Mother's Day

23 Mother's Day Dinner Ideas That Say 'I Love You'

Breakfast for dinner. Fancy toasts. Perfectly grilled pork. A whole carrot cake!

March  6, 2020
Photo by Patricia Niven

It seems strange that there's only one day a year dedicated to celebrating moms—the women who taught us how to tie our shoes and blow our noses. They feed us, clothe us, and (when we're grown) share a drink with us to recall all the times they almost lost it while taking care of us.

Mom, it's time to return the favor: with a meal that shows just how much we appreciate you. We'll act like the responsible adults you raised us to be; we'll make a grocery list three days out, prep the sides the day before, and set the table that morning. 

Here are 23 recipes that say “I love you” (and also, “thank you” and “I’m sorry for being such a pain in the—!”).

Breakfast for Dinner, Anyone?

1. 3-Ingredient Pancakes

From Big Little Recipe columnist, Emma Laperruque, comes these quick and easy, accidentally gluten-free pancakes. Mashed banana and beaten eggs are bound with nutty almond flour—the resulting pancakes are delightfully fluffy and bouncy. Now whether you go classic with a fresh squeeze of lemon, sweet with fresh berries and honey, or extra nutty with tahini and pomegranate molasses is all up to Mom.

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2. Savory Potato & Onion Knishes

These knishes, from community member Asha Loupy, come stuffed with caramelized onions, pillow potato, and tangy cream cheese, and sprinkled with everything bagel spice. Take these handheld, compact bundles of flavor with you and mom on a springtime stroll.

3. Croissant French Toast

As our co-founder Merrill writes, this french toast isn’t just for any old morning. It’s special. For an Occasion with a capital "O." And what better occasion than one where you get to treat mom (and yourself)? Split croissants get bathed in a custard, and fried until the edges get lacy-crisp. Just add syrup or mascarpone and berries.

4. Radish & Butter Tartine

Or, opt for a light and springy fresh breakfast with a slice of good bread, topped with good butter and translucent-thin radish coins. As recipe developer Marian Bull says: “Don’t mess with perfection.”

5. Moroccan Merguez Ragout With Poached Eggs

This recipe from community member, epicureanodyssey, features eggs gently poached in a tomato-y, merguez sausage sauce. Hosting a small Mother’s Day brunch? Assemble these baked eggs in a wide, shallow pan, and serve them straight from the pan with plenty of crusty bread to dip.

Starters & Light Dinners

6. Radish & Arugula Salad With Pecorino & Lemon 

Merrill's simple salad celebrates spring in all its glory: bitter radishes, peppery arugula, sour lemon, and salty pecorino.

7. Eric Korsh's Farm Lettuces Salad With Dill Vinaigrette

What better way to spend Mother’s Day morning than perusing spring's bounty at the farmers' market? This Genius recipe for a creamy (but cream- and mayo-less), herby dressing works just as well in a potato or chicken salad, as it does on springy greens.

8. Bryant Terry's Warm Butter Bean Salad with Roasted Bell Peppers

From Bryant Terry’s new book, Vegetable Kingdom, comes this vibrant, creamy butter bean salad. Warm beans are laced with pili pili oil, and made a complete meal with charred pepper slices and peppery arugula.

9. Bryant Terry's Caramelized Leek & Seared Mushroom Toast

Another luxe, plant-forward recipe from Terry, this Caramelized Leek & Seared Mushroom Toast tastes way fancy despite being a breeze to assemble. Avocado, who?

10. Smoked Trout and Avocado Salad Toasts

The only thing better than one fancy toast? Two fancy toasts.


11. Sam Sifton's Pasta With Parsnips & Bacon

From Sifton’s new cookbook, See You on Sunday, comes this entertaining friendly pasta with a surprising guest: parsnips. When cooked down until caramelized, they add an unparalleled earthy, nutty note to the dish.

12. Broccoli Rabe Risotto

Double this Table for One cheesy, salty-nutty, bright risotto for you and mom, or share the solo portion for a light first course. 

