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Wendy's Chili copycat recipe by Todd Wilbur

Wendy's Chili

Score: 4.89 (votes: 219)
Reviews: 219
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Dave Thomas, Wendy's late founder, started serving this chili in 1969, the year the first Wendy's opened its doors. Over the years, the recipe has changed a bit, but my Wendy's copycat chili recipe is a great version of the one served in the early 90s. Try topping it with some chopped onion and Cheddar cheese, just as you can request in the restaurant.

Now, on to the Wendy's Hot Chili Seasoning copycat recipe.

Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

Get This

_main
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • One 29-ounce can tomato sauce
  • One 29-ounce can kidney beans (with liquid)
  • One 29-ounce can pinto beans (with liquid)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup diced onion (1 medium onion)
  • 1/2 cup diced green chili (2 chilies)
  • 1/4 cup diced celery (1 stalk)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 cups water
Do This

1. Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat, drain off the fat.

2. Using a fork or potato masher, crumble the cooked beef into pea-size pieces.

3. In a large pot, combine the beef plus all the remaining ingredients, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, uncovered, stirring every 15 minutes, for 2 to 3 hours.

Makes about 12 servings.

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Reviews
Hannah Clevenger
May 4, 2022, 14:53
I love Wendy’s Chili and have looked for a good copycat recipe for a long time and this is BY FAR THE BEST ONE EVER!!!! I actually prefer this chili over Wendy’s! I’ve made it many times and because it makes so much I enjoy it all week and still don’t get tired of it. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!
Al Schmidt
May 2, 2022, 12:28
For a brief time in the mid 1990s a Wendy's near me in the South suburbs of Chicago, had All-You- Can-Eat Chili Night every Wednesday. I tried not to miss it and I became very familiar with their Chili. This recipe is as close to the Chili from that time, short of having the spirit of Dave Thomas stop in and make it for me. What really makes this a personal favorite and brings those memories back is the unique aroma. I have never smelled another chili dish like Wendy's and this is it to a "T". Needless to say the taste is also spot on. One word of advice: When you make this, and you will (repeatedly), do not not simmer longer than recommended. The beans will start to break down and thicken the chili too much. It will smell and taste right but the texture will not be the same. (But still, delicious)

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    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.

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    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.

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    Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup

    For two years after the first Olive Garden restaurant opened in 1982, operators were still tweaking the restaurant's physical appearance and the food that was served. Even the tomato sauce was changed as many as 25 times. It's that sort of dedication that creates fabulous dishes like this popular soup. It blends the flavors of potatoes, kale, and Italian sausage in a slightly spicy chicken and cream broth. 

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    In the early 90's Boston Chicken was rockin' it. The home meal replacement chain's stock was soaring and the lines were filled with hungry customers waiting to sink their teeth into a serving of the chain's delicious rotisserie chicken. The chain was so successful with chicken, the company quickly decided it was time to introduce other entrée selections, the first of which was a delicious barbecue sauce-covered ground sirloin meatloaf. 

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    Hooters Buffalo Chicken Wings

    Menu Description: "Nearly world-famous. Often imitated, hardly ever duplicated."

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    Panera Bread Broccoli Cheddar Soup

    The easy-melting, individually-wrapped Kraft Cheddar Singles are a perfect secret ingredient to copy this cheesy broccoli cheddar soup served at this top soup stop. In my Panera Bread Broccoli Cheddar Soup recipe, fresh broccoli is first steamed, then diced into little bits before you combine it with chicken broth, half-and-half, shredded carrot, and onion. Now you're just 30 minutes away from soup spoon go-time.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3

    Exclusive signed copy. America's best copycat recipes! Save money and amaze your friends with all-new culinary carbon copies from the Clone Recipe King!

    For more than 30 years, Todd Wilbur has been obsessed with reverse-engineering famous foods. Using every day ingredients to replicate signature restaurant dishes at home, Todd shares his delectable discoveries with readers everywhere.

    Now, his super-sleuthing taste buds are back to work in the third installment of his mega-bestselling Top Secret Restaurant Recipes series, with 150 sensational new recipes that unlock the delicious formulas for re-creating your favorite dishes from America's most popular restaurant chains. Todd's top secret blueprints and simple step-by-step instructions guarantee great success for even novice cooks. And when preparing these amazing taste-alike dishes at home, you'll be paying up to 75 percent less than eating out!

