How to Make a Charcuterie Board Perfect for Any Party
A perfectly arranged spread of meat, cheese, crackers and condiments is irresistible at any gathering. Here's everything you need to know about how to make a charcuterie board.
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You name it, there’s a charcuterie board for it. Hosts everywhere have taken the trend that typically includes cheeses, meats, crackers and other bites and made it their own, whether it’s keeping things cozy with a sweet hot chocolate board, staying on top of the trends with a butter board or assembling fruits and veggies in the shape of a wreath for an adorable wreath charcuterie board.
With endless themes to try out, knowing how to make a charcuterie board is a skill that never goes out of style. Here’s how to put together a classic charcuterie board. Perfect this traditional board and you’ll be ready to get creative with customized versions.
P.S. If you’d like to skip the prep, take a look at these charcuterie boxes and gift baskets.
What is charcuterie?
Charcuterie is a French word referring to a type of shop specializing in prepared meats, and also refers to the cured, preserved and dried meats sold in the shop, like salami, prosciutto and pancetta. A classic charcuterie board is a platter tailor-made for snacking, with a selection of cheese, crackers, condiments and more alongside different meats.
Tools for Making a Charcuterie Board
- Serving board. A large board is the most essential item for building a charcuterie board. We like wood, since it’s a versatile kitchen item that doubles as a beautiful serving tray for pizza and other appetizers. You can’t go wrong with our Test Kitchen’s favorite cheese board, either.
- Cheese knives. High quality cheese knives are like the bread and butter of charcuterie boards (aside from the actual bread and butter, of course). We love this four-piece set with wooden handles that’s perfect for slicing, spreading and serving a variety of cheeses.
- Small bowls. Add some texture and dimension to the board with these Turkish ceramic bowls. They’re perfect for dressing up the board while providing a home for olives, pickles and spreads.
What to Put on a Charcuterie Board
Picking out ingredients and recipes to feature on a charcuterie board might seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! Follow these guidelines for how to make a charcuterie board your guests will eat up.
The Best Cheeses for a Charcuterie Board
When you’re assembling any kind of charcuterie board, one of the most important things is variety in flavor, texture and color. More variety means more combinations of food to try, more chances your guests will find something they love and, overall, a prettier board! When designing this charcuterie board, Taste of Home food stylist Josh Rink picked out:
- Herbed Boursin, a soft and spreadable cheese with a garlicky-herb flavor.
- Mimolette, a nutty cheese with a unique crystalline texture.
- Smoked Gouda, a smoky cheese with a chewy exterior.
- Havarti, a creamy and mild comforting cheese.
- Blue cheese, a crumbly, yet sharp and rich, cheese.
- Southern pimento cheese spread, which is a little spicy and perfect for spreading on crackers.
The Best Meats for a Charcuterie Board
Variety is just as important for the meat selection. Choose a few from the best charcuterie board meats. For this board, we included:
- Prosciutto, a must for any charcuterie board. It has a chewiness to it, and its saltiness pairs well with most cheeses.
- Soppressata, served in rounds, similar to salami.
- Calabrese, sliced thinner than the soppresata. It has a good bite.
- Mortadella, a classier version of bologna that everyone will love.
The Best Crackers and Condiments
A selection of different colors, shapes and flavors is ideal for the crackers, too. You never know what your guests will discover as their favorite combination. We love:
- Thyme sea salt crackers to serve as an herbaceous base for any cheese and meat pairing.
- Rye crackers add a different shade of brown and have a crunch unlike anything else on the board.
- Baguette slices provide a chewy contrast to crispy crackers. Bake them in the oven if you prefer a crunch.
- Long, thin crackers with squiggled edges provide visual interest and serve as a perfect vessel for cheese spreads.
- Stone ground mustard can be spread on a cracker for a thin layer of spice.
- Tupelo honey drizzled on top adds a welcome sweetness to salty meats.
- Fig spread adds a sweet yet rich dimension to a variety of cheeses.
Fruits and Vegetables
If you’re lacking in color on your charcuterie board, fruits and vegetables are the answer. Stick with what’s in season for the freshest selection. We used:
- Sweety Drop peppers are miniature and cute, and also unexpectedly sweet.
- Red, green and purple grapes bring three different pops of color.
- Dried fruits offer a textural balance to fresh fruits. Dried apricots in particular pair well with several other items on the board.
Pickles and Nuts
Pickles, pickled veggies, and nuts add even more crunch and texture to your charcuterie board.
- Marinated olives set in a bowl on your board are always a crowd-pleaser.
- Rosemary walnuts are a simple but flavor-packed upgrade from plain nuts.
- Gherkins or homemade pickles (or one of our favorite pickle brands) bring some brine to the party.
- Marcona almonds belong on every charcuterie board! They’re oily, salty and absolutely perfect for pairing or eating individually.
