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It can be hard to know what to say when a loved one is going through a difficult time. Perhaps a friend, family member, or pet passed away or was diagnosed with an illness. Maybe they’re going through a tough time at work, or they lost their job.
The Harry & David Grand Sympathy Gift Basket is our top pick since it's filled with assorted fruits, cheeses, and other gourmet foods. The addition of the "with sympathy" tag is an extra special touch, too. For a budget-friendly option, the Broadway Basketeers Thinking of You Gift Tower hits the sweet spot and includes chocolate, gourmet cookies, and more.
In offering your condolences, it can be nice to show that you care by way of food and drink. Whether the recipient is a wine lover, cheese fiend, or has a sweet tooth, a curated collection of goodies is a kind way to let them know they're in your thoughts.
Here are the best sympathy baskets.
Best Overall: Harry & David Grand Sympathy Gift Basket
What do buyers say? 10+ Harry & David reviewers rated this product 4 stars.
Harry & David is famous for its gift baskets, and once you send or receive one, it’s easy to see why: They’re bounteous, crowd-pleasing, and thoughtfully curated. There’s something for everyone, from foodies to picky eaters.
The Grand Sympathy Gift Basket is especially impressive, brimming with seasonal pears, garlic-stuffed olives, flaky baklava, seasonal apples, sharp white cheddar cheese, smoked salmon, and more in a wooden rattan basket. It also comes with a special pre-printed “with sympathy” tag, letting the recipient know that you’re there for them through their difficult time. Express two-day shipping is included.
What's Included: Eight seasonal pears, two seasonal apples, smoked salmon, sharp white cheddar cheese, Sicilian Jack cheese, olive oil and sea salt water crackers, baklava, garlic-stuffed olives, honey-hot mustard, and mixed nuts
Best Baked Goods: Harry & David Sympathy Bakery Gift Tray
Sometimes, you know that a loved one will want sweet treats to help them through a tough time. If that's what you're in the market for, we have this sympathy basket chock full of treats.
This includes delectable pastries, from baklava to sweet apple loaf cake. You’ll also find lemon shortbread cookies, Wolferman’s lemon poppyseed coffee cake, raspberry galettes, walnut chocolate chunk cookies, and more, all tucked into a keepsake pinewood tray. Like the grand sympathy basket, express two-day shipping is included. For comforting confections, you can't beat this sweet assortment.
What's Included: Wolferman's lemon poppyseed coffee cake, apple streusel loaf cake, cinnamon swirl, baklava, chocolate decadence cake, raspberry galettes, four lemon shortbread cookies, two walnut chocolate chunk cookies, four white chocolate raspberry cookie bars, and four German chocolate cookie bars
Best Cheese Sampler: Murray's Cheese Cheeses of the World Sampler
If your loved one enjoys cheese, but you don't know their exact preferences, leave it up to the experts at Murray's Cheese. While you'd be hard-pressed to find something unfavorable at this New York City-based shop, the Cheeses of the World Sampler features its six best-selling kinds of cheese, including a half-pound each of the following: Mitica Drunken Goat, Pyrenees Brebis, Murray's Estate Gouda, Piave, Murray's Cave-Aged Gruyere, and High Plains Cheddar. The masterful 3-pound curation feeds five to seven people and arrives in its very own Murray's Cheese gift box.
What's Included: Mitica Drunken Goat, Pyrénées Brebis, Murray's Estate Gouda, Piave, Murray's Cave-Aged Gruyere, and High Plains Cheddar
Best Cheese Board: Lady & Larder Medium Cheese Board
As far as we’re concerned, there are few things cheese can’t cure. The beauty of sending the Lady & Larder Medium Cheese Board—aside from being a gorgeous assortment from a women-owned company—is that it comes with its own cutting board and plating guide. Plus, the cheese-loving recipient can eat everything on its own or assemble a charcuterie board to share with family. It comes with world-renowned Point Reyes Bay Blue Cheese, Tulip Tree Trillium's beloved bloomy-rind triple crème, sliced prosciutto, heritage-breed salami, Malibu Honey, olive oil and sea salt crackers, organic pistachios, and apricots from B&R Farms. You could not find a more scrumptious and stunning collection.
