7 Scrumptious Dishes You Just Might Find at a Mennonite Potluck (Plus 3 Recipes)

1. Prize-Winning Chocolate Mint Brownies.
These mouth watering morsels are prize-winning because they have just been declared this week’s winner in the Best Church Potlucks Ever photo contest! Shared and prepared by Grace Whitlock Vega from Columbia Mennonite Fellowship in Columbia, Missouri, Grace was also kind enough to share the recipe with us. Enjoy (if you dare!). Photo from Columbia Mennonite.

Chocolate Mint Brownies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 9” x 13” pan.

½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2/3 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Cream butter and sugar in electric mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one by one and add vanilla. On medium speed add in flour, cocoa, and salt, mixing until combined. Fold in chips. Spread batter in greased/floured pan and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before adding mint layer.

Mint Layer

½ cup unsalted butter (softened)
2 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup crème de menthe (could substitute mint extract plus green food coloring)
½ teaspoon vanilla

When brownies are cool, beat butter and powdered sugar, scraping sides until combined. Add in crème de menthe and vanilla and mix until smooth. Spread on brownie layer, then refrigerate until set, about 1-2 hours.

Chocolate Fudge Layer

1 ½ cups chocolate chips
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter together in 30 second increments in microwave, stirring until smooth, then pour over top of mint layer. Refrigerate until set 1-2 hours.

2. Beautiful Fruit Kabobs. FruitKabobSt.JacobsKaren Sauder prepared these healthy and appealing fruit kabobs for the women’s annual salad luncheon at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, which is a favorite traditional event for women of the church. WomensSaladSupper3EditedDoes your church have an annual luncheon or supper focusing just on salads? We’d love to hear about it in the comment section on on our Facebook page! Such a variety of dishes fit the “salad” motif. Photos by Marcia Bauman Shantz

3. Scalloped Potatoes.

ScallopedPotatoFavoritePerhaps plain old potatoes are never quite as attractive as colorful fruits and salads, but this filling comfort dish often finds a place at the table of St. Jacob’s Mennonite Church (SJMC) in Ontario. Everyone has their favorite recipe for scalloped potatoes, and cookbooks abound with variations; here’s one recipe with a step-by-step tutorial, if you don’t have your own favorite recipe! Photo from Marcia Bauman Shantz.

4. Greek Tomato Salad.Women'sSaladSupperGot tomatoes? Got cucumbers? This salad from (yes, St. Jacob’s Mennonite) is a sure winner for late July and August! A great recipe for Greek Tomato Salad or Tomato Cucumber Feta is in the 2015 edition of Simply in Season, filled with beautiful dishes and recipe photography. Photo by Marcia Bauman Shantz.

Here’s how to make it:

8 medium tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
1 cucumber, chopped (optional)

Combine in a dish

2 tablespoons fresh basil, mint, or parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

Mix and pour over the vegetables; toss lightly. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with ½ cup freshly shredded mozzarella or crumbled feta cheese, Kalamata olives, or sprigs of fresh herbs.

Serves 6. Recipe from Simply in Season, Herald Press.

5. Banana Cream Pudding. P1070315

The staff of MennoMedia/Herald Press at the main U.S. office in Harrisonburg, Va., have a potluck lunch once a month. Recently we featured recipes from Mennonite Community Cookbook, and Dorothy Hartman, editorial assistant and permissions manager, prepared this beautiful and traditional banana pudding. Score the recipe here! Photo by Melodie M. Davis.

Banana Cream Pudding

2 boxes vanilla pudding (not instant)
4 cups milk
1 cup whipping cream
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
14 graham crackers
4 bananas

Combine pudding and milk and stir until smooth.
Cook until thickened, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and cool.
Whip the cream and add sugar and vanilla.
To the cold custard add 2/3 of the whipped cream, 3 diced bananas and 10 graham crackers rolled very fine.
Combine ingredients well and our into serving dish.
Spread the remaining cream on top of mixture.

Garnish with remaining crumbs and sliced bananas.

Makes 6-8 servings. Original recipe in Mennonite Community Cookbook from Dorothy Shank, Harrisonburg, Va.

6. Apple/Pineapple Swan, made by Ann Weber of SJMC; photo by Marcia Bauman Shantz. SwanEditedThere’s not much recipe to this, but if you study the photo and watch this video, you should be able to figure it out, or we can put you in touch with its creator for more complete directions!

7. Mennonite Cinnamon Rolls, baked by Heather Weber of SJMC; photo by Marcia Bauman Shantz.


Rebecca Thatcher Murcia is a professional translator, mega-soccer mom, coach, and player. Several years ago she shared a fantastic church cinnamon roll story on the Mennonite radio program Shaping Families. It seems that one Sunday she ran out of time to make her rolls at home and dragged all the ingredients to church with her, and … (see cinnamon roll story here and adapted recipe here).


