Live Like It's Charc Week With These Charcuterie Board Ideas (2024)

Live Like It's Charc Week With These Charcuterie Board Ideas (1)

We've been independently researching and testing products for over 120 years. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more about our review process.

A jaw-dropping charcuterie board is the ultimate party food: Everyone wants a piece of the action. If you need charcuterie board ideas but don’t know where to start, consider this your playbook for making the most delicious and beautiful combos. Usually comprised of meats, cheeses and accoutrements, charcuterie boards are the perfect finger food or festive appetizer for your next get-together. Many charcuterie boards involve zero cooking, while others let you get creative with dip recipes, spreads, fruits, nuts and more.

Our guide on how to make a charcuterie board will give you plenty of inspo for ingredients, no matter your budget or party size. If you’re looking for simple charcuterie board ideas that won't break the bank, we got you! We’ll share tips for compiling charcuterie boards on the cheap for when you're low on the figurative Cheddar. Once you’ve gathered your meats, cheeses and accompaniments, we’ll explain how to artfully arrange your board for the most visual impact.

A charcuterie board is a fun, low-effort way to entertain that’s super-inclusive. There's usually no cooking involved — you're busy enough hosting this party, after all. They're also endlessly customizable for all kinds of dietary preferences. Put out a grazing board and pretty soon guests are snacking and chatting at one communal spot. It's an instant party starter!

What is charcuterie?

Think of charcuterie (shaar·koo·ter·ee) as fancy cold cuts. It can include cured meats, like salami, ham and prosciutto, but also spreads, such as patés, terrines and chicken liver mousse. A classic charcuterie board will have these protein foundations along with cheeses and tasty accompaniments.

When it comes to building your own, though, anything goes. Nobody can stop you from slapping down aspic and turmeric oat milk cheese on your board — but if you want mouthwatering easy appetizers that guests can’t wait to dive into, then continue on for our top recs.

Cured meats

Live Like It's Charc Week With These Charcuterie Board Ideas (2)

An iconic pillar of a charcuterie board is the array of cured meats, thinly sliced and ribboned out on a wooden slab. That's usually what people envision for this type of spread. You have lots of options in this category but it's best to choose at least one familiar crowd-pleaser, such as a salami or prosciutto. From there, tack on other meats with different flavors and textures.

A small sampler available online is the Charcuterie Trio from Three Little Pigs, which includes prosciutto and two types of Italian salami: pepperoni and soppressata.

For a sampler from Spain, try the Charcuterie Newbie from Mercado Famous, which includes one pack each of jamón 50% iberico and lomo (a leaner cured meat from pork loin) 50% made from the famed Iberico pigs, plus chorizo iberico. It's the perfect amount if you're making a charcuterie board for two people.

Or choose from any of the following cured meats and figure on 2 ounces per person:

  • Ham
  • Prosciutto
  • Soppressata: A type of Italian pork salami, soppressata is leaner and identifiable by its oblong shape (vs. Genoa salami, for example, which is more fatty and cylindrical)
  • Mortadella: This more flavorful version of bologna, best served thinly sliced, is a crowd favorite. A great one to try is mortadella with pistachios, available from Eataly.
  • Speck: Lightly spiced and smoky, this cousin to prosciutto is firmer and more robust, with a pleasant chew.
  • Chorizo: The cured variety from Spain is a dry pork sausage that’s smoky and delightfully spicy.
  • Jamón serrano: Similar in appearance to prosciutto, this Spanish ham is saltier, fattier and more assertive in flavor.
  • For non-pork offerings, consider sliced turkey, turkey pepperoni, bresaola (Italian air-dried salted beef), smoked salmon and tinned fish, such as Fangst Tinned Sprats Smoked with Heather & Chamomile.

Pâtés, terrines and other spreads

Live Like It's Charc Week With These Charcuterie Board Ideas (3)

"Pâté is a fancy meatloaf served cold," explains Ariane Daguin, cofounder of D'Artagnan, a purveyor of charcuterie and other French delicacies.

You can find it baked it a crust (paté en croute) or in a terrine at French markets or gourmet shops. If you're looking for a good starter pack, the French Pâté Sampler from D'Artagnan comes with three different kinds: pâté de campagne, mousse truffée and duck terrine.

