5 famous best-kept secret recipes

The McDonald's Special Sauce is one of the recipes that only few know.
The McDonald's Special Sauce is one of the recipes that only few know.Ben Stansall / AFP/Getty Images / Today

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By Chiara Atik

A Kentucky Fried Chicken employee recently made a startling discovery while rummaging through the KFC vaults: a manuscript, written by KFC founder Colonel Sanders himself, chock-full of personal anecdotes and recipes.

"It's the story of a man's life and the story of the food he's cooked and eaten, running right along with it," Sanders wrote in the 200-page typed manuscript, believed to have been written in the mid-60s.

The company plans to publish the manuscript online sometime within the next year, and make some of the Colonel’s recipes available online. But fans hoping to at long last see the famous secret recipe for KFC’s chicken shouldn’t get too excited. Though the chain has restaurants in 108 countries around the world, Colonel Sanders’ handwritten secret recipe can only be found in one place: locked away in the KFC vault, a trade secret to this day. The 11-ingredient recipe is so secret, in fact, that the spices are mixed in different locations in the United States, to protect the full recipe.

Of course, KFC’s chicken recipe isn’t the only safely-guarded food secret in the US. Here is a look at 5 other famously secret recipes:


The Coca-Cola Formula has been secret since the product’s introduction in 1892. Contrary to urban legend, the drink, derived from coca leaves, does not contain cocaine, though the original recipe did. The cola flavor in Coca-Cola is thought to be a combination of vanilla and cinnamon, though various purported recipes contain varied ingredients such as lemon, lime or nutmeg. American Coca-Cola is made with high-fructose corn syrup as opposed to sugar, though international versions of the drink are not. The recipe is supposedly only known by a handful of executives.

Has Coke's secret recipe been uncovered? 

Bush’s Baked Beans

Bush’s Baked Beans, the number top selling baked bean brand in the United States, attributes their success to a secret family recipe, which has been passed down from generation to generation. The company’s commercials frequently feature the family dog, Duke, trying to sell the recipe, but for now it remains a safely guarded secret.

Dr. Pepper

The exact flavor of Dr. Pepper is difficult to pinpoint, perhaps because the soft-drink is made from a secret recipe of 23 different flavors. The drink was first served in 1885 in Waco, Texas, but its exact provenance is just as mysterious as its current recipe. It was thought to have been originally developed as a digestive, though the exact ingredients remain disputed. A widespread urban legend that Dr. Pepper is made out of prune juice, but according to the company, prune is not one of the 23 flavors in the soft drink.

Holy cola! Dr Pepper recipe out of the can?

McDonald’s Special Sauce

The Big Mac is one of the most popular sandwiches in the world, and part of its success is due to McDonald’s Special Sauce. The sauce is delivered to McDonald’s restaurants in pre-sealed containers, and not even employees know what the actual ingredients are. Though it’s long been rumored to be a variant of Thousand Island Dressing, the specific ingredients remain a mystery. Want to make a copycat version? Try this recipe, which is claimed to be quite similar. 

Famous Amos Cookies

Wally Amos was a talent agent at William Morris, who became known for baking cookies for his clients. The cookies became so popular that he started selling them, using a variation of his aunt’s secret recipe, which allegedly included ingredients not generally found in chocolate chip cookies. Today, Famous Amos is a product of the Kellogg’s brand, and while many bakers have tried to closely replicate the cookies, the recipe itself remains a company secret.

Is there a secret recipe you wish you could get your hands on? Tell us in the comments below!

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