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Copycat Recipes

By on March 6, 2007

Family schedules are often hectic. You might turn to convenience foods and eating out to make your day less chaotic. Your family probably even has their own personal favorite foods from restaurant menus. Have you ever wondered what ingredients were used in meals at your favorite fast food or retail chain restaurant? You can replicate and enjoy the taste of your favorite restaurant dishes at home.

Copycat recipes aren’t the exact secret recipes, but they taste very close. They’re close enough to the “real deal” that they are sometimes called “kitchen clones”. The recipes often use common ingredients and are simple to make. They can help a frugal family feel less deprived for choosing to eat and cook at home versus dining out. Not only can you re-create restaurant meals and control the ingredients, but you can save money by making it yourself.


Semi-homemade meals are not created entirely from scratch, more specifically, these are recipes that contain a convenience food, but aren’t entirely made with prepackaged, convenience products. It’s a combination of fresh and store-bought prepared ingredients. This is a decent alternative to fast food. These recipes can be your “secret shortcuts”, but beware that they tend to not be as healthy as from scratch, and they will often be more costly than from scratch too.

Realistically, many people cook this way on a regular basis. Ever use a can of campbell soup in a recipe? All in all, these recipes can be quick and still help you to avoid fastfood and eating out. WARNING: Sandra Lee is not for everyone, but keep in mind that neither is Rachel Ray. You can decide for yourself, if you like her suggestions, or simply create your own semi-homemade meals.

You can also try the following semi-homemade recipe:

Butterscotch Brownies

  • 18.25 oz yellow cake mix
  • 1/3 cup butter softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 14 oz can condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix cake mix, butter and 1 egg at medium speed until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly in 9×13 pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with pecan and chips. In another bowl mix condensed milk, 2 eggs and vanilla extract. Pour evenly over first layer. Bake 25-30 minutes or until center is set. Cool.
source: recipezaar

Mix it Up

It’s so easy to make your own copycat dressings, spices, and mixes. Homemade mixes created ahead of time are a handy option to store-bought.

To make copycat spices, you can look at the ingredients on the containers of your favorite spices. To blend spices, you can use a coffee grinder. As an additional incentive, think about creating spice blends and giving them as gifts.

Mock KFC Spice

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons celery salt
  • 2 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons msg
  • 2 tablespoons meat tenderizer
  • 1 tablespoon seasoning salt
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon onion salt
  • 1 tablespoon marjoram
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sweet basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano

Recipe for fried chicken

  • Chicken
  • 2 cups of milk
  • egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • mock kfc chicken seasoning
  • paper bags

Wash chicken and set it aside. Combine the milk and egg in a bowl. Combine the dry ingredients into a paper bag. Dip chicken pieces one at a time into the “batter” and then one at a time.

Put in the paper bag and shake. Melt enough crisco to equal 1/2 of oil in your pan. Heat the oil to 360 degrees. Place chicken in and don’t crowd. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes on one side, then turn and do 15-20 minutes on the other side.

Can remove the lid and lower the heat to 350 as soon as you can see the chicken has started frying well. After taking chicken out, place on paper bags to soak up grease and immediately salt lightly.

Taco Seasoning Mix

  • 2 teaspoons instant onion, Minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red peppers, Crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin, Ground

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and blend well. Spoon mixture onto a 6-inch square of aluminum foil and fold to make airtight. Store in a cool, dry place and use within 6 months. Makes 1 package (about 2 T) of mix.

Taco Filling: Brown 1 lb lean ground beef in a medium skillet over medium-high heat; drain the excess grease. Add 1/2 cup water and the seasoning mix. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes filling for 8 to 10 tacos.

Mixes such as pancake/waffle mix are a cinch and it doesn’t take much longer to mix than using Bisquik.

Pancake Mix

  • 1 1/4 cups sifted flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix and fry on greased skillet or griddle

Belgian Waffles

  • 1 cups flour
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter melted

Mix and pour into greased belgian waffle maker.
Note: You can add more milk if it’s too thick for your liking.

Homemade Syrup

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 3 drops maple extract
  • 3 drops vanilla extract

Boil sugars and water together. Add corn syrup and extracts to taste.

Imagine how impressed your family and friends will be with your fresh homemade salad dressing and condiments.