    Find out how to make your own home versions of: Pizza Hut Pan Pizza, T.G.I. Friday's Crispy Green Bean Fries, Buca di Beppo Chicken Limone, Serendipity 3 Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, P.F. Chang's Kung Pao Chicken, Max & Erma's Tortilla Soup, Cracker Barrel Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake, Olive Garden Breadsticks, Cheesecake Factory Fresh Banana Cream Cheesecake, Carrabba's Chicken Bryan, Famous Dave's Corn Muffins, Outback Steakhouse Chocolate Thunder from Down Under, T.G.I. Friday's Jack Daniel's Glazed Ribs, and much, much more...

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    Contents
    Applebee's Apple Walnut Chicken Salad
    Applebee's Chocolate Mousse Dessert Shooter
    Applebee's Grilled Shrimp 'N Spinach Salad
    Applebee's Key Lime Pie Dessert Shooter
    Applebee's Red Apple Sangria
    Applebee's Strawberry Cheesecake Dessert Shooter
    Applebee's Tomato Basil Soup
    Applebee's White  Peach Sangria
    Bahama Breeze Island Onion Rings
    Bahama Breese West Indian Patties
    BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse Chili
    BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse Famous Pizookie
    BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast
    BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
    Bonefish Grill Bang Bang Shrimp
    Bonefish Grill Citrus Herb Vinaigrette
    Bonefish Grill Saucy Shrimp
    Buca di Beppo Garlic Bread and Garlic Bread with Mozzarella
    Buca di Beppo Chicken Limone
    Buffalo Wild Wings Asian Zing Sauce
    Buffalo Wild Wings Parmesan Garlic Sauce
    California Pizza Kitchen The Original BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad
    California Pizza Kitchen Original Chopped Salad
    Carrabba's Spicy Sausage Lentil Soup
    Carrabba's Chicken Bryan
    Cheeseburger in Paradise BBQ Jerk Ribs
    Cheeseburger in Paradise Sweet Potato Chips
    Cheeseburger in Paradise El Cubano Sandwich
    Cheesecake Factory Famous Factory Meatloaf
    Cheesecake Factory Miso Salmon
    Cheesecake Factory Pineapple Pisco Sour
    Cheesecake Factory Thai Lettuce Wraps
    Cheesecake Factory Banana Cream Cheesecake
    Cheesecake Factory Stefanie's Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake
    Chili's Honey-Chipotle Chicken Crispers
    Chili's Cajun Ribeye
    Chili's Firecracker Tilapia
    Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad
    Chili's Nacho Burger
    Chili's White Chocolate Molten Cake
    Cracker Barrel Cole Slaw
    Cracker Barrel Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake
    Cracker Barrel Macaroni n' Cheese
    Denny's Cherry Cherry Limeade
    Denny's Pancake Puppies
    Denny's Broccoli Cheese Soup
    Famous Dave's Corn Muffins
    Famous Dave's Smoked Salmon Spread
    Famous Dave's Wilbur Beans
    Fleming's Prime Steakhouse Wicked Cajun Barbecue Shrimp
    Fleming's Prime Steakhouse Chipotle Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese
    Fleming's Prime Steakhouse Fleming's Potatoes
    Fuddruckers Hamburger Seasoning
    Gordon Biersch Cran Blueberi Lemonade Cocktail
    Gordon Biersch Garlic Fries
    Gordon Biersch Raspberry Iced Tea Cocktail
    Gordon Biersch Warm Apple Bread Pudding
    Hard Rock Cafe Tupelo Style Chicken
    Hard Rock Cafe Twisted Mac & Cheese
    Hooter's Fried Pickles
    Houston's House Vinaigrette
    Houston's Couscous
    IHOP Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes
    IHOP Corn Cake Pancakes
    IHOP Funnel Cakes
    IHOP Shortcake Pancakes
    Joe's Crab Shack Crab Nachos
    Joe's Crab Shack Great Balls of Fire
    Joes Crab Shack Spicy Boil
    Joe's Crab Shack BBQ Crab
    Joe's Stone  Crab Garlic Creamed Spinach
    Joe's Stone  Crab Grilled Tomatoes
    Joe's Stone  Crab Jennie's Potatoes
    Joe's Stone  Crab Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes
    Margaritaville Havanas and Bananas Cocktail
    Margaritaville Incommunicado Cocktail
    Margaritaville Volcano Nachos
    Margaritaville Jerk Salmon
    Mastro's Steakhouse Gorgonzola Macaroni & Cheese
    Mastro's Steakhouse Steak Seasoning
    Mastro's Steakhouse Warm Butter Cake
    Max & Erma's Tortilla Soup
    Mimi's Cafe Buttermilk Spice Muffins
    Mimi's Cafe Carrot Raisin Nut Muffins
    Mimi's Cafe Five-Way Grilled Cheese
    Olive Garden Breadsticks
    Olive Garden Dipping Sauces for Breadsticks
    Olive Garden Chicken and Gnocchi Soup
    Olive Garden Black Tie Mouse Cake
    Olive Garden Mango Martini
    Olive Garden Pomegranate Margarita Martini
    Olive Garden Smoked Mozzarella Fonduta
    Olive Garden Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo
    On the Border Guacamole Live!
    On the Border Mexican Mojito
    On the Border Smoke Jalapeno Vinaigrette
    Outback Steakhouse Bleu Cheese Chopped Salad
    Outback Steakhouse Mashed Sweet Potatoes
    Outback Steakhouse Outback Rack
    Outback Steakhouse Three Cheese Au Gratin Potatoes
    Outback Steakhouse Victoria "Crowned" Filet w/Horseradish Crumb Crust
    Outback Steakhouse Chocolate Thunder from Down Under
    P.F. Chang's Asian Pear Mojito
    P.F. Chang's Chang's Key Lime Martini
    P.F. Chang's Spicy Green Beans
    P.F. Chang's Kung Pao  Chicken
    P.F. Chang's Chicken in Soothing Lettuce Wraps--Improved
    P.F. Chang's Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps
    Pizza Hut WingStreet Traditional Chicken Wings--Hot, Med, Mild
    Pizza Hut Tuscani Creamy Chicken Alfredo Pasta
    Pizza Hut Pan Pizza
    Red Lobster Peach-Bourbon BBQ Scallops
    Red Lobster Maple-Glazed Salmon & Shrimp
    Red Robin Campfire Sauce
    Red Robin Creamy Artichoke & Spinach Dip
    Red Robin Red's Homemade Chili Chili
    Red Robin The Royal Red Robin Hamburger
    Romano's Lemon Passion
    Roy's Hawaiian Martini
    Roy's Classic Roasted Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi
    Roy's Melting Hot Chocolate Soufflé
    Ruby Tuesday Apple Salad
    Ruby Tuesday Queso Dip & Beef Queso Dip
    Ruby Tuesday Thai Phoon Shrimp
    Serendipity 3 Frrrozen Hot Chocolate
    Simon Kitchen & Bar Wok-Seared Edamame
    Spago Butternut Squash Soup
    Spago Pumpkin Cheesecake
    T.G.I. Friday's Candy Apple Martini
    T.G.I. Friday's Crispy Green Bean Fries
    T.G.I. Friday's Parmesan-Crusted Sicilian Quesadilla
    T.G.I. Friday's Jack Daniel's Glaze
    T.G.I. Friday's Sesame Jack Strips
    T.G.I. Friday's Bruschetta Chicken Pasta
    T.G.I. Friday's Dragonfire Chicken
    T.G.I. Friday's Fried Mac & Cheese
    T.G.I. Friday's Pomegranate Martini w/Candy Apple
    T.G.I. Friday's Tuscan Portobello Melt
    T.G.I. Friday's Tuscan Spinach Dip
    Trader Vic's World-Famous Mai Tai
    Traders Vic's Tom Ka Gai Soup

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  • Score: 3.89 (votes: 18)
    Popeyes Red Beans and Rice

    I first created the clone for this Cajun-style recipe back in 1994 for the second TSR book, More Top Secret Recipes, but I've never been overjoyed with the results. After convincing a Popeyes manager to show me the ingredients written on the box of red bean mixture, I determined the only way to accurately clone this one is to include an important ingredient omitted from the first version: pork fat. Emeril Lagasse—a Cajun food master—says, "pork fat rules," and it does. We could get the delicious smoky fat from rendering smoked ham hocks, but that takes too long. The easiest way is to cook 4 or 5 pieces of bacon, save the cooked bacon for another recipe (or eat it!), then use 1/4 cup of the fat for this hack. As for the beans, find red beans (they're smaller than kidney beans) in two 15-ounce cans. If you're having trouble tracking down red beans, red kidney beans will be a fine substitute.

