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Off-Brand Drinks That Taste Better Than The Real Thing (Slideshow)

Off-Brand Drinks That Taste Better Than The Real Thing (Slideshow)

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Does soda really taste better when it’s a “brand”?

Off-Brand Drinks That Taste Better Than The Real Thing

Though we whined and complained that we could taste the difference, our mothers stood firm that the too-sugary-not-sugary-enough-just-tastes-wrong feeling we were experiencing was all in our heads.

7 Select Orange Soda

While participants in a Huffington Post taste test didn’t love 7-Eleven’s orange flavored beverage more than Sunkist, they did prefer it to much pricier sodas like San Pellegrino and Izze (which came in last).

Nice! Cola

In another Huffington Post blind taste test, users preferred the Walgreen’s brand cola to Coca-Cola, preferring its “subtle, smooth” taste.

Dr. Perky

Patrick O’Keefe, host of the web series Soda Tasting, knows his soda, and even he mistook the Food Lion brand soda for the real thing. At just a fraction of the cost, switching could be worth it.

Shasta Cream Soda

Rachael Ray raves about the taste of Shasta’s cream soda over bigger names. Her panel of taste testers said the vanilla seemed “less fake” than other brands.

Bubble Up

Bubble Up isn’t actually generic, as it’s been around since the 1920s, but people forget it in favor of 7 Up. Rachel Ray’s soda tasting panel preferred Bubble Up’s “limey and dry” elements.

Faygo Root Beer

Again, Ray’s panel liked the off brand over the bigger brands like Barq’s. It wasn’t too sweet and had just the right amount of carbonation.


Known as the “nectar of North Carolina,” locals can’t get enough of this super carbonated, cherry flavored soda.

365 Everyday Value Cola

Nehi Soda

Like Cheerwine, Nehi is more forgotten than generic, but fans really love its over-the-top-sugary artificial fruit flavor, much more so than they like the more mainstream Fanta.

RC Cola

Though most have forgotten about RC Cola, first produced in 1905, in favor of Coke and Pepsi, the brand has over 80,000 followers on Facebook who enjoy its mega sweetness and lower carbonation.

Diet Sodas, Ranked Worst To Best

For those individuals on a keto diet or those who simply want to lower their sugar intake for health reasons, diet sodas are a welcome reprieve from drinking water. If you pick the right diet soda, you will have a tasty beverage at your fingertips that has little to no sugar in it.

While the lack of sugar is beneficial for some people (particularly diabetics), not everyone agrees that diet sodas are healthy. But as long as you practice moderation, you should be okay.

Health issues aside, the main risk when it comes to diet sodas involves taste. Many diet sodas are gross, and some are so repulsive that you wouldn't wish the drink on your worst enemy. Pick the wrong one, and you'll regret it instantly. Luckily for you, we have gone to great lengths to taste test all types and brands of diet soda so that you can hop on over the worst ones and head directly toward the best of the bunch.

Copycat Candy Bar Recipes

Three Musketeers have always been my favorite candy bar (and my grandma’s, too!), and this copycat version looks even better than the kind you buy in the store. You can’t go wrong with lots of marshmallow creme and chocolate!

Chocolate, coconut and almonds come together beautiful to make these Copycat Almond Joys.

Or these coconut cream bars that taste just like Mounds. Seriously… so good.

When you take a bite out of these Homemade Twix Bars, you won’t believe they’re gluten-free, paleo and vegan. Amazing!

Or if you want some ooey, gooey Twix copycat bars… enough to feed a crowd… try this recipe!

Make Homemade Milky Ways in just 20 minutes with 5 simple ingredients you already have in your kitchen.

Polar Bear Paws are the perfect gift-giving candy, but you’ll want to keep these all to yourself!

If you’ve never had a Chunky Bar, you’re in for a treat. They’re salty, crunchy and sweet all in one.

Homemade Crunch Bars are one of the easiest candy bars to recreate at home. You can’t go wrong with this recipe.

If you’re a fan of Rolo candies, you’ll love how they’re incorporated into the recipe for these Take 5 Mini Bites. Delish!

Peanuts, marshmallows and creamy peanut butter create a party in your mouth with these Copycat Payday Bars.

