Pot roast, chicken pot pie, tuna noodle casserole — for a lot of Americans, Sunday dinner evokes memories of lounging around after church with the smell of a casserole or roast or comfort food permeating the whole house. Family dinners in general are becoming more infrequent, but what about Sunday dinners?

Roughly 60% of Americans cook Sunday dinner at home in 2022, according to Morning Consult, but around 50% of American families rarely eat dinner together in the first place.

Family dinners have positive outcomes on children. According to The Family Table published by The New York Times, children who eat with their parents are more likely to:

  • Eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink less soda.
  • Have lower rates of obesity.
  • Have better grades.
  • Have higher self-esteem and better body image.

What is the history of Sunday dinner?

The American Sunday dinner came from the British Sunday dinner. According to Broth By Design, British people would eat their main meal at dinner. It typically consisted of a roasted meat, roasted vegetables and potatoes, gravy, stuffing and bread.

According to The Nudge, church played a role in developing these dinners. People would fast during church and then would break the fast by having a big meal on Sunday.

Sunday dinners became popular quickly and by the 19th century, they were an expected part of British and American life.

According to The Washington Post, “Sunday dinner was a tradition, a real Sabbath away from the worries of the work week, a place with lace, and folded napkins, surrounded by family.”

Crockpots and Sunday dinner

Sunday dinners were ideal for breaking the fast when coming home from church because ovens were available for use. But another invention became a symbol of Sunday dinners in America and that is the Crock-Pot.

Irving Nachumsohn created the slow cooker in the 1930s as a way to cook even when it was hot outside. He filed for a patent on May 21, 1936, and it was granted on Jan. 23, 1940. But according to Smithsonian magazine, it was not until World War II when the Naxon Beanery (later, the Crock-Pot) was sold on the market. Nachumsohn changed his last name to Naxon due to the war, but the slow cooker faded into obscurity.

Until it boomed in the 1970s.

Crock-Pots became the perfect way to conveniently cook food. More women were working and this appliance gave women the ability to put food in the slow cooker and let it cook.

This led to a still-present phenomenon: Crock-Pot Sunday dinners. Before going to church, someone can fill a Crock-Pot with all the ingredients for dinner and let it cook all day. When the family gets home from church, they already have dinner prepared. Crock-Pot Sunday dinners connect back to the roots of Sunday dinner.

What should I make for Sunday dinner?

By now, you may be wondering: What can I cook for Sunday dinner? Here are five of the best Sunday dinner recipes.

  1. Funeral potatoes: If you grew up in the so-called “Mormon corridor” or if you have ever stepped foot inside a Latter-day Saint ward potluck, then you likely know what funeral potatoes are. These cheesy, decadent potatoes combine convenience with home-cooked meals through its ingredients and preparation. Here’s a recipe — the best and most correct recipe — for this must-have casserole.
  2. Chicken roast dinner: Return to the roots of Sunday dinner by making a one sheet chicken roast dinner. If you’ve never made a roast before, this is a good one to start with.
  3. Crock-Pot Split Pea Soup: There’s nothing like a warm bowl of soup after a long day of church and family activities. Serve up this hearty, vegetable filled soup. This soup is easier and better leftover.
  4. Crock-Pot Chana Masala: If you love a fragrant, spicy chickpea dish, this is the recipe for you. This is a good meatless yet protein-filled dish that is easy to make and works well with a number of different sides.
  5. Bolognese sauce with pasta: Sometimes all you want to do on a Sunday afternoon is to cook something complicated. If you have time for an ingredient-heavy dish, try making this bolognese sauce and serve it over pasta. You could even try your hand at making fresh pasta.