    Can't get enough Popeyes? Find all of my recipes here

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.83 (votes: 6)
    Long John Silver's Batter-Dipped Fish

    Jerrico, Inc., the parent company for Long John Silver's Seafood Shoppes, got its start in 1929 as a six-stool hamburger stand called the White Tavern Shoppe. Jerrico was started by a man named Jerome Lederer, who watched Long John Silver's thirteen units dwindle in the shadow of World War II to just three units. Then, with determination, he began rebuilding. In 1946 Jerome launched a new restaurant called Jerry's and it was a booming success, with growth across the country. Then he took a chance on what would be his most successful venture in 1969, with the opening of the first Long John Silver's Fish 'n' Chips. The name was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. In 1991 there were 1,450 Long John Silver Seafood Shoppes in thirty-seven states, Canada, and Singapore, with annual sales of more than $781 million. That means the company holds about 65 percent of the $1.2 billion quick-service seafood business.

    These days, it seems there are less and less Long John Silver restaurants. Good thing you can follow my Long John Silver's Batter-Dipped Fish recipe below and enjoy that same great flavor at home. 

    Make my McDonald's French Fries recipe for the classic fish 'n chips experience.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 6)
    Texas Roadhouse Rolls

    I never thought dinner rolls were something I could get excited about until I got my hand into the breadbasket at Texas Roadhouse. The rolls are fresh out of the oven and they hit the table when you do, so there’s no waiting to tear into a magnificently gooey sweet roll topped with soft cinnamon butter. The first bite you take will make you think of a fresh cinnamon roll, and then you can’t stop eating it. And when the first roll’s gone, you are powerless to resist grabbing for just one more. But it’s never just one more. It’s two or three more, plus a few extra to take home for tomorrow.

    Discovering the secret to making rolls at home that taste as good as Texas Roadhouse Rolls involved making numerous batches of dough, each one sweeter than the last (sweetened with sugar, not honey—I checked), until a very sticky batch, proofed for 2 hours, produced exactly what I was looking for. You can make the dough with a stand mixer or a handheld one, the only difference being that you must knead the dough by hand without a stand mixer. When working with the dough add a little bit of flour at a time to keep it from sticking, and just know that the dough will be less sticky and more workable after the first rise.

    Roll the dough out and measure it as specified here, and after a final proofing and a quick bake—plus a generous brushing of butter on the tops—you will produce dinner rolls that look and taste just like the best rolls I’ve had at any famous American dinner chain.

    This recipe was our #1 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).

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  • Score: 4.91 (votes: 11)
    HoneyBaked Ham Glaze

    By sneaking around to the back of a HoneyBaked Ham store I witnessed the glazing process through an open door. The hams are delivered to each of the 300 HoneyBaked outlets already smoked, but without the glaze. It is only when the ham gets to your local HoneyBaked store that a special machine thin-slices the tender meat in a spiral fashion around the bone. Then, one at a time, each ham is then coated with the glaze—a blend that is similar to what might be used to make pumpkin pie. This sweet coating is then caramelized with a blowtorch by hand until the glaze bubbles and melts, turning golden brown. If needed, more of the coating is added to the HoneyBaked Glazed Ham, and the blowtorch is fired up until the glaze is just right. It's this careful process that turns the same size ham that costs 20 dollars in a supermarket into one that customers gladly shell out 3 to 4 times as much to share during the holiday season.

    For this HoneyBaked Ham glaze copycat recipe, we will re-create the glaze that you can apply to a smoked/cooked bone-in ham of your choice. Look for a ham that is pre-sliced. Otherwise you'll have to slice it yourself with a sharp knife, then the glaze will be applied. To get the coating just right you must use a blowtorch. Get the kind that is used for creme brulee from almost any kitchen supply store. They're usually pretty cheap. And don't worry—I didn't leave out an ingredient. No honey is necessary to re-create this flavorful glaze.

