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5 Funeral Food Menu Ideas

Funerals are a somber time, but funeral food can bring some much needed ease and comfort. Whether you're catering your own funeral service or are just looking for some inspiration for the funeral menu, you’ve come to the right place.The type of funeral food menu you’re able to offer is going to depend on a few different factors, including the time your event’s hosted, where it’s being held, your budget, and how complex you’d like to get with the event’s menu. Some families choose to serve easy funeral foods while others offer a complex funeral buffet menu; yours can be unique to your event.

When thinking of what to serve, here are some questions to keep in mind:

  • Where is the funeral being hosted? Is there seating?
  • What type of budget do you have to spend on your funeral menu?
  • Are you planning on hiring a caterer or do you plan on making funeral food on your own?
  • Will there be a reception? Will there be a wake? How long will each of these events last? (For example, if you’re holding a reception and expect it to last a few hours, you’ll have a lot more flexibility in what you decide to offer in terms of food for the funeral reception.)
  • Do you want to focus more on finger foods for a funeral/wake or foods that require plating / utensils? Answering these questions can help you start thinking about coming up with ideas for a funeral food list. Once you’ve answered these questions, you can also start looking into what kinds of caterers are available in your area, what kind of restaurants you may want to have cater the event, or even consider going with a DIY approach.

Funeral reception food

If you’re hosting a funeral reception or repast, all of these options can work, depending on your preferences. Whether you need funeral luncheon menu ideas for an upcoming funeral luncheon or are just looking for general funeral food ideas, these foods and themes are all great options that you’d typically find on a funeral food menu.

1. Potluck

A simple, but affordable choice is to host a potluck in lieu of hiring an expensive catering service. Potlucks are also a great way to have the attendees feel included and that they’re helping the family during their time of need. To coordinate a potluck, simply send out a message (or include a note or update on your memorial website) and ask that folks make their (or the decedent’s) favorite food for the funeral reception so that all attendees can enjoy their dish.

If you choose to host a potluck, here are some typical items you can ask that folks bring:

  • Drinks (such as tea, coffee, soda, punch)
  • Casserole dish
  • Pasta dish
  • Desserts (such as cookies, brownies, cakes)
  • Salad and salad dressing
  • Cutlery, napkins, and plates

If you decide to do a potluck, this is also a great way to either diversify your funeral luncheon menu ideas (by making it a free for all, simply ask folks to bring any dish they’d like). Or, you can keep the menu a bit more restricted by listing out items or types of dishes you’d like, which can help you be prepared for the types of food that will be served.

2. Breakfast or brunch menu

If you’re having an earlier funeral, hosting a brunch or breakfast is a great idea for food after the funeral service. The types of food you’d typically find on a brunch menu would include the following:

  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Fresh fruit salad
  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt parfaits
  • Pastries, bagels, donuts
  • Eggs, omelets, frittatas
  • Bacon, sausage, ham
  • Juice, tea, coffee

A brunch menu or breakfast menu is also an easy way to stay budget friendly, since these foods are typically on the less expensive end of the spectrum.

3. Comfort food

Cooking comfort food (or having it catered) is an excellent choice for any funeral event you’re hosting. Whether you’re in need of repast food, funeral wake food, or need funeral luncheon ideas – comfort food is a safe bet. Comfort food is great at doing exactly what it’s named for: comforting! Providing this food during such a difficult time can help folks feel a little bit more at peace. Comfort food and dishes typically include:

  • Casseroles (green bean casseroles, meatball casseroles, funeral potatoes, scalloped potatoes)
  • Bread or dinner rolls
  • Mac and cheese
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Pot roast or stew
  • Apple pie, cookies, cake
  • For some southern funeral food, consider sweet potato pie, grits, biscuits, and potato salad

4. Sandwiches and salads

Sandwiches are easy finger food for a wake or finger food for funeral receptions. They’re easy to clean up, don’t need utensils, and are typically easy to make (if you’re not interested in having the funeral reception catered). Including salads and sandwiches is a classic on any funeral repast menu. Here are some sandwiches you can serve at a funeral reception:

  • Hot ham & cheese sliders
  • Club sandwiches
  • Roast beef sandwiches
  • Ham and cheese sandwiches
  • Tuna sandwiches
  • Egg salad sandwiches If you’re looking for some sides for these sandwiches, consider serving a basic salad or having some more comforting sides such as potato salad or coleslaw.

5. Italian buffet

An Italian buffet is a great idea if you’re having a funeral dinner, as there tends to be more food involved than some of the other items we’ve mentioned. A typical Italian buffet is served family-style and is perfect for larger gatherings. Italian buffets usually include:

  • Meatballs and sauce
  • Different types of pasta
  • Lasagna
  • Fresh salad
  • Pastries
  • Tiramisu or other smaller desserts

How to cater the funeral on your own

If you’re hosting a funeral reception or funeral repast and are planning on making your own food, there are a few steps you should take before you get to cooking.

  1. Make a plan. Plan out the type of menu, the number of people attending, the amount of dishes, and the amount of ingredients and time you’ll likely need.
  2. Ask for assistance. Cooking food for even one person can take some time, so don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for help. Even if you don’t feel comfortable asking them to cook, you can always ask them for help with setting up, providing utensils and plates, serving, or doing prep.
  3. Find the recipes. If you’re someone that likes to cook without a recipe, feel free to skip this step. If you’re in need of recipes for the funeral’s foods, do a quick search online for relevant recipes and you’ll be good to go.
  4. It’s time to cook! Gather all the ingredients, set aside the right amount of time, and get to cooking. Make sure you have enough containers for all the food and that it’ll be ready when you need it to be ready by.

If you’d rather let someone else do the cooking, you can always ask your funeral home for their recommendations for caterers. If they don’t have any or you’d like to broaden your options, you can do a quick online search for caterers in your area. Additionally, if you have a favorite restaurant that you know the decedent was a fan of, simply call up the restaurant and ask if they do catering. Many restaurants offer catering services; you just need to ask!

If you’re looking for your community’s help when it comes to catering the funeral reception or repast (or you just want to share updates and news regarding the passing of someone), setting up a memorial website is a great place to start. With a memorial website, you can notify subscribers of any upcoming events, post memories and condolences, share the timeline of your loved one’s life, and much more. If you’re looking for help with catering a funeral, you can easily post this to the “How to Help” section of your memorial website that will alert visitors on the best ways they can help.

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Last updated September 28, 2022
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