How to Make a Charcuterie Board
Step 1: Place the cheeses
Pull the cheeses out of the refrigerator about an hour ahead of time, because room temperature cheese (as opposed to cold cheese) allows the full flavors to shine through.
Then, dive right in and put the cheeses on the board. Crumble a corner of the blue cheese to get things going and set out the wheel of herbed Boursin and slices of the Mimolette, the Gouda and the Havarti. Don’t be afraid of empty space—you have plenty of other items that will fill up the board.
Editor’s Tip: Always pre-cut a few slices or crumble a corner of a wedge to let guests know how each cheese is supposed to be consumed.
Step 2: Add bowls and decorative greenery
Bowls are the bulkiest items on a charcuterie board, so make space for them before adding anything else. Scoop the pimento cheese spread, red peppers and marinated olives into small bowls and spread them out on the board.
If you want to use decorative elements to elevate your charcuterie board, arrange them now so you won’t have to lift foods up later to tuck them in. Food stylist Josh put clusters of 3 or 5 lemon leaves in a few different spots on the board and let them hang off the edge a bit to make sure they’ll still be visible when everything else is added. (A small cluster of decorative greenery will elevate mini individual charcuterie boards too!)
Make sure any greenery you use is food-safe—most importantly, that it hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals. You can ask for this type of greenery from florists or order it online. Along with lemon leaves, fig leaves or grape leaves work well.
Step 3: Pile on the meats
It’s time for the charcuterie portion of your charcuterie board! Josh suggests folding the slices of meat in different ways to add visual interest, texture and height.
Arrange slices of the Calabrese salami in an S-shape. Fold soppressata slices in halves and fan them out. Fold the prosciutto and mortadella into quarters and keep them apart—since they’re similar colors, you don’t want to mix them up by putting them right next to each other.
Step 4: Arrange the crackers and condiments
Distribute the crackers and condiments around the board, thinking about which cheeses and meats each pairs best with.
We put the thyme sea salt crackers near the prosciutto and the herbed Boursin cheese, the long, squiggly crackers near the pimento cheese spread, the honey near the blue cheese and the spicy mustard near the smoky Gouda. Keeping items that pair well together near each other on your charcuterie board helps guide your guests.
Step 5: Fill in the gaps with fruit
Fill in some of the gaps on the board with bunches of red, green and purple grapes as well as the dried apricots.
Step 6: Add the pickles and nuts
Fill in the very last open spaces of the board with rosemary walnuts, gherkin pickles and Marcona almonds. There should be just enough space. Add mini utensils to the board, including spoons for condiments and cheese knives. These mini jam jars can be a sweet addition to your board too!
Step 7: Serve and enjoy!
The charcuterie board is complete! Set it out alongside extra cheese knives and other utensils, appetizer plates and napkins. Looking for more ideas? Here’s how to make a Thanksgiving charcuterie board and turkey charcuterie board.
Then, grab a plate and start noshing! Guests may feel shy about digging into your perfectly arranged charcuterie board. When you start eating, you’re letting them know the board is ready and encouraging them to pile up their plates. And to accompany party guests of all ages, think about adding any of these fun French fry charcuterie boards or kid charcuterie boards to your next gathering.
Tips for Making a Charcuterie Board
What items pair best together on this charcuterie board?
Josh says “a little drizzle of honey over blue cheese is nothing short of magical,” so make sure to sample that combination! He also suggests spreading stone ground mustard on a cracker and eating it with meat and cheese for a bite that tastes like a mini sandwich.
When it comes to drinks, wine is always welcome alongside a charcuterie board. Here are the best food and wine pairings.
Do you have to make homemade recipes for a charcuterie board?
Nope. We made marinated olives, Southern pimento cheese spread, and thyme sea salt crackers for this board. But if you’re short on time and still want to build a beautifully arranged board, store-bought ingredients work fine.
Can you make a charcuterie board ahead of time?
We recommend that you take the cheese out of the refrigerator about an hour ahead of time. But since you don’t want the items sitting out uncovered for a long time, it’s best to assemble a charcuterie board as close to serving time as possible.
What else can you put on a charcuterie board?
Variety is key when selecting ingredients for a charcuterie board and no food is off limits, especially if you’re going for a themed charcuterie board like a festive Christmas cheese board, Christmas tree charcuterie board or a green St. Patrick’s Day board.
Hummus, pretzels, Ritz crackers, Brie and even sweets like truffles or chocolate-covered cashews work on a traditional meat-and-cheese charcuterie board. If you want to add more fruit, Josh suggests going for sliced donut peaches in late spring, figs in early summer or late fall, and pomegranates in winter. (And if you want to add more chocolate-covered items, you might be in the mood for a sweet chocolate charcuterie board instead!)
Also check out how to make a pancake charcuterie board for a picture-perfect brunch.