    Now, what's for dessert?

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 14)
    Carrabba's Chicken Marsala

    Menu Description: "Fire-roasted chicken breast topped with mushrooms, prosciutto and our Florio Marsala wine sauce."

    To create my Carrabba's Chicken Marsala recipe, I ordered the dish to go, with the sauce on the side, so that I could separately analyze each component. After some trial and error in the underground lab, I found that re-creating the secret sauce from scratch is easy enough with a couple small cans of sliced mushrooms, a bit of prosciutto, some Marsala wine, shallots, garlic and a few other good things. 

    Cooking the chicken requires a very hot grill. The restaurant chain grills chicken breasts over a blazing real wood fire, so crank your grill up high enough to get the flames nipping at your cluckers (not a euphemism). If your grill has a lid, keep it open, so you can watch for nasty flare-ups.

    Click here for more of your favorite dishes from Carrabba's.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.88 (votes: 17)
    Chili's Salsa

    This super simple Chili's salsa recipe can be made in a pinch with a can of diced tomatoes, some canned jalapeños, fresh lime juice, onion, spices, and a food processor or blender.  Plus you can easily double the recipe by sending in a larger 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes, and simply doubling up on all the other ingredients. Use this versatile salsa as a dip for tortilla chips or plop it down onto any dish that needs flavor assistance—from eggs to taco salads to wraps to fish. You can adjust the Chili's salsa recipe heat level to suit your taste by tweaking the amount of canned jalapeños in the mix. 

    Now, what's for dinner? Check out some copycat entrees from your favorite restaurants here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.25 (votes: 8)
    Wendy's Hot Chili Seasoning

    The little red packets of viscous hot sauce at the fast food giant have a cult following of rabid fans who will do whatever it takes to get their hands on large quantities. One such fan of the sauce commented online, "Are there any Wendy's employees or managers out there who will mail me an entire case of Hot Chili Seasoning? I swear this is not a joke. I love the stuff. I tip extra cash to Wendy's workers to get big handfuls of the stuff." Well, there's really no need to tip any Wendy's employees, because now you can clone as much of Wendy's Hot Chili Seasoning as you want in your own kitchen with this Top Secret Recipe.

    The ingredients listed on the real Hot Chili Seasoning are water, corn syrup, salt, distilled vinegar, natural flavors, xanthan gum, and extractives of paprika. We'll use many of those same ingredients for our clone, but we'll substitute gelatin for the xanthan gum (a thickener) to get the slightly gooey consistency right. For the natural flavor and color we'll use cayenne pepper, cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, then filter the particles out with a fine wire-mesh strainer after they've contributed what the sauce needs.

    My Wendy's Hot Chili Seasoning recipe makes 5 ounces of sauce— just the right amount to fit nicely into a used hot sauce bottle—and costs just pennies to make. 

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  • Score: 4.78 (votes: 18)
    Chipotle Mexican Grill Barbacoa Burrito

    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 re-create 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 Chipotle Mexican Grill barbacoa burrito copycat recipe 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. 

    If you prefer chicken burritos, head on over to my clone recipe for Qdoba Grilled Adobo Chicken

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.50 (votes: 8)
    Olive Garden Minestrone Soup

    Menu Description: "Fresh vegetables, beans and pasta in a light tomato broth—a vegetarian classic."

    This copycat Olive Garden minestrone soup recipe is jam-packed with beans, zucchini, onion, tomatoes, carrots, pasta, and spices; but O.G.'s secret formula doesn't include chicken broth. Canned vegetable broth found in the soup aisle of most markets works as a base here in this secret formula that bursts with flavor as a purely vegetarian dish.

    Check out my other Olive Garden copycat recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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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: 4.87 (votes: 15)
    Olive Garden Chicken Scampi

    Menu Description: "Chicken breast tenderloins sauteed with bell peppers, roasted garlic and onions in a garlic cream sauce over angel hair."

    This chicken scampi dish is a big favorite of Olive Garden regulars. Chicken tenderloins are lightly breaded and sautéed along with colorful bell peppers and chopped red onion. Angel hair pasta is tossed into the pan along with a healthy dose of fresh scampi sauce. 

