Cracker Barrel Menu Hacks You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

Whether you're a longtime fan of Cracker Barrel's heaping portions and country cooking, or you stop in because it's the closest restaurant off a highway exit during a road trip, you know you'll get a menu loaded with options to fill you up and get you back to your day. (Or, ready for a nap.) Nutrition experts might not rank all Cracker Barrel menu options as the most healthy, but vacation calories don't count, right?

The chain, known for its all-day breakfast offerings, chicken and dumplings, and fried apples, has an extremely wide variety of menu options that are sure to please anyone. You could even make a meal from Cracker Barrel's side dishes alone, considering there are roughly 30 of them to choose from.

So, where do you start when you want to tuck into a meal surrounded by antiques and the smell of frying bacon? Expert Cracker Barrel patrons know a few tricks of the trade for getting the biggest bang for their buck. While no one would count Cracker Barrel as a fine dining experience, with most entree options going for between $13 and $18, it's also not the cheapest meal you'll eat.

Whether you're looking to save a little money during your next visit, or you're looking to get the most delicious options available, we've rounded up these 12 menu hacks that will help you get the most out of your next trip to Cracker Barrel.

Get unlimited hashbrown casserole with the Country Boy breakfast

Of all the side dishes on the Cracker Barrel menu, the hashbrown casserole is a fan favorite. In fact, Cracker Barrel has said it's the number-one side dish across all of its options. At its simplest, it's shredded potatoes mixed with cheese, diced onions, and other seasonings, but copycat recipes for the hashbrown casserole abound, so you can have this dish anytime you want — in whatever portion size you're craving.

While you're in the restaurant, though, you're normally limited to a single square of it. You could order an extra side of it for $2.99 — or you could order the Country Boy Breakfast and get unlimited refills of the potato dish for free. A former Cracker Barrel server shared on Quora that you won't automatically get extra portions of the casserole with your order, but if you ask for it, you'll get more of the cheesy potato goodness without an extra charge. 

The Country Boy breakfast starts at $13.98, and offers three eggs in any style, two breakfast sides (one of which should be the hashbrown casserole for this trick), plus sirloin steak tips, sugar-cured ham, or country ham. It's also served with buttermilk biscuits and gravy.

Enjoy unlimited bread with your meal for free

Free sides are always a perk, especially when you're sitting down with a growling stomach or a big dinner party. If you're new to Cracker Barrel, you might not realize that you can get free bread to tide you over before your entrees arrive. And it's not just any old bread — Cracker Barrel gives you the choice between biscuits, cornbread, or toast (or a mix of all three). 

You won't get the bread automatically, though: You'll need to ask for it up front, according to a self-proclaimed "Crackhead" expert on the Advice from Dad YouTube channel. "They don't charge you for that, no matter if you've got two people in your party or 12," he said.

One former Cracker Barrel employee additionally told Quora fans that two pieces of bread are served per order, and it's not served ahead of the meal unless specifically requested. That's to reduce waste, as they explained, but you can always ask for more. 

Ask for pancake butter for your bread

While you're asking for that complimentary bread basket, make sure to ask for a special butter that won't destroy those pillowy soft cornbread and biscuits. Otherwise, you're going to get rock solid, pre-packaged butter that can be a nightmare to spread smoothly.

The solution: Ask for pancake butter instead. This in-house spread is already warmed and scooped for maximum usability, so you won't be gouging holes into your biscuits trying to evenly disperse any frigid butter over the top.

If you do forget to ask for pancake butter, though, YouTuber Advice from Dad suggests asking for a cup of hot water that you can use to dunk your butter packs into. Give them a minute or two, and then you'll be working with melted butter that you can pour over your cornbread, biscuits, or anything else your heart desires.

Turn entrees into cheaper breakfast sandwiches

The breakfast sandwiches at Cracker Barrel can be a tough choice, making you choose between things you love. For example, the egg sandwich, which costs $6.99, doesn't come with breakfast meat like bacon or sausage (unless you make it your side dish — and really, who wants to give up their hashbrown casserole?) On the other hand, the biscuit breakfast, which is the same price as the egg sandwich, gives you two biscuit sandwiches with your choice of bacon, sausage, or ham, but without any eggs.

