A fun, easy charcuterie board is the perfect way to get pretty much everyone riled up about food. A step-by-step guide with fabulous tips, cost saving ideas, and shortcuts to an epic party platter! This works as a charcuterie board for two or a party of ten.
The holiday season is here! My favorite part about this season is spending time with family, good friends, and I’ve always got a few tricks up my sleeve to make hosting as effortless as possible. You can read our tips for stress free holiday hosting here. Today, I wanted to share one of my secret weapons: a killer charcuterie board on a budget.
A charcuterie board is essentially a board filled with finger snacks – cured meats, cheeses, fruits, crackers, veggies and more. No matter the crowd, it has a little something for everyone. Don’t forget to serve with one of my fabulous sangria recipes like Strawberry Sangria or Caramel Apple Sangria.
However, having all that variety can come at a big cost. I have easily seen platters go over $200, so here are my tips for making a charming charcuterie board that won’t break the bank!
- A cheeseboard (also sometimes called a charcuterie board when meats are included) is typically comprised of a few kinds of cheeses, a few kinds of meats, and some crispy crackers along with a few other accompaniments – such as cracker toppings, olives, fresh or dried fruits, or even sweet snacks.
- Start with large board like this. It can be round, square, or rectangle. Ones with a raised lip work best. Don’t fret if you don’t have a specific board though! Wood cutting boards or even serving platters work just fine. Also, if you are looking for portability for a picnic, cupcake boxes are perfect.
- Variety is essential for a crowd pleasing board. Usually 3-4 meats and 3-4 cheeses for a medium to large sized platter. For extra large platters (over 20 inches round), I go with 5-6. You want a variety of textures, shapes, and flavors so I love the random aspect.
Cutting Your Meats
Cured Meats that make the perfect charcuterie board include :
- Salamis (logs or thin slices)
- Other Cured Meats such as Prosciutto, Spiraled pancetta, Pepperoni, or Chorizo
- Smoked hams or Jamon (Spanish cured hams)
- Dry sausages
What to pick. I like to mix shapes and thicknesses to add variety and depth to the platter. I may slice a salami log with thick rounds, and pair it with paper thin prosciutto (my absolute favorite!).
How Many? I usually stick to 2-4 depending on the size of the platter. My favorite pleasing combo is Prosciutto, Uncured Hard Salami, