Check Out KFC China’s New Breakfast Wraps
KFC China has two new breakfast menu items inspired by popular Chinese street food
The new breakfast items at KFC China are inspired by popular street food items.
As the fast food breakfast battle rages on, Brand Eating has discovered that even KFC is trying to get in on the morning menu. Inspired by the popular snack and street food of scallion pancakes, KFC China has introduced a new line of Egg Pancake Wraps, using a simple omelette formula of eggs, scallions, and flour as the exterior wrap.
The new breakfast wraps come in two options: Fried Breadstick and Smoked Chicken. The Fried Breadstick wrap includes a flaky, fried breadstick that looks to be inspired by Chinese crullers, another popular breakfast item, and comes with dried pork and hoisin sauce.
The Smoked Chicken wrap features sliced chicken, Chinese sausage, lettuce, and mayonnaise. KFC China also offers egg custard tarts, a popular pastry found in Chinese bakeries that is historically connected to the Portuguese pastel de nata.
The Fried Breadstick Egg Pancake Wrap is offered at 9.5 yuan (approximately $1.55 USD) and the Smoked Chicken Egg Pancake Wrap is 11 yuan (approximately $1.79 USD).
Meanwhile, KFC Canada has something called the KFC Big Boss, which might well be KFC’s answer to McDonald’s Big Mac. Except, instead of two burger patties, the Big Boss contains two all-white meat chicken filets. Sigh.
Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.
Yum! China: From Rebranding to Reinventing
Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), the U.S. fast food restaurant chains under Yum! Brands, have enjoyed phenomenal success in China. In the past five years, Yum! China has on average opened more than one new restaurant a day. Now, it has over 3,700 KFCs and more than 760 Pizza Huts across China.
According to analysts, Yum! China’s business, driven by a rapidly growing middle class, will be twice as large as its U.S. business within five years. Already, China accounts for more than 40 percent of Yum! Brands’ global revenue. As Yum! Brands CEO David Novak said, China is the best restaurant growth opportunity of the 21 st century.
How did the Kentucky-based restaurant conglomerate succeed in a country that has thousands of years of its own culinary history? One word that summarizes Yum! China’s success is: rebranding.
When they first entered China in the late 1980s, Yum! China management made a conscious decision that it did not want to be seen as a foreign presence in China, but as part of the fabric of the local community. As Sam Su, CEO of Yum! Brands China Division, pointed out, they wanted to take the best ideas from the U.S. fast-food model and adapt them to serve the needs of Chinese consumers.
They re-branded fast food in China as “delicious and safe, high quality and fast, nutritious and balanced, healthy living, and rooted in China.”
For example, Pizza Hut’s Chinese name, “Bi Sheng Ke,” means “Must Succeed Customer” in Chinese. It gives no hint that the restaurant is about pizza. The name resonates well with Chinese, as it implies success and good fortune.
Pizza Hut is positioned totally differently in China than in the U.S. It offers “a five-star dining experience at a three-star price.” Its interior is contemporary and stylish, like those upscale fusion restaurants in California. Its menu is almost unrecognizable to people from the U.S. Appetizers include chicken wings, fried squid, and onion rings. Pizzas are designed for local taste, such as a seafood pizza topped with prawns and crab sticks. Entrées are elaborate, ranging from salmon rolls to lamb shanks to escargot in garlic oil. You will also find clam chowder, tiramisu, and French-style crepes on its 30 page menu.
I may not visit a Pizza Hut often in the U.S. But whenever in China, I find myself drawn to Pizza Hut restaurants for both its ambience and food. I can see why many young and newly-affluent Chinese middle class find it an attractive dining experience.
KFC China has done the same. Its first restaurant at Tiananmen Square in Beijing was an instant success, serving an average of 9,000 customers a day! The restaurant was brightly lit, air-conditioned, and spectacularly clean.
KFC China’s menu has evolved and become highly localized as well. It eliminated “super-size” items altogether, and added oven-roasted chicken, sandwiches, wraps, and different proteins such as fish, shrimp, and beef. Since 2002, KFC China has been opening for breakfast. They introduced Chinese favorite breakfast congee, which is now the number one seller at breakfast.
KFC China is also positioned to appeal to Chinese families. It introduced special children’s meals. Many restaurants have a play area, and hostesses organize activities, such as teaching English songs and dances to entertain children while their parents dine. The restaurants have become a popular venue for birthday parties. I know this from first-hand experience as my niece considered going to a KFC as a big treat.
Supply Chain and Government Relations
It’s worthwhile to point out that a critical factor for Yum! China’s success is that it developed its own distribution and logistics network. China is a very fragmented market. In the 1990s, there were no third-party service providers. Having their own distribution and logistics network allows them to source products from local suppliers while maintaining strict quality control.
At a time when Chinese consumers are increasingly concerned about food safety issues, Yum! China is able to stay one-step ahead of the game, using risk-based management processes their suppliers. As a result, they are recognized by the government as being a leader in food safety.
In 2010, Yum! China’s distribution network consisted of 11 full-service logistics centers with inventory management, customer service, transport, and warehouse management, and six satellite centers (warehouse and transport only). Yum! China’s distribution system is second only to the Chinese Army’s.
Another critical factor is that Yum! China knows how to work with the Chinese government, which is extremely important for companies that want to succeed in China. Yum! China has gained the government’s trust, and has been actively participating in government policy making in food safety. When China’s new food safety laws were being written, Yum! China pushed hard to make sure the government took into consideration the needs of the food service industry as well as packaged goods manufacturers.
Through rebranding, Yum! Brands has completely re-invented itself in China.
In the U. S., fast-food restaurants, such as KFC and Pizza Hut, are a place where people can get food quickly. The food is usually tasty, but mostly unhealthy and low-priced. But in China, the same restaurants are viewed as upscale, trendy, and modern. People love to go to KFC and Pizza Hut. Some even have weddings there.
The Best Wraps Around the World and How to Make Them All at Home
Wraps are a much healthier alternative to fast food and one of the easiest things to make at home. Versatile for picnics, road trips, and office lunches, wraps are portable, quick, and hearty. They are also packed with nutrition and can be adapted to your taste. If you’re tired of lockdown cooking and bored of plain old sandwiches, here’s some inspiration for your next wrapped meal.
It’s not a completely exhaustive compilation (just because gyros aren’t on the list doesn’t mean we don’t love them too), but it’s sure to make you hungry.
Check out how countries around the world have incorporated local flavors and ingredients into their handheld street foods—and see how to make all the best wraps at home.
Cooked fresh to order on a circular cast-iron grill, jianbing (or jian bing) is one of China’s most popular grab-and-go breakfast foods. This crispy fried Chinese crepe is made with a batter of wheat, beans, corn or millet, eggs, cilantro, scallions, pickles, and chili sauce. At home, you can cook the batter on a griddle, folding several times in the process for added layers of crisp. Jianbing has regional variations across China which can be seen in the batter and filings. Try this Jian Bing recipe for starters.
While most people think hummus and falafel are the go-to snack foods in this region, the sabich is a popular vegetarian lunch option in Israel. Fresh baked pita bread is stuffed with creamy hummus, fried eggplant slices, hard boiled eggs, Israeli salad, pickles, amba (pickled-mango sauce), and tahini.
Soom Tahini (2 Pack), $16.50 on Amazon
When it’s time to travel again, book a food tour in Tel Aviv with Delicious Israel where locals guide you to the best sabich in the historic Carmel Market or Shuk HaCarmel. In the meanwhile, try this Vegan Sabich recipe at home.
Indian Kathi Roll
A popular Indian street food, kathi (aka, kati rolls or frankie) can be found everywhere from restaurants to hawker stands. Kati translates to “skewers” which refers to meat grilled on long iron skewers in clay ovens, and the concept originated in the eastern state of Calcutta (Kolkata). This hearty wrap consists of a paratha (whole wheat fried bread) with a cracked egg. It is then stuffed with coriander chutney, onions, chilies, and grilled spicy lamb or chicken.
New York City based The Kati Roll Company offers vegetarian versions as well, stuffed with paneer (Indian cottage cheese), chana masala (spicy chickpeas), or aloo masala (potato patties). You can make your own with any fillings you like wrapped up in this Paratha recipe.
Onigirazu is a square or rectangle shaped Japanese rice sandwich made with steamed rice balls and nori sheets (dried seaweed wraps). You can easily make it at home without any bamboo rolling mats, utilizing whatever leftovers you may have.
Stuff your roll with sushi inspired ingredients such as tuna, smoked salmon, avocado, cucumber, or fried chicken, or invent your own combination of protein and vegetables. The key difference between onigirazu and sushi is the use of plain white rice as opposed to vinegar seasoned rice.
Bakeries and restaurants in Turkey are famous for baking leavened flatbreads such as lavash and yufka. These are often used to make wraps known as dürüm or durme, served at take-out and casual restaurants for lunch and dinner, alongside ayran (cold yogurt drink).
The wrap is stuffed with doner kebabs (lamb or chicken grilled on vertical skewers), a salad of lettuce, parsley, tomato, and onion, and topped with a yogurt based sauce. You can try this typical Istanbul fare on a future walking food tour with Turkish Flavours, find a Turkish restaurant near you, or make your own with our Turkish Kofte recipe folded into this easy flatbread.
Flatbreads & Flavors: A Baker's Atlas, $24.99 from Amazon
Find other flatbread recipes from around the world in this book.
Korean Lettuce Wraps
In Korean cuisine, anything wrapped is called ssam or ssäm. Usually raw or blanched leafy vegetables such as cabbage, pumpkin leaves, or lettuce are wrapped around pork belly or steak and kimchi, resembling what you may know of as lettuce wraps. Ground chicken is an easy, quick filling option too. Serve these healthy and lean appetizers with sweet and spicy condiments such as gochujang paste, soy sauce, or sriracha, and top with sesame seeds.
Trini Curry Roti
Found on many Caribbean islands, this West Indies staple is a spicy and hearty wrap which is often had for lunch. To make it at home, you will first need to cook curried vegetables, shrimp, or chicken stew. The curry is cooked with potatoes, ginger, garlic, coconut milk, cumin, turmeric, chili, and curry powder. Then, scoop some of the cooked curry in the middle of a thin skillet-made roti and fold it over to make a bundle. Curry roti is a satisfying meal in itself, so no need to worry about sides. Try this Trinidad Chicken Roti recipe.
