Funeral Food Has a Higher Calling: Comfort & Joy

I was looking for some inspired funeral food the other day to take to a grieving family, and was struck by the lack of local information on the subject.  I realized that churches could provide a great service for their congregations and the community if they could include a section in their church fundraising cookbook that explains the local traditions of funeral food and funeral etiquette.

Of course, you’re thinking I’m thinking the church would use my Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software to create such a cookbook with a funeral food chapter. Yes. However, my reasons are much more personal. At a time of loss, many people don’t know what funeral food to cook, when to cook it, and where to deliver whatever they’ve cooked.

In a small community, everyone seems to pitch in and provide meals for the mourning family and the gathering after a funeral or memorial service. In an urban environment, where often the neighbors may be unknown, it is usually the close family and friends that provide the funeral food.

In general, local traditions rule. Funeral food should be easy to heat and eat, be somewhat portable, freezable, and disposable, and above all, provide comfort.  Following are some suggestions for funeral food that may be helpful the next time you need a funeral food idea:


Mains – Baked ziti, barbecued meats in sauce, cheeses, chicken & rice, chicken pot pies, chicken skewers, chili, chowder, deli platter, finger sandwiches, lasagna, macaroni & cheese, meatballs and gravy, pot roast, quiche, roast chicken, sandwiches of tuna salad, ham salad & salmon salad, sliced meats (brisket, corned beef, ham, lamb, pastrami, roast beef, turkey), soups & stews, spaghetti, pizza, stuffed peppers, tuna casserole, tubs of KFC.

Snacks – Crackers, cheese & olives, granola bars, mixed nuts (shelled pecans, almonds, cashews), pickles, potato chips.

Sides – Bagged green salad with bottled dressings, cold salads (with 3 or more ingredients), coleslaw, cut-up fresh fruit (such as pineapple, melons) or whole fruit baskets (apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, nuts), funeral potatoes (hash browns, cheese, mushroom soup), green bean casserole, pasta salad, potato salad, raw veggie tray of red pepper strips, broccoli spears & carrots, steamed broccoli, stuffed mushrooms.

Breads – Baguette, brioche, cinnamon rolls, croissants, homemade bread with flavored butter, muffins, sandwich bread, rolls.

Desserts – Apple crisp, brownies, cakes & pies (already cut), cookies, chocolate candies, cupcakes, Jell-O, lemon squares, ice cream sandwiches, rice pudding, tarts, tubs of ice cream.

Beverages – Beer, bottled water, freshly ground coffee, Irish whiskey, juices, sparkling non-alcoholic drinks such as apple cider or Italian orange water, seltzers, soft drinks or 2-liter sodas, wine.

Some people prefer to not cook funeral food but want to help. Here are some ideas that can help a mourning family when given immediately:

– Bring disposable plates, napkins, forks, glasses and cups
– Clean the kitchen
– Buy groceries to restock the fridge and laundry room
– Bring freezer bags, plastic wrap, or single serving freezer containers for leftovers
– Hire a cleaning service for the family
– Bring paper towels, Kleenex, toilet paper
– Buy jars of mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and hot sauce
– Bring plastic garbage bags and trash bags
– Run errands, make calls, answer the phone
– Buy a gift certificate to a local restaurant and a delivery menu

For most people, the tradition of funeral food is mostly about spending time with family and friends in a family reunion time of sadness. The making, giving, and eating of funeral food seems to be common in most cultures, although differences do exist. That is why a local cookbook explaining local funeral food traditions would be helpful, especially to newcomers in an area.

Happy Cookbooking,


About Erin Miller

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  1. That is a VERY helpful article. Not only the food ideas as I always draw a blank except for “cakes”. But the really good and helpful ideas regarding supplies, chores, and gift ideas. Thanks, I am definitely saving those ideas !!!

  2. I like to take rigatoni to the people I am close to that lost a loved one. A couple nice loaves of italian bread and you have a meal. Instead of making meatballs, I mix my meat up. Just like you would if you were making meatballs, break it up and fry it til it is half cooked. Then add your sauce. Continue to cook the meat in the sauce while the sauce cooks down. The meat will add flavor to the sauce. I only cook the sauce down for about 15 minutes on medium heat stirring constantly. Throw your pasta and sauce in a throw away aluminum pan, so nobody has to return it or wash it. Fast easy and good.

  3. Thanks for this article. I totally agree about the church cookbook section!

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