Ranch Dressing Mix

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried minced garlic
  • 8 teaspoons dried minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons parsley flakes

Directions: Combine all ingredients. Store in a baggie or airtight container. When ready to make dressing, combine 1 tablespoon mix with 1 cup mayonnaise and 1 cup buttermilk.

Homemade Mayo

  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions: Place egg, vinegar, sugar, mustard and salt in blender or mixer. Mix 1 minute. Very slowly add oil while mixer is running. Mix together cornstarch and water in saucepan and cook stirring constantly until thick. Add this mixture to blended mixture and mix high speed until smooth. Refrigerate.

Homemade Ketchup

  • 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup tap water
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch cloves
  • 1 pinch allspice
  • 1/8 cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cumin

Mix with whisk or mixer and refrigerate. See also: for cooked version

If eating out is one section of your budget that you’re trying to pare down, then give these tips a try. It can be fun to try copycat recipes, and it can help with the cooking doldrums too. You don’t even have to leave your kitchen or wait to be seated. Although, not all are the perfect solution when you’re pressed for time, they can help stop any cravings you have for restaurant foods.

Additional reading:

From frugalvillage forums:

Make it Yourself

Kitchen Clones


  1. baxjul

    3/6/2007 at 6:20 am

    Great recipes! I like both Rachael Ray and Sandra Lee!

  2. Autumn

    3/6/2007 at 8:53 am

    I love Sandra Lee. 🙂 Thank you so much for posting this. I have been looking for new recipes since I just recently started cooking after 7 1/2 years of marriage. LOL

  3. Michelle-Lea

    3/6/2007 at 10:32 am

    I use alot of copycat recipes and homemade mix recipes. It’s a great saver!

  4. Sprite

    3/6/2007 at 3:39 pm

    These look yummy but I like fast meals because I am usually very hungry, very tired and usually both. I have found Chinese noodle dishes and stir-frys to be the best. Oyster sauce and sesame oil go a long way to make you feel like you’ve created a masterpiece when it was, very much, a copy. The good part is, you know where the ingredients came from and how clean your own frying pan is! 🙂 That’s always the best part of home cooking. Now I’m hungry. See what you did! 🙂

  5. AheeK

    3/6/2007 at 8:22 pm

    Great post! I always unsure of which copycat recipes to try, but I think I’ll start with yours. That fried chicken looks yummy!

  6. emily_hope

    3/7/2007 at 12:32 am

    Thanks for the recipes. I My DD16 is a Food Network junkie. She watcher Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee. She also likes Paula Dean. We’ve eaten at Paula’s restaurant in Savannah and tried some recipes from her show.

  7. Michelle S.

    3/10/2007 at 1:40 pm

    Thanks for all of the links. I love using copycat recipes 🙂

    I am going to stop reading your posts about food though. I am craving all sorts of stuff that I have no business eating right now (on a diet yet again lol)

  8. Maggi

    3/10/2007 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks for the article I love copycat recipes. I got one for the KFC cole slaw that I just love. Now I’ll try the recipe for the chicken to go with it. I like Rachel Ray and sandra Lee, but Paula Deen has to be my favorite.
    My son asked me one time when we were watching Sandra Lee if she ever made a meal without a drink to go with it. Now to think of it I don’t think she has.

  9. Sara Noel

    3/14/2007 at 9:07 am

    Thanks. Copycat recipes are fun to try, but it’s never fun if you’re trying a recipe with a large margin for failure. I try to only share recipes that are “no fail”, so no one wastes any ingredients.

    We use the pancake and waffle recipes often over here. I’ll get some pics of it and add it to this entry soon, so you can see how great those recipes work. 🙂

  10. Marie78

    3/24/2007 at 2:16 am

    Thank you for posting the recipes, I can’t wait to try them out.

  11. Bev

    6/20/2012 at 11:34 pm

    I was looking for a copycat recipe for the old Hardees Ham and Cheese last Saturday. I finally remembered that I had loved the sandwiches so much when I was a kid that my Mom made her own version of the Ham and Cheese that was much cheaper! She took budding ham in the plastic pouch and boiled it until the slices were bun sized then buttered both sides of the hamburger bun and toasted them then she added sliced swiss cheese on top and put it into the broiler for a couple of minutes. They were so good! We were poor growing up but I never knew it because my Mom was (and is) a genius at making things stretch. She would get sliced bologna, the small size, boil them until they made this dome shape. She called them hats and they were one of our favorite meals. My Dad, rest his beautiful soul, never once complained about eating a frugal meal.

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