A burrito is probably one of the most beloved wraps any and everywhere. The rolled Mexican flour tortillas filled with savory meat, beans, cheese, and sauce are perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With the popularity of Tex-Mex cuisine, you can find burritos everywhere from fast food to dine in restaurants across the world.
There is a lot of room for creativity when making burritos at home and you can use any savory leftovers as a filling. Try your next burrito deep fried, served wet in a red chili sauce, or in a bowl without the tortilla (wrap the filling in lettuce to make it count).
Or switch up your morning routine with a Southwestern breakfast burrito stuffed with scrambled eggs, potatoes, cheese, bacon, onions, black beans, guacamole, tomato salsa, and chipotle crema.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Fresh gỏi cuốn or Vietnamese spring rolls are often served as an appetizer or snack.
These are wrapped with rice paper, making them low-carb, gluten-free, and no-cook. Make sure to soak the rice paper in warm water for a minute to soften and roll immediately after or it can get sticky.
Stuff your spring rolls with lots of raw shredded vegetables, fresh herbs, and lean meats, shrimp, or tofu, and serve with duck sauce, hoisin sauce, peanut sauce, or low sodium soy sauce. The rolls can be served raw or deep fried.
How KFC Changed China and How China Changed KFC
This is the first of several historical case studies that illustrate how important aspects of Chinese political economy have evolved over the first 40 years of the country&rsquos Reform and Opening policies. Later this year Two Fen will publish a series of in-depth essays on China&rsquos economic transformation to commemorate this 40 th anniversary.
Just south of Tiananmen Square in Beijing is Qianmen, a stately imperial gate from the Ming dynasty. Just west of Qianmen is China&rsquos first Kentucky Fried Chicken. The flagship restaurant, opened on November 12, 1987, stood three stories high, sat over 500 customers, and, at the time, was the largest KFC anywhere. Thousands of Beijingers braved the two-hour wait in freezing weather when it opened, and the store had to call in police to help maintain order. That day, KFC sold 2,200 buckets of chicken and made 83,000 yuan.
By 1988, the Qianmen branch was already KFC&rsquos top-selling location among the restaurant&rsquos 9,000-odd outlets. Average daily revenue at Qianmen exceeded 20,000 yuan, doubling to 40,000 yuan on busy days. The People&rsquos Daily at the time quoted a KFC executive who said the company&rsquos success &ldquoshows that China&rsquos reform policies are good&rdquo and &ldquoChinese people&rsquos living standards are really improving.&rdquo Since then, KFC has become one of the most recognizable American brands in China, boasting over 5,600 restaurants in 1,200-plus cities and generating $5 billion in revenue in 2017. China is one of the few countries where KFCs outnumber McDonald&rsquos.
Today, the first floor of that Qianmen restaurant still operates as a KFC, but much else has changed. KFC China is now owned by Yum China (Yum Brands was the parent company from 1997-2016 and PepsiCo had owned it previously) and is operated separately from other KFCs. Although Yum China is listed in New York and headquartered in Texas, it&rsquos virtually a Chinese company.
The history of American fried chicken in China is a prism through which we can examine a key aspect of China&rsquos reform and opening over the last 40 years&mdashthe dramatic changes in consumer markets and the services industry. That KFC was one of the first major experiments in China&rsquos opening to the West has not been lost on the Chinese government. In commemorating the various milestones in China&rsquos progress since reform and opening began in 1978, the official Chinese media proudly touts KFC as one of the many important &ldquofirsts.&rdquo
Indeed, KFC enjoyed significant first-mover advantage when it kickstarted China&rsquos fast-food restaurant industry in the 1980s. It beat out local Chinese competition in the 1990s because of its increasingly sophisticated management techniques. And when faced with rising domestic competition and maturing consumer tastes in the 2000s, KFC adapted with significant localization efforts to avoid obsolescence.
1980s: First-Mover Advantage
KFC was not only the first foreign fast-food purveyor in China but, more importantly, it was also a pioneer of the fast-food restaurant experience. In the mid-1980s, most Chinese still ate at home or in the dull &ldquosocialist canteens&rdquo of their work units, where meals were either free or subsidized. Eating out was reserved for rare celebratory occasions like wedding banquets. The &ldquoAmerican fast-food&rdquo concept was so foreign that when the Qianmen KFC opened, some Chinese customers waited for table service, asked servers for chopsticks, or brought their own pots for carry-out.
Still, the novelty and the aspirational &ldquoWestern lifestyle&rdquo were highly appealing, convincing Chinese customers to dole out more than 7 yuan for a combo meal of two pieces of fried chicken, mashed potato, coleslaw, and a dinner roll&mdasheven though the average monthly wage in Beijing was just 100 yuan in 1987. Crucially, in comparison to other dining options back then, the Qianmen KFC was spotless, cheerfully decorated, air-conditioned, and had excellent customer service&mdashmuch better than what the average Beijinger was used to.
This kind of quality control was embedded in KFC&rsquos business model. It insisted on retaining ownership of most of its China restaurants rather than franchise (even today only around 10% of China&rsquos KFCs are franchises). It&rsquos essentially the difference between maintaining internal control versus outsourcing to others to run different restaurants&mdashand the result was a consistency in standards that won over Chinese customers.
KFC grew quickly and attracted urban consumers&mdashparticularly women, children, and young professionals&mdashand became a magnet for tourists and out-of-town visitors. Fried chicken became so popular that dark humor went around that KFC laced its chicken with opium to get Chinese hooked on foreign products again. The Qianmen KFC restaurant was such a sensation that every Sunday, its third floor would be booked for weddings. In his book KFC in China: Secret Recipe for Success, Warren Liu, a onetime KFC executive, believed that the company&rsquos foresight, despite the risks, to enter the Chinese market so early continued to generate &ldquosubstantial competitive advantage&rdquo for decades.
It was also important for KFC&rsquos China management, particularly its East Asia regional manager Wang Dadong, to make a point about opening their first store in Beijing, China&rsquos political and cultural capital. Rather than locating in the more economically and socially liberal cities in southern China, which was what McDonald&rsquos did in 1990 in Shenzhen, Wang wanted to show that even the more conservative and staid political capital could accept Western food.
Grand opening of KFC&rsquos Qianmen store, November 12, 1987
As an early testament to KFC&rsquos sterling brand in China, it weathered the Tiananmen Square crackdown in June 1989. In fact, the Qianmen location served as both a gathering place for the student demonstrators to hold meetings and later as a makeshift barracks for PLA soldiers who were ordered to &ldquoclean up the square.&rdquo Soon after the upheaval, the Qianmen restaurant was one of the first Western businesses to reopen, citing &ldquocontractual obligations&rdquo (KFC had paid upfront for a ten-year lease). This came at a time when most American businesses decided China presented too much political or reputational risk. But KFC&rsquos business appeared neutral, and both sides of a bitter political dispute were happy to appropriate its space.
KFC China bet big and early by expanding rapidly outside of major cities, whereas competitors like McDonald&rsquos tended to focus their initial efforts on the key metropolises. This national expansion helped achieve economies of scale and locked in cheaper domestic suppliers for 97% of inputs. That the company was able to build a domestic supply chain so quickly is quite remarkable, demonstrating to other late entrants that this was possible in China.
Beyond the supply chain, KFC&rsquos early foray into second- and third-tier cities meant that it could easily secure prime real estate for its restaurants. It was also an easy sell politically. During the heady days of reform and opening, ambitious local officials eagerly embraced the &ldquoarrival&rdquo of a Western brand to demonstrate that their province or city was connected to the global market. KFC&rsquos national strategy paid off. As the Chinese economy grew and household incomes rose, more and more Chinese became KFC customers (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. As China&rsquos Economy Expanded, So Did KFC Stores
Sources: Company reports World Bank.
1990s: Outcompeting Domestic Rivals
The jovial Colonel&rsquos spectacular early success also meant that KFC had a bullseye on its back, as homegrown imitators sprung up to cash-in on a rapidly growing fast-food market in China. This shouldn&rsquot have been a surprise, as local competitors had their own advantages. They often could achieve lower costs and were intimately familiar with local market conditions. And because intellectual property enforcement was basically non-existent back then, local competitors could replicate KFC&rsquos business model and branding in some respects. Moreover, the Chinese state also got behind the domestic players as it sought to bolster the domestic services sector, incorporating the fast-food industry into its economic planning in the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1991-1995) and issuing Fast Food Development Guidelines in 1996.
Ronghua Chicken, formed in 1991 and backed by a Shanghai state-owned enterprise, became KFC&rsquos chief rival in the early &ldquochicken wars.&rdquo It offered a cheaper, more localized menu, promising that &ldquowherever there is a KFC, we will be there!&rdquo Ronghua recorded strong sales in the early 1990s and expanded rapidly across the country. Many Western firms faltered in the early days of reform and opening&mdashJeep&rsquos ill-fated joint venture (JV) is a well-documented example&mdashbecause they failed to adapt their production to local conditions, underinvested in their local labor force, or did not know the market as well as domestic firms.
Rather than KFC faltering in the face of domestic competition, it was Ronghua that folded by the early 2000s. According to the head of Ronghua at the time, it failed because of &ldquoa lack of the kind of well-developed system that KFC possesses which oversees every detail of the business, from making the product, to service, to site, to staff training and management.&rdquo This was possible in part because when foreign investment regulations relaxed further in the early 1990s, KFC decided to abandon its Chinese JV partners and struck out on its own. Meanwhile, KFC had already established a distribution network, built a cold-chain system, assembled a truck fleet, and perfected an operations structure that enabled the chain to increase turnover while opening hundreds of stores. Processes and supply chains are much harder to copy than logos and slogans.
This management and systems advantage helped KFC establish a leading position in the China market (see Figure 2). According to CCTV, the introduction of KFC to China not only &ldquopopularized the idea of &lsquofast food,&rsquo it also transformed thinking about dining concepts, management methods, and more.&rdquo Last year, the People&rsquos Daily credited Western fast-food chains with the introduction of &ldquostandardized management&rdquo to the Chinese restaurant industry and celebrated how reform and opening allowed Chinese chains to &ldquodraw lessons&rdquo from foreign brands.
Figure 2. KFC&rsquos Share of High-Revenue Commercial Fast-Food Stores in China Peaked at 46.4% in 2004
*Includes stores with at least RMB 2m in annual revenue
Note: Data before 2003 are unavailable.
Sources: Company reports Wind.
