No matter how well you eat on a regular basis, it’s only human to get slammed with a serious urge for some good old-fashioned fast food once in a while. And sure, sometimes, absolutely nothing hits the spot like a real Big Mac or tastes as nostalgic as a Dairy Queen Blizzard. But if those cravings strike more often than you’d like, you may want some alternative ways to satisfy them—after all, everything from quality of ingredients to nutrition labels can be sketchy for many of those menu items. These 23 copycat recipes come as close as possible to the originals without wrecking your healthy-eating goals.
1. Papa John’s: Easy Garlic Knots
While these may not be as wholesome as from-scratch garlic knots, using packaged pizza dough does save you some of the ingredients, steps, and elbow grease of going 100 percent homemade. Plus, there are only two tablespoons of butter in the whole recipe, so no matter how you slice (or knot) them, they’re a better choice than what Papa John’s gives you.
2. Cheesecake Factory: Baked Avocado Egg Rolls
We’re not huge calorie counters over here, but even our jaws dropped when we learned that The Cheesecake Factory’s avocado egg rolls clock in at 960 calories per serving. There’s simply no need for that, especially when this identical version can be made easily, quickly, and using a much healthier baking method.
3. KFC: Oven-Baked Fried Chicken Tenders
Marinated in a copycat spice mix dredged in buttermilk and breadcrumbs, these chicken tenders taste like they’ve come right out of Colonel Sanders’ kitchen. The only difference? These are baked instead of fried, so they don’t have to be just a once-in-a-while treat.
4. Panera Bread: Power Kale Caesar Salad
While we’re celebrating Panera Bread’s recent move to strip its entire menu of food additives, not everyone has a branch of the restaurant nearby. Solution: Toss together your own clean-eating take of its popular Power Kale Caesar salad. From the grilled chicken to the tangy dressing down to the cheesy baked Parmesan crisps, it’s just like the original.
5. P.F Chang’s: Chicken Lettuce Wraps
P.F Chang’s is an actual sit-down restaurant instead of a fast-food joint, but technicalities are irrelevant when those irresistible chicken lettuce wraps are involved, right? This quick, homemade recipe gets the crunchy, meaty, sweet, and salty filling down to a T, meaning you can have wraps on the table in 20 minutes whenever the craving strikes.
6. Wendy’s: Chili
You could do worse than ordering the chili at Wendy’s, but you could do a lot better too—by making your own at home! Packed with lean beef, pinto beans, and classic chili spices, this version not only tastes fresher, but also lets you control how much sodium is going into your bowl.
7. Arby’s: Oven-Baked Curly Fries
For some reason, fries just taste better when they’re curly. But don’t wait until the next time you drive past an Arby’s to get your fix of the crispy spirals. Use a peeler (or a spiralizer if you have one) to turn potatoes into those all-important coils, and use a flour-and-egg coating plus the oven-baked method to get them golden and crunchy without a drop of oil.
8. Chick-Fil-A: Chicken Noodle Soup
Everyone’s got a chicken noodle recipe up their sleeve, even Chick-Fil-A. Recreate the fast-food version at home with this recipe. Using prepared rotisserie chicken, carrots, and plenty of egg noodles, it’s the quintessential, brothy bowl of comfort.
9. In-N-Out: Burger With Lighter Secret Spread
Burgers can be a polarizing subject—everyone has pretty strong feelings about the best ones out there. But this recipe, recreating the California chain’s trademark sautéed onion topping and homemade secret sauce is a total crowd-pleaser. Whether you’re a McDonald’s loyalist, a Shake Shack supporter, or a Five Guys fan, this recipe may just convert you into an In-N-Out enthusiast.
10. Pizza Hut: Best Ever No-Knead Pan Pizza
The thought of making homemade dough may make you want to throw your hands up and dial for delivery, but this simple, no-knead recipe has your pie prepped, baked, and ready to slice in less time than it would take Pizza Hut to reach you. Plus, when you’re in control, there’s no risk of skimpy toppings.
