Here's How Funeral Potatoes Got Their Name

So much of life is centered around food. Whether we are joyously celebrating a marriage, birth, graduation, or some other milestone, we can usually find food attached to it. This also includes funerals, and as the saying goes, "Nobody in the world eats better than the bereaved Southerner" (via Yahoo News).  There are even cookbooks dedicated to the foods the South serves up at funerals. From hearty chicken and noodle casseroles to mac and cheese to sliders, food helps us mourn and process. In fact, funeral receptions can bring out some of the ultimate comfort foods, and funeral potatoes are at the top of the list. Just google the phrase "funeral potatoes" and the search engine will spit back thousands of entries for your perusing enjoyment. But what are they, and how did they get their seemingly morbid name? 

Per Southern Living, funeral potatoes are a cheesy potato casserole that one eats at funerals. This easy dish is hearty enough to feed a mass gathering of mourners and doesn't lose its taste during the trip from your kitchen to your car to the grieving family's table. Loaded with comforting carbs and generally made with shredded hash brown potatoes, creamy cheese, flour, sour cream, and some type of crunchy topping, funeral potatoes let the living get lost in their savory bliss. But who gets credit for this casserole's creation? If you said Southerners, you may want to think again.

Mormons have claimed its origins

So who gets to claim credit for this coveted comfort food for the grieving? At this point, the answer to who invented the funeral potato casserole is really a mix of hearsay, urban myth, and general acceptance by the internet. Contrary to popular belief and according to several online resources, it was not the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. Sorry. Although, her recipe for this cheesy potato goodness does sounds extra comforting, and with the crushed-up potato chips on top, we're definitely feeling it. But per LDS Daily, funeral potatoes are actually quite popular in Mormon circles, so much so that they get the credit. 

There are even accounts of funeral potatoes being made as far back as the 1970s by members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints' Relief Society (via Food52). In fact, most web sources say Mormons put this dish on the map. This casserole is such a staple for the state of Utah, which also has the largest population of Mormons, that it was featured on a 2002 Olympic pin and the Utah State Fair hosts a contest in search of the best funeral potatoes recipe. However, to be fair, the Wall Street Journal points out that the South also has a dish by the same name, though it's unclear if Mormons introduced it to the region or it originated separately.