If you choose certain classic breakfast entrees, though, you can have the best of both worlds for a value that's better than either of the sandwich options. The best example is the Old Timer's Breakfast: It's only a few dollars more expensive at $9.99, but you'll get the fixings for at least two sandwiches instead of just one, plus the extra side dish of apples or hashbrown casserole, and all without needing to use the side option to order bacon. 

The entree comes with two eggs cooked any style, a breakfast side, plus bacon or sausage. You'll also get biscuits and gravy. And, if you've already ordered your free biscuits to the table beforehand, you'll have enough bread for sandwiches and the gravy. With this menu hack, the Krazy Koupon Lady has calculated you'll save about 28% on your order than if you'd ordered the breakfast sandwich on its own.

Check for lookalikes for any discontinued menu items

The Cracker Barrel menu changes periodically. Recently, some fans of the chain were disappointed when the Sunrise Sampler disappeared from the menu. The breakfast entree included two eggs, grits, fried apples, and hashbrown casserole plus a sampling of bacon, sausage, and ham. It also came with biscuits and gravy, making it one of the heftier options to enjoy. You can technically still see the description for the dish on the website, but you aren't able to order it online or in restaurants.

However, when Mashed called a Cracker Barrel location in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for details on how to get that same dish, a manager said the new Build Your Own breakfast gets you basically the same thing, especially if you choose the meat sampler. You get to pick a side (which could be the hashbrown casserole or apples) and possibly recruit a buddy to order the same entree and split the other side with you. Is it the exact same? Not quite. But it gets you very close.

The other option is to ask your server if they'll still make it for you anyway. There was a time when the Grandma's Sampler entree disappeared from menus too, but people could still ask for it and have it delivered to their tables without a fuss. Now, that plate is back with not one but two menu slots, depending on whether you want pancakes or French toast with your savory sides.

Order a sandwich, even if it's not on the menu

When you're craving a sandwich, but the rest of your party wants breakfast or chicken and dumplings at Cracker Barrel, it's no problem. According to one former employee on Quora, you can order a scrumptious BLT with a side without any undue effort from the kitchen. This makes sense since Cracker Barrel has plenty of bread lying around, and the chain is known for its thick-cut bacon, plus lettuce and tomato are pretty easy to come by in any restaurant setting.

According to that same employee, you can make plenty of substitutions and special requests to your meals — either entire entrees, or just a few minor tweaks. For example, you can ask for lemon pepper seasoning on your grilled catfish instead of Cajun flavoring. If you're not feeling the heaviness of the hashbrown casserole, you can substitute it with plain hash browns instead. And perhaps most importantly, you can add cheese to pretty much anything you want (although the server says that one will likely cost you a little extra.)

Buyer beware though: The server did mention that putting in unique orders will take longer than when a server inputs straight menu items without special requests. If it's what the heart desires, though, just know you might wait a few extra minutes for your food to arrive.

Ask for your sandwich bread to be grilled instead of toasted

Sandwiches can be a pretty straightforward menu offering, but they're not all that plentiful at Cracker Barrel. Aside from breakfast sandwiches and the off-menu BLT mentioned above, the chain offers a hamburger and two variations of chicken sandwiches. 

While you're ordering your BLT — or any sandwich, for that matter — keep in mind that you can customize it for extra flavor and texture. Ask for the bread to be grilled instead of toasted or plain. If you get it grilled, the bread will be buttered and then flipped on the grill for a bit, adding a savory, crunchy texture to the exterior.

You can also ask for grilled bread instead of a traditional bun anytime you order a hamburger from Cracker Barrel, according to the Advice from Dad YouTuber. This will turn your ho-hum burger into more of a patty melt, making for a unique take on a classic.

Get free entrees with a Cracker Barrel rewards glitch

If you're willing to put in some effort, the Cracker Barrel rewards program can yield free goodies. The Instagram account Cindy Hacks Life gives detailed instructions on how the "no purchase necessary" clause in the bonus game of the restaurant's rewards program can lead to a free entree.

First, you need to sign up; if you haven't done so yet, you'll automatically earn a reward for a free appetizer so there's one freebie to start. Then, click on the "bonus game" banner (it appears to be easiest on the mobile app), and you'll get free spins to earn "pegs," named after the restaurants' infamous table game. Those points can go towards different rewards. There's also a game board with different challenges you can do online or in-store, like eating with a friend or ordering merchandise, to earn more pegs. But you can skip those by redeeming "no purchase necessary" codes (just click the link in the official rules). You'll get a code emailed to you, allowing an extra spin to earn more pegs.

