Why Utah's Favorite Potato Casserole Is Named After Funerals

With a name like "funeral potatoes," this classic Mormon dish might inspire a few feelings other than hunger. Sadness? Grief? At least solemnity? Think again. Mormon funeral potatoes are typically served after LDS (Latter-Day Saints) funerals, but they're also a popular dish at family gatherings, special events, and celebrations, says Food & Wine. Food manufacturer Augason Farms even sells packaged dried ingredients for easy-bake instant funeral potatoes at $7.99 a bag. Chef Tyson Peterson, a Salt Lake City native, explains, "Even if you're not from that faith, in Utah they're still called 'Mormon funeral potatoes' and have only positive connotation. They are perfect for any get-together, as they're customizable and feed many people easily."

Indeed, it's a simple and inexpensive dish that suits every palette. Mormon funeral potatoes are a combination of cubed potatoes or hash browns, both cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soups, butter, sour cream, and cheese. The ingredients are spread into a casserole dish, baked, and topped with a crispy layer of cornflakes cereal. The Mormon Church says onions and breadcrumbs are also common ingredients in different recipes. For how morbid the name may sound, the dish's origin is surprisingly wholesome. Here's why Utah's favorite potato casserole is named after funerals.

A history of gatherings and charity

According to NPR, Mormon funeral potatoes were likely born of utility. There's a theory that the dish was served in times of yore to sustain folks who were near death (via Food & Wine). But, foodies didn't have to be approaching the Great Divide in order to enjoy funeral potatoes: Assembling the dish was often an act of generosity. Jacqueline Thursby, a retired folklore professor at Brigham Young University, says Mormon funeral potatoes rose up to fulfill the logistical demands of growing congregations and families. 

Mormon housewives were tasked with feeding lots of folks – all the time – which meant inventing dishes that were quick to make, affordable, and filling. The women-operated Mormon Relief Society also ministered to poor and ill populations, says Thursby, which meant catering lots of weddings, births, and funerals. The Mormon Church website maintains this version of funeral potatoes' creation; the dish got its name, says the outlet, because it was commonly brought by Mormon Relief Societies to support families at various funerals. Mormon funeral potatoes (weirdly) take the phrase "comfort food" to an entirely different level.