50 Meal Train Recipes To Comfort Friends And Family In Need

50 Meal Train Recipes To Comfort Friends And Family In Need

50 Meal Train Recipes To Comfort Friends And Family In Need

There’s no better way for Southerners to show our love than through a home-cooked meal. Just as the kitchen can be a space for us to relax and recharge, delivering a meal to someone in need can have an immeasurable impact on their day. When a loved one is going through a challenging or busy time, the last thing they should have to worry about is getting a meal on the table—that’s where a meal train comes in.

These crowd-pleasing recipes are designed to be simple, satisfying, and sustaining—not only will they keep in the fridge for a few days, but they’ll likely leave the recipient with another meal’s worth of leftovers. Pay it forward with these simple, wholesome, and utterly satisfying meal-train recipes. After all, a home-cooked meal is the ultimate expression of love.

Fred Hardy, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley

We couldn’t squeeze more cheese into this casserole if we tried. Layers of gooey, cheesy pasta is exactly the kind of meal that’ll bring comfort during difficult times.

Caitlin Bensel, Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Instead of letting friends and family turn to takeout, make a fresh pizza from scratch for them. You can bake it and let them reheat as needed, or simply assemble the pie and let them bake it off when they’re ready.

Robby Lozano, Food Stylist: Marianne Williams, Prop Stylist: Tucker Vines

Biscuit mix forms the tasty base of this taco-inspired casserole that’s loaded with the flavor of fire-roasted tomatoes and diced green chiles.

Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

A gooey, fudgy brownie is bound to brighten anyone’s day and we think our recipe might just be the best one out there.

Southern Living

This Homestyle Ground Beef Casserole screams “cozy.” Plus, we almost always have an extra package of ground beef in our fridge. You can prepare this dish in under half an hour, which is our kind of casserole.

Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Tina Stamos

Meal train food doesn’t have to be heavy! This low-carb Zucchini Lasagna is a great healthy dinner option. To cut the thinnest zucchini strips, use a mandoline slicer.

Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Torie Cox; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke

This simple Kentucky Hot Brown Casserole recipe transforms the South’s favorite sandwich into a family-friendly meal. Start by cooking turkey in a slow cooker to help enrich its flavors. The combination of toasted bread, bacon, Parmesan cheese, and fresh tomatoes is irresistible.

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

This recipe takes a traditional pasta bake base and ups the flavor and texture with spaghetti and ricotta. You can make parts of the recipe ahead of time and freeze up to three months, ensuring you always have a meal train option on hand for those in need.

Iain Bagwell

This casserole, stuffed with tortellini, vegetables, chicken, and pecans, is a complete meal all on its own. It’s a meal anyone would be happy to have on their dinner table. This meal might take a little longer to prepare, but it’s still only 30 minutes of active, hands-on time.

Stacy Allen; Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Stylist: Hannah Greenwood

It’s super easy to freeze a batch or two of these Beef Enchiladas, making them an ideal recipe for meal trains. When you deliver them, be sure to include instructions for thawing the enchiladas (which can be found on the recipe page).

Morgan Hunt Glaze, Food Stylist: Jennifer Wendorf, Prop Stylist: Julia Bayless

This gooey casserole is one of the most crowd-pleasing we know of. Its delicious texture is thanks to the blend of spaghetti squash, marinara sauce, and both mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Greg Dupree; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Lasagnas are a classic meal train dish, and this one is a great choice, especially for the winter months, because of its family-friendly flavor profile, cheesy topping, and tender interior.

Micah A. Leal

We’ve taken your grandma’s tried-and-true meatloaf and, in true Southern fashion, turned it into a casserole. It’s a Southern twist on classic Shepherd’s Pie. Meatloaf is best when paired with creamy mashed potatoes.

Photo: Jennifer Causey; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Soup is an ultra-comforting meal. If you’re worried about transporting that pot of sloshing hot liquid across town, a mess-free French Onion Soup Casserole is your best bet. Bread, onions, and cheese blend together for a delicious twist on this classic soup.