Did you know that you could use candy corn to recreate Butterfinger Bars? That’s a great way to use up leftover candy around Halloween.

You can’t forget Reese’s Peanut Cups. They’re super popular and super yummy.

Copycat Kit Kat Bars are another sweet treat option if your home is gluten-free.

Homemade Snickers are even better than the original and surprisingly, they only take 30 minutes to make start to finish.

I'm Todd Wilbur, Chronic Food Hacker

For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

The base formula for Jamba Juice’s seasonal smoothie consists of 2% milk, a couple scoops of sweetened frozen yogurt, and ice. The final addition is a scoop of a secret blend containing all the great flavor that makes this smoothie taste like you’re drinking pumpkin pie.

Real canned pumpkin puree, plus sugar, spices, and a little food coloring will bring your smoothie to life with the taste and appearance of the limited-time-only smoothie that you can now make any time you want.

Frozen vanilla yogurt is not as easy to find in the freezer section as it was 10 years ago, so reduced-fat ice cream and regular vanilla yogurt will substitute nicely here.

Think of all the famous drinks you can make at home? Click here to see if I hacked your favorites.

To celebrate the 50 th anniversary of the famous green mint-flavored Shamrock Shake first served in 1970, McDonald’s created this new minty McFlurry, with crumbled Oreo cookies mixed in. If you’re a Shamrock Shake fan, you’ll go nuts over this new twist. You may never again crave a regular Shamrock Shake.

This dessert-in-a-cup is thicker than the traditional Shamrock shake since it’s made with soft-serve vanilla ice cream rather than milkshake mix. To simulate the thicker drink at home you mix the ice cream with milk, Shamrock syrup (made with the recipe below), and Oreo crumbs in a frozen glass or ceramic bowl. The cold bowl keeps the ingredients thick until you spoon everything into a glass.

The secret syrup recipe here makes around 8 tablespoons of green mint syrup, which will be enough to make 4 minty McFlurry clones.

Follow this link for more of my McDonald's clone recipes.

In-N-Out Burger's delicious shakes are made with real ice cream, and that's a good thing, but this vanilla shake has a unique taste that's more than just straight vanilla—I sense a hint of buttery caramel. Riffing on that idea I came up with an easy hack for these tasty shakes using a blend of French vanilla ice cream and whole milk, along with a simple secret ingredient: caramel topping. Spooning just 1 tablespoon of Smucker’s caramel topping into the blender before mixing it all up produced a vanilla shake remarkably similar to the one that’s been served at In-N-Out Burger since 1975.

Unfortunately, a milkshake produced with a home blender is thinner than a restaurant milkshake made with a milkshake machine. To fix that, after mixing your shake in the blender, place the blender in your freezer for a bit until the shake firms up, then mix it once again, spoon it into a tall glass, and serve it with a wide straw.

The burgers rock, the custard is cool, and the shakes may be the best you’ve ever had. The shakes at Shake Shack are so good because they’re made with the chain’s signature frozen vanilla custard which I’ve already hacked here. To make the shake you just add milk to the custard and blend it until smooth. Pour the creamy shake into a 16-ounce glass and today will be your new favorite cheat day.

Make your own version at home using the Shake Shack Frozen Vanilla Custard hack here or pre-made frozen custard. Plus, milk and a blender.

Try my recipe for the Shake Shack Burger here.

It may look like it's all chocolate, but Wendy's founder Dave Thomas thought that a purely chocolate frozen dairy dessert would overpower his burger and fries, so he mixed chocolate with vanilla to create his signature ultra-thick shake, and in 1969, the Frosty was born.

My first crack at this iconic treat was revealed in a copycat recipe I published 25 years ago that called for mixing milk with Nestle Quik and vanilla ice cream in a blender. Tasty? Sure, it was. But the finished product was too runny, and the flavor wasn't perfect. That's why I recently holed myself up in the lab and created a formula that you churn in a home ice cream maker until thick and creamy, and it now tastes just like the real thing.

