In good times and in bad, a home-cooked meal from a friend or relative is always a welcome treat. A meal delivery can nourish our bodies, relieve the mental load, and provide comfort and convenience. In this blog post I’m sharing some of the best meals to deliver to friends, relatives, neighbors and the like, tried and tested by yours truly. Bookmark this page so the next time there is a new baby, a surgery, a cancer diagnosis or other major event in your community, you’ll be ready to lend a hand.

The Makings of a Great Shared Meal

What makes a great shared meal? I’ve tried to abide by the following rules when compiling my list of the best meals to deliver to friends:

  • Makes at least 6-8 servings. Even if the recipient is an individual or a small family, it’s always nice to have leftovers to freeze for another day. If you’re going to go to the trouble of cooking, you might as well make a big batch.
  • No controversial ingredients. Sorry olives, fennel, cilantro and anchovies. You may have a place in my fridge, but you have no home on this list.
  • Relatively inexpensive. You shouldn’t have to break the bank to provide a comforting meal.
  • Easy to prepare. The easier the meal is to prepare, the more likely you are to actually do it. Enough said.

In sum, the best meals are non-fussy, crowd-pleasers that feed a crew. Understanding that one can only eat so much pizza, I have compiled a range of recommendations to suit many palates, both figuratively and literally. As with all cooking, I encourage you to modify these recipes based on what is in season for maximum freshness and flavor.

My spring garden yields Caesar salad to feed the masses (hold the anchovies)

Meals for All Occasions and Recipients

I’ve sorted my meal recommendations into four categories: soups, comfort food, kid-friendly and health-conscious. Some of the meals check multiple boxes, but consider this a rough guide.


Hearty and warm, soups are a great foundation for a meal. Simply add a loaf of crusty bread (baguette, sourdough, country loaf, etc.) for dipping, and a pre-assembled salad mix and you’ve got a complete meal. Here are four of my favorite soups:

The Best Meals to Deliver to Friends
Chicken noodle soup: the quintessential get well meal
  • Chicken Noodle Soup – I would be remiss to lead with anything other than the iconic chicken noodle soup. Chicken noodle soup is the quintessential meal to deliver to a loved one facing adversity, and for good reason. With an easily digestible broth, comforting carbohydrates, protein and vegetables, it’s a clear winner. Perhaps you already have a favorite recipe on hand, but if not, here is a good one (take or leave the dill).
  • Tomato and Orzo Soup – Tomato soup is a crowd-pleaser that is also comforting, kid-friendly, and depending on the recipe, health-conscious. It’s easy to upgrade from canned tomato soup with a recipe like this one from the one and only Ina Garten. I omit the saffron (the flavor gets lost in the soup) and cut back on the garlic. This recipe can be simplified by omitting the grilled cheese croutons and simply sending a fresh loaf of bread and your favorite melting cheese.
  • Corn Chowder with Bacon – This recipe comes Bakery Lane, a sweet little restaurant tucked away in Middlebury, Vermont. Sadly the restaurant closed decades ago, but their legacy lives on. This corn chowder is easy to make and always delicious. I use bacon and frozen corn, for ease.
  • Black Bean Soup – This hearty soup is nutritious, filling and affordable. I omit the jalapeno, and top with goat cheese or feta, depending on what I have on hand. For a meal delivery, you could send with a more universally appealing cheddar, an avocado or two, chopped scallions and a bag of tortilla chips, and call it a day. Unless of course the occasion called for some pre-mixed margaritas.

Comfort Food

While we all have our own personal versions of the most comforting meals, here are a few that rank high in my mind. I omitted lasagna from the list because of how time consuming it is to make, but I dare you to name anyone who wouldn’t be thrilled to be presented with a tray of such cheesy goodness.

Pulled pork sandwiches are a great meal to deliver to friends
Photo Credit: Bon Appetit
  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches – I have been making this pulled pork recipe a lot lately, and everybody who tries it loves it. While it requires the special equipment of an Instant Pot, it still deserves a spot on this list. I serve the pork on Hawaiian rolls with extra BBQ sauce. In addition, I like a side of pickles and a Caesar salad (a slaw would be great too).
  • Quick Shrimp Paella – This oldy-but-goody provides the cozy, comfort of a seafood risotto, without any of the fuss. I omit the green olives and use a pre-cooked turkey kielbasa, which we all devour.
  • Turkey Meatloaf – I will admit that you need to know your audience on this one, but my family and I are squarely on Team Meatloaf. This recipe, again from my queen Ina Garten, hits all the right notes and is easy to pull together. It would be great with roasted potatoes or carrots and/or a simple salad.
  • Creamy Pesto and Chicken – This one pot meal is a versatile dish that you can easily adjust as needed, including boosting the quantities. I typically fold in pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, rather than pan cooking the chicken. If you’re feeding a vegetarian, you could replace the chicken with sauteed broccoli, mushrooms or more spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.


