic cream sauce is as simple as mixing a sweet balsamic glaze with the chain’s creamy Alfredo sauce. So, I first got a sample of Maggiano’s Alfredo sauce and figured out how to replicate it. Once that was done, I measured increments of balsamic glaze into the Alfredo sauce until the color and flavor matched the original. The rest of the recipe was easy.

    My recipe will make two servings and includes preparation for the tenderloins and sauce. If you’d like to complete the dish the way it’s served at the restaurant (as in the photo), add some garlic mashed potatoes on the side, using my hack for Olive Garden Garlic Mashed Potatoes.   

    Try my Maggiano's Beef Tenderloin Medallions copycat recipe below, find more of my Maggiano's copycat recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Taco Bell Chalupa Supreme

    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.

    Try my Taco Bell Chalupa Supreme recipe below, and find copycat recipes for Taco Bell mild, hot or diablo sauce here.

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  • Not rated yet
    Panera Bread Turkey Chili

    Panera’s turkey chili is a wholesome and flavorful mix of dark meat turkey, beans, tomatoes, chilies, carrots, onions, and spices that’s easy to hack at home, once you know the secrets. I found that adding turkey in two forms—ground and sliced—resulted in the best hack of Panera Bread Turkey Chili. The sliced turkey should be dark meat, if possible, but if you can’t find uncooked, sliced dark meat, white meat is fine. It doesn’t finish quite as tender and flavorful as the dark meat, but it still works.

    To further improve flavor, I’m slipping in some nutritional yeast, which acts like MSG. Panera uses a natural yeast extract similar to this in many of their soups to improve flavor, so we’ll do the same. You can find nutritional yeast, or “nooch,” at Whole Foods or another well-stocked food store. If you can’t track it down, add another ¼ teaspoon of salt to the pot.

    And take note that you won’t be adding the edamame until the latter half of the cooking process. We do it this way so that when the chili is ready, the edamame will still be green, rather than the unappetizing grey color that can curse overcooked soybeans.

    Try my Panera Bread Turkey Chili copycat recipe below, and find more of your favorite Panera Bread copycat recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Outback Steakhouse Firecracker Salmon

    If you like sweet with a little bit of heat, and if you like salmon, then you'll love my Outback Steakhouse Firecracker Salmon copycat recipe. 

    Grilled salmon is brushed with the restaurant's top secret Firecracker Sauce, and then it's topped with simple-to-make mango salsa. Those fabulous formulas are all here, and I’ll also show you how to cook the salmon the same way the restaurant does for a perfectly awesome kitchen clone.

    Find copycat recipes for more of your favorite Outback dishes here

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 3)
    Panera Bread Baked Potato Soup

    Since Panera Bread makes all its ingredients known, it's not hard to find out that there’s no chicken broth in the original recipe, yet every copycat recipe I located online calls for chicken broth, as well as other ingredients clearly not found in Panera's version. Unlike those other recipes, I use the same or similar ingredients to those listed on the company’s website in my Panera Bread Potato Soup copycat recipe, so you can make the closest replica at home.

    One of the ingredients in the soup, according to the posted list, is yeast extract. This tasty ingredient adds an MSG-like savoriness to Panera’s soup, and we can duplicate it by using nutritional yeast—often called "nooch"—now found in many stores, including Whole Foods. A little bit of nooch will provide the umami deliciousness that replaces chicken broth or bouillon.

    Panera keeps its soup gluten-free by thickening it with a combination of rice flour and cornstarch, rather than wheat flour. I’ve included those ingredients as well so that your clone is similarly gluten-free. Use the steps below and in about an hour you’ll have 8 servings of a soup that is a culinary doppelganger to Panera Bread's Baked Potato soup, and at a mere fraction of the cost.

    Find recipes for more of your favorite Panera Bread dishes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Thomas' English Muffins

    Samuel Bath Thomas immigrated from England to New York City and opened his first bakery there in 1880. That is where Thomas created skillet bread that would one day become the famous muffins known for their craggy texture when split in half. This hack for Thomas’ English Muffins uses a special kneading process to give the muffins the "nooks and crannies" they are famous for, making craters in the finished bread to better hold on to melted butter and jam.

