The Best Fast Food Copycat Recipes for Budget-Minded Parents
We all claim to hate fast food. This is especially true for parents. (It’s hard for Deborah to be self-righteous about her unschooling and organic meals if she admits to loving fast food.) Let’s be honest—we all love fast food from time to time. But, what about fast food copycat recipes?
Is there anything better than getting to enjoy the fast food flavors you love without the worry of being caught at McDonald’s by fellow parents? Not only do these fast food copycat recipes let you make your favorites at home, they let you do it for way cheaper than the menu prices! Let’s dive in.
14 Fast Food Copycat Recipes
You never know what kind of mood you’re going to be in. Do you want a burger from Five Guys? Fries from McDonald’s? A shake from Steak ‘n Shake? Well, as luck would have it, there are recipes for practically everything, letting you pick and choose your own perfect meal. Even better, you can save a ton of if you pick recipes that share ingredients.
Fast Food Copycat Entrées
No meal would be complete without an entrée, so first, let’s tackle the main course.
Note: some of these might be a little time-consuming, so you may not want to tackle them while on full-time parenting duty. I’ll note the recipes that are a particular pain in the ass so you know to try them when your kiddos are napping or being supervised!
Copycat Big Mac Recipe
Time to Make: 40 minutes
Safe to Make with Your Kids: The oven is involved, but the prep is fairly simple and there’s no open flame or hot oil.
Ahh, the Big Mac. It’s about as American as apple pie and Google, and pretty much every meat-eater has had one at some point. I’ll admit to enjoying them, but I’ll be damned if they aren’t disappointing a fraction of the time.
Fortunately, the Big Mac is one of the easiest fast food items to rip off.
There are countless recipes that recreate the Big Mac bun-for-bun. Personally, I like this one from The Spruce Eats, as it turns the Big Mac into a delicious bunch of sliders. These are perfect for sharing with your kids, or shamefully consuming by yourself when everyone is sleeping.
Copycat Popeye’s Fried Chicken
Time to Make: 60+ minutes (Brine for 24 hours beforehand if possible)
Safe to Make with Your Kids: Definitely not. There’s raw chicken, raw egg if you go the egg route, hot oil, and the oven involved.
It seems like everyone has a favorite fried chicken chain. Mine used to be KFC, but after being introduced to the spicy goodness of Popeye’s, it’s hard for me to go elsewhere. (Except Golden Chick, you delicious, regional gem.)
Fried chicken is no walk in the park to make, and Popeye’s is no exception. No matter the recipe you choose, you’re in for a large mess in the kitchen, tons of hot oil, breading, and very attentive cooking experience. This recipe from My Incredible Recipes is pretty solid, but I would suggest doubling or tripling the cayenne pepper.
(Also, some former Popeye’s employees suggest adding a little bit of Tobasco when battering the chicken. Totally your call, but I’m always down for more spice.)
Copycat Chick-fil-A Chicken Strips
Time to Make: 25 minutes (Brine ahead of possible)
Safe to Make with Your Kids: No, as there’s raw chicken, raw egg, and then piping hot oil involved.
Two chicken recipes in a row? Yes. Chicken is awesome. And who is going to argue with a Chik-fil-A copycat? Not I.
Chik-fil-A nuggets are obviously dynamite, but their strips are some of my favorite. More importantly, strips will be a little easier for you, the busy parent, to make, as you don’t have to chop the chicken into little bite-sized pieces.
Tons of Chik-fil-A recipes will have you simply fry chicken in a lazy breading and call it a day. This recipe from Call Me PMC actually includes the essential step: brining the chicken in pickle juice. That’s right—pickle juice. It might sound crazy, but it gives the strips that sweetness Chik-fil-A chicken is known for.
Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme Recipe
Time to Make: 15-20 minutes
Safe to Make with Your Kids: They can help prep, but don’t let them near the hot pan.
The Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme may not be what Taco Bell is most famous for, but it should be. Beautifully browned tortilla wrapped around beef, cheese, sour cream, and other goodies like a warm blanket? Yes, please.
Even better, this recipe is really easy to imitate AND it tastes even better than the real deal. Still not sold? What if I told you the bulk ingredients are even cheaper than Taco Bell? (And that’s saying something.)
There are numerous recipes floating around, but this particular one from Quick N Easy Recipes keeps things nice and simple. (One could say, quick and easy.) You can easily tweak this one with different sauces, peppers, and so on, but I find them fantastic as is. They’re also pretty quick, so these are totally doable with the kids around.
Imitation Fast Food Sides
You can’t have an entree without a proper side. What’s more proper than a heaping mound of McDonald’s fries or some Sonic cheddar poppers? Nothing, that’s what.
These imitation fast food sides are all pretty affordable, but most of them are going to be a hard pass when it comes to making them with your kids in the kitchen. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t quickly whip them up while your children are entertained!