N'duja (en·du·ya) is a spicy Calabrian spread made from pork. You can buy it at Italian markets or specialty shops or order one online, such as the Tempesta ’Nduja from Zingerman’s. Rich and fatty, a little dab will do you on some crusty bread.

    Vegan options for charcuterie board

    While most charcuterie boards are loaded with cured meats and cheeses, you can anchor your board around an almost endless number of plant-based offerings.

    These can include plain or roasted red pepper hummus, babaganoush and other Middle Eastern spreads, like a green tahini dip. You can also find plant-based alternatives to tinned fish that are just as tasty as their seafood counterparts (without the fishy flavor), such as mushroom "snow crab" and celery root "smoked whitefish" from Seed to Surf.

    Charcuterie board accompaniments are often already plant-based (honey isn't vegan, however) so go ahead and cram the board full of olives, pickles, nuts, dried fruit and fresh fruit and veggies (scroll below for our favorite Savory Accompaniments and Sweet Accompaniments). Just be sure to serve them in individual bowls or far enough away so they don't touch the meats and cheeses.

    Advertisem*nt - Continue Reading Below


    Live Like It's Charc Week With These Charcuterie Board Ideas (5)

    Cheesemongers have a game plan for building their perfect board: “Something old, something new, something goat and something blue.” While you don't have to follow this strategy to the letter, it can be a great launch pad for what to buy. The end goal is to offer guests a range of options. That way they can find at least one cheese they like.

    Take into account the shape of the cheese. “I try to include different looks and textures when creating a cheese board," says Cathy Strange, Ambassador of Food and Culture for Whole Foods Market. “For example, I’ll grab a small round wheel, a block and an oblong wedge."

    Vary the intensity level of the cheese. Strange recommends covering all the bases: an option that will impress beginner cheese enthusiasts as well as one for those with more experienced palates. "I make sure to include a range of flavor profiles, like a crowd pleasing and approachable Manchego," she gives as an example, "then something more adventurous, like a powerful blue.”

    Hard cheeses ("something old"): These are aged longer, resulting in cheeses that are firmer, drier and often with a delectable nutty flavor. They also tend to be saltier so a little goes a long way. Think Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged Cheddar, aged Gouda, Manchego, and Mimolette. For a complex cheese that true connoisseurs will enjoy, try Emmi Kaltbach Cave Aged Gruyère from Whole Foods. Supremely flavorful from raw cow's milk and aging in mineral-rich caves of Switzerland, this cheese has a nutty richness. It also ticks off the block-shaped box if you need that shape for your board.

    Soft cheeses ("something new"): Still relatively young, these cheeses are creamy and often mild. Crowd favorites in this category include soft-ripened cheeses, like Brie and Camembert. If you like these two varieties, also try Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery or Nettle Meadow Kunik.

    Soft, young cheese also include the category of fresh cheeses, such as burrata, ricotta and bocconcini (small fresh mozzarella balls). Milky-white with a higher moisture content, they will have the mildest flavor.

    Goat cheeses: Made from goat's milk, goat cheese tends to have a pleasant tang and an earthy, sometimes gamy flavor. It can be soft and fresh, like chèvre; soft-ripened with a bloomy rind, such as Humboldt Fog; or aged and hard, like goat Gouda.

    Blue cheeses: The most famous examples of blue cheese are Gorgonzola, Stilton and Roquefort. It's a bit of a divisive category that has diehard fans pitted against haters who can't stand the pungent funk. If you're looking for a good, approachable gateway blue that can appeal to both camps, try a cambazola; it has the assertive flavor of Gorgonzola tempered by the buttery-soft texture of a Camembert.

    Crackers and breads

    Live Like It's Charc Week With These Charcuterie Board Ideas (6)

    Is there anything more frustrating than having an abundance of cured meats and cheeses but not enough crackers or bread to pile them onto? To avoid running out, count on one cracker or piece of bread for every slice of meat. Unopened crackers will last a while so it's good to have extra boxes on hand (vs. bread, which will go stale more quickly) just in case you have to replenish the supply.

    A good blueprint for what to buy is to choose a few different items in varying shapes, sizes and colors. Just be sure that the cracker is big and sturdy enough to hold a good schmear of spread or piece of cheese or cured meat. The following are your best bets:

    Water crackers: You can't go wrong with these plain crackers. Their mild flavor goes with anything on the charcuterie board.