    I have seen several recipes that claim to re-create these muffins, but none produce the large air pockets that a proper Thomas' English Muffin recipe requires, in addition to great flavor and a perfectly cooked interior. To ensure proper nooks and crannies and muffins that are cooked all the way through, I've included some important steps.

    The dough you'll make here is like a ciabatta dough in that it is very wet. So rather than kneading the dough, you stretch and fold it over several times on a well-oiled surface. Then, when the portioned-out dough has proofed on baking sheets for another 1½ to 2 hours, you par-bake the muffins.

    After baking, the muffins are cooked on a griddle or in a pan until dark brown on both sides, then they must cool. This is the hardest part. The muffins will be too soft to open for at least four hours, and now you have to fight off the temptation to eat one. It’s hard, I know. The muffins smell great and you’ve waited all this time, but resist for now and your patience will be rewarded.

    When the muffins have had their rest, split them with a fork and toast them as you would any English muffin.

    Check out all my top secret recipes for famous bread here

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  • Not rated yet
    Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallows

    The most popular recipe circulating on the internet and among Food Network chefs who claim it as their own makes decent marshmallows, but the ubiquitous formula won’t pass as a hack for America’s favorite marshmallows, Jet-Puffed. I know this for sure because my eleven-year-old daughter says so, and she’s the House Marshmallow Expert (HME).

    According to our HME, the internet recipe makes marshmallows that are too sweet, and they don't have the right flavor. After testing the sweetness for myself I decided she was right, so I reduced the sugar for my Jet-Puffed Marshmallow copycat recipe. I also adjusted the flavor by adding more vanilla, and after another taste test, my batch of fresh marshmallows got the HME seal of approval.

    But the shape was still wrong.

    One thing you’ll notice about homemade marshmallow recipes is that they all make cubic marshmallows, which are hand-sliced from one sheet of marshmallow that has set up in a square pan. But Jet-Puffed Marshmallows aren’t cubes, they’re cylindrical, and I wanted marshmallows like that. So, borrowing a technique for cornstarch molds used by candy manufacturers, I came up with a way you can make cylindrical marshmallows just like the big boys do. All you need is cornstarch and a muffin pan. You’ll find instructions for cylindrical marshmallows at the bottom of the recipe in the Tidbits if you want to give the more authentic shape a try.

    Regardless of what shape you decide to make, a stand mixer and a candy thermometer will help you turn out the best-ever homemade marshmallows—which, by the way, make fantastic s'mores.

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  • Not rated yet
    Olive Garden Chicken Margherita

    Menu Description: "Grilled chicken breasts topped with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil pesto, and a lemon garlic sauce.”

    My Olive Garden grilled chicken margherita copycat recipe starts with a quick 30-minute brine to bless the chicken with flavor and juiciness. While the chicken is marinating and then grilling, you’ll have plenty of time to make the basil pesto and lemon garlic sauce knockoffs.

    When the chicken comes off the grill, top it with cheese and pop under the broiler for a nice melt. Once plated, the chicken is doused with the delicious lemon garlic sauce, topped with pesto, and dressed up with colorful grape tomatoes.

    And if you’re into it, I’ve also worked up a clone for the side served with this entrée at Olive Garden—Parmesan zucchini. The hack is in the Tidbits below if you’d like to include this simple side with your copycat plate, like they do in the restaurant.

    This recipe makes four servings, which is four lunch-size servings at Olive Garden, or two dinner portions. Now, how hungry are you?

    Find more of my Olive Garden recipes here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Taco Bell Nacho Fries

    This limited-time-only new product from the country’s biggest Mexican fast food chain is easy to make with bagged fries found in the freezer section of your food store, and you can make as many or as few as you want at one time since there is enough seasoning and cheese sauce for one 2-pound bag. Get Ore-Ida Golden Fries if you can find them, and if you want the best copy of Taco Bell Nacho Fries, you really should fry them, although baking works too.

    The secret spicy ingredient in the Taco Bell nacho cheese sauce is brine from the bottled jalapeño nacho slices, plus a little cayenne for extra boom. 