13. Aromatic Poached Salmon With Rye & Caper Breadcrumbs 

"When I think of stale bread, bread pudding is always my first thought. It is one of my favorite comfort foods, sweet or savory," gingerroot writes. "However, my family recently enjoyed delicious Spaghetti with Sardines, Dill and Fried Capers from Gourmet—a riff off the Sicilian classic Pasta con Sarde—and it immediately gave me the idea to shower a salmon fillet in seasoned breadcrumbs. From there the rest was easy, choosing accompanying flavors that pair well with salmon and a technique that is so easy, I wonder why I don’t do it more often. Gin imparts more fragrance than flavor, delicately perfuming the fish with juniper goodness."

14. Grilled Pork Chops, Fennel & Orange

What better way to impress mom than to feed her an entire orange—skin and all? In this recipe from Emma, fennel wedges and orange wheels get charred until slouchy and juicy, the perfect saucy accompaniment to pork chops. No grill? No problem. Just use a grill or griddle pan.


15. Baby Purple Artichokes Fried in Olive Oil

"This hardly counts as a recipe," Greg Henry writes, "but it's certainly one of the most delicious way to eat artichokes I can imagine. Besides learning to prep but the baby artichokes in the manner I have described allows the hearts to cook properly without frying the leaves to death."

16. Dan Leader's 4-Hour Baguette

"This recipe is the aggressive, no-more-excuses shove that you need to start baking your own bread," Genius columnist Kristen Miglore writes. "It will only take you 4 hours of intermittent attention, and won't require a starter nor any equipment you don't already own—and it will rival your favorite bakery's."

17. Justin Burdett's Chilled English Pea Soup With Garlic Cream & Pickled Ramps

"A chilled soup that (finally) feels like soup," Kristen sighs, "thanks to a clever blanching technique and some seductive spring trimmings.


18. Ketmer (Pistachio, Cream & Rose Baklava)

Brought to us by Honey & Co.’s Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, these sweet snails are a fun (not-too-demanding) kitchen project to tackle with mom. Phyllo dough gets filled with lime- and cardamom-scented mascarpone, toasted and chopped pistachios, and a heady rose syrup.

19. Coconuttiest Shortbread Cookies 

"This is a take on my Scottish Shortbread recipe, which usually calls for brown rice flour to add a crumbly texture," Hilarybee says. "I find coconut flour adds both texture and a lovely, nutty flavor. The butter and coconut oil ensure that the cookie is still crispy and durable, just as a shortbread should be. For a twist, roll the cookies in lime-infused sugar. I like to stamp my shortbread with springerle molds to make them extra special. I also like to use this dough to make press-in tart dough; one batch of this recipe will yield one 10-inch shortbread tart crust." For an extra toasty, nutty flavor? Swap brown butter in for the regular butter.

20. Rhubarb & Gin Sorbet With Rose Cream 

"This dessert is simple to put together, but tastes surprisingly complex," Yossy writes. "It is cool and tart, floral and herbal, creamy and sweet, all in one. If you don't like the idea of flowers in your food, feel free to leave the cream off. The sorbet is delicious as is."

21. Our Best Carrot Cake

Some carrot cakes feel more like rabbit food—essentially a nut and seed granola tenuously bound by batter. This one here goes back to basics—a relatively austere, spiced cake frosted with a tangy cream cheese icing, that’s elegant enough for a Mother’s Day brunch, but comfy enough for a tea for two. Add nuts and raisins back in—if you/mom wishes.


22. Best Irish Coffee

Irish coffee has gotten a bit of a bad rap—too sweet, strong, intense—and this version here would like to change your mind. Coffee gets sweetened by toasty brown sugar and spiked with a nip of whiskey, and the cream gets whipped to softly billowy peaks.

23. Aperol Spritz

This sweetly pink cruiser of a cocktail plays well with any and all party spreads. The bubbles complement salty, crunchy snacks, and the bittersweet Aperol acts as a perfect foil to hard cheeses.

What will you be treating mom to this year? Tell us about it in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Anne Smith
    Anne Smith
  • creamtea
  • JoanMyers
  • Julie Myers
    Julie Myers
  • Kenzi Wilbur
    Kenzi Wilbur
Julie Myers

Written by: Julie Myers

Perpetually hungry. Will travel for food.


Anne S. April 29, 2014
Do you deliver Julie Myers?
creamtea April 28, 2014
JoanMyers April 28, 2014
Wow- the writer of this article shows her love for her mother with such style, humor, and good taste! I'm sure her mother is so very proud of her!
Author Comment
Julie M. April 28, 2014
Thanks, mom... :)
Kenzi W. April 28, 2014
Oh my gosh. :)