If you’re cooking for a family with children, consider something that everyone at the table will enjoy. Kid-friendly meals can be nostalgic and fun, and are a great way to tune in to the needs of the recipient. Sometimes the best meals to deliver to friends come with a side of fresh crayons and a new sketchbook.

Deliver spaghetti and meatballs to friends with children
Homemade meatballs with jarred marinara sauce and uncooked pasta is fit for delivery
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs – To make this classic dish suitable for delivery, I recommend sending homemade pre-cooked meatballs, jarred marinara sauce (the gold standard) and uncooked pasta (separately). The meatballs can be as simple or as complex as you’re up for. The recipient will need to cook the pasta themselves, but that’s a relatively simply job and ensures the noodles don’t turn to mush in transit. Furthermore, it allows picky eaters to avoid sauce, if desired. Adding a container of parmesan for topping and a side salad is a nice touch.
  • Rolled Calzone – When I was growing up my mom used to make rolled calzones for us, and now, I make them for my boys. The recipe couldn’t be easier: roll out a pizza dough, top with salami or ham and provolone, roll it back up, bake until golden brown. Here’s a more precise version, if you’re looking for details. The flavors are similar to pizza, but it’s a little more unexpected and very portable. Consider making two.
  • Baked Macaroni and Cheese – Typically considered a side dish, macaroni and cheese can be paired with pre-cooked chicken sausages that just need to be warmed for a cozy and popular meal. Perhaps you have a favorite recipe in mind, but if not, here’s a suggestion with a nice panko crust.
  • Taco Kit – Set them up to make their own tacos with a pre-cooked protein (ground beef, chicken, shrimp), shredded lettuce, shredded cheese or cotija, an avocado (uncut) or two, salsa, sour cream and package of either tortillas or hard shells. Throw in a bag of tortilla chips and their kids will love you forever.


While we cannot deny the comfort of a warm scoop of cheesy pasta, sometimes the best meals to deliver to friends are lighter fare. Depending on the occasion, it might make sense to choose a health-conscious dish. Clearly nutritional considerations will depend entirely on the person and the situation, however sites such as the American Cancer Society and Memorial Sloan Kettering offer healthy recipe indexes that can serve as a starting point. Amend by altering sodium, fat etc. as appropriate.

Best meal to deliver to friends: chicken and salad
Photo Credit: Giadzy

  • Rotisserie Chicken and Vegetables Pick up a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the store and spend your effort roasting a sheet pan or two of root vegetables like carrots, parsnips and potatoes. A salad with a simple vinaigrette rounds out the meal.
  • Butternut Squash and Apple Soup – This squash soup is a great dish for the fall, when apples are crisp and squash are abundant. I like to add freshly grated ginger for a little more zing.
  • Hearty Grain Salad – There are many variations of hearty grain salads to choose from, but this recipe, with farro, kale, goat cheese and dried fruit is a winner for me. Pair it with oven roasted salmon for a delicious, healthy meal.
  • Grilled Chicken Caprese – In the summer when tomatoes and basil are fresh and it is grilling weather, this dish hits the spot. It would be great with a big fruit salad and a loaf of whole grain bread, for sopping up all those delicious juices.

Meal Add-Ons to Go the Extra Mile

The best meals to deliver to friends don’t need to include bells and whistles. That said, if you you’ve made dinner and find you still have the time, energy and resources available to do more, there are several ways you can round out your offering. Choose based on what feels right given the occasion for delivering the meal. Ideas include:

  • Soft drinks (sparkling water, juice, soda or iced tea)
  • Beer, wine or pre-mixed cocktails
  • Additional side dishes (pasta salad, green salad, roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, baked beans, slaw, bread)
  • Dessert (homemade cookies or brownies, or small batch goodies like these from my friend Kate)
  • Breakfast for the next day (coffee, tea, baked goods, egg casserole, fresh fruit)

Alternatives to Cooking a Meal

Finally there are times when, for personal or professional reasons, it just isn’t feasible to shop for, cook, and deliver a meal to another family. We have all been there. In those cases, if you are still inclined to provide a meal, there are services that can help. I love Take Them A Meal‘s option to send a meal because they specialize in providing support to others in times of need. They are also a really kind group of people. You could also order delivery from a local restaurant, or use a service such as DoorDash. It is the thought that counts and I assure you that it will be much appreciated.

Final Thoughts

If you’re inclined to cook but nothing here strikes your fancy, my foodie friend Amy, the family kitchen coach, is documenting 100 days of dinners on her social media. Check it out for more inspiration. Or, if you’re inclined to provide support but one-time meal deliveries aren’t your thing, check out my post about the ten best gifts for someone going through cancer for more ideas.

I hope you find my recommendations for the best meals to deliver to friends helpful. If you have additions to any of the four categories — or new categories to add — I would love to hear from you.

As always, thanks for reading. Happy cooking!


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