Charcuterie boards are an assortment of cheeses, meats, nuts, breads, crackers, fruit, and vegetables that are beautifully presented on a board. They’re perfect for appetizers, light meals, or snacks.
To be called a charcuterie board, meat must be included. But no matter the definition, any pleasing arrangement on a board—with or without meat—is a healthy way to enjoy food.
Choosing the Board
Wood, plastic, metal, marble, or ceramic: The material doesn’t matter as long as it’s food safe. Consider the event when deciding what type of board to use. A rustic wooden board works for a casual dinner or picnic. A cheerful plastic board in a bright color makes a good choice for a birthday party. If you’re hosting a sophisticated event, consider a ceramic or marble board.
Rectangular boards are the most popular but any shape will work. Keep items in their original containers and block out where they’ll go on the board to determine the size you’ll need. A finished board should not look crowded or sparse.
Accessorize the board with forks, tongs, small knives, and spoons so guests can serve themselves. Include toothpicks and tiny skewers for spearing olives, and meat and cheese chunks. Be sure to place an empty bowl nearby for used toothpicks to be discarded.
Designing the Board
Start by looking at it as a canvas, and place the largest pile of food in the center, working out toward the edges and adding smaller piles surrounding it.
Don’t worry if everything doesn’t fit on the board. Dips and spreads may be better off in small bowls placed around the board.
Another option is to place similar items together on the board. This creates a cohesive look. No matter what makes its way onto your board, be sure to cut everything into bite-size pieces. This makes the food easy to pick up and eat, and it creates a pleasing and uniform look.
Don’t forget about natural garnishes. A basil bunch in the center of the board not only looks like a flower, but it also allows people to pick a few leaves to top dips or bruschetta.
Selecting Food for the Board
Consider the season (summer, fall, winter, spring) to highlight produce and other items that are fresh and available. Think about the food preferences and dietary needs of the guests.
Embrace colors, textures, and a variety of foods when building a board. Balance your item selections, so there’s still a variety of food to choose from after the board has been picked over. Here are some options to consider.
- For a true charcuterie board, include aged or cured meats.
- Sliced luncheon meat or leftover roast chicken work well too.
- For the ultimate crunch, slice bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, and carrots for the board.
- Blanched green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower are healthy choices too.
- Marinated mushrooms and artichokes are a welcome addition.
- Store sliced veggies in an ice water bath until you assemble the board. This helps keep them crisp.
Crackers and Breads
- Crackers provide crunch and help scoop up dips and hummus.
- Look for bagel crisps, pita chips, wholegrain, and gluten-free options.
- French bread, flatbread, or pita bread can be sliced into desired serving sizes.
- Include an equal number of crackers and breads.
- Sliced peaches, pears, apples, or bananas can be fanned out for an appealing look.
- Whole grapes, figs, strawberries, and other berries are colorful and easy to pick up.
- Don’t forget about dried varieties: cranberries, apples, apricots, cherries, prunes, dates, and raisins add pops of fruity flavor.
- Hard or soft, there’s no wrong choice.
- Consider Cheddar, Parmesan, goat, feta, smoked Gouda, brie, and freshly sliced mozzarella.
- Hummus, pesto, artichoke, olive tapenade—the choice is yours.
- Don’t forget to include a dollop of jam or honey next to the fruit for dipping.
- Roasted cashews and raw almonds add a delightful crunch.
- Olives (green or black) add a savory component.
- Consider squares of dark chocolate for additional flavor.