That KFC stood victorious was a validation of its model of internal control and imposing strict standards across all of its operations, from the supply chain to the brick and mortar stores. It was a system perfected in the United States and successfully transplanted to the China market. While not exactly technology transfer in the pure sense, this kind of knowledge transfer is of equal importance in building successful operations in new markets. Moreover, KFC showed that low cost alone does not necessarily win the market&mdashChinese customers were willing to pay a premium for a superior product and a unique experience.
2000s: Deeper Localization
KFC couldn&rsquot keep its business model under wraps for too long, however. Once the basic ingredients of an operational model have been figured out, they can be applied by any number of fast-food enterprises. And that is exactly what happened in the mid-2000s, when local upstarts like Lihua and Zhen Gongfu that made quick Chinese meals, as well as foreign entrants like the Taiwanese fried chicken brand Dicos and the Japanese noodle chain Ajisen, began to develop their own supply chains and efficient operating systems in China. Slowly but surely, KFC&rsquos first-mover advantage faded as domestic firms figured out the secret sauce of their operations system and restaurant experience. Competitive threats began to multiply.
Few competed with KFC head-on in fried chicken, but China&rsquos fast-food market was fast maturing, leading to a plethora of choices that would eat away at KFC&rsquos market share. The company also faced another challenge in shifting consumer perceptions: As Chinese consumers became wealthier and worldlier, their perception of KFC moved closer to that of Americans. The novelty was wearing off.
The American brand had lost some of its luster, which meant that KFC had to further localize to adapt to these new dynamics. Localization wasn&rsquot new to KFC, given that it already relied on a predominantly domestic supply chain and hired local labor. But localization is more than simply understanding Chinese consumer preference for dark thigh-meat over white breast-meat, for example. In this new environment, deeper changes were needed. Sam Su, a KFC China executive from 1989-2015, described the strategy as KFC &ldquowould not be seen as a foreign presence but as part of the local community&hellipOur opportunity was to take the best ideas from the US fast-food model and adapt them to serve the needs of the Chinese consumer.&rdquo
As part of that strategy, KFC went through several iterations of its slogan to establish a different identity. For instance, in 2004, the brand said it was &ldquobased in China, integrated into life,&rdquo and in 2008, it said it would &ldquomake new fast-food, change for China.&rdquo Breakfast is an important part of Chinese daily life, so in the early 2000s, KFC began introducing a wide variety of breakfast products tailored specifically to Chinese customers: soymilk drinks, savory fried dough (youtiao), and congee. Later the company also introduced rice-based meals to its lunch and dinner menus. The company also experimented with &ldquomicro&rdquo localization to account for specific regional palates and taste preferences. For example, KFC spicy chicken is a touch spicier in chili-loving provinces like Sichuan and Hunan. Chinese KFCs were also early adopters of now-ubiquitous offerings like home-delivery and 24-hour service.
KFC Servers and Mascot in 1987
Another benefit of KFC&rsquos localization strategy was the ability to mitigate political risk. Western brands are susceptible to boycott and slander during surges of economic nationalism, which tends to be inflamed by uncontrollable events. When the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was bombed by the United States in 1999, anti-American protests spread across China, and mobs trashed two KFCs in the city of Changsha. An executive at the time said local managers at KFC&rsquos other outlets defused further retaliation by arguing that they were basically a Chinese company, using local suppliers and labor. Again in 2016, following the ruling by the International Court of Arbitration against China&rsquos territorial claims in the South China Sea, groups of &ldquopatriotic&rdquo Chinese unfurled banners outside a dozen KFC outlets urging a boycott. But both state and commercial media tamped down these protests and urged nationalists to redirect their anger. In both cases, KFC&rsquos sales picked up after only a blip.
Localization also helped KFC overcome more serious business-related issues. In 2005, KFC&rsquos China operations suffered two unprecedented negative events&mdashthe discovery of a carcinogenic dye in two of its chicken products and a dip in poultry consumption resulting from an avian flu outbreak. Yet KFC still managed to increase its profit while opening hundreds of new stores in China that year, a positive outcome that its parent Yum Brands attributed to not only KFC&rsquos operational and supply chain expertise in China, but also to its China-specific advertising spend.
Challenges of a Maturing Market in the 2010s
Localization has certainly helped KFC fare better in China than it otherwise would have. But KFC China has lately experienced a difficult few years of uneven growth due to intensifying competition, rising labor costs, and growing health-consciousness among Chinese consumers. Figure 2 above shows how KFC gradually lost market share over the late-2000s and 2010s. The increasingly mature Chinese fast-food market meant that, compared to 2005, KFC experienced more fallout and took longer to recover from major food safety scares regarding chicken-growth hormones in late 2012, another avian flu outbreak in mid-2013, and suppliers that delivered expired meat in late 2014.
As a result, same-store sales for Yum Brands&rsquo China Division (of which KFC represented around 75% of the operating profit) declined 13% in 2013, 5% in 2014, and 4% in 2015. Yum attributed this dip to short-term consumer concerns, and demonstrated its long-term commitment to the China market by continuing to open hundreds of new stores each year.
KFC China&rsquos fortunes began to turn around in 2016, when Yum China spun off from Yum Brands to focus entirely on the continued expansion of KFC and other restaurant concepts in the China market. Its current strategy is to aggressively expand into fourth-tier or even smaller cities with populations of around 2.5 million people or fewer&mdashwhere costs are low, incomes are rising fast, and its brand retains greater consumer appeal because it&rsquos still considered novel.
This focused approach to China reaped dividends. KFC China&rsquos same-store sales stopped declining and instead grew 3% in 2016 and 5% in 2017. In 2017, Yum China recorded revenue growth from $4.7 billion to $5 billion on the back of 408 new store openings (with a 9% increase in system sales). Last year, KFC also decided to go more upscale and opened KPRO in Hangzhou, a restaurant that offers healthy premium food aimed at affluent young professionals and hipsters rather than families with children.
But gone are the halcyon days when KFC sat atop the Chinese fast-food chain. Figure 3 below compares the last three years of KFC China revenues. It&rsquos clear that KFC&rsquos revenue as a proportion of total industry revenue has declined but looks to be stabilizing. So, while KFC will likely continue to record absolute year-on-year growth, a mature market and new entrants mean that it is unlikely to experience much improvement in its market share.
Figure 3. KFC&rsquos Market Share in China Is Likely Stabilizing
Note: China industry revenues have been converted from RMB at annual average exchange rates.
Sources: Company reports Wind.
Seen in the context of 40 years of reform and opening&mdashduring which KFC transformed from an expensive novelty to a market trailblazer to a localization pioneer to a first-among-many-equals in an intensely competitive industry&mdashthe latest spin-off of Yum China seems to simply signify the increasing, and perhaps inevitable, convergence of Chinese and American business.
KFC&rsquos success in China must also be couched in the successful policies associated with reform and opening. China&rsquos fast-food market would not be as developed without opening to KFC, and KFC&rsquos business would not be as profitable without entering China. Trailblazers like KFC imported to China best practices on how to manage a restaurant chain, build a nationwide supply chain, and maintain high levels of customer service and dining experience. KFC also showed other American restaurants&mdashlike McDonald&rsquos&mdashthat China&rsquos market was possible to crack.
18 Ways to Eat a Wrap for Every Meal
What is it about food wrapped in other food that is so delicious? Maybe it's because you can stuff so much flavor into one bite. Or maybe it's because wraps are so easy to pick up and eat. Or maybe it's the infinite flavor possibilities. Whatever the reason, wraps are good, and you have every reason to be obsessed with them!
These 18 diverse and delicious wrap recipes are sure to fulfill all your wrapping needs, whether it's for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even just a snack.
If you want your homemade PF Chang's knock-off wraps to be vegetarian, you are totally covered with this recipe. (Plus, it's carb-free!)
These pretty wraps have a fabulous Sriracha mayonnaise that will change. your. life.
Anything with breaded chicken is bound to be good. These Malibu melt wraps are no exception, especially with avocado and honey mustard thrown into the mix.
Looking for an actually good vegetarian wrap for lunch? Look no further. These wraps are filled with the delicious flavors of provolone cheese and roasted red pepper hummus, and are sure to make your lunch the envy of the entire office.
If you're looking for a wrap with a little more meat on its bones, this roast beef wrap with dill slaw is just what you need.
So simple and easy to throw together, yet so good.
This wrap is perfect for when you're feeling all fancy-like and makes for a truly filling dinner.
Turning a BLT into a wrap is probably about the only thing you can do to make a BLT even better.
Another simple wrap with just a few ingredients, but ingredients that pair beautifully for maximum texture and flavor.
Trying to eat fewer carbs? Try these lettuce wraps!
This recipe is perfect for when you need a mall Chinese fix but would rather just stay home in your PJs watching Scandal with a glass of wine.
The Thai flavors in these lettuce wraps is a nice twist, and you'll love the sweet potatoes.
Another great vegetarian lettuce wrap option, this recipe uses raw walnut taco "meat," which is both healthy and delicious, and beautiful Swiss chard for the wrap.
This lettuce wrap has some Greek flavor to mix things up.
These would be great with just the carnitas, but throw in some cherry-peach salsa and pure perfection.
Breakfast on the go has never been this delicious!
Your frittata wants to be in a wrap. Trust me.
This breakfast wrap has a nice kick for when you need to get going in the morning.
Getting in your greens first thing in the morning never tasted so good.
Come on, you know you want pulled pork for breakfast. You also know you want it with tons of cheese. Throw it in a wrap and you're good to go!
Jane Maynard is a food blogger at This Week for Dinner and Babble, a writer and designer, and a lover of all things chocolate.
I'm Todd Wilbur, Chronic Food Hacker
For 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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Crafting a clone of Olive Garden’s signature Lasagna Classico 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.
Browse my other Olive Garden clone recipes here.
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 sauce for yourself using this new and very easy hack.
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.
You might also like my #1 recipe of 2019, Texas Roadhouse Rolls.
This 220-unit downscaled version of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro targets the lunch crowd with a smaller menu that features bento boxes, bowls, and small plates. The bestseller on the menu is this orange chicken, which I have to say is pretty damn good orange chicken. Obviously, a clone is needed for this one, stat.
The name “Wei Better Orange Chicken” is a competitive callout to Panda Express's signature orange chicken, which is made with pre-breaded and frozen chicken. Pei Wei claims its orange chicken is prepared each day from scratch with chicken that is never frozen, so we’ll craft our clone the same way. But rather than assemble the dish in a wok over a high-flame fast stove like they do at the restaurant, we’ll prepare the sauce and chicken separately, then toss them with fresh orange wedges just before serving.
