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Funeral potatoes in New Zealand: Not just a Utah classic

These cheesy potatoes might be a Utah classic, but recipes are also found outside of the United States

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Cheesy Funeral Potatoes are considered part of the Latter-day Saint food tradition.

Cheesy funeral potatoes might be a Utah classic, but recipes are also found outside of the United States.

Jeremy Harmon, Deseret News

The Relief Society, the women’s organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is often credited with inventing funeral potatoes. This dish is often described as a Utah staple and is one of the Beehive State’s most classic dishes. But has this Western classic traversed outside the Jell-O belt? The answer might be found in a cookbook from New Zealand in the 1950s.

What are funeral potatoes?

Funeral potatoes are a cheesy potato dish. Originating in Utah, this potato dish is comprised of hash browns or chopped potatoes, often mixed with sour cream, cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup and cheddar cheese, and topped with corn flakes.

Funeral potato recipe in New Zealand

In fairness, the New Zealand cookbook doesn’t call the dish “funeral potatoes,” but it describes a dish that has the correct components: potatoes, cheese and some type of creamy soup. It essentially describes what Utahns call funeral potatoes.

The precise origin date of funeral potatoes is unknown. It’s clear that by the mid-1900s, they were a staple among Utahns, but it’s unknown how early in the 1900s this dish became popular.

The New Zealand cookbook in which I found this potato recipe is a Relief Society cookbook from 1957. In this cookbook, there are pages and pages of recipes of different casseroles, desserts, vegetables — you name it. But there is also a peculiar potato recipe.

The cookbook has a recipe for a dish called scalloped potatoes supreme. It features sliced potatoes, a white sauce, lots of cheese and cream of mushroom soup, as well as onion and peppers. This recipe’s similar components, especially the incorporation of midcentury modern conveniences, parallel the composition and purpose of funeral potatoes.

This shows that funeral potatoes might be more far-reaching than initially meets the eye and that this Utah classic has traveled to some unexpected places.