What’s your favorite church potluck food? Does your women’s group have “salad luncheons” or other women only events? How about men’s food events?


We have one more post in this series related to church potlucks. Next up: A cautionary note about potlucks from a thoughtful reader!

8 Terrific Table Traditions at Mennonite Churches (and the Theology that Supports Them)

Or, Why Mennonite Food No Longer All Looks Like Mennonite Community Cookbook Fare

East Union, Iowa, work project.

1. Combining Fellowship With OutreachEast Union Mennonite Church members in Kalona, Iowa, young and old alike, prep food around work tables for “Kids Against Hunger” at a monthly food and fellowship event which also incorporates occasional mission/service projects. Dubbed CHOW (Church Happenings On Wednesday), on each first Wednesday of the month from September through April, a light dinner is served from 6 – 6:30 p.m., followed by activities, classes, or a shared service project such as here. Activities end at 7:45 to accommodate families with young children, and child care is provided for wee ones. Adult Sunday School groups take turns providing/planning adult activities and meals.

20110326 Dessert from Chicago Community
Ross Bay’s Trifle from Chicago Community

2. Sweetening the Soul a la Trifle  – Megan M. Ramer, pastor at Chicago Community Mennonite Church tells how the trifle came to symbolize their congregation. “Asked to prepare a dessert that represented our congregation for a conference gathering, [what a great idea!] our answer was clear: a trifle it shall be. Our monthly potlucks are opportunities not only to share the sustenance our bodies need, but to sweeten our souls as well. We delight in culinary playfulness and creative expressions of food fanciness. Our trifle-making extraordinaire, Ross Bay, purchased a trifle bowl specifically for CCMC potlucks and brings different trifle variations to nearly every potluck. Visit CCMC also on Facebook

Ángel Tamayo, associate pastor with child’s parents, Emmanuel and Emily Laubach Mwaipopo.

3. The What To Do After a Baptism Or Dedication Dilemma.  We love this photo of Kianna Mwaipopo checking out pastor Ángel Tamayo, associate pastor of Nueva Vida Norristown New Life Mennonite Church (Pennsylvania) with her parents, Emmanuel and Emily Laubach Mwaipopo, (Emily’s sister in background) and clutching her comforting pacifier. (Photo by Tim Moyer.) Most people know that in Mennonite churches, babies are “dedicated,” not baptized, a change which started the whole Anabaptist movement back in the 1500s and resulted in many persons being persecuted for not following state mandated requirements to automatically baptize every child into the church. Among Mennonites, the belief in “adult” baptism at an age when a child or person is able make their own decision and truly make a commitment to Christ and a community of believers, is a key difference between Mennonites and numerous (but not all) Christian groups.

Fall Open House dessert table.

And what does this have to food? (Okay, it’s a stretch, but had to get the cute baby in here.) Most baby dedication ceremonies—or adult baptisms— are followed by a gathering around a table or two for a meal—either potluck with the whole church community, or simply celebrated among a smaller group of family and friends at home or restaurant. In the second picture, Pascale Cruickshank, left, cuts a sweet potato pie, while Gloria George, and Steve Brown prepare to enjoy a fall open house celebration at Nueva Vida. The beautiful yellow celebration cake is made of all Jello, and was created and decorated by a Mexican friend of the congregation. Sharon Williams, who shared the photos, says the cake demonstrates that “the Word of God is sweeter than the honeycomb!

Table group deliberation at MCUSA Convention in Phoenix, 2013.

4. “At Table” But No Food. A common practice at many Mennonites conferences and conventions, where delegates deliberate and help make many major decisions—is the round table, allowing persons to look into the faces of those they may disagree with. At the recent Kansas City Mennonite Church USA convention, Herald Press author Donald Clymer, for one, reflected on the Christian love expressed at his Table Group: “As we progressed through the agenda of the week, it became obvious that we differed substantially on nearly all the issues. But we discussed everything civilly, learned to trust each other, and to deeply respect each other’s point of view. Could I even say we “loved” each other?” There may be plenty of water at these tables and even a mint or two, but at these tables the focus is on conversation, dialogue, and hearing each other. Thus, we celebrate the “at table” tradition where no food is served or consumed—another holy table! (Photo from a Mennonite Church USA convention, by Ken Gingerich.)

Pancake race participants dress up in “housewife” clothing of old. See United Kingdom tradition!

5. Pancake Races – Imported Lenten Practice. Benton Mennonite Church near Goshen, Indiana has had an outstanding practice at the beginning of Lent. They hosted an annual “pancake race” on Shrove Tuesday before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday for a number of years (read all about this fun tradition imported from the United Kingdom here, and how the folks at Benton carried it out). Benton also reaches out to visitors by having a potluck lunch after every service through the school year—and regulars are welcome even if they skip church that day, according to one member! For this practice alone, we salute them and encourage visitors/newcomers in Northern Indiana to put this church on your “must check out” list.

