Copycat Recipes – The Budget Dining Experience


Growing up, going to restaurants was an especially rare treat. For some reason that I never quite understood, my parents had this odd aversion to restaurants of any kind, from the nicest sit-down restaurants to fast food joints. My parents vehemently despised the restaurant environment and only wanted to eat at home. My brother and I would always try to convince the parents to let us go to any restaurant. Almost always, our efforts were thwarted. We reached an impasse, until we found out about copycat recipes.

One day, while at a yard sale, I found some old yellow pieces of paper wedged into a ripped cookbook. The old pieces of paper contained a collections of Outback Steakhouse recipes. The proverbial light bulb turned on. We could reach a consensus. If we could not go to the restaurant, then we should bring the restaurant to us.

I purchased all of the copycat recipes at the yard sale and hurried home, excited to share my findings. The first recipe I made was a recipe for Blooming Onion. As we dug into the breaded onion, all smiled. My brother and I had the restaurant-quality food we had craved for so long, and my parents did not have to step foot out of the house. In an odd way, restaurant recipes saved my childhood food memories.

We then moved on to recipes for Panda Express. If restaurant food was rare, then Asian-style food was the dodo bird, totally extinct. Before copycat recipes, I had never tried Asian-style food. Needless to say, I was quite excited to try some recipes for Panda Express orange chicken. My brother and I even biked to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients ourselves. After much effort, we had our sweet and spicy concoction to share. To our great surprise, the recipes for Panda Express orange chicken were some of the best recipes we had ever tried.

The recipes became so popular in the house that even my parents got in on the act. They became mini professional chefs because of the skills at making copycat recipes. At my high school graduation party, my folks whipped up some copycat tastefully simple dip recipes that was the best-tasting dip I have ever tried. The recipes were a staple in our house, from copycat iced drink recipes to copycat three cheese penne. Eventually, because of those recipes, our parents relented and occasionally took us to eat the real thing.

As I became older and moved out of the house, I certainly ate my fair share of restaurant food. After all, I had to make up for lost time. However, I soon realized why my parents so despised restaurants, as eating out started depleting my checking account. To save money, I quickly reverted back to those copycat recipes that helped me survive my teenage years. Now, I appreciate restaurant food more than other people I know, but I will always cherish those old copycat recipes.

For copycat recipes from your favorite restaurants, check out