    The sauce is really the star, so you might think about doubling the recipe. If you're cooking for two, you can prepare my Olive Garden Chicken Scampi recipe for the table in one large skillet, saving the remaining ingredients for another meal. If you're making all four servings at once, you need two skillets. If you can't find fresh chicken tenderloins (the tender part of the chicken breast), you can usually find bags of them in the freezer section. 

    Find more delicious recipes for Olive Garden's most famous dishes here

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 14)
    KFC Grilled Chicken

    It took chefs several years to develop what would eventually become KFC's most clucked about new product launch in the chain's 57-year history. With between 70 to 180 calories and four to nine grams of fat, depending on the piece, the new un-fried chicken is being called "KFC's second secret recipe," and "a defining moment in our brand's storied history" in a company press release. The secret recipe for the new grilled chicken is now stored on an encrypted computer flash drive next to the Colonel's handwritten original fried chicken recipe in an electronic safe at KFC company headquarters. Oprah Winfrey featured the chicken on her talk show and gave away so many coupons for free grilled chicken meals that some customers waited in lines for over an hour and half, and several stores ran out and had to offer rain checks. Company spokesperson Laurie Schalow told the Associated Press that KFC has never seen such a huge response to any promotion. "It's unprecedented in our more than 50 years," she said. "It beats anything we've ever done."

    When I heard about all the commotion over this new secret recipe I immediately locked myself up in the underground lab with a 12-piece bucket of the new grilled chicken, plus a sample I obtained of the proprietary seasoning blend, and got right to work. After days of nibbling through what amounts to a small flock of hens, I'm happy to bring you this amazing cloned version of this fast food phenomenon so that you can now reproduce it in your own kitchen. Find the smallest chicken you can for this KFC grilled chicken copycat recipe, since KFC uses young hens. Or better yet save some dough by finding a small whole chicken and cut it up yourself. The secret preparation process requires that you marinate (brine) your chicken for a couple hours in a salt and MSG solution. This will make the chicken moist all of the way through and give it great flavor. After the chicken has brined, it's brushed with liquid smoke-flavored oil that will not only make the seasoning stick to the chicken, but will also ensure that the chicken doesn't stick to the pan. The liquid smoke in the oil gives the chicken a smoky flavor as if it had been cooked on an open flame barbecue grill.

    The grilled chicken at KFC is probably cooked on ribbed metal plates in specially designed convection ovens to get those grill marks. I duplicated that process using an oven-safe grill pan, searing the chicken first on the stovetop to add the grill marks, then cooking the chicken through in the oven. If you don't have a grill pan or a grill plate, you can just sear the chicken in any large oven safe saute pan. If you have a convection function on your oven you should definitely use it, but the recipe will still work in a standard oven with the temperature set just a little bit higher. After baking the chicken for 20 minutes on each side, you're ready to dive into your own 8-piece bucket of delicious indoor grilled chicken that's as tasty as the fried stuff, but without all the fat.

    Check out the video demonstration of this recipe.

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

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  • Score: 4.90 (votes: 39)
    Olive Garden Lemon Cream Cake

    Menu Description: "Delicate white cake and lemon cream filling with a vanilla crumb topping."

    To make this clone easy, I've designed the recipe with white cake mix. I picked Betty Crocker brand, but any white cake mix you find will do. Just know that each brand (Duncan Hines, Pillsbury, etc.) requires slightly different measurements of additional ingredients (oil, eggs). Follow the directions on the box for mixing the batter, then pour it into 2 greased 9-inch cake pans and bake until done. The filling recipe is a no-brainer and the crumb topping is quick. When your Olive Garden lemon cream cake recipe is assembled, stick it in the fridge for a few hours, and soon you'll be ready to serve 12 slices of the hacked signature dessert.

    Now, what's for dinner?

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 11)
    Wendy's Spicy Chicken Fillet Sandwich

    When sales of this once limited-offering sandwich exceeded expectations, Wendy's made it a permanent menu item. Now you can re-create the spicy kick of the original with a secret blend of spices in the chicken's crispy coating. Follow the same stacking order as the original, and you will make four sandwich clones here at a fraction of the cost of the real thing.

