Everything you need to know to build a Charcuterie Board. It is an easy way to serve snacks and appetizers in a festive and eye-catching way. Find food ideas and tips for assembling and displaying your charcuterie board for any season or occasion.
No Cooking Skills Needed for a Charcuterie
No cooking skills are required, and you can put this together for a small gathering or a larger crowd. Have one or multiple Charcuterie food stations set up for your guests to enjoy.
This is a scrumptious way to prepare the food and enjoy time with your guests too rather then spend hours in the kitchen.
Perfect for an intimate date night or special occasion just between the two of you.
What is Charcuterie? Charcuterie (shahr-koo-tuh-ree)
“Charcuterie” generally refers to a display of cured meats such as prosciutto, bacon, salami, and specialty cheeses. However, more recently, they are becoming quite popular and I see why. They are a delicious and easy way to entertain and often, they require little, to no cooking. They are just fun to arrange and let the guests serve themselves.
The charcuterie boards that I have had the pleasure of enjoying typically include a variety of cheeses, crackers, fruits, nuts, vegetables, little toasts, spreads, and sauces.
Your food presentation can be as simple or complex as you would like it.
Only Rule I have to Charcuterie boards ~ put items on the board that you enjoy eating.
While I have suggestions on what to put on the menu, I find it is always better when you use the foods that you enjoy. Sometimes, however, it is good to try new things, and this might also be a way to try something new in a smaller quantity.
Entertaining on a Budget
Finding something to use as a display board can sometimes be tricky. However, here is a great option that I have used when I want to set up more than one charcuterie board area.
Use a round or oval platter. If you have a round drink tray, that would be lovely too.
Combine a few placing them close to each other on a table and use the trays with the table space between to create a lovely table display.
This can be as expensive or cheap as you like. Look in your refrigerator and pantry to see if you have that jar of pickles and olives that need to be used. I often have a jar of each and one or two jars of jam or jelly. In our snack area, I always have nuts. Today, I had pistachios. They are perfect for adding to this food display.
Once you have taken stock of what you already have on hand, it is a lot easier to pick up the few things that you need yet.
Just remember ~ variety and randomness are paramount!
What Goes on a Charcuterie Board?
A charcuterie board typically includes a variety of cheeses, meats, crispy crackers with a few other complimentary items. Really anything that can be used for snacking, such as: jams, and jellies, olives, pickles, nuts, fresh and dried fruit, and spreads.
Here are some ideas for what types of cheeses and meats to include.
It is not necessary to include each one, just 2 or 3 of the cheeses and a few of the meats too. It creates a nice variety for your guests.
My favorite cheeses for my cheese board are:
- Fresh Mozzarella
- Colby/Jack Blends
- Swiss Cheese
- Pepper Jack
My favorite meats for my cheese board are:
- Salami all kinds of it, but thinly sliced
- Sliced deli ham
- Deli think sliced beef
- Deli chicken or turkey that has been fully cooked and sliced thin
- Meat snack sticks
Smores Dessert Charcuterie Board
In the summer no one really wants to heat up their kitchen cooking anything; therefore the charcuterie board is perfect for summer entertaining. You can enjoy fun time with your guests rather than serving food.
In addition to the sausage, cheese, and fruit options. A Smores Dessert set up would be a fun element especially if you will be enjoying time by a camp fire. Here are a few ideas to get you started
- Chocolate Board
- Graham Crackers
- Chocolate Covered Pretzels
The possibilities seem endless. Yet, here is another food item that can be made ahead of time and just set out for your guests to enjoy.
Sliced Fruit Display ~ Easy Entertaining
Have you ever been to a fancy restaurant or maybe a cruise on vacation and enjoyed an elaborate fruit display? They are so lovely and enticing and I seem to eat way more fruit than I would at home. It just seems to taste so much better.
Well, you could prepare the fruit ahead of time and make a display of fruit for your guests to enjoy at your next party. Just make sure that there are methods of serving themselves that keeps their fingers out of the food. A few small tongs, forks, toothpicks, plates to stack the goodies on, and of course napkins.
Displaying the Food
I let the board come to life naturally. Start with the larger or more eye-appealing items. Then start filling in the bare areas.
Sometimes, I pile something in a space, other times, I try for neat rows or a fanned look. If you have thinly sliced meat and cheese, they can be rolled into little cigar style shapes and stacked.
Do not worry about how things will look. As you keep filling in the spaces, it will keep coming together.
Cheese can be added in a wedge, sliced, or cubed. In addition to the cheese wedges, I like to buy the pre-sliced cheese varieties for this as it helps with the set-up time. Jams and jellies can be added right in their container if you choose.
Time-Saving Appetizer Trick
Any time you purchase the meat and cheese pre-sliced, it saves a ton of time. Probably the largest time-saving trick for this food board.
Crackers. This is a time when I will go purchase fancy crackers that I normally do not have in my pantry. It makes this whole presentation prettier and tastier. It brings new tastes to the party.
Charcuterie Board Visual Appeal
The easiest way to create a visually appealing display is to change up the shapes and sizes of the items on display and add color. Adding pops of color with fresh or dried fruit is a great option. It will just pull the entire look together in the end. Great options are apple slices, red and green grapes, orange slices, strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries.
