Funeral Potatoes are a cheesy casserole of potatoes that seems to have originated in Utah. This dish is all but expected at post-funeral meals and is also used during religious events or holidays.
I have a friend, whose family is Mormon, that makes these potatoes every Thanksgiving, although I did not, at first, realize the connection. Mormon’s do consider this dish one of their own, but it is unclear whether the tradition truly originated in the Mormon culture.
The dish is so familiar in Utah that, during the 2002 Olympics, a charm was given out bearing an image of funeral potatoes. Another charm was offered bearing an image of another popular Utah dish, green Jell-O. Jello-O is Utah’s official snack food and is made into a dish that only a mother could love! 1
Funeral potatoes, however, are homey and comforting, made with the simplest of ingredients. As is to be expected, there are many variations on the recipe, and similar dishes show up in other states. All of them feature cheesy potatoes in a casserole.
The dish tends to be made with pre-packaged and prepared ingredients, similar to many dishes derived in the 1950’s, such as frozen shredded or chopped hash brown potatoes, cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup, sour cream, and cheddar cheese. Cream of chicken and sour cream is a combination which features in many other Mormon dishes. A topping of crushed cornflakes and butter is considered traditional.
I have read references to this dish in Michigan and it is true that Lutherans in the Midwest bring a similar dish to funerals, although it may go by different names such as “potato hot dish.” 2 However, I’ve also read of this dish being served all the way down in Texas, 3 so any exclusivity can be debated.
- Thursby, Jacqueline S. Funeral Festivals in America: Rituals for the Living. University Press of Kentucky, 2006.
- Riess, Jana, and Christopher Kimball. Bigelow. Mormonism for Dummies. Wiley Pub., 2005.
- Cann, Candi, editor. DYING TO EAT: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Food, Death, and the Afterlife. UNIV PR OF KENTUCKY, 2018.