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16 Best Top Secret (Copycat) Recipes to Satisfy Your Cravings for Less

Going out to your fave restaurants each week not in your monthly budget? I totally get you. These best top-secret copycat recipes will save your wallet!

Going out to your fave restaurants each week not in your current monthly budget?

OR, trying to not eat out so much?

bowl of Chipotle carnita top secret copycat recipe, text overlay "16 best top secret copycat recipes"

I totally get you.

Not only is it not particularly in our budget either, but also:

:: we like to cook from scratch
:: we have a 14-month-old, which means it's just easier to eat at home

Good news for people like you and me: we live in the information age. There's tons of access to some of your favorite, top-secret copycat recipes for FREE!

Best Top Secret Copycat Recipes

Not only are there cool Copycat Recipe books out there you can purchase or check out from your local library − my favorites are Todd Wilbur's series of Top Secret Recipes 1, 2, and 3 − but you can find many of these recipes on the internet as well.

There are literally entire websites dedicated to Copycat Recipes, where ambitious home chefs take a stab at recreating their favorite restaurant and fast food recipes.

Let me run down a few of my favorites to see if you can find any that catch your eye.

Starbucks Copycat Recipes

Lots of people have cloned the Starbucks menu, both drinks as well as pastries.

Here's a cinnamon-sprinkling of options:

You can find links to over 50 Copycat Starbucks Recipes here.

Chipotle Copycat Recipes

Clone Chipotle's salsas (including the corn salsa!), sauces, cilantro rice, and guacamole at home and use them as complementary to the following recipes:

Amanda's Note: Oh my goodness…researching for this article is making me mega-hungry.

Cheesecake Factory Copycat Recipes

Growing up, we got to get off the farm and go to the city (Washington D.C.) to visit our aunt about once every other year or so. And right down the street from her house − accessible by rollerblading through alleyways − was The Cheesecake Factory.

So you can imagine how this place soared to rock star status in our minds. Oddly enough, I still only go to one about once a year (even though it's just 20 minutes away from us).

Top Secret Recipes KFC

  • KFC Cole Slaw Recipe: My grandmother makes the best Cole slaw I've ever tasted – I couldn't get enough of it while I was pregnant! But runner-up? Is KFC's Cole slaw. That's why I was stoked to find out there's a copycat recipe for it!

Famous Secret Recipes Revealed

Recipes from chefs and food chains are CLOSELY guarded. Not only do restaurant chains come up with coded names for these recipes – such as 99X, which is the secret name of KFC's original chicken spice blend – but they often keep the original recipe in vaults and other security-enhanced locations (like Coca-Cola's recipe vault). Also, their ingredients suppliers? Well, they never know the entire makeup of ingredients. This ensures no ONE person can put the whole thing together and steal a recipe. Plus, the recipes are often legally protected, as well.

But, that doesn't mean that famous secret recipes haven't been revealed, stumbled upon, or otherwise discovered over the years.

I'll share what I found with you, below:

  • KFC Original Chicken Recipe: If you did this, you would smack yourself in the forehead – reveal the original, secret recipe for your family's famous fried chicken chain. But for the rest of us? It's good news. Learn the 11 herbs and spices used in the original chicken recipe that was accidentally leaked by one of the family members. Measurements included.
  • Coca-Cola's Original Recipe: NPR's This American Life believes that they uncovered Coca-Cola's original recipe, found in a Feb 28, 1979 Article Atlanta Journal and Constitution Newspaper.
  • Raising Cane's Famous Sauce Recipe: After being fired, this employee released the ingredients and measurements for Raising Cane's famous sauce on Twitter. The company denies the claim. You be the judge!
  • Neiman Marcus' $250 Cookie Recipe: This one has a really interesting story behind it (that is more of a myth), plus a delicious recipe the store released in response.
  • Macayo Restaurant Releases 72 Recipes: To celebrate their family-run business serving customers for 72 years, they created a box of 72 of their recipes to sell. You can get your hands on several of them, for free!

Making a Special Night Out of It

Instead of going out for the night, create your own menu from copycat recipes. Since you are making them yourself, you can mix and match them to your heart's desire. For example, you might choose to make Cheesecake Factory's Avocado Rolls with some Chipotle Carnitas bowls + Cheesecake Factory's Pumpkin Cheesecake for dessert.


And if you're cooking for someone else(s), have them salivating while you cook by writing out a menu on a chalkboard (a roll of chalkboard paper for your table is super fun as well because everyone can draw during dinnertime).

You can pair the dinner with any of these 37 At-home Date Night ideas as well!

A final idea? Why don't you have a cook-off with your teenager or partner and see who can get one recipe to taste the most identical to a restaurant's? You both win anyway since you get to gobble it down afterward.

What are your favorite restaurant recipes? Link up a Copycat recipe for them below.

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Amanda L Grossman

Personal Finance Writer and CEO at Frugal Confessions, LLC
Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here or on LinkedIn.