a beautifully arranged charcuterie board

How to Make a Charcuterie Board

“If you build it, they will come.”

Even though the busiest holidays of the year are (thankfully!) over, there are still plenty of just-as-fancy occasions to bust out beautifully presented food.

Charcuterie boards are a wonderful way to showcase a variety of meats, cheeses, olives and vegetables; all those little nibbles that people just love. But, creating a balanced charcuterie board takes a bit of know-how, so we’re here to show you how to make a charcuterie board that’s unique to your own style!

Set small forks and spoons alongside the board or plate, so guests can spear their favorite pieces!

What’s on a Charcuterie Board?

First of all, know your crowd. No need to use expensive and fancy meats and cheeses if it’s just the guys over to watch a basketball game. You can get some other fun party snack ideas here. But you certainly wouldn’t want to serve cheap cheese and crackers to the ladies on Bridge Night, either!

It’s okay to splurge on a few fancy meats like a heady prosciutto di parma or a creamy, craft cheese like a bleu cheese. Building a charcuterie board can be a pricey process, but you can stay within budget while not giving it away!

Charcuterie boards are generally an assortment of cured meats, cheeses, pates, mixed olives, marinated vegetables, nuts and pieces of complementary fruit artfully arranged on a wooden board or large platter of some kind. So, you can see how easy it is to incorporate a little or a lot of these elements for a fun and tasty treat!

Charcuterie boards are perfect as a pass around platter of hors d’oevres, or a help-yourself platter near the drink station. As a takeaway, simply cover with plastic wrap and take to a party, potluck, or any kind of gathering!

Prep Your Workspace

Always set the cheeses out about an hour ahead of charcuterie board assembly. Room temperature cheese is easier to slice or cut into cubes. Use small, colorful ramekins for really soft, spreadable cheeses. Get creative with the difference ways you can cut or slice the cheese; great charcuterie boards have a lot of visual interest with colors, shapes, sizes, and flavors to really impress your guests!

Choose one item as a focal point, such as a large triangle of cheese, an impressively sized mound of rolled up slices of meat like cotto salami or a pile of shaved prosciutto.

Meats for a Charcuterie Board

Here is a list of favorites that range in price from budget to bling:

  • Prosciutto
  • Bresaola (Italian beef)
  • Jamon (Spanish ham)
  • Cotto Salami
  • Chorizo (Spanish sausage)
  • Pepperoni
  • Pate

Cheeses for a Charcuterie Board

  • Parmigiano Reggiano (very popular!)
  • Cheddar
  • Mozzarella
  • Swiss
  • Feta
  • Chevre (goat’s milk cheese)
  • Brie

Garnishes for a Charcuterie Board

  • Mixed olives
  • Cornichons
  • Mixed, salted nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts)
  • Slices of fruit (pears, apples, tangerine sections)
  • Dried fruits (cherries, papaya, mango)
  • Sprigs of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage)
  • Small squares of chocolate as a sweet treat

Let’s Build It!

Work from biggest to smallest and arrange items much like paint on a canvas. Scatter elements of color, shape and texture to cover the plate.

Roll the slices of meat, stack them vertically and then set them next to the piles of cubed cheeses.

Scatter dried fruit and olives over the platter. For additional visual interest, lay down clean, dry leaves of curly kale for punches of green color. The leaves also become instant bowls to hold wet items like cornichons, olives, baby corn, sliced water chestnuts, you get the idea!

Get Your Jam on

For spreads other than soft cheeses, don’t be afraid to add a small offering of a tangy marmalade or a savory jam. These will complement the salty flavors of the meats and the buttery flavors of the cheeses. Again, scoop small amounts into tiny ramekins or in the kale leaves.

Also, experiment with one or two of the dozens of rich and savory mustards like Dijon, spicy brown, whole grain or stone ground, to add color and a bright flavor for the crackers or bread that accompanies a charcuterie board.

How to Serve a Charcuterie Board

If you have space on your charcuterie board, tuck in some water wafer crackers, toasted crostini rounds, flatbread pieces or multi-grain Wasa crackers. Any kind of cracker with a mild flavor that won’t detract from the flavors of the meats and cheeses. If your charcuterie board can’t hold another morsel, simply pass a basket or bowl around so guests can help themselves.

What Kind of Drinks Go with a Charcuterie Board?

Any kind of alcoholic beverage always goes with a charcuterie board, but carbonated beverages like beer, champagne, sparkling wine or even sparkling water will help cut the fat from the palate.

There you have it, how to make a charcuterie board, made simple! Now, go out there and get creative!