By the way, this dish goes very well with white or brown rice, so don’t forget to make some.
A recipe for Portuguese sweet bread inspired the soft rolls that became a big hit at Robert Tiara's Bakery & Restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii in the 1950s. It wasn’t long before Robert changed the name of his thriving business to King’s Hawaiian, and in 1977 the company opened its first bakery on the mainland, in Torrance, California, to make the now-famous island sweet rolls sold in stores across the U.S.
King’s Hawaiian Rolls are similar to Texas Roadhouse Rolls in that they are both pillowy, sweet white rolls, so it made sense to dig out my Texas Roadhouse Rolls clone recipe and use it as a starting point. These new rolls had to be slightly softer and sweeter, so I made some adjustments and added a little egg for color. And by baking the dough in a high-rimmed baking pan with 24 dough balls placed snugly together, I ended up with beautiful rolls that rose nicely to the occasion, forming a tear-apart loaf just like the original, but with clean ingredients, and without the dough conditioners found in the packaged rolls.
Use these fluffy sweet rolls for sandwiches, sliders, or simply warmed up and slathered with soft European butter.
This recipe was our #3 most popular in 2020. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce (#1), Olive Garden Lasagna Classico (#2), Pei Wei Better Orange Chicken (#4), Chipotle Mexican Grill Carnitas (#5).
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 the real ones 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.
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 hack 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.
A popular staple of any Chinese chain is the fried rice so it better be good, and the version served at Panda Express most certainly is. Here's an easy hack 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.
In the Summer of 2020, to the dismay of many fans, KFC stopped selling the famous potato wedges that had been on the menu for decades and replaced them with battered French fries.
Like the wedges, these fries are coated with a flavorful batter, but the seasoning used on the fries is a different blend than what was used on the wedges. Are these new fries better than the classic wedges? That depends. Some may prefer the rare treat of fast food skin-on wedges, while others may prefer the crispiness of these new fries. Some don’t care and just want a clone, so here you go.
The hack here is simplified by using par-fried French fries found in the freezer section of your store. After coating the fries with this clone of the seasoned breading, spray them with water, then fry them for 3 to 4 minutes. That’s it. Be sure to have a clean squirt bottle filled with water to transform the breading into a thin batter giving your finished product the same crispy coating as the original.
KFC’s new fries are coated with a blend that includes onion, celery, and carrot powder. It’s easy to find onion powder in most supermarkets, but I had to go online to find celery and carrot juice powders. The blend of vegetable powders adds great flavor, but if you want to omit the celery and carrot powders and just use onion powder, the recipe will still make delicious copycat fries.
Click here for my KFC Original Chicken recipe or search for your favorites here.
Over a century ago, Detroit, Michigan became the Coney Island chili dog capital of the world, even though Coney Island is nowhere near there. Greek immigrants who entered the U.S. through Ellis Island adapted a recipe for the hot dogs they ate while visiting Coney Island, New York, on their way to the Midwest. When they settled in southern Michigan, many opened restaurants to sell their clones of the food they ate when they first got to America, turning New York-style Coney Dogs into a Midwest phenomenon.
Two of the most famous Coney Island restaurants in Detroit are Lafayette Coney Island and its next-door neighbor, American Coney Island. The two buildings were originally one building with a single restaurant inside, built by brothers Gus and Bill Keros in 1915. But somewhere along the way the brothers had a falling out and split the restaurant in half, right down the middle, and it stayed that way. Today, the two Coney Island restaurants are under different ownership, but they still remain next-door rivals.
I decided the best Coney dog to hack is from American Coney Island, not only because of the restaurant’s deep history, but also because I was able to order the chili dogs shipped to my house in a kit. That’s always good news, since shipped foods must list ingredients, and I get to see exactly what’s in the chili. Built the traditional way, a typical Detroit Coney Island chili dog features a natural-casing hot dog in a soft white bun, smothered in chili sauce, drizzled with mustard, and topped with a pile of diced sweet onion. The kit came with everything I needed, including the tub of chili with clearly-labeled ingredients that I was counting on.
With the help of that information, I was able to create a thick, flavorful chili sauce that you can use on your favorite hot dogs to make a delicious clone. Crushed soda crackers thicken the chili, and extra beef fat adds a smooth quality that mimics the famous 100-year-old recipe.
The chili must simmer for four hours to properly tenderize the meat, so plan your Coney dog cloning adventure accordingly.
And now if you're craving French fries, try my Mcdonald's Fries copycat recipe here.
There are many acceptable ways to formulate good queso, but to make this specific queso the ingredients must be correct, and most copycat recipes seem to get it wrong. A few recipes get one of the peppers and two of the cheeses right, but pretty much every recipe out there is a bit of a mess that I will now save you from.
Quesos can be made with a variety of cheeses that include queso fresco, asadero, and Muenster, but this particular queso includes a cheese you probably didn’t expect: Swiss. That cheese is slow to melt, so we’ll shred it first, along with the Jack. And you won't need to gum up the queso with flour or cornstarch by making a roux because the white American cheese in the mix contains sodium citrate or sodium phosphate—additives that help the cheese melt smoothly and stay that way.
Authors of recipes that call for tomatoes in this dish haven’t looked closely. Those are red bell peppers and they are roasted, peeled, and seeded along with the poblano and jalapenos before they are diced and added to the cheese sauce. The sauce cooks on low heat, never bubbling, so that it stays smooth and creamy.
When done, the queso might seem thin in the pan, but it will thicken as it cools to a perfect consistency for dipping tortilla chips, or as a topping for tacos and burrito bowls.
Braised and shredded pork shoulder is a staple of Mexican cuisine that Chipotle prepares with a simple blend of flavors, and a surprising ingredient you may not have expected: juniper berries. Once you track those down (they’re easy to find online), the berries are combined with thyme and bay leaves in a braising liquid that will transform your own pork roast into an easily shreddable thing of beauty in under 3 hours. Then you can use your freshly cloned carnitas on tacos, in burritos, or in a bowl over rice and beans just like they do in the restaurant.
When picking your pork roast, try to find one without too much fat. If your roast has a thick cap of fat on it, trim off the excess. You want some fat in your braising liquid, but if the cap of fat is too thick, it may not fully render down and you’ll get chunks of fat in the shred.
It’s often assumed that the pork butt is from the rear end of the pig, even though cuts from the back region already have a name: ham. The pork butt, also known as a Boston butt, is cut from the other end, the upper shoulder of the pig. It’s called a “butt” because in pre-Revolutionary War New England the roasts were stored and transported in barrels called “butts”, and the confusing name stuck.
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, then it’s ready for you to use on tacos, burritos, salads, or whatever. And don't forget the hot sauce!
KFC's Chicken Pot Pie is a classic. It's packed with lots of shredded white and dark meat chicken, potatoes, peas, and carrots all of it swimming in a delicious creamy gravy and topped with a tantalizing flakey crust. It seems more like homemade food than fast food. And now it can be made at home better than ever before with this improved hack of my original recipe. The crust now has a better flavor (more butter!), and the gravy tastes closer to the original with the addition of more spices.
You can make these in ramekins or small oven-safe baking dishes, or get some recyclable aluminum pot pie pans you can find in many supermarkets. Those pans are the perfect size for four single servings, and they make cleanup easy after the feast.
Find more of my KFC copycat recipes here.
One of two pasta dishes currently on the pizza giant’s menu, the Meaty Marinara Pasta was first introduced in a 2008 April Fool’s publicity stunt when Pizza Hut claimed it was changing its name to “Pasta Hut.” No one fell for the prank but they did fall for the pasta, and that's why the Tuscani Creamy Chicken Alfredo Pasta and Meaty Marinara Pasta have been on the menu ever since. The sauce is the big secret here it's simple and classic, but customized to produce a marinara with that distinct Pizza Hut taste. And the recipe will make more than enough pasta to go around.
The hack is an easy one. After browning the seasoned beef you add it to the sauce, simmer the sauce until thick, then spread it over one pound of rotini pasta in a baking dish in two layers so that every bite is filled with flavor. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella over the top and melt it until golden brown under your broiler. Boom! No one can resist. You rule.
This simple and inexpensive meal will feed eight, and leftovers keep well in the fridge for a couple of days.
Also check out my clone recipe for Pizza Hut Tuscani Creamy Chicken Alfredo Pasta.
Menu Description: “Creamy potato soup topped with melted cheese, bacon, and green onions.”
It’s not called baked potato soup because the potatoes in it are baked. It’s called baked potato soup because it’s topped with shredded cheese, bacon, and green onion, and it tastes like a baked potato. Other hacky hacks for this recipe miss that point and add over an hour to the preparation process by preheating an oven and baking the potatoes, all while hungry stomachs are growling on the sidelines. My version skips that part by adding the raw potatoes directly into the pot with the other ingredients, where they cook in 20 minutes, and the soup is ready to eat in less time than other recipes take just to get the potatoes done.
Also, other clones add way too much flour to thicken the soup—¾ cup! Sure, flour is good at thickening, but it doesn’t add any flavor, so I found a better way. I ended up using just a little flour to make the roux, then later thickening the soup mostly with dehydrated potato flakes, which are usually used to make quick mashed potatoes. The flakes not only do a great job of thickening the soup, but they also add more delicious potato flavor to the pot.
Top your finished soup with shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, and green onion, and every spoonful will taste like a fully loaded baked potato.
Finish off your meal with a famous entrée from Outback like Alice Springs Chicken, or Toowoomba Steak.
Menu Description: “A baked blend of Italian cheeses, pasta, and our signature five-cheese marinara.”
Hacking Olive Garden’s famous baked ziti would not be possible without a perfect clone of the chain’s popular five-cheese marinara sauce. I started with my previous hack of the plain marinara for Olive Garden’s Chicken Parmigiana and enhanced it with the addition of five kinds of Italian cheese and heavy cream.
Determining which five types of cheese are in a prepared sauce is tough without some insider assistance, so before cooking I focused my efforts on convincing a server to ask the chef for the list…and I got it! The blend of cheese used here in the sauce comes straight from the kitchen of my local Olive Garden. When you taste it you’ll know the intel was legit.
After the sauce is added to the pasta it’s topped with a cheese-and-breadcrumb mix called “ziti topping,” then it’s browned under a salamander (for the restaurant version) or a broiler (for your version). The result is a beautiful dish with great sauce and a cheesy topping that should satisfy even the pickiest baked ziti fanatics.
I've cloned a ton of dishes from Olive Garden. See if I hacked your favorite here.
