The Best Places to Eat 'Mormon Funeral Potatoes,' One of the Greatest American Triumphs
If you've ever encountered Mormon funeral potatoes, you can attest that the salty, crispy, cheesy casserole is one of the most oddly satisfying creations that exists in America—nay, the world. The likelihood you've eaten them, however, is slim, as funeral potatoes are mostly an Intermountain West thing. But we believe that the dish should be a staple at every family and holiday gathering.
I was introduced to the dish by my husband, who grew up in Salt Lake City eating it at large family gatherings—and he'd probably kill me for saying this, but he prepares it a few times a year when a carbs splurge is in order. My initial reaction was likely the same as yours: What the hell are funeral potatoes? Are they only served at funerals? Why such a morbid name? In a nutshell, funeral potatoes are a cheesy potato casserole made with frozen hash browns (sometimes fresh ones, if you're fancy like that), cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup, lots of cheese, lots of butter, lots of sour cream and then cornflakes sprinled on top for a nice crunch.
"Try it before you diet," Tyson Peterson, executive chef at Spoke & Steele in Indianapolis, says of the dish that's most commonly served after LDS funerals or at family events. "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." Others believe the dish was also served in earlier times to people who were close to death. "Either way, the origin sounds a little morbid, but I assure you, if you have not had the pleasure of pairing a chargrilled cut of beef with a hearty portion of funeral potatoes, you are missing out," says Leah Rose, owner of Hoof & Vine.
While traditionally served at family gatherings, chefs are getting creative with the dish around the country. Here, several places to find them out West:
Simply called "funeral potatoes," Salt Lake City's Hoof & Vine's version consist of shredded potatoes, creamy mushroom soup, cream cheese, cheddar cheese and bread crumbs mixed together and topped off with more cheddar cheese and crumbled cheesy crackers—and then baked to "ooey gooey cheesy goodness perfection," says Rose. "The decision to add funeral potatoes to our menu was a no-brainer for us," she adds. "One, it's a dish that people who visit our restaurant already know and love, or it creates a fun conversation at the table (usually from out-of-town guests). And two, why wouldn't we want to feature something so decadent, loaded with creamy cheese and potatoes? When you think steak, you think potatoes, and we wanted to stray away from the traditional steak house baked potato and give our guests something a little more fun and inherently Utahan."
At Spoke & Steele in Indianapolis, Peterson concocts Mormon funeral potatoes with corn flakes and pickled scallions. The cheesy hash brown casserole is "made with love," he says, plus sour cream, cream of mushroom soup and a "Julia Child portion of butter." Peterson, originally from Salt Lake City, wanted to bring a piece of his heritage to the menu. "I grew up LDS and Sunday dinners were the best meal of the week," he says. "Mom would bake the casserole and serve it so hot that it would burn the mouth of your impatient 12-year-old self. I remember scooping molten spoonfuls of cheesy, gooey, creamy goodness onto my plate."
As of late, Fat Jack's Mormon Burger has been a huge hit in Salt Lake City, and it's just what you're imagining: funeral potatoes piled atop a juicy burger. "When we were opening Fat Jack's, we wanted to incorporate some of the 'pop' culture," says chef/owner Brittni Bonomini. "The secret to our funeral potatoes is bacon grease from our all-natural Applewood smoked peppered bacon," she adds, along with local Utah sour cream, scallions and garlic.
Salt Lake City's Garage on Beck, a hip dive bar and watering hole, servers three different types of funeral potatoes: classic, fiery ("baptized" in hot oil) and veggie, all made with Idaho russet potatoes. Served alongside Utah ranch (and a local beer), there's no denying the deliciousness of deep-fried potato casserole balls.