Antonis Achilleo; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Tina Bell Stamos

The best part about this Shrimp and Grits Casserole? You can have it for dinner, then reheat it for breakfast the following day. Prepare this family-sized dish in about an hour.

Jen Causey; Food Stylist: Jennifer Wendorf; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

This casserole delivers an entire Italian feast in one dish, filled with spaghetti, spinach, Italian sausage, and ricotta. A green salad completes this meal. Sprinkle with tomatoes and parsley for flavoring and to make a beautiful presentation.

Photo: Greg Dupree

If you want to set a friend up for a few meals, delivering a big container of homemade Bolognese sauce is ideal. This slow-cooker sauce makes it easy to prepare without worrying about being near your stove all day. Substitute fettuccine for the pappardelle if that’s all you have.

Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Cindy Barr; Food Styling: Tina Bell Stamos

Our Roasted Tomato Soup with a nice dose of shredded Cheddar cheese is a perfect meal for busy weekdays or weeknights when you want comfort food. Use an immersion blender to get that rich and creamy texture if you can.

Iain Bagwell

This pretty casserole may look impressive, but it’s relatively easy to assemble, making it an ideal meal train recipe. The flavors of chicken, garlic, sage, parsley, and Parmesan blend seamlessly. Make sure to allow enough time for it to cool so the liquid is absorbed, making this an irresistibly creamy dish.

Hector Manuel Sanchez

Pick up a pack of chicken sausage at the grocery store, and this sheet pan recipe comes together in a snap. This dish is perfect when you are short on time. Honeycrisp apples work best in this meal.

Jen Causey

Sometimes you need a little dose of home-style comfort. This Ham and Noodle Casserole ticks all the boxes. The rich and creamy sauce covers egg noodles, chopped ham, and your choice of vegetables. Try carrots, broccoli, and asparagus.

Southern Living

Sloppy joes can be messy, but this casserole packs all that delicious flavor with a no-fuss clean-up. This casserole is family-friendly, full of ground beef, cheese, and the perfect blend of seasonings. Grab a fork and dig in.

Hector M Sanchez

Shake up any weekend brunch routine with these tasty breakfast enchiladas (they double as breakfast for dinner). This casserole is a crowd-pleaser and ideal when you are hosting overnight guests. You can roll the ingredients in the tortillas the night before and bake them in the morning.

Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Torie Cox

This recipe will remind you of every sick day of your childhood. We’re paying it forward by making a big batch for the meal train. Chicken and dumplings are the ultimate comfort food.

Jennifer Davick

It doesn’t get much easier or more convenient than these pre-portioned Cheesy Chili Hash Brown Bakes. You can assemble this dish in under 15 minutes with only five ingredients. Use pre-packaged frozen country-style shredded hash browns to make this straightforward dish.

Greg DuPree

When we imagine comfort in a dish, this creamy, cheesy pasta bake comes to mind. Plus, rotisserie chicken helps this meal come together in a flash. This recipe will be a family favorite.

Greg DuPree; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Looking for a catch-all casserole filled with plenty of meat, beans, cheese, and veggies? This recipe is for you. It’s an over-the-top casserole designed to feed a crowd.

Alison Miksch

Baked ziti is known for being heavy, but this lightened-up version features plenty of fresh summer produce. Use the freshest ingredients for the best results. Ingredients include cheese, sausage, and vegetables.

Victor Protasio

Ramp up your old-school pot roast with a stout splash and spicy horseradish kick. This dish offers comfort and savoriness in one pot roast. It’s the ideal slow cooker meal for a busy night.

Jennifer Causey; Prop Styling: Ginny Branch Stelling; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

With hearty pork-and-beef meatballs, this soup is as filling as it is soul-warming. Make and freeze the meatballs in advance to help speed up this recipe’s cook time.

Photo: Jennifer Causey; Prop Styling: Ginny Branch Stelling; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Not only is this slow-cooker chowder packed full of protein and nutrients, but it serves ten, which means there will be plenty of leftovers. This chowder is ideal for those cold winter evenings.