Korean chicken is famous for its extra crispy coating, and Bonchon’s recipe—especially the wings—is one of the best in the world. That chain's famous formula is why there are now over 340 Bonchon outlets in nine countries, including over one hundred in the US and more planned to open here in the near future.
The biggest challenge when recreating Korean chicken wings is finding the perfect magical mixture for the batter that fries to a golden brown, and with tender crispiness that stays crunchy long after the wings have been brushed with the flavorful glaze.
I knew that a traditional double-frying technique would help create the crunchy coating we needed, but it would take some trial-and-error to determine the best time splits. The wings are par-fried, rested, then fried again until done, but just how long to give each stage was yet to be determined since every recipe I found for Korean chicken used different times and temps. Some recipes even changed the temperature between frying steps, but I found those made the recipe too difficult to manage when frying multiple batches.
I eventually settled on 350 degrees F with most of the frying done up front in the par-fry stage. A three-ingredient batter is all that’s needed for crispy golden-brown wings, and the soy garlic sauce is an easy hack that’s made quickly in your microwave oven. The spicy version is made by adding Korean red chili paste (gochujang) and Korean red pepper powder (gochugaru) to the soy garlic recipe. You can find these ingredients at Asian markets or online, and if you like your wings spicy you'll want to add these perky ingredients.
Click here for more delicious appetizer recipes.
Popeyes offers two sides with rice: the ultra-popular Red Beans and Rice, which I previously cloned here, and this rice made Cajun-style with ground beef and spices.
The real recipe at the chain most likely includes chicken gizzard, but that ingredient is not always easy to find outside of buying a whole uncooked chicken that includes a bag of giblets tucked inside. So I set out to design a recipe without that ingredient and the results were great.
The secret to the fabulous taste, after all, is not found in the gizzard, but in the flavors contributed by the “holy trinity” of green pepper, onion, and celery salt accentuated by the ground thyme and oregano.
If you’re making rice tonight, bump it up to something special with just a little extra work for delicious results.
Can't get enough Popeyes? Find all of my recipes here.
Imagine a giant soft sugar cookie with sweetened cream cheese on top and served warm as if it just came out of the oven and you have California Pizza Kitchen's Butter Cake, a delectable dessert described on the menu with five simple words: “Trust us…just try it.”
This dessert is an easy one to prep in the restaurant since the cakes are made ahead of time and chilled until ordered. Once an order comes in the cake is zapped for a minute in the microwave, then topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and surrounded by dollops of whipped cream. You can prepare yours this way at home as well—make your cakes in advance, then chill them until dessert time. Or, you can serve the cakes right after they come out of the oven. Either way works.
The construction is an easy one—you’ll need four 4-inch cake pans, or ramekins, or anything you can bake in that is 4-inches across. To make the batter I used a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and it worked great, but a hand-held granny mixer also works.
I think you're gonna love this one. Trust me. just hack it.
Find more amazing CPK copycat recipes here.
To get their Extra Crispy Chicken so crispy KFC breads the chicken two times. This double breading gives the chicken its ultra craggy exterior and extra crunch, which is a different texture than the less crispy Original Recipe Chicken that’s breaded just once and pressure fried.
As with my KFC Original Recipe hack, we must first brine the chicken to give it flavor and moisture all the way through, like the real thing, then the chicken is double breaded and deep fried until golden brown. KFC uses small chickens which cook faster, but small chickens can be hard to find. If your chicken parts are on the large side, they may not cook all the way through in the 12 to 15 minutes of frying I’m specifying here. To be sure your chicken is cooked, start frying with the thickest pieces, like the breasts, then park them in a 300-degree oven while you finish with the smaller pieces. This will keep the chicken warm and crispy, and more importantly, ensure that they are cooked perfectly all the way through.
On my CMT show Top Secret Recipe I chatted with Winston Shelton, a long-time friend of KFC founder Harland Sanders. Winston saw the Colonel's handwritten secret recipe for the Original Recipe chicken, and he told me one of the secret ingredients is Tellicherry black pepper. It's a more expensive, better-tasting black pepper that comes from the Malabar coast in India, and you should use it here if you can find it. Winston pulled me aside and whispered this secret to me when he thought we were off-camera, but our microphones and very alert cameramen caught the whole thing, and we aired it.
I first published this hack in Even More Top Secret Recipes, but recently applied some newly acquired secrets and tips to make this much-improved version of one of the most familiar fried chicken recipes in the world.
This recipe was our #2 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).
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 clone 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.
The barbecue at Jim N' Nick's is good food. But it's the irresistible mini cheese biscuits served with every meal that have become the signature specialty of this 40-store chain. The sweet little biscuits are made from scratch every day at each restaurant using the same wholesome ingredients I'm including here.
A bag of dry mix can be purchased at the restaurant, but you’re still required to add eggs, butter, cheese, and milk, so why not just make the whole thing from scratch? It's much cheaper than buying the bag of mix, and the biscuits come out better when you use fresh buttermilk rather than relying on the powdered buttermilk included in the dry mix.
Use a mini muffin pan here to make your biscuits the same size as the originals or use a standard muffin pan, if that's all you've got, for bigger muffins. It will take a little longer to cook the larger biscuits (instructions are below), but they will still turn out as addictively delicious as the famous tiny restaurant originals.
Now, what's for dinner? Find recipes your favorite entrees here.
“Don’t call them fries,” says KFC about its popular side made with sliced, skin-on russet potatoes. What sets these potatoes apart from all the others is the secret breading made with a similar seasoning blend to the one used for Colonel's Original Recipe Fried Chicken. To achieve the proper crispiness, the potatoes are par-fried, frozen, then fried again until golden brown.
One important ingredient that completes the flavor is MSG. Monosodium glutamate is a food additive derived from glutamic acid, which is an important amino acid found in abundance in nature, food, and in you right now. Over the last 60 years of study and use, MSG has not only been found harmless in normal amounts, but tests have shown glutamate to be a chemical messenger that benefits gut health, immunity, and brain functions such as memory and learning. In addition to all of that, it imparts a unique savoriness that enhances flavors in other ingredients and makes your food taste amazing. Using MSG in your food is, literally, smart cooking.
Another important ingredient is ground Tellicherry black pepper, a select black pepper from India. Winston Shelton, a friend of Harland Sanders who invented the first high-volume pressure fryers for KFC, confirmed this. Shelton recalled seeing the ingredient when Sanders showed him the secret formula for the fried chicken seasoning he had scribbled on a piece of paper.
While we were shooting the first episode of my TV Show, Top Secret Recipe, Winston pulled me aside and whispered to me that Tellicherry pepper is crucial to creating the unique KFC aftertaste. It was a great tip, and fortunately, we caught that moment on camera and you can see it in the show. Later, I conducted a side-by-side taste test with common black pepper and Tellicherry black pepper and discovered Winston was right. If you want the best taste for your clone you'll need Tellicherry pepper, which you can find online and in some food stores. Be sure to grind it fine before using it.
For this recipe, just two russet potatoes are all it takes to make the equivalent of a large serving of fried potato wedges, which will be enough for at least four people.
For decades, Carl’s Jr. has effectively cornered the market on fried zucchini at major fast food chains by serving a great crispy breaded version that’s flavorful all the way through. Now you can make zucchini that tastes just as good, as long as you know the secret step that other fried zucchini recipes miss. It makes all the difference.
The secret is a brine. I found that this fried zucchini tastes best when it takes a salted water bath before breading. In 60 minutes, the salt in the brine is absorbed by the zucchini, spreading good flavor all the way through. After the brine, the zucchini is rinsed, coated twice with flour and once with seasoned breadcrumbs, and fried to a beautiful golden brown.
I’m giving you a couple choices here. You can make the recipe all the way through and serve it immediately, or if you want to serve it later, you can par-fry the zucchini and freeze it for several days. After that, when an occasion arises, a couple minutes is all it takes to finish off the dish and serve it. This recipe makes enough for a small gathering, but you can easily cut it in half for a more intimate hang.
Click here for more amazing Carl's Jr. copycat recipes.
In the Bush’s Beans commercials, Duke, the family golden retriever, wants to sell the secret family recipe, but the Bush family always stops him. The dog is based on the Bush family’s real-life golden retriever, and the campaign, which began in 1995, made Bush’s the big dog of the canned baked beans market practically overnight. Their confidential baked beans formula is considered one of the top 10 biggest recipe secrets in the U.S.
Bush Brothers & Company had been canning a variety of fruits and vegetables for over 60 years when, in 1969, the company created canned baked beans using a cherished recipe from a family matriarch. Sales jumped from 10 thousand cases in the first year to over 100 thousand cases in 1970. And just one year later sales hit a million cases. Today Bush’s makes over 80 percent of the canned baked beans sold in the U.S., and the secret family recipe remains a top food secret, despite Duke’s attempts. A replica of the original recipe book—without the original recipe in it (drat!)—is on display at the company's visitor center in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee.
I chose to hack the “Country Style” version of Bush’s Beans because I don’t think the Original flavor has enough, uh, flavor. Country Style is similar to Original, but richer, with more brown sugar. The recipe starts by soaking dry small white beans in a brine overnight. The salt in the water helps to soften the skins, but don’t soak them for more than 14 hours or the skins may begin to fall off.
My first versions tasted great but lacked the deep brown color of the real Bush’s beans, which include caramel coloring—an ingredient that can be hard to find on its own. I eventually discovered that the “browning” sauce, Kitchen Bouquet, will add the dark caramel color needed to our home version of the beans so that they’ll look just like the real thing.
This recipe was our #5 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1) KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4).
A requirement of any visit to Chicago is eating at least one slice of deep dish pizza in the city that perfected it. Deep dish pizza quickly became a Chicago staple after Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo opened the first Pizzeria Uno in 1943 and served a hearty new style of pizza constructed in a high-rimmed cake pan. The yeast crust was tender and flakey, like a pastry, and the cheese was layered under the sauce so that it wouldn’t burn in a hot oven for the long cooking time.
While researching a home hack of this now-iconic recipe, I discovered an unexpected technique that I hadn’t seen in other deep dish recipes. Employees told me the pizza crusts are partially cooked each morning to cut down on the wait time for customers. Before the restaurant opens each day, cooks press the dough into a pan and then sprinkle it with a little shredded cheese. The shells are then partially baked and set aside. Later, when an order comes in, the pizza is built into one of the par-baked crusts and finished off. This way customers get their food faster, and the tables turn over quicker.
