Forks in the Road: Food and Travel in Central PA - A Community Blog

Adrienne Wolter shares local restaurant reviews, day trips and cooking adventures

The Wonderful World of Copycat Recipes

Written by Adrienne Wolter, Community Blogger | Jun 30, 2014 8:50 AM

Photo by Chris Ford

Going out to eat is such a treat. It saves time in the kitchen, there is no clean-up, and it offers quality time with family away from the distractions of home.  Dining at a restaurant can also provide families with the chance to try a new cuisine or discover a new favorite spot.

Unfortunately, eating out can have a negative impact on both our wallets and our waistlines. Visiting a restaurant--even those considered cost-effective--is almost always more expensive than eating in.  Also, those yummy restaurant meals often pack in more calories than home-cooked meals. Or, for those of us living in Central PA, sometimes our favorite restaurant is in another city and we can't make it there regularly. Oh, the humanity!

Enter the copycat recipe craze. Copycat recipes decode restaurant favorites into easy-to-make recipes, so you can enjoy a restaurant-like meal in the comfort (and economy) of your own home; no travel necessary!

Think this is too good to be true? Let's review a few favorite copycat recipes.


Photo by Simon Grieg

Bring the Cheesecake Factory to You

Central Pennsylvanians frequently lament the fact there is no Cheesecake Factory nearby (the closest are in Philly and Baltimore).  However, copycat recipes are a great way to bring the Cheesecake Factory into your own kitchen without putting the miles on your car. 

For example, while their avocado egg rolls are a family favorite, we might get to a Cheesecake Factory once a year, if that. So here is a make-at-home copycat recipe that’s easy to follow and enjoyable to build.

And, of course, their cheesecake recipes have been copied by fans. Here are some examples: their original cheesecake, key lime cheesecake and carrot cake cheesecake.

Road-trip Without the Trip

In many families, Cracker Barrel means road trip.  With locations conveniently dotted along the highway and the general store style shop inviting you to browse and stretch your legs, Cracker Barrel breakfasts, lunches and dinners are a welcome respite for many road warriors.

Maybe your family is having a “staycation” this summer, but you want to bring the tastes of a road trip home. Here is a recipe to recreate Cracker Barrel’s famous hash brown casserole in the comfort of your own kitchen.


Photo by Stephanie Hoang

The Healthier Homemade Wendy's Frosty

Copycat recipes give home cooks a chance to make healthy substitutions to save calories, carbs and fat.  Substituting olive oil for butter when sautéing veggies is a quick way to improve upon restaurant recipes. When trying to imitate a restaurant's omelet, use egg whites instead of whole eggs. It's easy to substitute brown rice for white rice at home, and romaine lettuce or spinach for iceberg. All of these little adjustments can instantly turn your home-cooked version of restaurant food into a healthier meal for your family.

Also, chances are you aren't putting out a bread basket like most restaurants, so you can save carbs right off the bat!

Let's look at an example of a home-cooked restaurant recipe adjusted for a healthy spin. Wendy’s Chocolate Frosties are the perfect summer treat. But with a large Frosty clocking in at 580 calories, there is undoubtedly room for improvement in the homemade version.

This healthy version by Tara Stiles has only about a third of the calories of a Chocolate Frosty and all of the yum factor.  Just blend these ingredients and enjoy:

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 banana (frozen) if not frozen add a handful of ice cubes
  • 1 big tablespoon almond butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon raw cacao powder

This one is so good, you might need extra bibs on hand this summer for the family as they power through it!

Make It Last

No two ways about it: eating out is a luxury, and a fleeting one at that. Even at the most leisurely of meals, your experience is over in less than two hours.  If you follow copycat recipes, though, you can create meals that can be easily frozen and enjoyed weeks or months from now.

This Minestrone Soup recipe is an Olive Garden copycat recipe that is made in a slow cooker AND can be frozen – double bonus! If you visit the link, you’ll find Cooking Classy has conveniently provided some other Olive Garden recipe hacks.

On a busy night, a bowl of homemade comfort soup is just a freezer away. So instead of going to a restaurant and having one meal, look for copycat recipes that can be frozen and enjoyed throughout many meals.

Time to Copycat

Hopefully this has given you some ideas about how to copycat your own favorite restaurant meals. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, even when it comes to cooking. So take the challenge: see if you can find a copycat recipe for your favorite restaurant meal or create one yourself. You’ll save money and calories, and make new memories in the process.

Have you had success making a restaurant meal at home? Share your favorite copycat recipe in the comment section below!

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