Copycat McDonald’s Fries
Time to Make: 70+ minutes
Safe to Make with Your Kids: Not even a little bit.
Who doesn’t love McDonald’s fries? (Shut up, Deborah, nobody believes you.) While McDonald’s famously changed their recipe some time again to help keep us alive for longer, they still remain a popular choice for go-to- fries.
Numerous copy McDonald’s fries recipes end up telling you how to make regular french fries, but this particular recipe from Duck in a Pot, goes above and beyond to deliver something unique and memorable. You’re going to be running around your kitchen for a good hour or more, so be prepared for some serious labor. Also, because this particular recipe calls for using an open fryer or pan, I don’t recommend making it with your kids. You can opt to air fry them, but that will definitely change up the recipe. (The air fryer is fantastic, however!)
Arby’s Fries Recipe
Time to Make: 35 minutes
Safe to Make with Your Kids: They can help prep, but don’t let them near the boiling water or hot oven.
When it comes to which chain has the best fries, many people suggest Arby’s. I say they’re wrong, but Arby’s fries are pretty great and I do crave them from time to time.
Unfortunately, a lot of Arby’s fries recipes will just tell you how to make curly fries. Curly fries and Arby’s fries are two TOTALLY different things. This recipe from Key Ingredient actually takes things in the right direction with spices and cooking technique. The prep time is low but there is a bit of cooking time. Also, you’ll need a twin curl cutter to make the fries!
Sonic Cheddar Peppers Recipe
Time to Make: 35 minutes
Safe to Make with Your Kids: There’s hot oil and some chopping, so this one is definitely adults only.
Oh sweet, sweet Sonic cheddar peppers. Sorry, Ched ‘R’ Peppers. While these are basically just a fast food version of stuffed jalapenos, they’re still wonderful. Cheese, jalapeno, spice—what’s not to like?
Personally, I dig this recipe from Copy Kat, as it’s straightforward, doesn’t require any special bells or whistles, and it gets the job done. This one doesn’t take a ton of time, but the prep work and extremely hot oil make this one a no-go for doing when the kids are in the kitchen. Also, pair this with some great ranch for a real treat!
Rally’s Fries Recipe
Time to Make: 10-15 minutes
Safe to Make with Your Kids: Hot oil and violent potato chopping make this one a bad choice for kids.
Rally’s fries are the gold standard of fries. They’re flavorful, unique, and easy to eat until you feel like keeling over. There’s a reason they introduced a “fry lover” size several years back.
If you haven’t had Rally’s fries (or Checker’s depending on the region) then you’re in for a real treat. Their fries are crisp, have a really unique, slightly-peppery flavor, and are a nice blend of eating Long John Silver’s breading and heaven. Also, great? The recipe is pretty well-known across numerous sites, and many even suggest using already-cut frozen fries!
This one from Group Recipes is super simple, easy to follow, and sure to please. Once again, this recipe does involve tons of hot oil flying everywhere, so I wouldn’t advise making it with your kids.
Burger King Onion Rings Recipe
Time to Make: 70 minutes
Safe to Make with Your Kids: No. There’s some super hot oil going on. If you have slightly older kids they could help you batter the onions though!
When you’re not in the mood for fries, onion rings are great to pair with a burger, sandwich, and so on. (Thanks for explaining what onion rings are good for, John.)
Onion rings are pretty hit and miss, but when it comes to fast food onion rings, Burger King does a solid job. They’re not amazing, but for a place that can get you onion rings in minutes for a couple of dollars, they’re great. Even better, their onion rings are minced so you don’t wind up pulling an entire onion out of the breading.
(Nothing is as delicious as a mouth full of onion and a chin that’s freshly burned from said onion slapping your face.)
As far as Burger King Onion copycat recipes go, there are quite a few. A lot of them result in plain old onion rings. No thanks, my face has enough trouble without any onion burns. This recipe from Genius Kitchen actually suggests mincing the onions and mixing them up first. Thank you, Genius Kitchen.
While this recipe isn’t too labor intensive, it does entail a ton of hot oil popping and likely getting everywhere. Do this one when the kids can be watched by someone else!
Copycat KFC Mac and Cheese Recipe
Time to Make: 15-20 minutes
Safe to Make with Your Kids: Yes. There’s some boiling and hot cheese, but they can easily help prep and watch as you stir.
When it comes to fried chicken, there are a few chains that come before KFC. When it comes to mac and cheese? KFC is pretty damn good.
Not only is KFC mac and cheese easy to mimic at home, but it also won’t have taco meat bits in it! (Seriously, KFC/Taco Bell combos, how the hell does this happen?)