    Check out more Wendy's copycat recipes like their famous chili here.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 14)
    Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage

    Before he became America's sausage king, Jimmy Dean was known for crooning the country hit "Big Bad John." That song came out in 1962 and sold more than 8 million copies. His singing success launched a television career on ABC with The Jimmy Dean Show, where Roy Clark, Patsy Cline, and Roger Miller got their big breaks. The TV exposure led to acting roles for Jimmy, as a regular on Daniel Boone, and in feature films, including his debut in the James Bond flick Diamonds are Forever. Realizing that steady income from an acting and singing career can be undependable, Jimmy invested his show-biz money in a hog farm. In 1968 the Jimmy Dean Meat Company developed the special recipe for sausage that has now become a household name. Today the company is part of the Sara Lee Corporation, and Jimmy retired as company spokesman in 2004.

    My Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage recipe re-creates three varieties of the famous roll sausage that you form into patties and cook in a skillet. Use ground pork found at the supermarket—make it lean pork if you like—or grind some up yourself if you have a meat grinder.

    Check out more of my famous breakfast food clone recipes here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 4)
    Olive Garden Lasagna Classico

    Crafting an Olive Garden’s signature Lasagna Classico recipe became the perfect opportunity to create a beautiful multi-layered lasagna hack recipe that uses up the whole box of lasagna noodles and fills the baking pan all the way to the top. This Top Secret Recipe makes a lasagna that tips the scale at nearly 10 pounds and will feed hungry mouths for days, with every delicious layer copied directly from the carefully dissected Olive Garden original.

    I found a few credible bits of intel in a video of an Olive Garden chef demonstrating what he claims is the real formula on a midday news show, but the recipe was abbreviated for TV and the chef left out some crucial information. One ingredient he conspicuously left out of the recipe is the secret layer of Cheddar cheese located near the middle of the stack. I wasn’t expecting to find Cheddar in lasagna, but when I carefully separated the layers from several servings of the original dish, there was the golden melted cheesy goodness in every slice.

    This clone recipe will make enough for 8 big portions, but if you make slightly smaller slices this is easily enough food to fill twelve lasagna-loving bellies. If you like lasagna, you're going to love this version.

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

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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: 4.60 (votes: 10)
    Skyline Chili

    There's no chocolate in it. Or coffee. Or Coca-Cola. The ingredient rumors for the Skyline Chili secret recipe are plentiful on the Internet, but anyone can purchase cans of Skyline chili from the company and find the ingredients listed right on the label: beef, water, tomato paste, dried torula yeast, salt, spices, cornstarch, and natural flavors. You can trust that if chocolate were included in the secret recipe, the label would reflect it—important information for people with a chocolate allergy. 

    Use my Skyline Chili recipe to re-create that unique flavor with a special blend of easy-to-find spices plus beef broth and a few other not-so-unusual ingredients. Let the chili simmer for an hour or so, then serve it up on its own or in one of the traditional Cincinnati-style serving suggestions (the "ways" they call 'em) with the chili poured over spaghetti noodles, topped with grated Cheddar cheese and other good stuff:

         3-Way: Pour chili over cooked spaghetti noodles and top with grated Cheddar cheese.
         4-Way: Add a couple teaspoons of grated onion before adding the cheese.
         5-Way: Add cooked red beans over the onions before adding the cheese.

    Check out more of my recipes for other popular soups and chilis here.

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 3.60 (votes: 5)
    Popeyes Buttermilk Biscuits

    In 2007 America's number one Cajun-style restaurant celebrated its 35th birthday with 1,583 stores worldwide. But Popeyes didn't start out with the name that most people associate with a certain spinach-eating cartoon character. When Al Copeland opened his first Southern-fried chicken stand in New Orleans in 1972, it was called Chicken On The Run. The name was later changed to Popeyes after Gene Hackman's character in the movie The French Connection. In addition to great spicy fried chicken, Popeyes serves up wonderful Southern-style buttermilk biscuits that we can now easily duplicate to serve with a variety of home cooked meals. The secret is to cut cold butter into the mix with a pastry knife so that the biscuits turn out flaky and tender just like the originals.

    Source: "Top Secret Recipes Unlocked" by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.82 (votes: 17)
    Top Secret Steak Rub

    Just like the pro chefs use. A secret blend of herbs and spices that will make your homemade steaks taste like they came from a famous steakhouse chain. All-natural. Contains no MSG or preservatives. Great for anyone who likes a truly amazing steak.