    Breadsticks: Long and skinny, breadsticks are similarly mild with a good crispy snap. You can twirl slices of prosciutto around extra skinny ones, like grissini. Placed upright in cups, they add height to the charcuterie board and are effortlessly chic.

    Flatbread-style crackers: Rustic Bakery Sourdough Crackers with Olive Oil & Sel Gris have fun, fluted edges, deep olive oil flavor and a satisfying crunch.

    Dark crisps: Wafer thin and studded with nuts or dried fruit, these savory-sweet crackers instantly elevate any charcuterie board. Two to try are Raincoast Crisps Hazelnut Cranberry and Maine Crisp Savory Fig & Thyme Buckwheat Crackers.

    For breads, sliced baguette or a crusty sourdough loaf are neutral and crowd-pleasing. If you have hummus or other Middle Eastern spreads, toasted pita or lavash make an excellent base.

    Savory accompaniments

    Basically, all the nibbles that will complement the cured meats, spreads and cheeses make the best charcuterie board accompaniments. Include something from each of the following categories:

    Briny bites: Castelvetrano olives, cornichons, caperberries, pickled green beans and okra are not only tasty, they're easy to pick up with fingers. These tangy, salty bites go great with pretty much everything on the board. The tartness also sparks the appetite. Hit up the antipasto bar at your supermarket to get a fresh selection to choose from.

    Roasted nuts: Besides lending a toastiness that compliments cheese, nuts add texture and crunch. The most popular choices include cashews, pecans and almonds. Also try shell-on pistachios and Marcona almonds, a variety from Spain that's softer and buttery in flavor. Walnuts drizzled with honey pair especially well with blue cheese.

    Mustards and mostardas: A piquant condiment will help cut all the richness of the meats and cheeses. Dijon or whole-grain mustard, for example, is welcome with pâté. Mostarda, an Italian condiment made from fruit and mustard seeds, is a deliciously sweet-sharp foil to cheeses. Serve a little dish of Cremona mostarda to dab onto salami and/or soft cheeses.

    Advertisem*nt - Continue Reading Below

    Sweet accompaniments

    Live Like It's Charc Week With These Charcuterie Board Ideas (8)

    With all the salty foods on a charcuterie board (cured meats, cheeses, olives, pickles), it's nice to provide some dulcet relief. Try a few of the following sweet accents on your board:

    Fresh fruit: Think of the fruits that partner well with cheeses, such as figs and grapes (any color). Pear is a terrific match for Brie, as is apple for Cheddar. For a winter holiday board, go seasonal with ruby red pomegranate wedges. In the summer, ripe melons, peaches and apricots are amazing with prosciutto.

    Dried fruit: Apricots, figs, cranberries, cherries are classic options but also try dates, mango, pineapple and persimmon.

    Honey or honeycomb: You can set out a small pot of honey with a dipper or, for a luxurious touch, add a block of solid honeycomb, like pure raw acacia honeycomb from Savannah Bee. Guests can cut off slivers to adorn their cheese.

    Jams and chutneys: Pretty much any jam or chutney goes. Some flavors pair particularly well with specific cheeses: for instance, strawberry with fresh goat cheese; apricot with Brie or Camembert; fig with Parmesan or blue cheese. For a sweet preserve with a savory edge, try onion marmalade, which is especially delicious with aged Cheddar.

    Quince paste: Also known as membrillo, this thick, sliceable jelly gives a tangy, aromatic lift to Manchego cheese and salty hams. Look for it at Latin markets, specialty shops and online at Murray's Cheese.

    Extravagant Charcuterie Board

    Live Like It's Charc Week With These Charcuterie Board Ideas (9)

    Extravagant Charcuterie Board

    Grab your biggest board and go HAM with Olympia Provisions Royale 10 sampler of 10 salamis (pictured above) or curate your own selection of cured meats, pâtés and cheeses. Then fill 'er up with all the savory and sweet accompaniments. Don't forget the bread and crackers — if you're feeling flush, spring for the fancy crackers everyone loves.

    Charcuterie board on a budget

    Live Like It's Charc Week With These Charcuterie Board Ideas (10)

    The meats and cheeses for a charcuterie board aren't cheap. But with some resourcefulness and a little work in the kitchen, you can make a beautiful, bounteous board without blowing a whole paycheck.

