REO Top Ten: Church Potluck Items (Part 2)

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series REO Top Ten: Church Potluck Items

There are few things more emblematic of Southern Evangelical culture than the church potluck. Many jokes (some funny) have been made at the expense of faithful churchgoers enjoying a smorgasbord-type feast after service. Guilty as charged! We like to eat and we like to eat with our friends and fellow believers. Of course, when you open up the menu to any item that any person wants to bring, things can get a little tricky. It takes wisdom and quick decision-making to ensure that your plate is filled with only the best foods available.

That’s where REO comes in. We’ve spent the last few months meticulously sifting through every potluck food imaginable to create our top ten. These are the ten items that consistently rise to the top – the cream of the crop, if you will. Unless something in the preparation process goes horribly wrong, these are the ten items that will not fail you. Today, we bring you the best of the best. We crown our victor and celebrate with all our fans.

Recap: 10-6:

10. Meatballs
9. Velveeta Rotel Dip and Chips
8. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
7. Mexican Cornbread
6. Pigs-in-a-blanket

5. Ham N Cheese Hawaiian Rolls

by Michael Lytle

Hawaiian Rolls were created by the King’s Hawaiian Company in the late 1950s. By 1960, California man Joe Cooper had taken an entire bag of these delicious rolls, cut through the middle, and melted ham and cheese inside them. They were a huge hit with Joe’s family and friends, but Joe was an atheist so his creation never made it to a church potluck. It wasn’t until 1983 when Edna Clarkson took Ham and Cheese Hawaiian rolls to an event at First United Methodist Church in Starkville, Mississippi that the phenomenon was truly born. Lives were changed that day and the church tripled in attendance. The rest, they say, is history.

4. Chili

by D.A. Speer

Picture this…you’re standing at the front of the food line at the church potluck and you’ve just grabbed a styrofoam plate and your plasticware. You scan down the tables of glorious food spread out before you, but something catches your eye…wait…is that??? No…it can’t be! But it is! Someone has haphazardly thrown a bunch of meat, beans and peppers together into a crockpot, added a bunch of spicy chili powder to it, and proudly set it out for all to enjoy. (Rarely have I had a chili that I didn’t like. And when I did eat a chili that wasn’t great, a little extra Tabasco sauce or cheese is all it took to kick it up to a normative level again.) You reach down and pick up a styrofoam bowl as well. Time to feast.

by Mark Sass

For something so delicious the recipe for chili is actually quite simple (look at me pretending I know how to cook!). Despite its basic ingredients, a pot of chili can taste very different from one church potluck to another. Yet nearly every kind of chili is delicious. Unless it’s canned chili which is an affront to nature! I’ve read that many churches have amended their bylaws to include the following, “Thou shalt not bring canned chili to church potlucks”*. I digress. Plain chili is wonderful. But when cheese and crackers/corn chips are added it transforms into something divine!

REO pro tip: Chili holds heat better than most foods. So, at potlucks where the food is prepped well before the designated meal time always go for the chili as it will still be hot.

*I read this on the internet so it must be completely factual.

3. Fried Chicken

by Ben Plunkett

I could be wrong, but I suspect that if potluck chicken was as consistently good and hot as freshly made fried chicken, this would be higher on this list. Maybe this would be the case. However, Number 3 is still very respectable and is well earned. I do know that it is my close second favorite behind deviled eggs. It is so close that it is pretty much a tie. Yeah, sure, potluck chicken is often a mite on the coldish side—maybe lukewarm—but I still love it. It and deviled eggs are always my go-to potluck foods.

by Gowdy Cannon

I have deeply fond memories of Homecoming Sunday every October at Horse Branch Free Will Baptist as a child in the 80s and 90s. It meant I got to see the late NFL games since there was no Sunday night service. But it also meant this extravagant, bountiful smorgasbord of a buffet right after church. And every year I made a beeline for the chicken. It was often cold but it was still so good. Other than Uncle Remu’s at Walmart, I’ve never had a bad piece of fried chicken. And those Church potluck dinners in my childhood were no exception.

2. Sausage Balls

by Phill Lytle

A well-made sausage ball is hard to beat. Unfortunately, I have developed a weird pork allergy/intolerance so I am now deprived of all the wonderful pork related foods, including sausage balls. Still, even with my new-found ailment, I cannot deny the glory and the wonder of the classic sausage ball. You can eat these things hot, cold, warm, or lukewarm. You can dip them in a sauce or you can eat them just as they are. While they do vary in taste depending on the spice level of the sausage used, they are pretty great in any form.