    Top Secret Steak Rub is created by Food Hacker Todd Wilbur who has spent the last 30 years reverse-engineering popular menu items at the most-loved restaurant chains across America. By identifying the herbs, spices and other ingredients that make great restaurant food taste so good, Todd created this custom Top Secret Steak Rub to help you make restaurant-style steaks at home. All it takes is just a few shakes. Then cook the steaks your favorite way. Our Top Secret Steak Rub is also great on hamburger patties, vegetables, French fries, and popcorn!

    Buy up to 5 bottles to ship for one low price!

    7-ounce bottle. Money back guarantee. Kosher certified. Gluten-free.

    You may also like our Top Secret Chicken Rub, and Top Secret Fish Rub.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 17)
    Cheesecake Factory White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake

    Menu Description: "Our creamy cheesecake with chunks of white chocolate and swirls of imported seedless raspberries throughout. Baked in a chocolate crust and finished with white chocolate shavings and whipped cream."

    Heres how to recreate a home version of the cheesecake that many claim is the best they've ever had. Raspberry preserves are the secret ingredient that is swirled into the cream cheese that's poured into a crumbled chocolate cookie crust. Yum. No wonder this cheesecake is the number one pick from the chain's massive list of cheesecake choices.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.
     

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  • Score: 4.44 (votes: 9)
    Panda Express Orange Flavored Chicken

    This delicious crispy chicken in a citrusy sweet-and-sour chicken is the most popular dish at the huge Chinese take-out chain. Panda Express cooks all of its food in woks. If you don't have one of those, you can use a heavy skillet or a large saute pan.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.70 (votes: 20)
    McDonald's French Fries

    They're the world's most famous French fries, responsible for one-third of all U.S. French fry sales, and many say they're the best. These fried spud strips are so popular that Burger King even changed its own recipe to better compete with the secret formula from Mickey D's. One-quarter of all meals served today in American restaurants come with fries; a fact that thrills restaurateurs since fries are the most profitable menu item in the food industry. 

    Proper preparation steps were developed by McDonald's to minimize in-store preparation time, while producing a fry that is soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. My McDonald's French Fries recipe requires a two-step frying process to replicate the same qualities: the fries are par-fried, frozen, then fried once more to crispy just before serving. Be sure to use a slicer to cut the fries for a consistent thickness (1/4-inch is perfect) and for a cooking result that will make them just like the real thing. As for the rumor that you must soak the fries in sugar water to help them turn golden brown, I also found that not to be necessary. If the potatoes have properly developed, they contain enough sugar on their own to make a good clone with great color.

    Now, how about a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder to go with those fries? Click here for a list of all my McDonald's copycat recipes.

    Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 5.00 (votes: 1)
    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 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: 2)
    Red Lobster New England Clam Chowder

    Rather than going through the tedious (and more expensive) task of steaming fresh clams and dicing up all the good parts, we can use the more affordable and convenient canned clams found in any supermarket. Just remember to not toss out the clam juice in the cans when you open them, since you'll need that flavorful liquid in the first step.

    Click here to see if I've cloned more of your favorites from Red Lobster.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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  • Score: 4.18 (votes: 28)
    Benihana Japanese Fried Rice

    The talented chefs at Benihana cook food on hibachi grills with flair and charisma, treating the preparation like a tiny stage show. They juggle salt and pepper shakers, trim food with lightning speed, and flip the shrimp and mushrooms perfectly onto serving plates or into their tall chef's hat.

    One of the side dishes that everyone seems to love is the fried rice. At Benihana this dish is prepared by chefs with precooked rice on open hibachi grills, and is ordered a la cart to complement any Benihana entrée, including Hibachi Steak and Chicken. I like when the rice is thrown onto the hot hibachi grill and seems to come alive as it sizzles and dances around like a bunch of little jumping beans. Okay, so I'm easily amused.

    My Benihana Japanese fried rice recipe will go well with just about any Japanese entrée, and can be partially prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until the rest of the meal is close to done.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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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. 

    Now, how about some Honey Walnut Shrimp, or Beijing Beef to go with that rice? Find all my Panda Express copycat recipes 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 clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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