Copying that delicious, flakey crust was the task that took me the longest. After two weeks of baking, I finally settled on a formula that was a mash-up of yeast dough and pie crust and made a perfectly tender deep dish crust, with great flavor that exactly mimicked the original. If you like Uno, you will love this.
Regarding the cheese: be sure your cheese is at room temperature, not cold, or it may not melt all the way through. Also, it’s best if you buy cheese by the block and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheese is dusted with cornstarch so that the shreds don’t stick together in the bag, and it won’t melt as smoothly as cheese you shred by hand.
This recipe will make enough sauce for two pizzas. I just thought you should know that in case you get the urge to make another deep dish after this one disappears.
This recipe was our #4 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1) KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).
Here’s a hack that might help when you feel like doing something special with those steaks in the fridge. Or maybe you have salmon fillets in there? Doesn’t matter, this recipe works great on both. And it also makes a great pasta sauce.
The secret Toowoomba sauce is a variation on alfredo sauce that Outback served over pasta at one time. These days the sauce is only used to top steak and salmon at the restaurant, but you can also use it on just about any type of pasta.
In my early batches of the sauce, I noticed that if the shrimp are added at the beginning they get too tough. To solve that problem, I sautéed the seasoned shrimp separately, then added them closer to the end, and they came out perfect.
Spoon this clone of the Toowoomba sauce over grilled tenderloin filets (or salmon filets) for an easy way to elevate your entrée. This recipe will make enough for four servings.
If you love Outback Steakhouse, check out my other clone recipes here.
I’m not sure why Einstein Bros. claims there are just four cheeses in the new Twice-Baked Hash Brown when the ingredients clearly list six kinds of cheese, plus cream cheese. Regardless, the shredded Asiago, Romano, Parmesan, provolone, and mozzarella listed there can be found combined in an “Italian Blend” at many supermarkets, making for an easy start to our home clone. And don’t just be thinking about breakfast for these cheesy potatoes. They work great as a side for any meal.
In the detailed description of the new item, Einstein Bros. claims the hash browns contain two kinds of schmears, which is true, but a little misleading because one of them is just plain cream cheese. The other is onion-and-chive cream cheese, which we can make from scratch. We’ll combine those two shmears into one blend by doubling the cream cheese added to our onion-and-chive schmear formula.
Mix everything together and load the ingredients into a standard 12-cup muffin pan with circles of parchment paper cut out to fit into the bottom of the 12 cups. Without these parchment circles, the hash browns may stick and break when they’re released. You can also use paper muffin cups, if you don’t mind the less crispy, ridged sides.
Bake them the first time for 30 minutes, then cool and store. Now you have a dozen servings of cheesy hash brown potatoes that are easy to finish off by baking them a second time until crispy. They are great served with breakfast, or for dinner as your starchy side alongside beef, chicken, lamb, and many other savory entrees.
You can also make homemade Einstein Bros bagels, sandwiches, and shmears. See if I hacked your favorites here.
For many years this entree 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 portobello mushrooms—but a home version of the signature dish is only seven 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 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.
This recipe will make two servings of the dish 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.
When Taco Bell introduced breakfast to America in 2014, the company had high hopes for its new Waffle Taco: a waffle shaped like a taco, filled with scrambled eggs and sausage, and served with a side of syrup. But the Waffle Taco had less-than-stellar sales and the product was eventually yanked off the breakfast menu.
But another clever morning item, the Breakfast Crunchwrap, continues to sell well at the Mexican food chain. This hexagonal grill-pressed wrap is a variation of the Crunchwrap Supreme, made by wrapping a large flour tortilla around a crispy corn tortilla, meat, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and tomato (i hacked it in TSR Step-by-Step). When it was introduced in 2005, the Crunchwrap Supreme was Taco Bell’s most successful new product launch.
The Breakfast Crunchwrap looks exactly like a Crunchwrap Supreme from the outside—albeit slightly smaller—but the inside has been swapped out for morning food. The flour tortilla is wrapped around a crispy hash brown patty that’s been slathered with creamy jalapeño sauce and topped with cheese, eggs, and bacon (or sausage). The flour tortilla is folded over six times to make a pinwheel wrap, then the wrap is pressed on a flat grill until golden brown on both sides.
In this recipe I’ll show you how to clone the creamy jalapeño sauce, build the wraps, and flat grill them until golden brown using just your stovetop, a skillet, and a saucepan half-full of water.
To help fill the void left by a lack of dine-in customers when the coronavirus pandemic struck the U.S. in early 2020, restaurant operators had to get creative. That spring and summer we saw a surge in ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants where all the food was prepared for delivery only. Ghost kitchens are kitchens without seating and minimal, if any, signage. Virtual restaurants are delivery-only services where food is prepared in established restaurant kitchens.
It's Just Wings is a concept cooked up by Brinker, the team behind Chili’s and Maggiano’s, with a menu limited to wings in three styles—bone-in, boneless, and smoked—tossed in your choice of eight creative sauces or two dry rubs. Since I've already hacked a variety of traditional wings and boneless wings, I chose to clone this chain's stand-out smoked wings which are prepared in the same pecan wood smoking ovens (called Combitherms) Chili’s uses to make baby back ribs.
The secret is to brine the chicken first, then blot it dry and rub the skin with oil to help make it crispy while it smokes. If you don’t have a smoker, you can smoke the wings on your grill by heating one side of the grill and placing the wings on the other side. Set wood chips or pellets in foil over the heated side, then close the lid.
I’ve included hack recipes for three of the chain's most notable sauces: Honey Sriracha, Honey Chipotle, and Truffle Hot Sauce. Pick one (or more), toss your wings in it, and dive in. Or maybe you just want to go naked? These wings also taste great without any sauce at all.
Menu Description: “Two lightly fried parmesan-breaded chicken breasts are smothered with Olive Garden’s homemade marinara sauce and melted Italian cheeses. We serve our Chicken Parmigiana with a side of spaghetti for dinner.”
Chicken parmigiana is a forever favorite, and it’s not a difficult dish to whip up at home. But for it to taste like the Olive Garden signature entree, we’ll need to take some very specific steps.
Olive Garden’s chicken is salty and moist all the way through, so we must first start by brining the chicken. Give yourself an extra hour for this important marinating step. The marinara sauce used on the chicken is an Olive Garden specialty and no bottled sauce compares, so we’ll make our own from scratch using canned crushed tomatoes and the formula below.
While the sauce cooks, filling your house with its intoxicating aroma, the chicken is breaded and browned. When the marinara is done, top the chicken with the sauce and mozzarella and stick it under your hot broiler until bubbling.
Hopefully, everyone at your house is hungry, because the Olive Garden dinner portion is two chicken fillets, and this recipe will yield a total of four 2-piece servings. Add a small serving of spaghetti on the side, topped with more of the delicious sauce, and you'll have a perfect match to the restaurant plate.
Can't get enough Olive Garden? Click here for more of my copycat recipes.
Menu Description: “Lightly fried, topped with smoked paprika + bacon candy.”
Hard-boiled egg whites 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 these deviled eggs, and three for you to eat and share.
Menu Description: “Sauteed chicken, shrimp, red bell peppers in a spicy Cajun Alfredo sauce, Parmesan-Romano and fettuccine. Served with a warm garlic breadstick.”
In 1997, I published a clone recipe for T.G.I Friday’s Spicy Cajun Chicken Pasta because it was one of the chain’s most popular dishes at the time. But as the years pass and menus get tweaked, old food favorites are decommissioned to make way for fresh, new ideas. Sometimes the new dishes are twists on old favorites, as is this improved version of the classic Spicy Cajun Chicken Pasta, which now includes extra-large shrimp and a better spicy alfredo sauce.
To make a home clone of this top entrée from T.G.I. Friday’s start with a quick brine for moist, flavorful chicken. Prep the chicken and creamy sauce in one pan the shrimp, bell pepper, and garlic in another.
When you’re ready to serve the dish, toss the sauce with the pasta, then plate it and top it with minced parsley and you've got a perfect restaurant-style hack.
There's a lot more T.G.I. Friday's clone recipes over here.
It was the creator of Pizza Hut’s Stuffed Crust Pizza who came up with the idea to cook bits of maple syrup into small pancakes for a new sweet-and-savory breakfast sandwich offering from the world’s #1 fast food chain. Tom Ryan’s idea became a reality in 2003 when the McGriddles—with maple-flavored griddle cake buns—debuted on McDonald’s breakfast menu, and the sandwich is still selling like hotcakes today.
To make four cloned McGriddles at home you’ll first need to produce eight perfectly round griddle cakes that are infused with sweet maple bits. Recipes that instruct you to make hard candy from maple syrup for this hack will fail to tell you that the shattered shards of hard candy don't completely melt when the griddle cakes are cooked resulting in a distinct crunch not found in the real McDonald’s product. Also, breaking the hard maple candy into small uniform chunks is both difficult and messy. My solution was to make a flavorful maple gummy puck that could be neatly petite diced and sprinkled into the batter as it cooks.
Just be sure to use maple flavoring rather than maple extract for the maple gummy. Maple flavoring has a more intense flavor than the extract and the dark brown caramel coloring will make your maple bits look like pancake syrup. You’ll also need one or two 3½-inch rings to make griddle cakes that are the perfect size for your clones.
This recipe duplicates the bacon version of the sandwich, but you can replace the bacon with a patty made from breakfast sausage for the sausage version, or just go with egg and cheese.
Get more of my McDonald's copycat recipes here.
For a great chicken tortilla soup that doesn’t skimp on chicken and comes packed with other goodies like two kinds of beans, corn, chiles, onion, celery, garlic, and cilantro you’ll want to hack Chick-fil-A’s hearty version. Their soup is not only surprisingly good for a fast food chain, but it could also stand up to tortilla soups from any full-service chain, and these preparation secrets will guide you through a spot-on at-home clone.
For the white beans look for canned navy beans or small white beans. Cannellini beans and Great Northern beans are too big for a perfect clone, but if that's all you can find they’ll still work here.
The chicken is made the same way as in my Top Secret Recipe for Chick-fil-A Southwest Chicken Salad—it’s brined for four hours to infuse it with flavor before it gets grilled. Keep that extra prep time in mind when planning your soup.
Chick-fil-A uses natural roasted chicken flavor in their version, and we can do the same by using Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base found in many stores and online. That particular ingredient will give you the best clone, but if you can’t track it down you can also use regular bouillon cubes.
Top your soup with fried tortilla strips sold in bags or just crumble some of your favorite tortilla chips over the top, and grab a spoon.