REO pro tip: The spicier sausage used the better. Also, do not use too much breading. You want these to have a nice balance of meat, cheese, and breading. We don’t call them bread balls, after all.

1. Deviled Eggs

by Ben Plunkett

Many ill-advised haters of deviled eggs love to point out that it has “devil” in the name and that therefore it is obviously a thing of great evil. However, back in the 1700’s when deviled eggs first became a thing, “deviled” meant “spiced.” That’s not a joke. Look it up. Anyway, that makes deviled eggs a thing of great good. And indeed, it is, my friends, this soft and supple culinary masterpiece deserves to be in here in the upper reaches of the potluck top ten. Its haters be boggled. They’re the ones of great evil, so there.

by Phill Lytle

There is nothing devilish about these delightful creations. Look. I get it. If you don’t like eggs, or mayo, or deliciousness, you might find these little bite-sized beauties a bit repulsive. That is entirely your loss and entirely okay with me as that will leave more eggs for me to eat. At any church potluck, one of the first items to be completely eaten are the deviled eggs. Mark it down. That is why they finished number one in our bracket. They might be polarizing but for those of us that love them, they are the go-to item at any potluck dinner. A church potluck without deviled eggs is a truly horrific thing. We want no part of that.

by Gowdy Cannon

To me the beauty of the deviled egg is the balance of the two main ingredients. I used to watch my mom make the yolk mixture and then eat the leftovers and it was so good, but not nearly as good as when it was with the white of the egg. The two together are just sublime and hence, #1 for this group.

The Church Potluck Top Ten is complete!

That’s our list. We’re sure everyone will completely agree with all of our choices. Be sure to post your kind and encouraging reactions in the comment section below. We look forward to reading them and celebrating all these great church potluck foods together.

Series Navigation<< REO Top Ten: Church Potluck Items (Part 1)


I live in Ashland City, TN. I am a happily married father of three children.

10 thoughts on “REO Top Ten: Church Potluck Items (Part 2)

  • February 22, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    Wonderful description of the Hawaiian rolls, though I can’t tell you the last time I was at a potluck that actually had them. While they might be good, they don’t appear as commonly as you might think.

    Great choice for #1. It really doesn’t matter how many deviled eggs are prepared for a potluck; they will all be eaten.

    Nos. 9, 8, 7, 4, and 3 (and the honorable mention) are all also worthy members of this list. However, I gotta add a few that hopefully just missed the cutoff in your voting:
    — Pecan pie
    — Chicken and noodles/dumplings
    — Banana pudding
    — Lil Smokies (unless that’s implied with the Pigs in a Blanket)
    — Cookies (especially chocolate chip, or peanut butter with the fork criss-cross in them, or those sugar cookies with the Hershey’s Kiss in the middle)

    (Glad I already ate lunch before reading this.)

    • February 22, 2019 at 2:11 pm

      Lil Smokies was on the ballot. I love them and pushed hard for them.

      We left off all dessert options – as we had already done a pie bracket and didn’t want this list to include too many of the same options – which was possible.

      • February 22, 2019 at 3:23 pm

        Makes sense. Thanks!

  • February 22, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    One would never go hungry with this.

  • February 23, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Chicken got docked some because for many of our voters it is often cold. I definitely experienced this growing up but we heat things up so well at my current church I never have to worry. Plus, and I don’t know if this should count, at my church is extremely common that as soon as the service ends someone will run to Popeye’s four blocks away and bring it back super fresh for when the potluck starts.

    Also we call them “Convivios” at my church. Potluck carries baggage. Lol.

    • February 23, 2019 at 12:46 pm

      I have yet to see a suitcase at a potluck.

  • February 24, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    Things have improved. I remember the gracious hospitality I experienced on choir tour. Chicken and rice casserole was a thing.

  • February 24, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    The gracious hospitality on choir tour always included lots and lots of chicken and rice casserole. It was a thing.

  • February 26, 2019 at 8:56 am

    One bit of explanation about our process: For the most part, we chose food items that maintained their quality most consistently, regardless of temperatures or the person that prepared them. My wife’s grandmother makes the best chicken and dumplings I’ve ever tasted but I’ve also had many versions at potlucks that are pretty terrible. So, even though her version would be near the top of my list, the typical potluck version of that dish would never get that high on my list.

  • April 5, 2022 at 10:57 pm

    My dad once made spam musubi for a potluck. My favorite food that is almost always at our church’s potlucks is banana pudding with nilla wafers and sliced bananas


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.