What Finger Food to Make for a Wake? 19 Simple Ideas


Contributing writer, former long-term care admissions counselor and social worker

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Any death, even when it’s expected, is followed by a whirlwind of planning. The wake is often the first opportunity to show respect and gather in the deceased person’s honor.

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Deciding what food to serve is one detail in addition to funeral reception ideas and what to bring to a funeral

Why not opt for finger food at the wake? Here are some ideas for finger food for a wake, from complicated recipes to store-bought items. 

Involved Wake or Viewing Appetizers You Can Make at Home

Maybe the deceased had some specific requests for what will be served at the wake or viewing. Maybe you’re good in the kitchen and are willing to spend some time whipping up tasty appetizers. If you’re up to the task of making appetizers, here are some delicious options to set out for guests.  

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

1.  Meatballs 

Take your pick of the various flavors and types of meatball recipes out there. You can make Italian or Swedish meatballs — both are sure to be a hit. Offer these items with toothpicks and napkins. 

Pro tip: Make it easier on yourself by cooking your meatballs in a crockpot so you can bring them with you. 

2. Bruschetta 

Bruschetta can take you 15 minutes or up to an hour. These toast-based appetizers are yummy and have a summery vibe. 

Pro tip: Get creative with your bruschetta and go beyond the typical toppings of cheese and tomatoes. Bruschetta can be made from just about any regular toasted sandwich like egg salad or tuna salad. 

3. Pinwheels 

These tortilla appetizers can be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator. You can find endless possibilities for pinwheel recipes, from buffalo chicken to Italian meats. 

Pro tip: Opt for cold pinwheels so you don’t have to worry about keeping them warm. 

4. Mini sandwiches 

These are pretty self-explanatory and you can go as big as you want here. Make some mini BLT sandwiches or mini ham sandwiches or other options. 

Pro tip: Go a step further and use a cookie cutter to create shapes for the sandwiches instead of standard triangles. 

5. Sliders 

Similar to sandwiches, sliders can vary. You can make tiny burgers and provide condiments on the side. 

Pro tip: Sliders can be a simple beef burger or delicious roast beef. Don’t forget to label your finger food so guests are aware of what they will be eating! 

6. Quesadillas 

Quesadillas are a great option if the deceased loved Mexican food. Large quesadillas can be made quickly and then cut into smaller pieces. 

Pro tip: Set them out around a communal bowl of sour cream or salsa. 

Simpler Finger Food Ideas with Minimal Mess and Ingredients

The grieving process might not allow for time or energy to cook a full appetizer, and that’s okay! These ideas are simple and can be made right before the wake or viewing. 

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.

7. Hummus 

There are so many different flavors of hummus and the snack you offer with it can be salty or savory. You can even make dessert hummus that would go great with pretzels or fruit. 

Pro tip: Hummus can be store-bought, but you can also whip it up at home as well with minimal ingredients. 

8. Mini stuffed peppers 

You can create a delicious handheld appetizer with some mini peppers, meat, and cheese. They can always be added to additional ingredients as well like hot peppers or sour cream.

Pro tip: Keep in mind that peppers can vary in heat. Be sure to take out the seeds before you cook. 

9. Fruit cups 

Fruit cups might be the ultimate limited-ingredient, limited-mess option for a wake. By bringing some prefilled cups or setting out a bowl of fresh fruit, it’s a perfect way to feed guests with little fuss. Don’t forget the forks! 

10. Pigs in a blanket

This finger food is as simple as wrapping cocktail-sized hotdogs in crescent rolls! Yum! 

Pro tip: An easy way to elevate this appetizer is with a few options for dipping sauce. 

11. Dips

You can’t go wrong with a selection of chips and dips to go with them. You can whip up plenty of dips like dill dip, salsa, or queso. Dips will require fewer ingredients but may be messy. Plan ahead with small plates and spoons for guests to serve themselves. 

Pro tip: This is another option that can be made in a crockpot. You can even serve it out of the crockpot as well. 

12. Desserts 

Don’t forget about desserts and other sweet treats. Pastries can be made quickly with minimal ingredients and go well with a morning event. 

13. Deviled eggs

This appetizer is usually a crowd favorite and can be made in under 30 minutes with few ingredients. Deviled eggs can also be made 2 days in advance of eating. 

Pro tip: Deviled eggs pair well with other picnic-themed food like fruit and salad. 

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Ready-to-Serve Finger Food Ideas You Can Get at the Grocery Store

Don’t feel bad if you have to pick something up at the grocery store instead of cooking it yourself. That’s what it’s there for! Here are a few ready-to-go options after a quick cook in the oven or microwave or premade trays you can pick up en route. 

14. Pretzel bites 

Pretzel bites can be homemade but an even better option is to pick them up in the freezer section and cook them right before the wake. Provide some dipping sauces for a special touch! 

15. Cheese plate

Who doesn’t love a good cheese plate? You can get premade trays of crackers, cheese, and pepperoni or you can pick up the items and set them out on a tray yourself. Either way, this is a no-mess finger food that doesn’t disappoint. 

Pro tip: Cheese plates can include other items, including olives and grapes. 

16. Veggie tray 

Keep it healthy with a selection of veggies surrounding some veggie dip in the center. These are perfect last-minute options. 

Pro tip: Similar to a fruit cup, you can do a veggie cup with an assortment of dips. 

17. Trail mix 

Choose from various trail mix options with nuts, fruit, pretzels, and candy. Pick out a large bag and fill a bowl with some cups and spoons for guests to help themselves. 

Pro tip: Any mix of snacks will do the job as well, like Chex mix or a homemade mix of crackers and pretzels. 

18. Shrimp 

Shrimp is a staple of the finger food arena. It can be hot or cold and many stores offer spreads complete with cocktail sauce. 

Pro tip: You can get creative with the sauce. Why not use guacamole or cheese dip instead? 

19.  Mozzarella sticks

Another option straight from the freezer section is mozzarella sticks! Plan some time to cook them 30 minutes before and set them out. They should be hot but these tasty appetizers won’t be around for long. 

Pro tip: Check out the freezer section for other premade finger foods like potatoes skins and potstickers. You might even have access to a microwave or oven at the location of the wake or viewing. 

Food Brings Everyone Together

Even in tough times, food is often used to bring people together and can even provide comfort.

Loved ones are struggling to cope with the loss and manage end-of-life plans, which makes bringing food to a grieving family or helping with the food for an end-of-life celebration a huge help. 

Post-planning tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, you have more than just the wake to think about. Handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.


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