Easy Funeral Food Ideas for Receptions

Published May 27, 2020
Woman holding plate and choosing food

Whether you are responsible for planning a funeral reception or are looking for ideas of what to take to a post-funeral potluck, there are plenty of appropriate options. When selecting food for a funeral reception, choose items that can easily be served buffet style and that can also be enjoyed as leftovers.

Main Dish Casseroles for a Funeral Buffet

Comfort foods like casseroles are often included on funeral buffet menus, and they're also good items to to take to a grieving family in the days after losing a loved one. Many main dish casseroles can be made ahead and frozen, then thawed and heated on the day of the reception.

Turkey Casserole

Purchase a pre-cooked turkey or prepare one in your oven or roaster and use the meat to prepare a delicious turkey casserole recipe. With or without noodles, chopped or shredded turkey can be paired with a creamy sauce and tasty vegetables to make a delicious, crowd-pleasing casserole.

Macaroni and cheese with turkey meat

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's pie is a hearty meat casserole recipe that is very easy to prepare. Just brown some ground beef (or substitute ground lamb or ground turkey), stir in some ketchup, water and frozen mixed vegetables, then spread in a casserole dish and top with mashed potatoes before baking.

Dish of cottage pie with beef

Slow Cooker Meat Selections

Guests will probably appreciate having a few meat selections that aren't in casserole form. For maximum simplicity, choose meats that can be prepared in and served from a slow cooker. This will make it easy to keep the food at an appropriate temperature and allow guests to serve themselves.

Slow Cooker Braised Brisket

This recipe for slow cooker whiskey braised brisket makes easy work of preparing and serving barbecue brisket for an extended gathering. The recipe is easy-to-follow and uses staple ingredients you probably already have on hand. If you'd prefer an alcohol-free version, just substitute water for the whiskey. Make sure you have some buns or rolls nearby for guests who want to make a brisket sandwich.

roast brisket of beef

Slow Cooker Carnitas

Using a slow cooker makes easy work of preparing carnitas. Use this slow cooker carnitas recipe to turn a pork shoulder, chicken broth, and some basic spices into a delicious Mexican braised pork dish. Serve alongside tortillas and traditional toppings, such as cheese, sliced jalapenos, sliced radishes, cilantro, lime, salsa, and more.


Vegetable Casseroles for a Funeral Reception

Creamy, comforting side dishes are also a good option to serve at funeral receptions. They're easy to prepare and serve to a crowd. They can be reheated after the reception to help keep the grieving family nourished.

Broccoli Casserole

This rich and creamy broccoli casserole includes broccoli, cheddar cheese, mushrooms, bread crumbs, and common seasonings that you probably already have in your pantry.

Broccoli casserole

Squash Casserole

Both summer and winter squash are great featured ingredients for casseroles. Use these simple squash casserole recipes to make your choice of summer squash casserole, squash and stuffing casserole, or butternut squash casserole.

Squash Casseroles

Starchy Side Dishes for Memorial Gatherings

Vegetables are great, but it's also good to make sure there are a few starchy casseroles on hand. Not only do they have fairly universal appeal, these comforting dishes tend to pair well with main dish meats and casseroles alike.

Baked Potato Casserole

Potatoes go with just about everything, so they're a great reception item. It's easy to make a simple baked potato casserole with potatoes, cheese, sour cream, and a few other basic pantry staples.

Baked Potato Casserole

Macaroni and Cheese

For the ultimate in comfort food, it's hard to beat macaroni and cheese. Use this baked macaroni and cheese recipe for a scratch version. For an even easier option, just add a few gourmet touches to a packaged mix.

Macaroni and Cheese

Vegetarian Funeral Food Ideas

It's a good idea to make sure that there are some vegetarian options available for those who don't eat meat. Be sure these dishes are clearly labeled so any vegetarians in attendance can take a serving without being concerned about hidden ingredients.

Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole

Preparing a meat-free enchilada casserole is a great way to contribute a vegetarian dish to a funeral reception. This simple dish uses corn tortillas, tomato sauce seasoned with Mexican spices, green chiles, and cheese. If you'd like to make a vegan version, simply use vegan cheese instead of regular cheese.

Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole

Vegetarian Barley Casserole

Prepare a nutritious vegetarian casserole with barley for a meat-free dish that tastes great and is nutritious. Do you like the idea of preparing a basic mushroom or vegetable risotto using barley? Would you prefer a barley, black bean, and corn casserole that pairs perfectly with vegan enchiladas? You'll find instructions for both in vegetarian barley casserole recipes.

Vegetarian Barley Casserole

Sweet Selections for a Memorial Reception

Desserts are a great item to prepare for receptions following funeral services, especially when you opt for items that don't require refrigeration. Sweets that can be stored on the counter can provide the grieving family with quick access to snacks for several days after the reception is over without taking up valuable cold storage space.


Cupcakes are a great dessert option for a funeral reception since they don't even have to be cut for serving. Just whip up a batch using a packaged mix or homemade cupcake recipe and top with a basic frosting (store-bought or homemade). There's no need to decorate, but you can add sprinkles if you wish.

Cupcakes with white frosting


Cookies are another great easy-serve sweet option for post-funeral receptions. Store-bought cookies will be fine, though you may want to bake them yourself using a packaged mix or your favorite cookie recipe. Sugar cookies are a great option, as are peanut butter, chocolate, shortbread, or Mexican cinnamon cookies. Consider bringing a tray featuring several varieties.

Female bringing dessert platter

Finger Food Ideas for a Funeral Reception

Finger foods are also good options for post-funeral gatherings. There are many cheap and easy finger food ideas, including many simple recipes and platter ideas that don't require any cooking. For the easiest possible options, consider putting together a basic meat, cheese, or fruit tray, or opt for an antipasto platter.

Table top view of cheese platter

Other Post-Funeral Menu Considerations

When choosing menu items for a funeral reception, it's important to consider the religious beliefs and culture of the grieving family. Depending on the family's background, it may be appropriate to include ethnic recipes in the menu. If you're not sure, ask a family member if there are any dishes or special recipes they'd like to request.

Easy Funeral Food Ideas for Receptions