This recipe is pretty straightforward, cheap, and easy to do with the kiddos around. It may not be exactly like KFC, but what is? If you want to take things to the next level and accurately recreate the average KFC experience, you can leave the mac and cheese under a heat lamp for several hours. (Kidding. Or am I?)
Fast Food Dessert Copycats
You know what would go great with your fast food copycat recipe deliciousness? Some fast food dessert copycat goodness.
I can’t count the number of times I had a Big Mac but craved a Wendy’s frosty. Fortunately for myself and my wife, I’m not desperate enough to drive 30 minutes to the nearest Wendy’s. With the glorious thing we all call the internet? Oh, I can make miracles happen.
Below are some of my favorite fast food dessert copycats!
Copycat Wendy’s Frosty Recipe
Time to Make: 5 minutes
Safe to Make with Your Kids: Yes. There’s a blender involved, but the kids can have a ton of fun throwing the ingredients in.
Few fast food desserts are as iconic as the Wendy’s frosty. Some might tell you it’s only chocolate soft serve, but those people would be wrong. It’s smooth, chocolatey, and perfect. It’s even great for dipping fries into, if you’re some kind of weirdo. (Don’t tell my wife I said that.)
Numerous frosty recipes will tell you to buy an expensive ice cream maker. This site would only be called TheDad if I didn’t find a cheaper option, so I present to you this super simple recipe that only requires a blender. Even better, this one is really easy and safe, so it’s a fun one to include the kids on. (Just don’t let them stick their hands in the blender.)
Sonic Fresh Cherry Limeade Recipe
Time to Make: 5 minutes
Safe to Make with Your Kids: Absolutely. You’re mixing a few ingredients in a bowl or pitcher. Other than a catastrophic, sticky spill, what could go wrong?
Ahh, the cherry limeade from Sonic. It’s kind of weird, but it’s sweet, citrusy, and refreshing. Why have a regular soda when you can have this sugary, interesting creation?
Also, you might be wondering why I have this under desserts. The sugar content alone tells me this is where it belongs.
The flavor profile of cherry limeade is anything but simple. Fortunately, the recipe itself is a breeze. There are numerous copycat recipes available, so I picked this one. Why? They were one of the few sites not bombarding me with popups. Congratulations, ClassyClutter, you win!
This recipe is easy, quick, and affordable. Also, you can easily let your kids help out as there aren’t any hot oils or sharp objects involved. (Not that I endorse letting your kid drink soda.) Oh, one more thing: adult this drink up with some vodka for a great nighttime delight.
DQ Blizzard Recipe
Time to Make: 5 minutes
Safe to Make with Your Kids: Yes. Let your kids go nuts throwing ingredients into the blender, just make sure their fingers stay out!
I like ice cream. You probably like ice cream. Who doesn’t like ice cream? What about ice cream with a ton of candy, cookies, or other sugary junk thrown in? Sign me up.
The DQ Blizzard is legendary. Are there better ice cream things out there? Probably, but few are as customizable and potentially affordable as the DQ Blizzard.
There are virtually unlimited Blizzard flavors and combinations, but for the sake of this article I’m picking this copycat DQ Blizzard Reese’s recipe. It requires a handful of ingredients, is super cheap, and it’s delicious. If you don’t like Reese’s you can easily throw in a different candy. This is also a great recipe to include your kids on, as it can be a blast to throw everything in the blender!
Taco Bell Cinnamon Twists Recipe
Time to Make: 25 minutes
Safe to Make with Your Kids: If you do the oven-baked version, this is pretty safe for little ones.
Taco Bell is known for many things. Top-notch food? Maybe not. Cinnamon twists? Hell yes.
Some former Taco Bell employees claim the fabled cinnamon twists are just noodles, deep fried after being battered in cinnamon. Apparently, the oil makes them puff up and turn into the twists we all know and love.
I don’t know what to believe, so I picked a recipe with two versions: the healthier croissant version, and the deep-fried noodle weirdness. I’ve made the croissant ones and they’re great, but definitely not in-line with the original. I’ve yet to try the noodle recipe, but others are swearing by it, so proceed at your own risk. (I will make it soon and report back!)
The baked version of this recipe is perfectly suitable for kids. The deep-fried oddity is definitely no place for kids (and possibly no place for anyone at all), so exercise caution.
Owning the Copycat Recipe
Making copycat recipes can be a great way to satisfy your fast food cravings without breaking the bank. Even better, it’s a great way to get your family involved in cooking. Because I love being difficult, I personally like to take copycat recipes and modify them. Crunchwraps with anaheim peppers and some local jalapeno hot sauce? Why the hell not?! (I’ve got Rolaids on standby.) Feel free to get creative when making copycat recipes. Show your kids that you’re a true original!
Do you have some favorite copycat recipes? Any crazy modifications you’ve made to a recipe? I’d love to hear about it below!