What Are Funeral Potatoes And How’d They Get Their Name?

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People love eating comfort foods, and they’ve become a part of many local cuisines and traditions. Comfort food isn’t just delicious. It’s also quite literally comfort when you need it most. When it comes to funeral food ideas to share with a bereaved family, one of the most common choices is potatoes. 

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As the name implies, this potato-based casserole dish is a favorite at funeral gatherings, repasts, shivas, wakes, and more. Not only are they easy to prepare, but they also last a while in the freezer. Plus, they’re a perfect option to grab on the go. 

What exactly are funeral potatoes, and how did they get such a name in the first place? The history behind this famous American dish might just surprise you. There is a wealth of cultural knowledge to discover in the way people prepare and share food across the world.

What Are Funeral Potatoes?

Funeral potatoes are a casserole dish. They’re prepared quickly and easily with inexpensive ingredients you likely already have in your pantry. Though there are regional recipe differences, most versions include some mixture of the following:

  • Hash brown potatoes
  • Butter
  • Onion
  • Sour cream
  • Cream of chicken soup
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Cornflakes

You might be wondering how all of this comes together! First, combine the onions, sour cream, soup, and cheese. Then, mix in the hash browns. Finally, layer a baking dish with the potato mixture, add more cheese on top, and then bake for around 40 minutes. Many people also include a top layer of melted butter and cornflakes.

There are some regional and cultural variations worth noting. Since any pre-cooked potato variety will work, potato type can vary based on regional availability. This is also true for the cheese! Cheddar is a popular choice, but other types of cheese work well too. To spice things up or give a nod to their cultural flavors, people add jalapenos, broccoli, ham, or even bacon bits. Of course, no matter where the dish is cooked, every casserole is made with love.

Why Are They Called Funeral Potatoes?

Where did funeral potatoes get their name? Casseroles are a popular choice when it comes to freezer-friendly sympathy meals. Funeral potatoes, in particular, are commonly associated with funerals because they are:

  • Quick: Casseroles can be whipped up in an hour or less with very little prep time. This makes them perfect for last-minute bereavement gifts or memorial events.
  • Inexpensive: Most people already have these ingredients in their home. If not, the ingredients are inexpensive and can be easily sourced at any grocery store.
  • Easy: Casseroles are notoriously easy to make. You don’t need any complicated ingredients, skills, tools, or experience.
  • Feed many: This meal easily feeds many. Because it’s baked in a large dish, it’s perfect for a repast or reception.
  • Filling: When dealing with a loss, it’s hard to do basic tasks like cook for yourself and eat regular meals. This casserole is a great gift for a grieving family because it’s filling and comforting.
  • Freezable: Take out any extra work for the bereaved by dividing the casserole into individual portions and stocking it in their freezer. It’s a breeze to reheat on the go.

Is there another name for funeral potatoes?

The term “funeral potatoes” is the most common name, but that’s not the only one you’ll hear to describe this tasty casserole. It’s also commonly called hash brown casserole, cheesy hash browns, party potatoes, and even just “those potatoes.”

Why so many names? It mostly depends on the region and context. If you’re serving this casserole at a funeral, you’ll likely hear it referred to as funeral potatoes. If you’re serving it at a holiday meal, all of a sudden, it’s party potatoes or a hash brown casserole! 

Depending on where the dish is served, there are quite a few different regional names. Funeral potatoes have risen in popularity in recent years as more and more big-name chefs adapt this recipe for their shows and cookbooks. In the past, funeral potatoes were primarily associated with the American midwest, but it’s quickly spreading to other parts of the country and world. They’re especially popular amongst members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, where they’re a well-known part of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) funeral traditions.

When should you make funeral potatoes?

Though the name makes it seem like this recipe is strictly for when tragedy strikes, you can make funeral potatoes at any time. While they’re perfect for a repast, memorial, funeral, or remembrance event, they’re also great for these occasions:

  • Anytime meal
  • Freezer meal 
  • Family party
  • Holiday side dish
  • BBQ side
  • Work event
  • Potluck

Anytime you want to feed a lot of people fast, funeral potatoes are the perfect option. Since everyone loves potatoes and these are made with simple ingredients, you can always count on it being a crowd favorite. 

Popular Funeral Potatoes Recipes

If you’ve decided to try funeral potatoes for yourself or as a gift for someone in need, you’re in luck. There are so many popular recipes to choose from, and each has its own special take on this delicious casserole. Here are some of our favorite popular funeral potato recipes:

  • Spend with Pennies: Holly’s recipe from Spend with Pennies is one of the easiest for funeral potatoes, and it boasts a 5-star rating!
  • Food Network: The Food Network’s Ree Drummond puts her spin on funeral potatoes by adding an assortment of cheese and kettle-cooked potato chips. Yum.
  • Lil Luna: Kristyn from Lil Luna has a video tutorial for her rendition of cheese potatoes, and she even has a version that you can cook in a crockpot.
  • Lauren’s Latest: Last but not least, Lauren is a professional recipe developer with some special steps she recommends to take your funeral potatoes to the next level. With over 150 comments, she must be doing something right!

How to Give Someone Funeral Potatoes

If you’ve decided to whip up your own batch of funeral potatoes, how do you give them to someone properly? Whenever you’re gifting food, you want to be careful. Sympathy meals are a kind gesture, but you want to make sure you’re making things easier for them, not more complicated. 

First, you should always let the family know that food is on the way. It’s usually best to inform them rather than ask since many families might decline help even if they need it. However, check in about allergies and special diets. You don’t want to make food they can’t eat. Also, make sure there is a time you can deliver the food that works best for them. 

Aside from communicating clearly, here are other tips for delivering funeral potatoes or another sympathy meal to a family in need:

  • Disposable dish: Your recipient doesn’t need to worry about keeping your dish safe. To make it easier, use a disposable dish or a dish you can stand to lose. Let them know you don’t need it back. 
  • Frozen: Most families won’t likely eat your meal right away. Because of this, deliver it frozen with clear instructions for how to reheat written clearly on the dish. 
  • Other essentials: You might wish to pair your freezer meal with other essentials like paper plates, cups, cutlery, napkins, tissues, and so on. These small things make a world of difference when cleaning isn’t possible. 
  • Beverages: Another thing to include is a special beverage, like juice, water bottles, milk, coffee, tea, and so on. 
  • Kid-friendly meals: For families with children, consider including a kid-friendly meal in case the kids are picky.

As always, it’s the thought that counts. That being said, putting in a bit of extra effort to make things as easy as possible for the grieving family goes a long way. It’s all about being thoughtful of what they need. 

Prepare Your Own Funeral Potatoes

Though the name might sound silly, funeral potatoes have earned a place in many cultures throughout North America. Having a quick, filling, and delicious meal to enjoy can make all the difference. From feeding funeral guests to helping a family eat home-cooked meals during a crisis, funeral potatoes are a perfect choice. 

Though we often think of flowers as the most popular sympathy gift, food is an essential we all need to stay strong. Stocking someone’s freezer during a difficult time is a giant act of kindness. 

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