Charcuterie boards are one of the most popular dishes to serve at parties, and it’s easy to see why, once you know how simple they are to make - even for beginners.
Featuring an array of delicacies, a well-planned charcuterie board will quickly become the elegant centerpiece of any party you throw.
But because of their beauty, they can also appear intimidating if you have never put one together. Read on to learn how to easily make the perfect charcuterie board.
What is a Charcuterie Board?
A charcuterie board, at its most basic, is a serving platter of food items that compliment one another. It’s different from a cheese board in that no specific group of items is the prime focus. Instead, all items on the board complement one another. It’s best to think of it as build-it-yourself hors d’oeuvres with everyone (ideally) taking little bits and pieces of everything to sample.
Planning Your Board
Before building your board, you’ll need to think about how it’s going to be used. Is it the main course or a beautiful appetizer? If you’re planning on your board becoming the entrée of the night, you’ll need to plan for people to have a larger amount of food while an appetizer course can be made with significantly less.
For your first board, you can also consider a theme—French, Italian or Spanish—and incorporate foods from those countries. While you’ll still need to research what pairs well together, following themes can make the planning process much easier.
Download our inspirational guide to charcuterie around the world
Finally, make sure that each item on your board complements the other. So, for example, if you choose a strong blue cheese, add a brie wedge and goat cheese log to balance the flavors. This works better than overpowering your guests with an assortment of strong cheeses.
What to Include
You have an idea in your head, and now it’s time to get the board ingredients. While there are no rules when putting together a charcuterie board, most will include the following items:
Since you’re making a charcuterie board, not a cheese board, you'll want to ensure that your cheese selection compliments rather than overpowers the board. Plan on each guest having around 2 ounces of each type of cheese if you are serving your board as the main course, or 1 ounce if it’s an appetizer. Most charcuterie boards will include at least one cheese from each of the following categories:
Hard – Asiago, Parmesan Reggiano, Comte, Gruyere
Semi-Soft – Cheddar, Roquefort, Gouda, Stilton, Manchego, Gorgonzola, Tomme, Munster
Soft – Mozzarella, Ricotta, Chevre, Brie, Fromager D’Affinois, Camembert, Taleggio, Epoisses, Mascarpone
There truly is no limit to what kind of meat you can put on your board. Meatballs and steak bites are becoming popular additions, depending on the board’s theme. However, most people stick to cured meats. Just like with cheese, plan on around 2 ounces of each meat per person if this is the main course or one ounce if it’s an appetizer. Plan on having at least three different kinds of meat on your board.
Popular selections include:
- Genoa Salami
- Spanish Chorizo
- Jambon blanc ou Cuits
- Jabon Cru
Most people will place both bread and crackers on their board, giving their guests a selection of textures to choose from. Whether you opt for toasted baguette, crackers, or pita is totally up to you, as long as it’s made for spreading and stacking on.
Fruits and Vegetables
Our rule of thumb? Go with what’s in season. We’ve seen some excellent boards with roasted pumpkin, fresh cranberry sauce, apples, figs and a host of other bounties that come into season during the fall months, while summer brings raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries to the table. Your fruits and vegetables will taste much better and your guests will love trying everything at the peak of freshness. Look to give everyone you are serving 4-5 bites of each fruit.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are popular for both filling space and bellies. Plan to give each person about a quarter of a cup (a small handful). If someone has nut allergies, replace these items with a veggie centerpiece, like a whole head of roasted garlic.
Spreads, Jams and Dips
Whether you go with hummus and fig spreads or something more substantial like spinach artichoke, having spreads, jams and dips on your board provides an excellent tasting experience that can push your board over the edge. A good rule of thumb is to provide about an eighth of a cup per dip per person if using it as an entrée, while two tablespoons of spreads or jams will be more than enough for most people as an appetizer.
Olives and gherkins are two of the most popular brined items for charcuterie boards. They offer a satisfying, salty flavor that truly can’t be beat. Consider providing about 4-5 bites of pickled veggies per person.
Tips and Finishing Touches
- Fill in empty spaces with cheeses, fruits, and nuts.
- As a courtesy to vegetarian guests, make sure meats and cheeses don't touch. This will also help with safely storing leftovers.
- If you have a marble side to your charcuterie board, reserve this space for meats and cheeses that need to be kept cooler longer. You can even refrigerate the board for a bit before using it.
- Don't stress! Charcuterie is nearly fool-proof. With a bit of variety and color, it's easy to make a board look impressive.
Simple Sample Charcuterie Board Shopping Lists
The following sample shopping lists are great for beginners looking to explore the world of charcuterie boards.
Each recipe will serve 6 as an entrée.
- 2-3 ounces per person of Italian dry salami, prosciutto and peppered salami
- 2-3 ounces per person of Peppered goat cheese, toscano and asiago
- 1 lb of red grapes
- 2 green apples
- 4-5 blackberries per person
- 8-10 blueberries per person
- 3-4 oz pureed pumpkin per person (or use your favorite pumpkin dip)
- 1 cup of cranberry sauce
- 1 Baguette
- Gherkins or olives (4-5 per person)
- 4 oz. Jam
- ½ c. Dijon mustard
- 4-5 olives per person
- 2-3 ounces per person of cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan
- 2-3 ounces per person of salami and prosciutto
- 30 crackers of your choosing
- 30 crostini
- 5 oz each of dried apricots and prunes
- 1 cup of walnuts
French Charcuterie Board
- 2-3 oz per person of ham and cured sausage
- 3 oz per person of rillettes or pate
- 2 oz per person of Brie
- 2 oz per person of Blue cheese
- 4-5 Gherkins per person
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard per person
- 2 Baguettes
- 1 lb Red grapes
- 4 oz Fig jam
- 4-5 Olives per person
- 4 oz Chutney