What's Included: Charlito's Cocina Campo salami, Casella's sliced prosciutto, Tulip Tree Trillium triple crème, Point Reyes Bay blue cheese, Santa Barbara Pistachio Company organic pistachios, King Orchards tart-dried Montmorency cherries, B&R Farms dried Blenheim apricots, Peacock Family Farms flame raisins, Rancho Meladuco Medjool dates, Malibu Honey, Lady & Larder's olive oil and sea salt crackers, and mini honey dipper
Best Chocolate: Godiva Assorted White Chocolate Gold Gift Box
Godiva has long been a go-to for high-quality chocolate, and this beautiful box is no exception. The gold-accented and bow-tied gift houses 22 creamy white chocolates in various flavors, including raspberry puree, hazelnut praline, dark chocolate ganache, and a cashew raspberry caramel cluster with a dark chocolate medallion. For shapes, the recipient can expect delicate hearts, stars, seashells, and more.
What's Included: Three white praline heart pieces, three hazelnut praline raindrop pieces, three twilight swirl pieces, three white ganache bliss pieces, six white demitasse pieces, two raspberry star pieces, and two raspberry cashew caramel cluster pieces
Best Unexpected: Harry & David Sympathy Ice Cream Assortment
We’ve all heard of a sympathy fruit basket, but when’s the last time you heard of someone sending sympathy ice cream? For an abundance of frozen treats, go with the Sympathy Ice Cream Assortment from Harry & David. It includes four jam-packed pints in flavors the recipient will almost certainly love: chocolate with chocolate chunks (dubbed “Pint of Compassion”), mint chip (“Tub of Hugs”), cookies and cream (“Scoops of Support”), and sea salt caramel (“Thinking of You”). Like with other Harry & David baskets, this one includes express two-day shipping.
What's Included: 1 pint of chocolate ice cream with chocolate chunks, 1 pint of mint chip ice cream, 1 pint of cookies and cream ice cream, and 1 pint of sea salt caramel ice cream
Best Gourmet: Mouth Bummer Box
With a name like “Bummer Box,” you may not want to send this in response to a death or a serious illness. On the contrary, if someone is having a hard time in a less permanent, life-altering way, it may be the right move. The snacks are unparalleled. There’s heirloom hot chocolate, chocolate sea salt almond butter made by artisanal producer Big Spoon Roasters, potato chips, chocolate and peanut butter popcorn, beer and caramel pretzel nuggets, and more. It will turn any bad day or tough break into something sweet.
What's Included: Chocolate and peanut butter popcorn, beer and caramel pretzel nuggets, large bag of potato chips, chocolate sea salt almond butter, and heirloom hot chocolate
Best Fruit: The Fruit Company Classic Gourmet Gift Box
We love this basket brimming with fresh options. It includes two Fuji apples, one Granny Smith apple, two mini apples, one French d'Anjou pear, one Columbia red pear, one Malibu navel orange, 3 ounces of chocolate-covered cherries, one beef summer sausage, plus 6 ounces of Face Rock aged cheddar cheese, all in a gourmet gift box.
You can even customize the gift box with a special occasion ribbon or a touch of fine art that can be purchased at an additional cost. Is it an assortment that you could put together yourself using things you found at the grocery store? Yes, probably. But, the quality of the fruit and the ability to send it directly to their door make this one worth it.
What's Included: Raspberry shortbread tea cookies, chocolate-covered cherries, beef summer sausage, honey wheat crackers, Face Rock aged cheddar cheese, two Fuji apples, one Granny Smith apple, two mini apples, one French d'Anjou pear, one Columbia red pear, and one Malibu navel orange
Best Budget: Broadway Basketeers Thinking of You Gift Tower
This tower of goodies measures over a foot high and includes cinnamon yogurt pretzels, assorted fruit puffs, chocolate drizzled caramel popcorn, gourmet cookies, Lindt chocolate truffles, and sweet and savory snack mix. We like that it’s kosher-certified with a mix of classic and fun flavor combinations. Plus, you really can’t beat the price. While it’s not exclusively branded as a sympathy gift, you can personalize your message on a card at checkout.
