Restaurant Recipes at Home-Cooked Prices

There are some meals that I am a flat-out sucker for — one restaurant’s appetizer, another’s entrée, several desserts. But eating out is one of the less frugal approaches to meal planning. I can’t justify going to Olive Garden every week just because I find it impossible to get enough of their spinach-artichoke dip, even if I could get good coupons. (See also: Menu Planning Backwards and Forwards)

Some restaurants have started packaging some of their foods for the freezer aisle at the supermarket. It’s a less pricey option than a full meal at the restaurant, but still is more expensive than I think is worthwhile on a regular basis. Worse, most of those frozen dishes don’t taste quite the same as their fresh made counterparts.

If I want those dishes on a regular basis, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll just have to make them myself. Recently, I’ve been hunting for those addictive recipes from my favorite restaurants, and it’s been surprisingly easy to find many of them.

Take that spinach-artichoke dip from Olive Garden, for instance. I found the recipe at:

And Olive Garden publishes it (and many other recipes) on the restaurant’s website! While not all restaurants are so nice, websites like those above often have ‘copy cat’ or ‘clone’ recipes. Using these terms in a search, along the name of the restaurant is the most effective way of finding a given recipe. The main drawback of this system is that it’s easiest to find recipes from large chains. The odds of finding your favorite dish at an independent restaurant of any type are fairly slim.

Some of these recipes are a bit more complex than those that I normally rely on and include ingredients not normally on my shopping list. However, I’ve found that adding an item or two to my shopping list is far less expensive than dinner out. I’ve also been able to substitute just a bit with stuff I already have in my pantry and still get that same great taste I’ve been craving.

And, if it’s a sauce or dressing of some sort you’ve been craving, there’s something else you should know about. There are companies that sell clones of certain restaurant sauces. While you could go to the effort of mixing up your own batch of T.G.I. Fridays’ Jack Daniels sauce, you can also buy bottles of a clone of the sauce from

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Guest's picture

This is great advice. I try to do this a lot - when I can't find a recipe online, I try to make my own. Then I post them on my blog so hopefully someone else looking for the same thing will be able to find it! Plus, when you make it at home you can modify it to make it even better :)

Guest's picture

A couple of those sites are ones I had not found before, including the Olive Garden site. Red Lobster had recipes last time I looked also. I bought a bunch of the various Todd Wilbur Top Secret books a few years ago and still use them for quite a few things. IIRC some of the other big recipe sites like AllRecipes and have copy cat recipe sections.

Your also usually avoiding a ton of food additives making these things at home.

Myscha Theriault's picture

I love to do knock offs when I can.  I have one for the Planet Hollywood chicken crunch fingers that is pretty right on. Not something I have time to make often, but when I do it sure is tasty.

I'm going to try out some of the clone links you provided, for sure. Thanks, Thursday!

Guest's picture

You're so right.

Guest's picture

When ever I copy a dish I call it a tribute ;-)

Myscha Theriault's picture

Cool idea! I've knocked off a couple of the Olive Garden soups such as the pasta bean and the zuppa toscana. Tribute is a nice way to think about it, as someone went through the effort of creating and testing the flavor combinations . . .

Guest's picture
Chase Saunders

I think this guy was a pioneer. I don't go for the fast food clones, but both his books of restaurant recipes are good.

Guest's picture

Regarding smaller, independent restaurants, just ask the chef! Almost always, the chef will be more than happy to share a recipe with you. The best times to ask are in the mid afternoon before the dinner hour, before the customers arrive.

Chef Recipes

Guest's picture

Some of your readers might enjoy this website, . It reviews a few of the most popular restaurant cookbooks.

Guest's picture

Have you seen ? They have recipes that taste like restaurant recipes.