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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 lost their job.
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
Perhaps a little old-fashioned
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 famed Royal Riviera Pears, garlic-stuffed olives, flaky baklava, seasonal apples, sharp cheddar, smoked salmon, and more. It also comes with a special “with sympathy” tag, letting the recipient know that you’re there for them through their difficult time.
What's Included: 8 Royal Verano pears, 2 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, mixed nuts
Best Baked Goods: Harry & David Sympathy Bakery Gift Tray
Many tasting offerings
Looks and smells lovely
A lot for one person
This gift tray includes delectable pastries, from baklava to sweet apple loaf cake. You’ll find lemon citrus shortbread cookies, Wolferman’s lemon poppyseed coffee cake, raspberry galettes, walnut chocolate chunk cookies, and more. 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, 4 lemon cake batter cookies, 2 walnut chocolate chunk cookies, 4 white chocolate raspberry cookie bars, 4 German chocolate cookie bars
Best Cheese Sampler: Murray's Cheese Cheeses of the World Sampler
A great assortment
You could put something similar together yourself
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 cheeses, including 1/2 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 Gouda, High Plains cheddar
Best Cheese Board: Lady & Larder Medium Cheese Board
Great for hosting
Lovely assortment of artisan snacks
On the pricier side
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 it being a gorgeous assortment from a women-owned company that comes with its own cutting board and plating guide—is that the 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, Cowgirl Creamery's beloved Mt. Tam Triple Crème, heritage-breed prosciutto, uncured salami, Malibu wildflower honey, sourdough flatbread bites, nuts, and fruit from California family farms. You could not find a more scrumptious and stunning collection.
What's Included: Creminelli Fine Meats uncured Italian salami, La Quercia prosciutto, Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam triple crème, Point Reyes Bay blue cheese, Fillmore Farms organic raw walnuts, King Orchards tart fried montmorency cherries, B&R Farms dried Blenheim apricots, Peacock Family Farms flame raisins, Flying Disc Ranch dates, Malibu wildflower honey, Rustic Bakery olive oil and sel gris organic sourdough flatbread bites
Best Chocolate: Godiva Assorted White Chocolate Gold Gift Box
Many different flavors
Not sustainably sourced or produced
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 a variety of flavors, including raspberry puree, hazelnut praline, dark chocolate ganache, and cashew raspberry caramel cluster with a dark chocolate medallion. For shapes, the recipient can expect delicate hearts, stars, seashells, and more.
What's Included: 3 white praline heart pieces, 3 hazelnut praline raindrop pieces, 3 twilight swirl pieces, 3 white ganache bliss pieces, 6 white demitasse pieces, 2 raspberry star pieces, 2 raspberry cashew caramel cluster pieces
Best Unexpected: Harry & David Sympathy Ice Cream Assortment
Stash in the freezer until it’s ready
A unique gift
Takes up a lot of freezer space
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 that 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”).
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, 1 pint of sea salt caramel ice cream
Best Healthy: 1-800 Flowers Ever Blooming Sympathy Fruit & Nuts Crate
Good for snacking
Not safe for those with nut allergies
If you’re on the hunt for a great snacking option, the search stops here. This lovely and distinctive crate is tasty, nutritious, and well-designed. It includes roasted and salted almonds and cashews; dried pears, peaches, apricots, plums, and dates; date nut rolls coated with coconut; and more. The fruits are arranged in the shape of petals in bloom, making it a tasty alternative to flowers. It's beautiful, practical, and doubly thoughtful.
