Funeral potatoes are the nickname given to a potato casserole, which is traditionally served as a side dish item at post-burial meals among those who are part of the Mormon religion. Mormon funeral potatoes are not just a funeral staple, however, but are also served up at church dinners, Christmas meals, and other social gatherings among Mormons. In regard to the recipe, funeral potatoes are similar to potatoes au gratin, as both casseroles are simple to make and consist of a creamy potato dish topped off with a baked crust.
Potatoes are the main ingredient in any funeral potato dish. These potatoes can be made with different preparations, such as sliced or cubed. Usually, however, the potatoes are in hash brown style, meaning they have been finely diced. Shredded hash browns are usually not used to keep the dish from becoming too mushy once coked. Either prepackaged or freshly made hash browns can be used. If frozen hash browns are used, however, they are allowed to thaw before being used.
The exact funeral potato ingredients will differ somewhat by recipe. Generally, however, the potatoes are combined with butter, sour cream, and cream soup. Cream of chicken soup is most commonly used, but cream of celery or cream of potato soup is considered an acceptable substitute. Shredded cheddar cheese and onions are also usually mixed into the dish before the funeral potatoes are scraped into a baking pan. The dish is then topped with buttered cornflake crumbs or Parmesan cheese to form a golden topping.
Health-wise, funeral potatoes can be high in fat and calories. To cut back on the calories and fat, ingredient substitutions can be made. For instance, half-and-half or milk can be used instead of butter. In place of cream of chicken soup, a low-sodium chicken broth can be used. To thicken the broth, it can be cooked on the stove for a few minutes with a few tablespoons of flour and butter added. Low-fat cheese and light sour cream can help further lower the total amount of fat and calories included in each serving of the casserole.
The term funeral potatoes seems to mainly be in use among Mormons who live in the state of Utah. The hot dish appears to go by a number of other names among Mormons living in other parts of the United States, including party potatoes and church potatoes. The dish is also not isolated to Mormons, as very similar potato casseroles, including scalloped potatoes, are consumed by non-Mormons around the United States.