Mother's Day

28 Oh-You-Shouldn't-Have Mother's Day Lunches

Honor moms everywhere with these extra-special lunch ideas.

April  9, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

Mother’s Day lands at the tail end of spring, making it the perfect time to have a lovely outdoor lunch to honor the matriarch in your life (weather permitting). Make the most of vibrant spring produce like asparagus, peas, herbs, and fiddleheads and keep things appropriately light for a midday meal. And when it comes to Mother's Day lunches, don’t forget it’s a special occasion—splurge for great, fresh seafood and serve with a nice white or rosé wine, or a bit of bubbly. And be sure to finish your meal for Mom on a sweet note by making her a special dessert.

1. Spaghetti with Clams, Parsley, Garlic & Lemon

Preserved lemons add an extra punch of lemony aroma and flavor to this fresh-as-can-be pasta dish. Serve as soon as it comes out of the pan—luckily, it’s a breeze to make.

2. Mediterranean Octopus Salad

Hearty but fresh-tasting, octopus is ideal for a special-occasion lunch. Tossed with fresh lemon and parsley, it goes perfectly with a dry white wine.

3. Green Goddess Chicken Sandwiches

Brightly colored green goddess sauce screams spring and adds lots of herbal flavor to grilled chicken sandwiches. Serve with homemade potato chips or potato salad.

4. Quiche, Any Way You Want It

Quiche is perfectly at home on a breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner table, and can be served warm or at room temperature if you’re planning ahead. Customize the filling to suit Mom’s tastes.

5. Seared Sea Scallops with Gingered Pea Purée & Cilantro Gremolata

Pretty pea purée not only makes an attractive canvas for seared scallops, it also provides loads of flavor along with an herbaceous gremolata. Sear the scallops just before serving.

6. Pumpernickel Focaccia with Lox & Schmear

Instead of picking up bagels and lox, make this incredibly impressive focaccia and top with swirls of yogurt, smoked salmon, capers, red onion, and fresh dill.

7. Shrimp Salad on a Croissant with White Bean "Mayo"

This fresh shrimp salad is light but satisfying, and is a real treat served on a buttery croissant. You can easily pack these sandwiches up for a picnic lunch.

8. Green Shakshuka With Cheese

Swap the usual tomato sauce for green leeks, spinach, parsley, and fennel. With creamy cheese and soft-cooked eggs, this shakshuka begs for crusty bread or pita.

9. Summer Farro Salad

Chewy, nutty farro makes a nice base for a main dish salad, especially when it’s tossed with a homemade vinaigrette and studded with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and olives.

10. Quinoa–Red Lentil Risotto With Asparagus & Peas

Red lentils add protein and creaminess to this risotto-like dish, making it worthy of serving at the center of your lunch table. It also features the best of spring produce: bright green asparagus and peas.

11. Jasper White’s World-Famous Lobster Rolls

Transport Mom to coastal Maine with homemade lobster rolls. You can cook the lobster and make the homemade tarragon mayonnaise up to a day ahead.

12. Salmon Burgers with Avocado Aioli

Lighter than your typical burger but just as much fun to eat, these salmon burgers can be cooked on the stovetop or the grill. Don’t skip the super-creamy avocado aioli.

13. Croque Madame Hot Dish

Turn the classic dish into a casserole that still has all of the best parts: béchamel, ham, Gruyère cheese, and soft bread. Top with runny eggs for extra richness.

14. Curried Smoked Turkey Salad

Smoked turkey and curry powder add new layers of flavor to this spin on chicken salad. Serve it open-faced on good, toasted bread or on top of lettuce leaves.

15. Chicken & Radicchio Salad With Pickled Raisins & Walnuts

Bitter radicchio is balanced by sweet pickled raisins and a tangy vinaigrette in this colorful, picture-worthy salad. Salmon can be swapped for the chicken.

16. Pan Bagnat: Le French Tuna Salad Sandwich

Turn a salade Niçoise into a portable meal with this sophisticated tuna salad sandwich. Use good-quality crusty bread and scale it up if you’re serving more than two.

17. Fiddlehead Frittata

Fresh fiddleheads take this easy frittata from the ordinary to the extraordinary. It’s great warm or at room temperature served with a lemony green salad.

18. Grilled Whole Branzino with "Greek Fish Sauce"

Nothing is quite as impressive as setting a whole grilled fish on the dining room table. Branzino is flavorful but not fishy, and definitely worthy of a Mother’s Day lunch.

19. Fully Grilled Caesar Salad

Kick Caesar salad up a notch by grilling the bread until toasty and the romaine lettuce until smoky but still crisp. Toss a chicken breast or two on the grill while you’re at it to round things out.

20. Steak with Arugula, Lemon & Parmesan

Don’t save steak for Father’s Day—break out the red meat in honor of Mom. Served with peppery arugula, fresh lemon, and Parmesan cheese, it’s just right for a midday meal.

21. These Oysters ROCK! Oysters Rockefeller

Treat Mother’s Day like a true special occasion and serve oysters Rockefeller with Champagne alongside. Add some salad and crostini and call it lunch.

22. Roasted Shrimp & Asparagus Scampi

Shrimp scampi is an elegant dish that’s quick and easy to whip up and needs little to no accompaniment. Springy asparagus adds color and freshness.

23. Nelly's "Greek Festival" Spanakopita

Filled with spinach, dill, and feta cheese, spanakopita looks beautiful on the table and will feed a crowd. Serve at room temperature, but don’t make too far ahead of time, so the phyllo stays nice and crisp.

24. Quiche Lorraine With Hash Brown Crust

With a crispy hash brown crust, this quiche is perfect for gluten-free moms. The bacon and cheese egg custard filling is even better with a little dollop of crème fraîche on top.

25. Thai-Inspired Asparagus Salad with Fried Meyer Lemon

Fresh asparagus is amped up by a Thai-inspired sauce that hits every flavor point thanks to fresh herbs and aromatics. Slice your lemons super-thin before frying for a crispy topping.

26. Pappardelle with Chicken & Lemon-Anchovy Cream Sauce

Thick ribbons of pasta are coated with a deeply flavorful lemon and anchovy cream sauce and topped with chicken thighs and sun-dried tomatoes for a main dish that’s far quicker and easier than it looks or tastes.

27. Swedish-ish Meatballs

Food is always a great way to show someone you care, and there’s no better dish for expressing love than handmade meatballs. Serve with sour cream and lingonberry jam.

28. Layered Salad

Layered salad is a creamy, hefty dish that’s good for feeding a lunch crowd and satisfying mayo-loving moms. Use fresh spring peas if they’re available.

What's your favorite dish to cook for Mom on Mother's Day? Let us know in the comments.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • ronyvee
  • Laurel Randolph
    Laurel Randolph
Laurel Randolph

Written by: Laurel Randolph

recipe developer, food writer, and cookbook author


ronyvee April 9, 2021
Shout out to Laurel for compiling the most alluring recipe list I have ever seen on Food52. This type of post usually has me scanning, sighing, and moving on, but here I am saving most of the recipes. I'm heading in the kitchen now to make salmon burgers with avocado aioli for dinner.
Laurel R. April 9, 2021
You are too kind! And a salmon burger sounds juuuust right!