The Chesapeake brand of cookies from Pepperidge Farm are crispy cookies with a light crunch and filled with various chunks of chocolate and nutty bits. One of the most popular choices features big chunks of dark chocolate along with pecan bits, and it can be duplicated at home with a few twists to one of my chocolate chip cookie recipes.
To make a crispy cookie that’s tender and not tough, I’ve replaced some of the butter with shortening, replaced one egg with an egg white, and tweaked the baking powder/baking soda ratio.
Nestle makes a 10-ounce bag of oversized dark chocolate chips that are delicious and work nicely for this clone. If you can’t find those, you can chop up a couple of your favorite dark chocolate bars into small chunks and add those to the mix.
When the cookies are cool, they should be lightly crispy and filled with flavor. Store them in a covered container in a dry spot.
Try more famous copycat cookies and brownie recipes here.
Over the years I've hacked a bunch of items from Chili's menu, including their Fajitas, Baby Back Ribs, Salsa, Chili Queso, Southwestern Eggrolls, Chicken Crispers, Boneless Wings, and more, but it wasn’t until recently that I got the chance to work on a hack for the chain’s award-winning Original Chili. Why it took so long, I have no idea.
The chili served at Chili’s is a Texas-style con carne recipe, which traditionally means no beans and no tomato. You won’t find any beans in this recipe or chunks of tomato, but their chili does have a tomato base to boost flavor, so I’m adding that into the mix by including one 6-ounce can of tomato paste. As it turns out, that small can is just the right amount.
The preparation technique is simple: brown the beef, drain off the fat, then add some of the fat back to the empty pan to sauté the onions and peppers in. When those are done, you add the beef back to the pan along with the remaining ingredients and simmer for 1½ hours. That will be just long enough to braise the beef and tenderize it, and to thicken the chili to a perfect consistency.
When the chili’s done, top each serving with a cheddar/pepper Jack blend, and some crispy tortilla bits. Then pass out the spoons.
Check here more of my Chili's copycat recipes.
It’s hard to say exactly when Nashville hot chicken was born, but most agree the Prince family of Prince’s Chicken in Nashville, Tennessee can take credit for the dish’s creation. Today there are over two dozen different hot chicken restaurants in Nashville and the popularity of the dish is still growing. The 70-year-old recipe from Prince’s may be the original, but the fastest-growing Nashville hot chicken chain in the country right now is a much newer concept called Hattie B’s.
Several years ago, Nick Bishop and his son, also Nick Bishop, observed the growth of Nashville hot chicken concepts and wanted a piece of the action. They opened the first Hattie B’s in Nashville in 2012, and business was good. Today there are six Hattie B’s in three southern states and one in Las Vegas at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, where I was able to get my hands on a fresh sample of the real thing without taking a round trip flight to Tennessee.
At the Vegas Hattie B’s I sat at the food counter close to the fryer and watched the chicken being made, which provided some useful intel for my clone. I learned that the fried chicken drenched in the spicy oil paste is the “medium” heat level chicken. For the “hot” chicken an additional dry seasoning blend is sprinkled on the basted chicken.
The oily paste is what makes Nashville chicken special, so I made sure to obtain a sample of the sauce in a small cup for later study. Most of the ingredients were predictable—paprika, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, sugar, and lots of cayenne—but the oil had an unusual taste to it. I recalled reading that the oil used for traditional Nashville hot chicken comes out of the fryer after several batches of chicken have been fried in it. When the chicken fries in the oil it contributes tasty flavors that make the fat a great base for the spicy baste.
To replicate this at home, wait for at least one batch of chicken to cook in the oil, then carefully remove a cup, let it cool a bit, and whisk the spices into it.
Now, what delicious side dishes are you going to make? Click here to see my recipes.
What started as a single food cart in Madison Square Park in New York City in 2000 has become one of America's fastest-growing food chains. In 2014, Shake Shack filed for its initial public offering of stock, and shares rose by 147 percent on the first day of trading. The chain’s success can be attributed to a simple menu of great food that makes any bad day better, including juicy flat-grilled burgers, thick shakes, and creamy frozen custard.
Custard is made just like ice cream with many of the same ingredients, except custard has egg yolks in it for extra richness. Also, custards are made in ice cream machines with paddles that move slowly so minimal air is mixed in. Home ice cream makers work great for custard, and will churn out a thick, creamy finished product. Using the right ratio of cream to milk and just enough egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla, you can now make an identical hack of Shake Shack’s custard, which is great on its own or topped with syrups, fruit, and candy bits.
And don’t forget that custards taste best when they’re fresh. Shake Shack serves the custard within a couple of hours of making it, so consume your copycat custard as quickly as you can after it’s churned.
Find out how to duplicate the chain's famous Vanilla Milkshake by just adding milk using the recipe here, and re-create the juicy Shake Shake Burger with my hack here.
It’s been nearly 100 years since Walter and Cordelia Knott first started selling berries, preserves, and pies from their roadside produce stand in Buena Park, California. Walter Knott’s berry stand and farm was a popular stop throughout the 1920s for travelers heading to the Southern California beaches.
But Walter’s big claim to fame came in 1932 when he cultivated and sold the world’s first boysenberries—a hybrid of raspberry, blackberry, loganberry, and dewberry. This new berry brought so many people to the farm that they added a restaurant, featuring Cordelia’s secret fried chicken recipe, and the Knotts struck gold again.
The fried chicken was a huge hit, and the restaurant got so crowded the Knotts added rides and attractions to the farm to keep customers occupied while they waited for a table. Over the years the real berry farm transformed into an amusement park called Knott’s Berry Farm—one of my favorites as a kid—which is now ranked as the tenth most visited theme park in North America.
Knott’s Berry Farm is also a brand of delicious preserves, jams, and other foods, including these fantastic little jam-filled shortbread cookies that everyone seems to love. The shortbread dough is piped into closed “c” shapes with a pastry bag onto baking sheets, then a little bit of jam is spooned into the center. You’ll need a pastry bag and a 1M open star tip, plus your favorite seedless jam. Once you’ve got all that, the rest is pretty easy.
Follow this link for more copycat cookies, brownies and treats.
The Scoville heat rating of bhut jolokia, more commonly known as ghost pepper, is just over 1 million units, making it 200 times hotter than a jalapeno. But that didn’t stop Popeyes from creating an eye-watering breading for their scorching new crispy wings. Yes, these are seriously spicy wings, but they’re not so extreme as to be inedible, and the awesome flavor is guaranteed to tempt you back for more. Don't be scared.
The hack for these breaded blazers starts by brining the wing segments in a buttermilk and pepper sauce marinade. Salt, MSG, and cayenne pepper sauce will fill the wings with flavor, and the breading, with a decent amount of ground ghost pepper in it, will bring on the sting. Ghost pepper has been quickly growing in popularity over the last several years, and you should have no trouble finding ground ghost pepper online. Even brick-and-mortar grocery stores are stocking it.
Still, ghost pepper is crazy hot, so be careful with it. You may even want to use gloves when breading these wings. Especially if you’ll need clean fingers later for putting in a contact lens, holding a baby, or any other activity not favorable to ferociously spicy digits.
Get my secret recipes for all your favorite Popeye's food here.
Panera Bread’s product information pages refer to a long proofing time when describing the sour characteristic of the chain’s phenomenal bagels, but there is no mention of how long. After several weeks of trying different approaches to proofing these cinnamon bit–filled bagels, I decided the best solution was to form the bagels and proof them overnight in the cold. The next day the bagels came out of the refrigerator not much bigger, but after sitting for several hours at room temperature they more than doubled in size and had a light sourdough flavor like the original.
The cinnamon drops that go into the bagel were also tricky. I needed to come up with a way to make bits of cinnamon/sugar that were crunchy, but not so hard as to break a tooth. I found the best way was to make oven-cooked cinnamon candy bound with cornstarch and milk and tenderized with oil. This sugar mixture is baked in a loaf pan until no longer bubbling, then cooled and shattered into tiny pieces. When the candy is broken up, much of it gets pulverized into dust, which you separate from the crumbs with a sieve. The crumbs are the cinnamon drops used in the bagel, and the cinnamon/sugar powder is used to dust the tops of the bagels just before baking.
I also found that kettling (boiling the bagels) with just a tablespoon of sugar in the water produced a browner bagel than kettling with no sugar, so that’s the technique I’m sharing here. Some techniques call for malt in the water, but sugar works just fine and makes the perfectly shiny, blistered crust you see in the photo.
Panera Bread has amazing soups too! See if I hacked your favorite here.
The real Dole Whip is a non-dairy dessert that includes artificial flavoring, a small amount of real pineapple juice, and more gums than a candy store. Everything in this Hawaiian ice cream is combined in a powdered form including the pineapple juice in 4.4-pound bags that are sold to soft-serve machine operators at fairs, sporting events, and amusement parks. On the back of the Dole Whip mix are instructions to dissolve the powder in 2 gallons of cold tap water, then immediately pour the syrup into a soft serve machine and hit the switch.
Up until now, almost all recipes that claim to reproduce Dole Whip—including one shared by Disneyland during the coronavirus outbreak—include ice cream, to make what is supposed to be a "non-dairy" dessert one that is quite full of dairy. The results you get from these recipes may be tasty, but they are nothing like Dole Whip because Dole Whip is sorbet and sorbet isn't made with ice cream.
One thing that makes Dole Whip special is its creamy consistency, which may lead some people to believe it has dairy in it. Dole Whip creates this thickness with the assistance of six different natural gums and gels: cellulose gum, xanthan gum, locust bean gum, guar gum, karaya gum, and pectin. In addition, there is a small amount of coconut fat solids in the mix to help simulate the fat found in dairy.
For this hack, I limited the gels to two that are easy to find: unflavored gelatin and pectin. When these two ingredients are heated, then cooled, they form a gel similar to what’s in the real Dole Whip, and the result is a thick-and-creamy consistency. Another trick often used to help thicken sorbets is the use of viscous corn syrup to replace much of the sugar. Corn syrup will give the sorbet body and it helps tone down the acidic pineapple juice.
But the best part of this Dole Whip copycat recipe, unlike the real thing, is that it contains all-natural ingredients and it's mostly made of real Dole pineapple juice, plus a little tangerine juice to round out the flavor and enrich the color. This homemade Dole Whip is ridiculously easy to make (you'll need an ice cream maker) and fans of the real thing will love it. Plus, now you can have this DIY Dole Whip whenever you want—no amusement park required.
Click here for more hacks of delicious desserts and sweet treats.