What's Included: Cinnamon yogurt pretzels, assorted fruit puffs, chocolate drizzled caramel popcorn, gourmet cookies, Lindt chocolate truffles, and sweet and savory snack mix
Best Wine: Gift Tree The Premier Selection Gift Basket
For those who like to unwind with a glass of vino, this leather tote features three bottles of wine: Pierce Canyon Reserve Cabernet, Bandon Hills Chardonnay, and Tesca Cabernet Sauvignon. There's also a lovely lineup of sweet and savory snacks, including Camembert cheese, olive oil crostini, Manzanilla olives, chocolate-covered cherries, Gardetto's Snack Mix, butter toffee caramels, white cheddar popcorn, roasted garlic rye chips, Ghirardelli dark chocolate, Lindor white chocolate truffles, oatmeal tea cookies, and more. Each basket is tied with a ribbon, and you can upgrade the ribbon with a personalized message at an additional cost.
What's Included: Albanese gummy bears, Bandon Hills Chardonnay, Bernal Manzanilla olives, Camembert cheese, dark chocolate barrel-aged bourbon caramels, Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares, Lindor white chocolate truffles, Godiva signature roasted almond dark chocolate mini bars, milk chocolate cherries, olive oil and sea salt crostini d'Italia, Marich English toffee caramels, roasted garlic rye chips, oatmeal tea cookies, white cheddar popcorn, Pierce Canyon Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tesca California Cabernet Cauvignon
Best Basic: Eli Zabar Build a Sandwich Basket for 6
When we think of sympathy baskets, our minds often jump to flowers, chocolate, baked goods, or fruit. These are all incredibly thoughtful and comforting gifts, but sometimes, people need basics, too. Not everyone wants to face the grocery store during a time of healing, which is why this gourmet care package from New York City's Eli Zabar is especially great for those who aren't within driving distance. It includes all the fixings for an easy lunch or dinner: 0.5-pound of pastrami, 0.5-pound of sweet salami, 0.5-pound of spicy salami, 0.5-pound of sliced Swiss cheese, 0.5-pound of sliced Munster cheese, two assorted kinds of bread (Jewish rye and brioche), and mustard.
What's Included: 0.5-pound pastrami, 0.5-pound sweet salami, 0.5-pound spicy salami, 0.5-pound sliced Swiss cheese, 0.5-pound sliced Munster cheese, two assorted loaves of bread (Jewish rye and brioche), and mustard
What to Look for in a Sympathy Basket
Sending a sympathy basket is a way to express your condolences and provide comfort to someone in mourning. “If you would ordinarily attend the funeral, but are unable to do so, a gift is a way of letting the family know you care,” says Jodi R.R. Smith, etiquette expert, author and founder of Mannersmith.
Even if you do attend official arrangements, a sympathy gift is still appropriate since grieving doesn’t end after the funeral or memorial. Any outreach of comfort is usually much appreciated during the grieving process.
When choosing a sympathy basket, look for items that hopefully will put a smile on someone’s face and be most comforting to the recipient. Everyone’s idea of comfort is different, so how can you personalize a sympathy gift? That brings us to our next point: Consider who you’re sending a sympathy basket to.
Before you send a sympathy basket filled with food and drink, it’s a good idea to take stock of the recipient’s dietary preferences. If the recipient doesn’t drink alcohol, a wine basket probably won’t be well received. Likewise, if you’re sending a sympathy gift to someone following a vegan lifestyle, they won’t find much comfort in a basket of ice cream or cheese.
If you’re not sure of the mourner’s food preferences, consider sending a gift with more universally accepted items, such as fruit and nuts (unless they have a nut allergy). Jodi R.R. Smith points out that culture and religion can also offer some guidance as to what kind of gift to send. Some prefer food, while others prefer flowers. Don’t forget to check the obituary—it may offer additional guidance, such as a request for donations to a charitable organization in lieu of gifts.
