Funeral Food

What to Serve at the Funeral Reception

Funeral FoodWhen you think of food for a funeral reception, what comes to mind depends on where you live, your culture, and your family traditions. Southerners often turn to hearty casseroles. Those in the northeast may want meatballs or Italian fare on the table. In the Midwest chances are you’ll spot a plate of egg salad sandwiches along with hot dishes.

Regardless of where you live, you want food that will be economical, comforting, easy to prepare, and easy to eat. Regardless of what you decide to serve, it is important to remember that the purpose of the funeral reception is to give those who have come to pay their respects the opportunity to gather together to support each other and to share their memories of the deceased. You are under no obligation to entertain or provide a food extravaganza. You may also be grieving so be sure to consider your own needs. By all means, ask for help.

As you start to plan your menu consider the following:

  • Where will the funeral reception be held?
    The venue for your reception will determine how simple or elaborate you need to keep the food. A church hall may have a full kitchen which will allow you to prepare food on site. The parlor of the funeral home may not. In this case, you will need foods that can be kept warm in slow cookers or in chafing dishes.
  • How many people do you think will attend?
    If you are expecting a large crowd then you should choose items that can be made in bulk and will go a long way. For a smaller group, you may have more options.
  • Who will prepare the food?
    In many areas of the country, if the funeral is held at a church, the community will pitch in to prepare the food. It is also still quite customary for friends and associates to provide you with sympathy dishes. You may be able to use some of these gifts at the reception. Remember that people who offer help to those in mourning really do want to help. Asking that they help prepare the food is a great way to take them up on the offer. Think pot luck. If your budget allows, you may consider having the funeral reception food catered. In fact, this is becoming a more popular option. You do not have to offer a full sit-down meal. There are many catering companies that will be happy to provide a modest meal spread.
  • How much do you want to spend?
    While it may sound like a funeral is not an appropriate time to be concerned about finances, unless all your payments are prearranged, you may incur a substantial cost. As when you are planning any large gathering, it is perfectly fine to decide how much you can comfortably spend and develop a menu based on that figure.


Popular Funeral Food Recipes


  • If you are hosting a large number of people, consider a meal buffet rather than finger foods. Traditional buffet foods can be less expensive and easier to prepare.
  • “Make it yourself sandwich buffets” can work well. Cheeses and meats can be purchased in bulk and you’ll save time on preparation. Ham is a particularly popular choice for funeral reception food.
  • Pasta dishes, casseroles, and other items that reheat well are popular and effective. They can often be frozen ahead of time and function well as leftovers.
  • Potatoes are always a hit. If you do a search on funeral potatoes you will get dozens of hits. Chances are you have a family recipe for a favorite potato dish that would be perfect as a funeral reception food.
  • Remember to include kid-friendly items such as macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets.
  • Including some of the deceased’s favorite dishes can be a great way to personalize the reception.
  • If a group such as a church auxiliary offers to handle the food, don’t hesitate to take them up on it. Not only will it lighten your load, but you are also guaranteed to get some dishes you have never tried before.


Surprisingly, the topic of whether or not to include dessert on your funeral food menu is somewhat controversial. For some, sweet items should be avoided. For others, they are the best part. The answer is, it’s up to you. The most convenient dessert items can be held. This would include cookies, brownies, and fruit cups. Cakes are fine but you will need to provide plates and cutlery.


Using a caterer to provide the food for the funeral reception is actually a trend that is on the rise. It is a perfectly acceptable alternative if you can afford it. Aside from the fact that everything will be taken care of for you, a caterer can offer you advice on what food is appropriate and how much you should buy. Your funeral home may be able to refer you to a local caterer who is familiar with preparing funeral food or you can consult with your favorite restaurant. Many offer catering services both onsite and for delivery.

The key thing to keep in mind about the food you choose for the funeral reception is that there are no rules. What you choose depends on your budget and your personal preferences. You should try to avoid overextending yourself both physically and financially when doing your planning. Taking care of the funeral reception food may provide a welcome distraction, but you still need to take care of your personal needs. There is nothing wrong with keeping it simple and accepting help. Those attending the post-funeral reception are not expecting a gala extravaganza.


If you offer a variety of foods that can be prepared quickly and are easy to handle your selections are sure to work. To help inspire you during planning we have provided the example funeral food menu below. You can easily modify the choices to suit your particular situation.

  • Garden Salad with Dressings on the Side
  • Baked Ziti
  • Dinner Rolls
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Fruit and Vegetable Tray
  • Cookie and Brownie Tray
  • Coffee, Ice Tea, Lemonade

Other Great Reads

The Magic of Funeral Potatoes – 10 FASCINATING FACTS

So if you’ve ever enjoyed a heaping spoonful of funeral potatoes, read on to learn more about these special creations. If you’ve never had the chance to try them, you might just be tempted to try out one of the many recipes out there.

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