    Try my Taco Bell Nacho Fries copycat recipe below, and find more Taco Bell copycat recipes here

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 2)
    Benihana Hibachi Chicken and Steak

    When 20-year old Rocky Aoki came to New York City from Japan with his wrestling team in 1959 he was convinced it was the land of opportunity. Just five years later he used $10,000 he had saved plus another $20,000 that he borrowed to open a Benihana steakhouse on the West Side of Manhattan. His concept of bringing the chefs out from the back of the kitchen to prepare the food in front of customers on a specially designed hibachi grill was groundbreaking. The restaurant was such a smashing success that it paid for itself within 6 months.

    The most popular items at the restaurant are the Hibachi Chicken and Hibachi Steak, which are prepared at your table on an open hibachi grill. But, since most home kitchens are not fitted with a hibachi grill, you'll have to improvise. It's best to use two pans for my Benihana hibachi chicken and steak copycat recipe below; one for the meat and mushrooms, and the other for the remaining vegetables. And since many of today's cooking surfaces are coated with scratchable, nonstick coatings, we won't be slicing the meat and vegetables while they are sizzling on the hot cooking surface as the Benihana chefs do.

    Grab my clone recipes for the Ginger and Mustard Dipping Sauces here!

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    Kozy Shack Tapioca Pudding

    The brand that makes the most popular rice pudding in the country also makes a great tapioca pudding, with large tapioca pearls in delicious vanilla cream. I wanted to duplicate the pudding as easily as possible, and since large tapioca pearls are much harder to find and take longer to cook than Minute Tapioca made by Kraft, I opted to design the recipe using this more available ingredient.

    Minute Tapioca's small pearls of tapioca have been par-cooked so that it takes less time to prepare the pudding. Soaking large tapioca pearls until tender is a process that can take as long as 12 hours, and then you still have to make the pudding. My quick Kozy Shack tapioca pudding recipe, however, will take you just an hour from beginning to end.

    Give the pudding a nice chill once it's done, and it will thicken up nicely. You can be spoon-deep in a bowl of homemade tapioca pudding the same day you make it.  

    Try my Kozy Shack Rice pudding recipe here.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 10)
    Mimi's Cafe Five-Way Grilled Cheese

    When I think back on all the grilled cheese sandwiches I was served as a kid, I don't get very nostalgic. Around my house, the recipe was plain and simple: slap some American cheese between a couple slices of white Wonder bread and grill it in a hot skillet until browned on both sides.

    Good enough grub for a kid I guess, but what if Moms back in the day had a grilled cheese recipe like the one served at Mimi's Café? Would my young palate have been able to appreciate the five different cheeses? Would the sourdough bread brushed with soft garlic butter and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese have won over a littler me? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I do know that as an adult, Mimi's five way grilled cheese is the best I've ever had. It's been on Mimi's menu since the first day the restaurant opened back in 1978 in Anaheim, California; and the chain serves around 18,000 of these sandwiches every year—surely to both adults and kids alike. Grab yourself some sliced Swiss, Cheddar, Jack, mozzarella, shredded Parmesan and sourdough bread. My Mimi's Café Five-Way Grilled Cheese recipe is easy, so you'll have no trouble quickly cranking out four awesome grilled cheese sandwiches that I'm sure absolutely everyone will love.

    Now, how about a bowl of Mimi's Cafe Corn Chowder or French Onion Soup to go with that sandwich?

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 5)
    Olive Garden Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo

    Menu Description: "Grilled beef medallions drizzled with balsamic glaze, served over fettuccine tossed with spinach and gorgonzola-alfredo sauce."

    This menu item builds on Olive Garden's great Alfredo sauce recipe with the addition of Gorgonzola cheese. The tangy cheese sauce works well with the sweet-and-sour balsamic reduction drizzled over the beef medallions. 

    You'll want to track down three 6-ounce sirloin steaks or whatever cut you prefer and slice each of them into four 1 1/2-ounce fillets. Get pounding with a kitchen mallet and make those steaks about 1/2-inch thick, and they will grill up to the same size as the medallions on the original dish. Between the pounding and the meat tenderizer in the beef seasoning, you will turn even the cheapest cut of beef into a tender morsel. Build your dish as described below, and you will have re-created the taste and presentation of the original rich, tasty, fulfilling dish.

    Try my Olive Garden Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo copycat recipe below, and find more of your favorite dishes from Olive Garden here.  