Pretty bowls and cups that hold items and give the board height. Other shapes and sizes, such as wedges and circles of cheese. You know, those one of a kind items that you hardly even use in the back of your cup board…
Rolled meats. Make something fancy like a salami rosette.
The visual appeal happens as you continue to build your tray and fill in the spaces.
Continuing to fill in the spaces with little piles of smaller items like grapes, strawberries, blueberries, or another type of finger-food fruit.
Nuts can be randomly placed around the tray or even in a pretty cup. Here are a few options: Almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, and shelled pistachios.
Condiments such as pickles and spreads I generally display in a small container.
Crackers come in a wide variety of colors and shapes and can add a lovely visual appeal to the food display. Stack them or spread them out.
All this variety creates the visual appeal and will keep your guests coming back for more to try bits of goodness.
How Much Food to Plan Per Person for a Charcuterie Board?
I plan on about 3-4 ounces of meat and cheese per person. Those seem to always be the most items consumed. Then I try and have 5-7 other snacking items that they can enjoy; planning that they will have approximately an ounce of each item.
While it will depend on what time of day you are serving your guests, this is a good rule of thumb.
Other Food Options for this Food Display
While I often see the salami and cheese combination tray, I have also seen very pretty displays for fruit and veggies too. Switch it up and be creative.
Serve bite-sized vegetables with a variety of dips. Vegetable ideas: cucumber, carrots, olives, mini bell peppers, green onions, pea pods, celery, pickled beets, and pickles.
Dessert Table Charcuterie Board
Serve homemade quick breads with some fun dipping sauces, fruit, and snacking sweets. Make a peanut butter and chocolate dipping sauce. Surround these with strawberries, bananas, apples, oranges, kiwi, grapes, pretzels, marshmallows, graham cracker sticks, and mini cookies. If served during the Holiday season, create a Christmas charcuterie: Serve your homemade Holiday candies, bars, and snacks in the shape of a wreath or a pine tree. Peppering bits of color throughout.
Your display does not have to be on one board. Think about tiered trays when setting up your food display. The height adds visual appeal to the entire table. You are also able to pile on more food options when adding another layer to the table.
Sometimes, I have food stations ~ dessert and fruit in one area, sausage and cheese in another, and so on. Be creative, build your menu ahead of time, prep ahead of time, set things up just before your guests arrive, and enjoy your party.
Halloween Charcuterie Board
With a Skeleton this is easy to prepare. Just place your favorite snacks inside and around the body. Cheeses, salami slices, and fruits look great this time of year. If you happen to have any pumpkin or other fall baked goods, this skeleton could be used for a dessert theme too.
How to Transport a Charcuterie Board
Plan for food safety when packing a board for transporting. If you will not planning on eating for a few hours, make sure to pack the food in a cooler with an ice pack or two.
If you plan on eating within 30 minutes to 1 hour an ice pack is probably not needed. However, if the temperature and humidity is high, it is still a good idea to put your food containers on ice in a cooler bag to make sure things are not melty.
Second, package the items for building the board when you get to where you plan on serving your food. Mason jars and other smaller airtight containers are wonderful for keeping the food fresh and separated. This makes for a quick charcuterie board set up when you arrive at your destination.
Slice the cheese and meat snacks ahead of time. Wash and prepare the fruit. To keep the crunchy foods crunchy by packing the crackers, pretzels, breads, and nuts separate in an airtight container.
Make sure that the lids are on any dips. Package in small mason jars for easy serving.
Make sure to keep things separate until you prepare your snack presentation. For instance, if you pack the olives and pickles with the meat and cheese, the brine can change the taste and texture.
How to Build a Charcuterie Board
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- 5 oz. Jam or jellies I like to have at least one.
- 1 cup Olives
- 1 cup Baby Pickles
- ½ cup Almonds
- ½ cup Pistachios Shelled
- 8 oz. Mozzarella Pearls fresh
- 5 oz. Gorgonzola 1 wedge
- 5 oz. Asiago 1 wedge
- 12 oz. Salami rolled into cigar shapes
- 12 oz. Ham slices rolled into cigar shapes
- 24 oz. Cheese 3-4 varieties sliced or cut into bite-sized cubes
- 12 oz. Crackers Assorted crackers or mini-toasts or sliced baguette
- 5 oz. Fruit can be fresh or dried
- Arrange jams, olives, pickles, almonds, pistachios, and fresh mozzarella on your cheese board in small bowls or ramekins.
- Next add thin sliced meats, fanning them or rolling them into a cigar shape.
- Next add cheese wedges and slices, fanning them around the small bowls or ramekins.
- Then add crackers or bread, stacked, or fanned out.
- Next add cubed cheese, fruit, and crackers. Filling in any small openings on the cheeseboard.
Your Own Private Notes
How Much Food to Plan Per Person for a Charcuterie Board?I plan on about 3-4 ounces of meat and cheese per person. Those seem to always be the most items consumed. Then I try and have 5-7 other snacking items that they can enjoy; planning that they will have approximately an ounce of each item. While it will depend on what time of day you are serving your guests, this is a good rule of thumb.
- When assembling the charcuterie board, start with the bowls and jars first.
- Then place your meats and cheeses around them.
- Lastly, fill in the smaller spaces with fruits, crackers, and breads.