Unlike my previous recipe, which relied on premade ice cream and a drink mix, the scratch ingredients I used here allowed me to make small adjustments in flavor for a better match, and an ice cream maker is the perfect way to produce a thick, creamy consistency. So far, this is the best hack I've come up with to duplicate the treat that tests have shown is up to twice as thick as other famous desserts in a cup, including Dairy Queen's Blizzard and McDonald's McFlurry.

For 50 years, the Frosty at Wendy's came in only one flavor: chocolate. But in 2006, after repeated customer requests, the new Vanilla Frosty debuted nationwide. Like its chocolate counterpart, the Vanilla Frosty is a super-thick milkshake that has the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Don't even attempt to get it through the straw they serve it with unless you feel the urge to collapse a lung. That's why they also give you a spoon. Start there.

And, just as with my improved Classic Chocolate Frosty hack, you must make this in a home ice cream maker to get the same thick and creamy consistency as the real thing. Sure, other Frosty clones might taste okay, but if it ain't thick like this one, it ain't a good hack.

McDonald's refreshing smoothie is easy to knock off at home in a blender with fresh bananas and boxed frozen strawberries that come in syrup. Thaw out those strawberries before adding them and include some of the syrup when measuring. This McDonald's strawberry banana smoothie recipe makes 2 medium drinks so you can share, or one really big drink for a very hot and thirsty you.

Here's a refreshing warm weather (or any weather!) cocktail that’s considered one of Cheddar's signature drinks. It's served in a huge 18-ounce schooner glass, but you can use any glass that will hold 18-ounces of liquid goodness. For the strawberries, find them in the freezer section and get kind that are frozen in sweet syrup, and let them thaw out before you measure. Be sure to include lots of the syrup when you measure the strawberries to help mellow the tart juice from the two lemon wedges.

The redesigned Kahlua Coffee Liqueur labels now says "Rum and Coffee Liqueur," which is a helpful description when creating a clone version of the famous cordial. This text was not on the bottle 30 years ago when I made my first version of this liqueur using vodka—not rum. So, back into the lab went I, to create an improved version of the drink with rum, just like the label says.

I used light rum here for the photo because it is more of a neutral taste like the vodka called for in my first version, but since it doesn't include the caramel color added to Kahlua, your drink will come out a lighter shade of brown than the real stuff. However, you can also use dark rum in this recipe, which will add other flavor notes to your finished product, plus caramel color to deepen the shade of your liqueur.

There are many other famous drinks you can make at home! See if I cloned your favorites here.

The most popular and notorious cocktail at this 157-unit casual chain is the pumped-up piña colada-style drink served in a heavy 18-ounce schooner with a rim of toasted coconut. The menu warns customers that they are allowed only two of these cocktails since each is made with a supersized 2-ounce shot of Pusser's rum.

Pusser's Rum is the best choice here if you want a perfect clone, but you can certainly make this drink with your choice of any good gold rum. But watch out. At home, there's no 2-drink limit. And these are so good that you might forget how many you’ve downed!

Now, how about some Cheddar's incredible Santa Fe Spinach Dip?

The PSL is doing A-OK at Starbucks. In 2018, Starbucks moved the release of its seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte from September to August in anticipation of record sales for the 15-year-old product. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, consumers in 2017 “visited PSL establishments twice as many times as typical patrons,” most likely because they know the drinks are around for only a short time.

The trick when hacking this Starbucks superstar is making a perfect clone of the syrup used in the drink. I found a friendly barista who was willing to squirt a little of the secret syrup into a cup for me to take back to headquarters for examination. Back in the lab I discovered the mysterious light orange–colored syrup had no spice particles in it whatsoever, meaning the flavors are added as extracts or oils. Most home cooks like you and me cannot get such ingredients, so I had to come up with a formula using easily accessible ground spices and pumpkin puree.

Using pumpkin pie spice makes this recipe easy and is much cheaper than buying all the spices separately. Pumpkin pie spice is a convenient blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and either allspice or clove, and it’s found in practically all food stores. For our hack, the blend is combined with a sugar solution and cooked until syrupy, then sweetened condensed milk is stirred in. Condensed milk is also used in the original syrup at Starbucks—according to the ingredients list—which is why the syrup they use is opaque and creamy. When your syrup is done, add a couple tablespoons to your latte, then top it off with whipped cream and a sprinkling of more spice.