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.74 (votes: 39)
    Applebee's Tomato Basil Soup

    Menu Description: "A tasty twist on a family favorite. Red, ripe tomatoes slowly simmered in a rich cream sauce and seasoned with basil and select herbs."

    My easy copycat recipe requires two large cans of crushed tomatoes. Your homemade soup will still have the impressive taste and texture of gourmet tomato bisque, requiring fresh tomatoes and more work. 

    You may notice that the large amount of basil used here contributes an overwhelming flavor and aroma when first added, but as the soup simmers, the herb mellows to create the perfect clone of the original. And there's no need to make croutons from scratch for the garnish when you can buy lightly seasoned packaged croutons in just about any market.

    Try my Applebee's Tomato Basil Soup copycat recipe below, and find more of my Applebee's copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.
     

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

    The entire process for making this soup which Islands serves in "bottomless bowls" takes as long as 3 hours, but don't let that discourage you. Most of that time is spent waiting for the chicken to roast (up to 90 minutes -- although you can save time by using a precooked chicken, see Tidbits) and letting the soup simmer (1 hour). The actual work involved is minimal -- most of your time is spent chopping the vegetable ingredients. 

    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

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  • Score: 4.83 (votes: 12)
    Original Pancake House Apple Pancake

    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.

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  • Score: 4.79 (votes: 39)
    Olive Garden Hot Artichoke-Spinach Dip

    Menu Description: "A creamy hot dip of artichokes, spinach and Parmesan with pasta chips."

    Just about every aspect of the Olive Garden restaurants was developed from consumer research conducted in a corporate think tank by the General Mills Corporation. Restaurant-goers were questioned about preferences, such as the type of food to be served, the appearance and atmosphere of the restaurant, even the color of the candleholders on each table. The large tables and the comfy chairs on rollers that you see at the Olive Garden restaurants came out of those vigorous research sessions.

    I'm not sure if this dish came from those sessions, but according to servers at the Olive Garden, the Hot Artichoke-Spinach Dip is one of the most requested appetizers on the menu. The restaurant serves the dip with chips made from fried pasta, but you can serve your homemade Olive Garden hot artichoke dip with just about any type of crackers, chips, or toasted Italian bread, like bruschetta.

    Try my Olive Garden Hot Artichoke Dip copycat recipe below, and find more of your favorite Olive Garden recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.83 (votes: 6)
    Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies

    These soft, creme-filled sandwich cookies were the first snacks produced by McKee Foods back in 1960. It was his 4-year-old granddaughter Debbie after whom founder O.D. McKee named his line of snack cakes. O.D. was inspired by a picture of the little girl in play clothes and a straw hat, and that's the image we still find today on every package. The secret to cloning these mouth-watering snacks is re-creating the soft, chewy consistency of the oatmeal cookies. To duplicate the texture, the cookies are slightly underbaked. Then you whip up some of the easy-to-make creme filling with marshmallow creme, and spread it between two of the oatmeal cookies to complete your homemade Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies.

    Find my lighter version of Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies here

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Islands Yaki Soft Tacos

    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 Islands Yaki Soft tacos copycat 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 couldn't find one that has 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).

    Try more of my Islands copycat recipes here

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

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 7)
    Claim Jumper Meatloaf

    Menu Description: "Our own special recipe made with fresh ground chuck, pork, mild onions, green peppers and more. Served with mashed potatoes, brown gravy and garlic toast."

    Here's a great meatloaf recipe to add to your dinnertime repertoire. This luscious loaf combines ground chuck with ground pork along with bread crumbs, green onion, garlic, carrot and green pepper for one of the best classic American meatloaves. Use a perforated nesting meatloaf pan if you've got one so that the fat drains out into the pan below. If you don't have one of those, a regular loaf pan will still work fine. But use a large one, my Claim Jumper meatloaf copycat recipe makes a pretty big loaf.

    Complete the Claim Jumper experience with my recipes for their cheesy garlic bread and cheese potato cakes.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.40 (votes: 15)
    Chili's Honey Mustard Salad Dressing

    One of America's favorite casual chains brings us a popular salad dressing that you can't buy in stores. Instead, buy these six simple ingredients at a store and use my Chili's Honey Mustard Salad Dressing recipe below to make your own version cheaply and quickly.

    Find more of my Chili's copycat recipes here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 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 copycat recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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