Forty-five years ago, chicken and waffles sounded like an unusual combination to most people, but not to Herb Hudson. He loved the dish so much when he lived in Harlem, New York, where it was created, that he brought it west in 1975 to Long Beach, California, and turned the concept into a chain of seven legendary Los Angeles restaurants that were successful for decades.
But Roscoe’s has recently fallen on hard times. Eater.com reported in January 2018 that the chain had declared bankruptcy and owed $27 million. Snoop Dogg, known over the years for claiming Roscoe’s as his favorite restaurant, told TMZ that he was going to buy the chain and call it Snoop Dogg’s Chicken ‘N Waffles. That deal never happened.
I’m not sure what’s in the cards for Roscoe’s, but I thought it might be a good idea to head out to the Roscoe’s on Gower in LA and do a little hacking, and the sooner, the better. Once there, I ordered plenty of extra chicken and waffles to go, popped them into the cooler, then headed back to Vegas and got to work.
The chicken at Roscoe’s is Southern-style, which usually means the chicken is soaked in buttermilk, but several workers there insisted that wasn’t the case. So instead, I brined the chicken in a simple salt solution and was pleased to discover that it tasted like theirs. By peeking into the kitchen I observed that Roscoe’s chicken is pan-fried, which is a very Southern thing to do with chicken, so we’ll do the same with our clone. My waiter claimed they use canola oil.
As for the waffles, they’re made special with a secret combination of spices added to the batter. I noted a strong taste of cinnamon and vanilla, with just a dash of nutmeg. To be sure, I confirmed these three ingredients with a very helpful server from another table who was proud to talk about the recipe, and even high-fived me when I called out the correct secret ingredients.
Want more famous fried chicken recipes? Check out my KFC copycat recipes here.
If you didn’t know this salad came from Chick-fil-A you could easily be fooled into thinking it was a much more expensive salad from a casual chain like T.G.I. Friday’s or Chili’s. The bed of greens is built with crisp romaine, green leaf, and red leaf lettuce, and without a speck of tasteless iceberg in sight. On top of that are ingredients you don’t associate with fast food, like grilled corn, black beans, roasted peppers, spicy chili lime pepitas, and crunchy tortilla chips. Everything works great together, and now I can show you how to make all of it for a spot-on home hack.
Chick-fil-A knows chicken, so of course the spicy chicken served on top of the salad is delicious. We can easily clone it by marinating chicken fillets in a special spicy brine for a few hours to infuse it with flavor and juiciness, then grilling it, chilling it, and slicing it thin.
The biggest star of the salad is the secret recipe that kitchen cloners have requested most: the creamy salsa dressing. To make your own version roast some peppers, mix those with the other ingredients in a blender until the dressing is smooth and creamy, and you’ll get a bright, spicy dressing that’s perfect for this salad, or any other home-crafted salads in your future.
Hungry for more Chick-Fil-A? Find my clones for their famous chicken sandwich, mac & cheese, and more here.
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 Top Secret Recipe for the beef.
This recipe makes a duplicate of the beef currently served at Taco Bell. If you want to turn it into a Chalupa—which the restaurant makes by deep frying the flatbread used for Gorditas—the instructions are here. But you can also use this new, improved beef hack 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.
Smother your creation in mild, hot or diablo sauce. Try all my Taco Bell copycat recipes here.
If you feel like diving into a pile of wings with big flavor and no heat, you'll love this hack of a top pick at Wingstop. At the restaurant, these wings are deliciously doused with a buttery garlic Parmesan baste and then sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese. A home clone is easy when you toss crispy wings in this hack of the top secret baste and top them with a snowfall of good Parmesan cheese.
To duplicate the baste, you clarify a stick of butter, then add a little oil so that the butter doesn’t solidify. Parmesan cheese, garlic, and salt are mixed in, then the sauce is set aside to cool and thicken.
Once the wings are fried to a golden brown, toss them with the baste in a bowl, then grab the grated Parm and make it snow.
Lap Cheong (Chinese Sausage)
Lap cheong (腊肠) are Chinese pork sausages with a sweet-salty flavor and a beautiful reddish-pink color. It is the presence of monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer regularly used in Chinese cuisine that gives lap cheong its special flavor and also baijiu, a rice brandy.
Lap cheong is eaten hot or cold but always cooked in a wok. These sausages can be found almost everywhere in Asia, meat drying being a method of preservation known since ancient times and probably more.
What is the origin of lap cheong?
Lap cheong is often eaten at the time of Chinese New Year, lap being the name of the winter sacrifice and the last month of the Chinese year.
They also give their name to dachshunds and bassets, làchanggou, sausage dogs. While lap cheong originated in China, it differs from country to country in Asia and is consumed in much of the continent.
In Taiwan, they are particularly soft and sweet. In Vietnam, while they are often similar to the Chinese version, they may also contain ground chicken rather than pork.
In Myanmar, they are eaten with cabbage fried rice.
In the Philippines where they are nicknamed chorizo of Macao, they are scented with badiane.
In Singapore, they contain less pork fat and are therefore drier.
In Thailand, they are rather eaten cold in salads.
Finally, lap cheong is appreciated all over the world and widely adopted in some places like Canada or Hawaii.
How is lap cheong prepared?
While lap cheong sausages are easily found in Asian grocery stores, they are even better prepared at home. As with all sausages, a mixture of fat and lean meat should be used. The loin, neck or sometimes the belly are the most frequently used pieces for the preparation of pork sausages.
The pieces of meat must be cut to the same size and marinated in baijiu. Sugar, finely ground Szechuan pepper, MSG, red rice yeast are also added for coloring, as well as chili pepper, garlic, ginger, nutmeg and salt.
A mixture of fine salt and pink salt, i.e. nitrite salt, is used to preserve the sausages while they dry. Once the exchange of flavors between the spices and the meats has taken place, the preparation is passed through a mincer and then through a sausage pusher.
Some devices perform these two steps at the same time. Natural pork casings must be used to stuff the sausages. They can be sold in different forms, preserved in brine, i.e. salt water, or sold dry. In the latter case they will have to be rehydrated in water and desalinated.
The stuffing stage is not easy and requires a little experience, the stuffing must be guided as it comes out of the machine to pack it into the casings without pressing too hard to prevent them from being too dense and bursting.
Lap cheong sausages should be about 8 inches (20 cm) long and the casing should be twisted on itself between each sausage. The sausages are then immersed in warm water and brushed with baijiu.
Finally, they are tied up and left to dry for a dozen days. Drying conditions must be ideal to prevent the sausages from deteriorating. To do so, they should not touch each other and should be kept in a cool and dry place, if possible at a regular temperature.
Once dry, lap cheong can be frozen or consumed within a fortnight. They are usually cut in bevels and sautéed in a wok with vegetables and noodles. They can also be used to garnish Canton Bao buns.
What are the variants of the Chinese sausage?
Lap cheong can be dried, smoked or both. There are also many varieties of sausages in China, such as yun chang made from duck liver, xiang chang similar to lap cheong but even sweeter.
Nuomni chang are stuffed with sticky rice. Xue chang are similar to blood sausages and therefore contain pig’s blood. Finally, bairouxue chang are halfway between xue chang and lap cheong, so they are made of pig blood and ground pork meat.
Thai Peanut Chicken Wraps
These Thai Peanut Chicken Wraps are an easy, healthy lunch idea you’ll definitely want to put in your rotation! With a super flavorful peanut sauce, crunchy cabbage and carrots and a hearty portion of chicken, these wraps are both tasty and filling. They’re also a great way to use leftover chicken, but if you don’t have some already cooked you can always throw some in your slow cooker, or on the grill. The chicken pictured was cooked on a grill pan on my stovetop using cooking spray. You could even use some breast meat from a rotisserie chicken, it all works! I’ve eaten these wraps with both cold chicken and hot, and I like them both ways. Plus, each of these Thai Peanut Chicken Wraps is just 197 calories or 4 Green, 2 Blue or 2 Purple WW SmartPoints each!
Using a powdered peanut butter like PB2 helps keep the sauce for these Thai Peanut Chicken Wraps low in fat while still offering all the tasty peanut flavor you crave. They sell PB2 at my local grocery stores (as well as similar products by other brands), but if you have trouble finding it you can easily order it on Amazon. I’ve used it in several other recipes (I even have a category for it in my recipe index) and it’s great added to oatmeal, sauces or baked goods, so you’ll have no trouble using it up!
As I mention in the ingredients, I used Atoria’s Mini Lavash flatbreads in this recipe, but other wraps/flatbreads would of course work as well. If you want to keep the nutrition facts or points similar you’ll want to find a wrap that has similar stats (50 calories, 1 WW SP each). Otherwise, you can buy the Atoria’s wraps on Amazon!
Restaurant to Another World is a really fun fantasy sci-fi anime show that has some really great anime food ideas with a little twist.
There isn’t a more beloved anime than Food Wars! in the world of anime food lovers.
It’s fun, filled with great characters and the food… OH, the FOOD. If this show doesn’t get you hooked on anime food then nothing will.
It’s a hilarious anime series about Souma, who is the son of the owner of a small eatery in Japan.
Souma is a young boy with great cooking skills. He easily comes up with new dishes and often uses weird combinations of the ingredients no one else would think of.
When Souma’s father leaves the family business, the restaurant is on the verge of closing. Souma decides to improve his cooking skills to save the restaurant, so he enters and begins studying in Japan’s top culinary academy, the famous Engetsu Teahouse Culinary Academy.
Unfortunately, only a few are able to graduate from this prestigious school but these few will become the world’s best gourmets of culinary.
With stunning dishes and plenty of laugh out loud moments this anime is perfect for any foodie anime lover.
Chinese Chicken Congee
Congee or porridge culture is one of the most outstanding features of Chinese cuisine, compared with western culture. We are eating congee along the entire year. They may appear differently in different seasons or places. For example, in hot summer days, we make congee usually with clear water and sometimes corns and mung beans. Congee is served cold along with cold noodles. In cold winter days, broth is widely used for cooking a savory and warm congee. This is a very basic homemade chicken congee directly from rice. You can use chicken broth and leftover rice to make a leftover rice stew, which is known as 汤饭 in Chinese.
My favorite match with congee is pickles and Chinese Youtiao, Chinese pancake etc. Following are some recommendations from Elaine.
In China, both plain rice and sticky rice are used for porridge and congee. Lots of ingredients are great partners with congee. If you love a sweet version with beans and dried fruits, check mixed congee.