Iain Bagwell

The meal train is only complete with a weekly delivery of Slow-Cooker Chicken Soup. Adults and kids alike can’t resist this family favorite. Add a few root vegetables, fresh herbs, and spices for a perfect soup.

Greg DuPree

The best part of this simple chicken dinner? It only takes one pot and comes together in 30 minutes. It shares the best qualities of chicken and rice.

Hector Sanchez

Mac-and-cheese is one of those irresistible dishes. Adding Pimiento cheese helps make this comfort meal even more Southern. Try slightly undercooking the pasta because it continues to cook under the broiler.

Alison Miksch

We never fail to keep our fridges stocked with rotisserie chicken, but this homemade version is irresistible. While you’re at it, save the bones to make chicken stock.

Caitlin Bensel, Food Styling: Margaret Dickey, Prop Styling: Kay E Clarke

Want to deliver a really decadent treat? Bake up this Glazed Buttermilk Donut Cake—it’ll be the talk of the town. It tastes like a glazed donut but in a sliceable form.

Molly Bolton

This recipe proves that a plate of chocolate chip cookies can cure all ailments. This sweet treat perfectly accompanies any warming soup or casserole. Plus, this recipe is unlike any chocolate chip cookie you’ve tasted before.

Antonis Achilleos; Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Stylist: Kathleen Varner   

Mac and cheese is always a comforting dish, and this recipe ups the nutrition factor by incorporating butternut squash, one of our favorite fall vegetables.

Few combinations are as classic as chicken and biscuits. This recipe takes that power duo and turns it into a casserole using rotisserie chicken dressed up with spices like thyme and rosemary.

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

If you’re short on time, you can’t do better than a hearty and comforting batch of sliders filled with ham and Swiss cheese. They’re beloved by kids and adults alike.

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Another favorite sliders recipe, this one gives the classic bread-and-filling combo a twist with the addition of pizza-inspired flavors from ingredients like mozzarella cheese, pizza sauce, and pepperoni.

Victor Protasio, Food Stylist: Karen Rankin, Prop Stylist: Claire Spollen

Chicken and spaghetti…what more could you hope for at dinnertime? This casserole puts the two together with a deliciously creamy sauce and some easy-to-come-by pantry staples.

Jen Causey; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

For a morning meal train delivery, look to this Sausage-Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole, which combines classic breakfast ingredients in a beautifully browned preparation.

Photographer: Will Dickey Prop Stylist: Missie Crawford Food Stylist: Erin Merhar

Buffalo chicken is one of the best-loved dinnertime flavors, and it’s just as delicious in a casserole as it is on a basket of chicken wings.

Brittany Conerly; Prop Stylist: Christina Brockman; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin

Baked oatmeal makes for a quick breakfast or a sweet snack at any time of the day. This one is a flavorful blend of pecans, brown sugar, and other to-taste toppings that will reheat beautifully.

Greg DuPree, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Prop Stylist: Christine Keely 

Pair a batch of this easy and hearty chili recipe with a pan of cornbread, and the recipients of this meal train delivery will be only minutes from a delicious dinner.

Emily Laurae / Southern Living

When the weather calls for soup, this Taco Soup is a warming winner. With a base of ground beef and additions of beans and corn, all you have to do is simmer it in the slow cooker and you’ll have a dinner for the meal train ready in no time.

Alison Miksch

As easy to make as it is to enjoy, our go-to Chicken-Bacon Ranch Casserole incorporates all the flavors families love: chicken, bacon, and, of course, ranch, along with pasta and plenty of cheese.

Caitlin Bensel, Food Stylist: Torie Cox

An excellent addition to a meal train delivery, these biscuits are wonderfully snackable, and they can easily double as breakfast or an after-dinner treat.


If you’d like to share a bevy of fresh produce, try this Harvest Salad for your next meal train offering. You can make the dressing ahead of time and pack it separately alongside this delicious mix of squash, kale, and pecans. (You might want to pack the apple separately as well, in case it browns during transit.)