Smith also notes that a personalized touch can bring extra comfort to those grieving. For example, a gift that includes a favorite snack or drink of the deceased may bring fond memories and help a family honor their loved one’s passing. Putting a bit of additional thought into selecting a sympathy gift can help those going through a difficult time feel that much more supported.
If funeral or memorial arrangements require the recipient to travel, you might want to opt for a basket filled with non-perishables. You wouldn’t want your gift to arrive while they’re out of town and spoil on their doorstep. If you really want to send a gift that includes perishable items, like fruit or cheese, you can hold off on sending the gift or ship it to yourself and deliver it in person when you know the recipient is home.
You may also want to consider the season if you’re sending a gift that includes chocolate. Warm temperatures could result in a mess of melted chocolate if it’s in transit or on a doorstep for too long.
Even gifts designed to comfort should be beautifully presented. Check reviews to ensure the sympathy basket you select is well-packaged and holds up during transport. Customer photos, if available, can give you an idea of what the quality and presentation looks like.
Shipping and Delivery
You’ll want to check the processing and shipping time before ordering a sympathy basket. This is important if you want something delivered the same week you order. Most gift baskets ship within several business days, and some retailers allow you to select your preferred delivery date, but every once in a while, something becomes backordered or is subject to shipping delays. This is very common during the winter holiday season.
We spoke with Jill Cohen, CT, a New-York based family grief counselor, to clarify etiquette around sympathy gifts.
How do you express sympathy?
If it is a work colleague whom you are sending a sympathy basket, try to stick to basics since you may not know them or their family well enough to know their tastes. Consider a fruit basket, a platter of sandwiches, or maybe cupcakes if kids are in the house. An assortment of teas or coffees can also be nice.
For a family member or friend, be specific and personalized since you know their tastes. Send a basket of their favorite things. You can also add a comfort item, like a miniature stuffed animal, throw blanket, attractive blank journal, photo frame, a gift certificate for a massage, or something special. Another thoughtful gift is a certificate to a restaurant that delivers. This will be appreciated, especially sometime down the road when the food gifts are all used up.
What should or shouldn’t you write on a sympathy card?
If you know the person well, share a story about the deceased that will make them come alive in memory. Write about the person’s character traits that you admired. Offer support. Remind the griever that you want to help in whatever way you can, and let them know that they are not alone.
Don’t write, “I know how you feel.” You don’t know how they feel because every grief is unique. Instead, you can write, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now. I’m thinking of you.”
What types of food and other items are most helpful?
If you’re sending a food basket, consider fruit or other items. Grievers usually get overwhelmed with baskets of goodies, like cakes, cookies, and chocolates, that they end up giving away because they can’t eat it all. Perishables can spoil if not eaten, and sometimes proper storage is limited, too.
If there is a situation where people will be coming to the bereaved family's home, consider sending over a case of club soda or an assortment of flavored waters or soft drinks. People have to remember to hydrate, especially in stressful times.
Is it okay to send money with a card as an expression of sympathy?
Only if it is clear that there is a need and if the family has mentioned financial difficulties in paying for the funeral and taking care of expenses in the future. It's a sensitive topic, but you want to make sure the gesture will be well-received by the family and not cause embarrassment.
Should you send thank you cards to people who send sympathy cards and/or gifts?
Yes. Whenever possible, send a thank-you note to those who send gifts. If the response to death and the number of people was overwhelming, ask a friend or neighbor to help acknowledge the gifts.
When is a good time to send someone a sympathy basket?
You can send a sympathy basket at any time. Right away is fine, and so is later. You can even send something a few months later if necessary, with a note like, “Still thinking of you.”
Should I still send something if I know they’ve gotten a lot of other sympathy gifts?
The bottom line is that any gift will be considered thoughtful. No gift will be turned away. And, in case of overload, friends and neighbors will enjoy the leftovers. It’s the expression of sympathy that counts.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Writer and professional eater Christine Clark is an avid sharer and enjoyer of all things delicious. Her love languages are food and gift-giving. She has a cheese podcast, a fridge that is always too full, and a very lived-in kitchen.
This roundup was updated by Sharon Lehman, RDN, a registered dietitian and writer for The Spruce Eats. She both loves to give and receive food- and cooking-themed gifts.