Beth-El Colorado Easter Breakfast

6. Potlucks Create Community. Beth–El Mennonite in Colorado Springs, Colorado, sees eating together as integral to congregational life. Church member Rhonda Wray writes: “Sharing a meal allows for more conversation. Sampling new foods, inclusion of special dietary needs, a break from the Sunday routine, and the efficiency of eating at church also contribute to potluck’s popularity. We hold a monthly ‘second Sunday’ potluck and special meals, like our Easter breakfast, featuring breakfast casseroles, cinnamon rolls, and fruits. We don’t have a specific dish or cook to send for this contest, but we affirm the excitement of a shared dishes.” (Photograph by Jerry Martin. Sent by Jeanette Martin, Administrative Assistant, Beth-El Mennonite.)

Sushi and Deviled Eggs, side by side.

7.  Extending the Table  Grace Lao Mennonite Church began when St. Jacobs Mennonite Church in St. Jacobs, Ontario began sponsoring and welcoming refugees from South East Asia in 1979, and continuing for the next several years. Various clusters of families would gather around one refugee family to provide support (finding apartments/employment, adjusting to a new culture, friendship, etc.). Many of these refugees were of Buddhist background. Through the support and relationships formed, many of those folks became interested in Christian faith and were baptised. They began by worshipping together with St. Jacobs Mennonite Church (SJMC), but eventually formed their own congregation, Grace Lao Mennonite, in 1990. The 1990 addition to the SJMC building included a large upstairs gathering room to house the worship space for Grace Lao. Sunday School remained shared. In 1999, Grace Lao bought its own church building on Lancaster Street in Kitchener. The two congregations continue to share a close relationship.

Traditional Laotian dishes  and traditional Canadian favorites mix it up at joint potlucks.
Traditional Laotian dishes and traditional Canadian favorites mix it up at joint potlucks.

A partnership council meets regularly to provide mutual support and encouragement, and we worship and eat together at an annual Sunday School picnic, where everyone seems to enjoy the new food traditions offered and prepared so beautifully by members of Grace Lao! (Photos of Laotian dishes, courtesy of Marcia Bauman Shantz, St. Jacobs Mennonite Church.)

Last Meatball Standing, photo by Marcia Bauman Shantz.

8. Last Meatball Standing or Last Person Through the Line. Potlucks can be tricky* and even ego wounding. Everyone wants their dish to be enjoyed, and cooks don’t mind taking home one meatball, but a crockpot full of mostly untouched meatballs? Not so much. And there are usually certain people in every church or group whom you can count on to hang out near the end of the line and refuse to go until they’re the very last person served. What’s up with that? Humility? Or pride in being “the last” who, according to Matthew 20:16, shall someday be first?

[*Coming up in a future post, we’ll share a longer essay from a Mennonite woman reminding why for those with severe food allergies, a church potluck is NOT the place they want to be.]

Marcia, the potluck coordinator and chief photographer at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church in Ontario, even wrote a sort of ode to potlucks to the tune of The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things.”

“The Church Potluck Song”
(by Marcia Bauman Shantz, St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, ON Can. – May 2015)

(Sung to the tune of “My Favourite Things” from the movie The Sound Of Music;
with musical metered liberties assumed in the singing thereof!).

Devilled eggs and sushi, and spring rolls and salads,
Sausage and casseroles with crisp onion toppings,
Humus with pita, and crackers and cheese,
Save me a piece of ground cherry pie, please!

Pineapple rings rest in grape-flavoured Jello,
Ham slices, summer sausage, crunchy dill pickles.
Pies, brownies, trifle and Rice Krispie squares,
Are those chocolate whoopie pies I see down there?

When the grace’s sung.
When the kids run.
When we’re feeling full.
We simply remember these wonderful things,
Of what a church potluck – does bring!

Coffee cakes and paska, Easter cheese with fresh Maple syrup.
Laotian, Brazilian, Hungarian, European.
Small group planned-potlucks in each other’s homes,
Get out your calendar, who’s turn to host next?

Welcome Back Breakfast – September’s beginning.
Sunday noon potlucks and Women’s Salad Suppers.
Church camping, church picnics and church weeknight study,
Who makes that good borscht for Sunday Suppers?

When the grace’s sung.
When the kids run.
When we’re feeling full.
We simply remember these wonderful things,
Of what a church potluck – does bring!


Thanks to all churches who submitted photos or short essays for this blog post, or allowed us to draw from your website!

