How to Make the Most Impressive Holiday Cheese Board
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'Tis the season for snacking. Here's how to make a gorgeous holiday cheese board.
Whether you’re hosting a holiday party or cozying up for a Christmas movie marathon, a beautiful cheese board is always a welcome addition to the festivities. This delightful snack—or party platter—can be customized to feed a few people or a houseful of grazing guests. Here’s everything you need to make your own holiday cheese board.
Tools for Creating a Holiday Cheese Board
How to Make a Holiday Cheese Board
Foods to include
Cheese: The key to a delicious cheese board is, well, the cheese! Aim for variety—a good rule is to include one cheese from each of the following categories: soft, semi-soft, firm, blue and aged.
On our holiday cheese board, we included a wheel of Brie and wedges of Manchego and Comté. For an extra festive touch, we sliced provolone into snowflake shapes using a cookie cutter and made a colorful (and delicious) bacon, cheddar and Swiss cheese ball that ties together classic, warm Christmas colors.
Fruit: Citrus is the name of the game when it comes to winter fruit. We included kumquats, pomegranates and oranges on our holiday cheese board, but you could also consider other wintry fruits like pears, apples, tangerines and figs.
Meat: You can’t forget meat on a holiday cheese board! Summer sausage is a classic option that can be eaten alone, but also pairs nicely with any cracker. Aged salami is a sophisticated choice that you can still find at most grocery stores, and if you really want to impress your guests, splurge on some roasted pancetta. For more ideas, here are some of the best meats for your charcuterie board.
Crackers and crunchies: Crackers and nuts are key elements on a holiday cheese board. They provide some necessary crunch to balance out softer foods and serve as a vessel for everything else on the board.
Store-bought star-shaped crackers or other shapes like snowflake Ritz crackers and snowman crackers are especially festive, while homemade candied pecans are the perfect touch of sweet on a holiday cheese board. There’s something for everyone in a handful of mixed nuts, or you could go for a single variety like cashews or almonds.
Spreads: Dips, jellies and jams can be the highlights of your holiday cheese board. A scoop or swipe of spread will enhance any of the meats or cheeses, and you can add visual interest to the board by using bowls and jars in different sizes, colors and shapes. Wild plum jelly or other fruity spreads will emulate Christmas’s iconic red on your board. For a savory crowd-pleaser, go for whiskey bacon jam.
Garnishes: Add greenery, like rosemary springs, thyme, and bay leaves, alongside decorative cranberries and red currants to give your holiday cheese board a Christmas color palate. An orange with whole cloves poked into it will look stunning on the board and smell fantastic, too.
How to build your holiday cheese board
Step 1: Arrange the orange, kumquats and pomegranates
Begin by arranging a decorative corner of the holiday cheese board. Taste of Home food stylist Josh Rink knew he wanted eye-catching citrus elements to anchor the board, so he worked on those first.
Poke cloves into a whole orange. Then, nestle together quartered and whole orange slices, halved kumquats and a split pomegranate and sprinkle on some pomegranate seeds.
Step 2: Place the bowls and cheese ball on the board
The cheese ball and the bowls you’ll use for your candied pecans, mixed nuts, and spreads will need a good amount of space on your holiday cheese board. Using bowls of different sizes scattered across the board will draw your guests’ eyes from one side to the other, so they don’t miss any of the delicious options.
Step 3: Cut snowflakes from provolone slices and arrange
Now’s the time to whip out your cookie cutter! Stylist Josh used a snowflake cookie cutter to make shapes in cheese slices before layering them on the board. Other wintry shapes work well, too.
Step 4: Add more cheese
After you decide where to place the wheel of Brie on your holiday cheese board, cut small wedges from it and lay some on their side and some upright. Then, cut a few slices from the Manchego and Comté and find places for those as well. (Always cut the first slice or two of a block of cheese on your board! It encourages guests to dig in.)
Step 5: Slice and add meat
Folded roasted pancetta looks especially appealing tucked up against the quartered slices of orange because of the repeated triangle shapes. The rounds of salami and summer sausage will be right at home near the Brie for the same reason.
Step 6: Fill in the gaps with crackers
Place different kinds of crackers near the foods they pair best with. Josh put star-shaped crackers near the jelly and round crackers near the aged salami. Don’t shy away from adding add more than you think you need—crackers go fast!
Step 7: Add ornamental touches
After you’ve got all of the edible items on the board, decorate with your red and green garnishes. When paired with cranberries and red currants, rosemary, thyme, eucalyptus and bay leaves emulate garlands, mistletoe and holly.
Step 8: Serve!
Don’t forget to set out cheese knives and spoons, as well as appetizer plates, napkins and glasses for whatever drink you choose to serve with your holiday cheese board. We’re partial to festive sangria recipes and champagne cocktails.
Tips for Arranging a Holiday Cheese Board
How do you pick the best cheeses for a cheese board?
Keep your cheese board interesting by including different types of cheeses, such as soft, semi-soft and firm. You don’t need to stop at a specialty cheese shop—stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods usually have associates available to help guide you through the cheese selection. You can also pick cheeses based on your family’s preferences. If kids or picky eaters will be snacking, there’s nothing wrong with keeping your selection familiar.
What other foods can you include on a Christmas cheese board?
Along with different combinations of meat, cheese, crackers, fruit and spreads, consider adding olives, pickles, and other veggies to your festive cheese board. You can even squeeze in a sweet or two, like homemade Christmas candy or decorated Christmas cookies. Think about what your guests like, and go from there! Find more inspiration with these cheese board ideas.
Can you make a cheese board ahead of time?
We recommend that you take your cheeses out of the refrigerator about an hour ahead of time in order to let them reach room temperature before your guests arrive, which allows them to hit their peak flavor. However, don’t let your foods sit out for too much longer than that to avoid stale crackers and overly warm spreads.
How else can you arrange a holiday cheese board?
The possibilities are endless! Here are a few festive options to consider.
- O’ Christmas tree: Shape your cheese and charcuterie into a glorious beacon of the holiday season. Cut your cheeses into bite-sized cubes, then layer with grapes, berries, nuts, small crackers or salami chunks to form a tree shape. Here are more Christmas tree-inspired recipes.
- Savory snowman: Turn a few circles of brie into a snowman cheese board!
- Edible wreath: For a party-ready Christmas cheese plate, arrange herbs in a ring shape (rosemary is a particularly good choice). Then layer in other ingredients to create a gorgeous Christmas charcuterie board in the shape of a wreath.
- Candy cane chic: Savory gets inspired by sweet when you layer red and white charcuterie into a candy cane shape. Try fresh mozzarella with tomato slices, Swiss cheese chunks with summer sausage or goat cheese with red grapes.
- Red and green: Celebrate the colors of the season with a Christmas cheese board decked out in red and green. At the store, keep an eye out for cheeses encased in a colorful rind, as well as Sage Derby cheese, which has a naturally green hue. For accompaniments, consider beet crackers, cherry tomatoes, grapes, olives, pomegranate seeds and gherkins.
- Charcuterie chalet: If you love both gingerbread houses and cheese boards, a charcuterie chalet is the perfect combination. Instead of covering a gingerbread house in frosting and sweets galore, make a house structure with long breadsticks or pretzel rods instead of gingerbread and use your favorite meats and cheese for decor.
- Special shapes: Take your seasonal cheese board a step further by picking out a themed serving board. An ornament-shaped board or a Christmas tree design will make your holiday cheese board festive even before you choose what to put on it! These cheese board gift ideas are worth checking out, too—and these charcuterie board books are sure to inspire your next holiday cheese board.