What's Included: Roasted salted almonds and cashews; dried pears, peaches, and apricots; dried Angelino plums and dates; date nut rolls coated with coconut; dried Blenheim apricots
Best Gourmet: Mouth Bummer Box
Small-batch artisan treats
Great for the sweet tooth
Not for the savory snacker
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, small-batch potato chips, chocolate and peanut butter popcorn, beer, 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, potato chips, milk chocolate-covered frittle, chocolate sea salt almond butter, heirloom hot chocolate
Best Fruit: The Fruit Company Classic Gourmet Gift Box
Fresh seasonal fruit
A wonderful healthy option
You could put something similar together yourself
We love this basket brimming with fresh and healthy options. It includes three fuji apples, one granny smith apple, two mini apples, one bosc pear, one french d'anjou pear, one Columbia red pear, two navel oranges, one pineapple, and one kiwi, plus four ounces of dried fruit medley, all in a wicker basket tied with a sympathy ribbon. 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 makes 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, 1 Fuji apple, 1 Granny Smith apple, 2 mini apples, 1 French d'Anjou pear, 1 Columbia red pear, 1 Malibu navel orange
Best Budget: Broadway Basketeers Thinking of You Gift Tower
Personalized gift message
Reviewers say it’s smaller than expected
This tower of goodies measures over a foot high and includes blue “cheeze” pretzel nuggets, vanilla apple caramels, caramel popcorn with chocolate and peanut butter drizzle, chocolate chip cappuccino cookies, cracked pepper and sea salt popcorn, and chocolate s'mores pretzels. 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 in a card at checkout.
What's Included: Blue "cheeze" pretzel nuggets, vanilla apple caramels, caramel popcorn with chocolate and peanut butter drizzle, chocolate chip cappuccino cookies, cracker pepper and sea salt popcorn, chocolate s'mores pretzels
Best Wine: Gift Tree The Premier Selection Gift Basket
Comes in leather basket
Both sweet and savory snacks
Personalized gift message
May not ship to all states
For those who like to unwind with a glass of vino, this leather tote bears three bottles of wine (Pierce Canyon Reserve Cabernet, Bandon Hills Chardonnay, and Tesca Cabernet Sauvignon) and 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, gummy bears, Ghirardelli dark chocolate, Lindor white chocolate truffles, oatmeal tea cookies, and more. Each basket is tied with a ribbon and sent with a complimentary card featuring your personalized message. A premium version swaps the above wines for Meiomi Pinot Noir, Illario Chardonnay, and Boundary Post Pinot Noir.
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, Tesca California cabernet sauvignon
Best Basic: Eli Zabar Build a Sandwich Basket for 6
Great for NYC food lovers
Provides easy meals
On the pricier side
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, although sometimes, people need basics, too, and not everyone wants to face the grocery store during a time of healing. Especially great for those who aren't within driving distance, this gourmet care package from New York City's Eli Zabar includes all the fixings for an easy lunch or dinner: 1/2 pound of pastrami, 1/2 pound of sweet salami, 1/2 pound of spicy salami, 1/2 pound of sliced Swiss cheese, 1/2 pound of sliced Munster cheese, two assorted breads (Jewish rye and brioche), and mustard.
What's Included: 1/2 pound pastrami, 1/2 pound sweet salami, 1/2 pound spicy salami, 1/2 pound sliced Swiss cheese, 1/2 pound sliced Munster cheese, 2 assorted breads (Jewish rye and brioche), mustard
If you’re looking to send a basket overflowing with gourmet snacks, go for the Harry & David Grand Sympathy Gift Basket (view at Harry & David). For something a little more unexpected, it’s hard to beat a surprise charcuterie board, which is why we recommend the lovely Lady & Larder Medium Cheese Board (view at Williams Sonoma).
We spoke with Jill Cohen, CT, a family grief counselor, for more clarity on etiquette around sympathy gifts.
How do you express sympathy?
If it is a work colleague whom you are sending a sympathy basket to, try to stick to basics since you may not know them or their family well enough to know their tastes. Consider a fruit basket, platter of sandwiches, or maybe cupcakes if there are kids in the house. An assortment of teas or coffees can also be nice.
For a family member or friend, be as specific and individualized as you can 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, 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 in a sympathy card?
If you know the person well, share a story about the deceased that will make him or her 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. 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 healthier items. Grievers usually get overwhelmed with baskets of goodies, like cakes, cookies, and chocolates, that they end up giving away because they can’t or don’t want to eat it all. Perishables can go bad if not eaten quickly, and sometimes proper storage is limited, too.
If there is a situation in which a lot of people will be coming to the home of the bereaved family, you might even consider sending over a case of club soda or 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 terms of paying for the funeral and taking care of expenses going forward. It's a sensitive topic, so make certain that if you do send money, it will be well-received by the family and not cause embarrassment.
Should you send thank you cards to people who send sympathy cards/gifts?
Yes. Whenever possible, send a thank you note to those who send gifts. If the response to a death and the number of people was overwhelming, you can 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 anytime. 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.