Lattes are made with espresso, and in this case you’ll need a double shot, which is about ¼ cup. If you can’t make espresso, then make some strong coffee and use ½ cup of it. If you don’t have a way to steam milk, you can heat it up in the microwave for 2 minutes or until hot, then make it foamy with a milk foamer, immersion blender, or whisk.

Now, how about using that leftover syrup to make a Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew?

The special sauce

There's a plethora of copycat recipes for McDonald's signature "special sauce," but let's go right to the source and figure out what it is. The obvious ingredient is mayonnaise. The special sauce is close to a thousand island dressing, with a few little turns that give it that unique taste. One of those turns is Miracle Whip, which shares a lot of ingredients with the special sauce. The other secret ingredient is French dressing — with its caramel color and extracts, it appears to be the final thing on the ingredients list from official site.

The build is fairly simple. A quarter cup each of mayonnaise and Miracle Whip. Add a half teaspoon of sweet relish, and two tablespoons of dill relish. A teaspoon each of sugar and minced onion — the more minced the better. I used a regular white onion and not the dry, dehydrated onion that we'll use later on. And finally, the rest of the wet: two tablespoons of French dressing, one teaspoon of ketchup and white vinegar (you don't need a lot), and add a pinch of salt to taste. Give it a nice thorough mixing with a spoon, and refrigerate for at least an hour to get those flavors together.

Aldi, Vive cola, 2l, 42p

If in the 1980s you ever moaned at your mum for buying own-brand cola, the cheap, sweet smell of this will be positively Proustian. It is the aroma of Adam & the Ants and Grange Hill, if not good cola. Fierce carbonation cannot hide that. Insomuch as this cola has any discernible flavour, it is a foggy, muffled one of penny sweets and dark berry fruits, with a cloying, syrupy aftertaste. Metaphorically, this is like sucking on a cola cube all covered in fluff that you have dug out of your pocket.

Dipa Halder

Step 1

Heat canola oil and 3 popcorn kernels over medium high heat on stovetop.

Step 2

Once kernels have popped, add remaining popcorn kernels. Remove pot from stove, shake to coat all kernels in oil, and place pot back onto stove until timing of pops is approximately 3 seconds apart.

Step 3

Place popcorn in a large bowl and set aside.

Step 4

In a small pot, combine honey, brown sugar, vanilla extract, apple juice, and butter.

Step 5

Cook over medium high heat until thick and dark golden brown, stirring constantly. Then add cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and crushed apple chips and stir into caramel.

Step 6

Spread popcorn onto a lined baking sheet and pour caramel over popcorn, then mix until popcorn is evenly coated.

Step 7

Bake 7 to 10 minutes in oven at 350°F or until popcorn becomes golden brown.

Step 8

If you want popcorn clumps, let caramel popcorn cool on the baking sheet. Otherwise, mix around with a spatula to allow pieces to cool separately.

Step 9

Once completely baked, enjoy immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 3 to 5 days.

This simple recipe will allow you to enjoy the sweet, nostalgic flavors of a childhood caramel apple with a creative twist. Give caramel apples another try and allow their flavors to shine with this caramel apple popcorn recipe.

50 Best Gluten-Free Cracker Recipes

Adhering to a gluten-free diet no longer means that you have to forgo your favorite snacks. Whether you want an easy recipe or something more involved, you’ll find something perfect on this list. There are a ton of child-friendly options that are just as delicious and more wholesome than their store-bought counterpart, so little ones don’t have to feel left out.

If you want more adult fare, there are many options available for that, as well. Gluten-free food is no longer the boring, hard-to-find genre it once was. Now, as it becomes more available, experimentation is increasing and you can expect to find recipes for your favorites updated with your gluten-free lifestyle in mind. So go ahead, indulge in a tasty treat or make a delicious recipe even better for you and your family!

Part 2: Store-Bought Best Vegan Cheese Substitutes

In the beginning of your vegan transition, it can be hard to know which vegan cheeses will satisfy your cheese cravings. And to be honest, it can also be hard no store-bought vegan cheese can 100% perfectly mimic dairy cheese.