11. Panda Express: Black Pepper Chicken
Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you off—it’s mostly made up of simple spices like pepper, garlic powder, and Creole seasoning to give a distinctive kick. You may not be at the mall, but this Panda Express staple will transport your taste buds right back to the food court.
12. Chipotle: Chicken Burrito Brown Rice Bowl
Chipotle was one of the smarter fast food options out there, until those E.Coli issues made a lot of people nervous. Stay on the safe side by making your own burrito bowl at home. Even counting the cilantro brown rice and the guacamole, there are only eight main ingredients needed to clone this Mexican-inspired favorite.
13. Taco Bell: Mexican Pizza
Somewhere between a pizza and a quesadilla lies this version of Taco Bell’s specialty menu item. Lean turkey and beans are stacked inside two tortillas (we’d suggest whole-wheat) then sprinkled with cheese and your favorite toppings to replicate the dish from the Mexican chain, the real food way.
14. White Castle: Burgers
They look so cute and harmless, but White Castle burgers can be pretty questionable when it comes to the quality of meat used. Play it safe and get the same flavors with this recipe, which goes for organic cheese, fresh ground beef, and some peanut butter for the secret ingredient that gets these tasting just like the sliders that Harold and Kumar ate.
15. McDonald’s: Sausage McMuffins
It is the original breakfast sandwich. It’s the ultimate morning muffin. It’s the McDonald’s menu item so popular, it’s now available to order all day. But it’s also packed with sodium, processed dairy, and goodness knows what else. Get all of that McMuffin-y flavor with none of the creepy ingredients with this much cleaner rendition, which uses a whole-wheat English muffin, lean beef, and a real slice of cheese.
16. Taco Bell: Beef Meximelt
The mouthwatering Meximelt over at Taco Bell may be one of the easiest meals to make at home.There is no cooking involved other than browning the meat, so it works great as a breakfast taco, a quick lunch or dinner, or a midnight munchie fix.
17. Krispy Kreme: (Gluten-Free) Doughnuts
Just because you crave a doughnut doesn’t mean you should deal with the grease that comes with it. While a bit of butter keeps these Krispy Kreme copycats soft, oven-baking them means that they’re oil free. Plus, these glazed babies are gluten-free too!
18. Wendy’s: (Paleo) Frosty
It’s not a meal at Wendy’s without a classic chocolate Frosty at the end—except with ingredients like corn syrup and “artificial flavor,” there’s some pretty cringe-worthy stuff in there. Get the same taste with nutritional benefits to boot with this version, which uses bananas, cacao powder, and nondairy milk to perfect that soft-serve/milkshake hybrid.
19. Cinnabon: 30-Minute (Whole-Wheat) Mini Cinnamon Buns
Regular store-bought cinnamon buns are too gigantic to finish, packed with enriched wheat, and almost always guarantee a sugar coma. These spiced rolls are bite-size, made with whole-wheat pastry flour, and a fraction of the sweetness. Plus they make your kitchen smell like Cinnabon. Win.
20. McDonald’s: (Paleo) Shamrock Shake
No artificial coloring or flavors in here! Fresh mint leaves and avocado team up for that cool green color, while coconut milk helps thicken things up, and honey sweetens the deal. McDonald’s may want to actually adopt this recipe.
21. Dairy Queen: Oreo Blizzard
Even a mini Oreo Blizzard at Dairy Queen clocks in at 42 total grams of sugar—yikes. Cut down without compromising the sweetness with this homemade, frozen, banana-based Blizzard instead. There are even bits of Oreos inside, just like at DQ.
22. McDonald’s: Apple Hand Pies
Egg roll wrappers instead of fried pastry dough form the envelopes for these McDonald’s-inspired apple pies. Baked until the outside is crisp and the cinnamon-spiced fruit inside is all gooey, they taste pretty darn close to the real deal.
23. Subway: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
Soft, chewy, nutty… those macadamia nut cookies at Subway are pretty hard to pass up. But if you’re looking for a healthier version, this recipe, using almond flour, coconut oil, and pure maple syrup, comes super close to the original. Plus, it’s Paleo friendly!