    Shop smart: Seek out cured meats and cheeses that are on sale at your local market. You can take advantage of the end cuts of cheese that many grocery stores sell at a deep discount. Buy ingredients at value stores, like Trader Joe’s, Aldi and Costco. That's where you'll score great deals on charcuterie board mainstays, like the meats and cheeses, but also on nuts, dried fruit, olives and crackers. Try, for example, Tetes de Moines Cheese Rosettes from Aldi. The bulk bin aisle at your local supermarket is also a gold mine for buying small amounts of different nuts that are often fresher than pre-packaged ones.

    DIY: While you probably can't cure your own prosciutto, you can make your own chicken liver pâté and salmon rillettes, which will save you money over store-bought versions. You can also stretch the cheese you buy to make fun spreads, like a goat cheese wreath (pictured above) and cheese balls.

    Mind the gaps: With a little clever arranging, you can create the illusion of abundance on your charcuterie board. Roll cured meats into cylinders or fold them into voluminous waves or roses. Slice cheeses into slabs, wedges or cubes and spread them out across the board. Then fill all the empty spaces with less spendy items, like crackers, pretzels and pita chips.

    Fridge raid: Instead of buying new jars of mustard, jams and chutneys, revive the (still-good) condiments you forgot about in the corners of your refrigerator. Then pat yourself on the back for cutting down on food waste.

    Advertisem*nt - Continue Reading Below

    How to arrange the ingredients

    Live Like It's Charc Week With These Charcuterie Board Ideas (11)

    If you've seen the stunning images of epic charcuterie boards on social media and thought, "I wish I could make that" then read on. You don't need an art degree to make a 'gram-worthy board. Some of the best-looking ones are just clusters of controlled chaos on a wooden slab. Think rustic elegance — the key is in the placement of the ingredients.

    First, choose a board. It can be a cutting board that's rectangle, square or round. Just be sure it’s large enough to hold everything you want to serve.

    Next, place the cheeses on the board (not in a straight row, which looks too rigid), spacing them apart. Add any knives for slicing right next to each cheese. Create a template for cutting that guests can follow. For example, cut a wedge out of a round disc of Camembert or rectangular slabs from a block of Cheddar. Cheese is best served when it's not fridge-cold so plan to put out the board 30 minutes before guests arrive.

    Arrange the cured meats and spreads next to the cheeses. Don't be tempted to just plop the mass of meat directly from the package onto the board. Adding volume and height will create visual interest. Shingle out the slices or roll or fold them into cylinders, waves or roses. Cut a few slices of pâté rather than keeping it in an intimidatingly monolithic block.

    Live Like It's Charc Week With These Charcuterie Board Ideas (12)

    Fill the gaps with the accompaniments that won't leave a mess directly on the board: nuts and fresh and dried fruit. You can pile them in clusters or spread them out in wavy patterns. Avoid arranging ingredients in straight lines. Not only do they require more precision, guests will be afraid to mess them up.

    For the most visual impact, arrange ingredients side-by-side in contrasting colors.

    Put any messy accompaniments, like oil-slicked olives, mustard, sticky jams and honey, in little dishes or small jars — and don't forget to provide a pit bowl for the olives and a tiny serving spoon for each condiment. You can place these on or next to the charcuterie board.

    Tuck in the crackers and bread at different points around the board, shingling them out leisurely. The goal is relaxed and inviting. Guests will be hesitant to attack the board if everything looks too perfect.

    Now you're beautiful charcuterie board is ready to serve!

    Live Like It's Charc Week With These Charcuterie Board Ideas (2024)
    Top Articles
    Latest Posts
    Article information

    Author: Gregorio Kreiger

    Last Updated:

    Views: 5750

    Rating: 4.7 / 5 (77 voted)

    Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

    Author information

    Name: Gregorio Kreiger

    Birthday: 1994-12-18

    Address: 89212 Tracey Ramp, Sunside, MT 08453-0951

    Phone: +9014805370218

    Job: Customer Designer

    Hobby: Mountain biking, Orienteering, Hiking, Sewing, Backpacking, Mushroom hunting, Backpacking

    Introduction: My name is Gregorio Kreiger, I am a tender, brainy, enthusiastic, combative, agreeable, gentle, gentle person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.