The bottom line: If you're willing to fidget with the app and email codes for a few minutes, you'll earn enough peg points to score a free entree. Users on the Instagram page and an accompanying Reddit post confirmed they've scored free drinks and meals with this trick, too. The peg points expire every year, but new bonus game boards go up every few months with the chance to earn more.

Order an off-menu milkshake

Cracker Barrel offers a wide variety of breakfast and dinner entrees, but the chain's dessert offerings are fairly slim. Compared to the dinner options, it can be more difficult to find options to satisfy a sweet tooth. The current menu offers just a double chocolate fudge cake and Southern-style peach cobbler, along with candy and sweet drinks. 

The cake, prepared with Coca-Cola for a depth of flavor, is a Cracker Barrel classic and might be exactly what you're craving. If you're looking for something different, there are ways to get other items that aren't listed on the menu — especially if you're in the mood for a milkshake.

According to The Food XP, if you ask for a milkshake, the chain's kitchen staff will deliver a vanilla milkshake topped with chocolate shavings. Mashed has verified this claim before, and found that this Cracker Barrel secret menu item has lots of fans on review sites like TripAdvisor and FourSquare who have also confirmed the sweet treat is indeed available.

Get two kids' meals for less money than one entree

Kids' meals can get a bad rap from time to time, but in some restaurants, the value can be phenomenal. That's certainly the case at Cracker Barrel, where ordering kids' meals can save you money and deliver just as much food as a regular entree — if not more.

The Krazy Koupon Lady confirms a widely spread internet rumor that anyone can order from the kids' menu: There's not an age restriction on it. And kids can choose from the same wide variety of side dishes as the regular menu items.

Using the chicken tenders kids' meal as an example, the kids' version is pictured with three chicken tenders, grilled or fried, and comes with a free dipping sauce, the choice of a side, a bread choice, and a drink. In total, the meal costs $6.29. If you order two of these kids' meals, perhaps with a different side and drink, you'll get six tenders, two sides, four pieces of bread, and two drinks for $12.58. 

Now compare that to the BBQ chicken tenders on the regular restaurant menu: That would also come with six tenders and two sides, but just two pieces of bread. If you want a drink, you'd need to add it to your order for a total of $15.48. If you can do without a fancy BBQ sauce, the value of the kids' menu is clear.

Enjoy a free coffee with an entree, dessert, or beverage order

Restaurant mark-ups on beverages can be extreme. Specialty coffees are no exception at Cracker Barrel, where lattes and mochas cost around $4 each. But if you can start your day with a cup of no-frills black coffee — or perhaps even prefer it — you can get it for free with an order of almost anything on the menu.

The Krazy Koupon Lady says that you can get a free coffee with any entree, dessert, or beverage order. However, you'll need to ask your server for it, since they won't automatically bring it to you.

A former Cracker Barrel employee on Quora also says you can refill a specialty cup of coffee, like a latte, with free black coffee if you need a little extra caffeine without spending any more. Just remember that some locations might have different rules, so it's best to ask your server about it before assuming you won't be charged.

Get Cracker Barrel-quality pancakes from the country store

In many cases, trying to recreate favorite restaurant dishes doesn't quite measure up to the food you were served in-house. The seasonings might not be quite exact, or the cooking method might be slightly different.

In the case of Cracker Barrel pancakes though, you can get flapjacks at home that are pretty close to what you order from the menu. Each Cracker Barrel has a retail store attached to it where they sell their famous pancake mix. One Reddit thread with former cooks from the chain confirmed the mix was the exact same as the restaurant uses. In fact, during times when a cook's supply of bulk pancake mix ran out, they used box mixes from the country store instead.

According to the Krazy Koupon Lady article, you're better off ordering another entree while in the restaurant and making the pancakes at home if you want to save major money. The primary pancake meal (Momma's Pancake Breakfast) is $8.99, or roughly $2 per pancake if you subtract money for the sides, whereas picking up a box mix for $5.99 means each pancake will cost roughly between 17 and 37 cents at home, depending on whether you need to pay for shipping and how large the pancakes are.