Vegan cheeses are made with entirely different ingredients, yes. But once you remind yourself that plant-based cheeses are cruelty-free and don’t harm animals, are much better for the environment (raising cattle is, by far, the biggest animal-agriculture based contributor to climate change), and almost always better for your body, it will increasingly become less important to you that vegan cheeses 100% mimic dairy cheese.

Instead, what will become important is having vegan cheese substitutes that taste good and satisfy those cravings while still doing good for the planet, animals, and your body.

With that said, here are some of my favorite store-bought vegan cheese alternatives!

Cream Cheese

Kite Hill Foods. They make almond-based cheeses, as well as yogurts, milks, etc. I love their vegan cream cheese (they have original, as well as chive and a few other flavors) because they have a subtle tang and are made with wholesome ingredients (primarily almonds, salt, cultures, and guar & xantham gums for stabilizers).

Tofutti. Decidedly less “healthy” and more processed than the above, but this stuff tastes JUST LIKE dairy cream cheese. I can’t even taste the difference. I highly recommend this when you are making a cheesecake or where you really want that authentic cream cheese tastes.

Ricotta Cheese

Kite Hill Foods. Unfortunately the Kite Hill Foods ricotta is quite difficult to find (sometimes Whole Foods has it, and other smaller gourmet markets might have it), but if you can find it, it is SO good. I have served it with meals to many non-vegans and they all loved it.

Tofutti. Same contenders as above and same description, more or less. Less “clean” than Kite Hill Foods but really delicious and spot on in mimicking ricotta!

Shredded Cheeses

Parmela Creamery. This is a smaller brand but if you can find it, their shredded cheese melts really well and tastes great! They are cashew milk-based. You can find them at some Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Sprouts.

Daiya Foods. This one is a little more controversial because (1) their parent company Otsuka is not cruelty-free and (2) the shreds have that slightly off-kilter taste that people associate with “fake cheese.” I kept them on this list, however, since they are the easiest vegan cheese brand to find, especially outside of big cities. They have shredded mozzarella, cheddar, and pepper jack.

Block Cheese or Slice Cheese

Field Roast Chao Creamery. I am pretty obsessed with these vegan cheese slices from Field Roast/Chao Creamery, which are made from coconut and fermented tofu! They melt really well!

Daiya: same note from above about their parent company, but I find that their Swiss cheese slices taste/feel just like dairy-based sliced cheese. It’s one of the few cheeses I find easy to eat by the slice with a glass of wine (just like I used to do in my pre-vegan days)! I haven’t tried any of the other flavors.

Follow Your Heart: While their block cheese doesn’t stretch as much as traditional dairy cheese, it’s quite delicious and great with crackers, as a snack, or shredded into mac and cheese! They also have sliced cheeses.

Parmela Creamery. This is a smaller brand but if you can find it, their shredded cheese melts really well and tastes great!


Follow Your Heart. This is my go-to for vegan parmesan. It’s pre-shredded and has a nice neutral taste. The shreds are quite large, so I like to chop them up or if I’m using a lot, pop them in the food processor and pulse a few times.

Go Veggie. I quite like this grate parmesan topping. It reminds me of that weird chemically-smelling, shelf-stable parmesan we’d eat in the 90s, but better tasting and better for you!

Cheese Spreads

Miyoko’s. Miyokos makes some of the highest-quality vegan cheeses out there, and I love them (made with cashews and other whole ingredients). Unfortunately they’re quite pricy, though I occasionally find them on sale at my local bodega. I love their mozzarella as well as their cheese spreads (great slathered on baguettes, crackers, crudites, etc.).

Treeline Cheese. Also makes some good, tangy nut-based cheese spreads. Rich and satisfying but made with wholesome plant-based ingredients (mostly cashews and live cultures). In addition to being vegan, they’re also paleo!


    : the best store-bought feta I’ve tried outside of a fancy restaurant. Salty and cheesy and tastes like a hybrid of goat cheese and feta.

Alright, that’s it for my lineup of The Best Vegan Cheese Substitutes! Hope you found this guide helpful and informative. If you did, be sure to leave a comment below :)