Our second winner in the “Best Church Potlucks” photo contest is Ross Bay of Chicago Community Mennonite Church for his faithfulness in creating beautiful trifles! Claim you prize from these choices: Simply in Season, More-with-Less, Extending the Table, Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations, or Saving the Seasons.


What is your go-to potluck dish to prepare? Has that changed in the last 20 years? What foods–whatever the ethnicity–are favorites at your church potlucks?

This post part of Mennonite Community Cookbook‘s 65th anniversary year of blogging! Purchase cookbook here.

8 Great Reasons to Hang Out at a Mennonite Potluck

Mennonite Community Cookbook blog, Third Way website and MennoMedia/Herald Press (yeah, they’re all connected) recently sponsored a “Best Church Potlucks Ever” photo contest (ended June 15, 2015). Okay, it was mostly a ruse to be able to collect and share some great photos from across the Mennonite church on the topic of food. Mary Emma Showalter, who collected the original recipes for Mennonite Community Cookbook, would be thrilled!

The Bible is filled with stories of food and sharing meals—and many of us have experienced the deepening fellowship that happens around tables and food. Jesus made the breaking of bread and sharing a meal into something holy. Jesus’s last meal before his crucifixion, and his first meal after the resurrection, speak to us of the spiritual dimension of food—such a great and wonderful gift of our Creator God.

So we’ll offer a series of four photo essays over the next weeks on the topic of food, eating, sharing, and some great recipes.

First up, just for fun and compliments of a volunteer, Marcia Bauman Shantz from St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, St. Jacobs, Ontario, are eight great reasons you just may want to hang out sometime at a Mennonite potluck!

WhoKnewPotluckCouldBeSoExhaustingEdited1. You might catch a snooze. Isaac, a child of St Jacobs Mennonite Church, catches an early nap after a church potluck. Who knew a potluck could be so exhausting?

2. Someone is guaranteed to give you a smile, with or withoutPotluckCarrotSmileEdited sticking a carrot in it, as Jonah from St. Jacobs does creatively here! And carrots star in Vitamin A: you get 203% of your daily requirement for this essential vitamin with one average carrot, while missing all or most of the baddies like sugar, sodium, fat and cholesterol.

BlueberryKidSt.JacobsEdited3. Blueberry love. Kai can’t hide his love for blueberry pancakes at the church’s annual Shrove Pancake supper! At a summer potluck or picnic, you’re sure to get plenty of anti-oxidant-rich foods like blueberries! What’s not to love?  WebMD ranks blueberries the #2 food in nutritional quality.

4. Will you be my Clementine? Zoe sports a cute clementine nose at a churchClementineNoseEdited potluck (do we see a theme here, maybe even someone egging her on?). Easy to peel, clementines are now frequently offered with some “kid” fastfood meals and are juicy, sweet, and less acidy than oranges. Only 35 calories and 7 grams of sugar.

GrapeEyesEdited5. You might see someone who looks attractive, with or without real grape eyes. Here Tina models the grape eyes. Purple grapes rank #1 on WebMD in nutrition!


6. Young Mennonites can receive early training on theIceCreamConeSmushEdited Mennonite vice of choice, ice cream (and other dangerous desserts. Seriously.). Rumor is that at the Mennonite Convention USA in Kansas City this week, the bars will be empty and the ice cream shoppes will have lines stretching for blocks (pretty much the same thing happens at Mennonite Church Canada big get togethers too!). Here Levi demonstrates the ice cream “nose smush” at the church’s Saturday night campout potluck. The ice cream cones were stuffed with chocolate cake, then a layer of ice cream, then a little chocolate icing, as made by church camper, Elaine.

WatermelonLipsSt.JacobsEdited7. You might end up with watermelon lips! A cooperative Levi also models the newest look in wearable, tasty lipstick. (In case you think he looks like Kai, they are brothers.)


8. It is perfectly acceptable—even biblical—to take a Sabbath rest after lunch.BlueberryKidNappingEdited (And if you think the young man looks a little like the guy showing the blueberry love above (#3), bingo. Same Kai, when he was younger!)


All photos and some of the captions courtesy of Marcia Bauman Shantz, volunteer photographer for St. Jacobs. Parents gave permission for their child’s photo to appear here, but not for use elsewhere. Thanks for honoring our request.

For all of Marcia’s work and obvious potluck love exhibited by St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, we are awarding them the grand prize, one copy of the new 65th anniversary edition of Mennonite Community Cookbook. Other drawing winners, to be announced later, will receive their choice of five other Herald Press cookbooks.

***mennonite community cookbook

You can buy the Mennonite Community Cookbook 65th Anniversary edition here.


Everyone’s a winner—both in the kitchen and nutritionally—with the lovely and updated new Extending the Table and Simply In Season cookbooks as well, with beautiful new food and recipe photography. Check them out too …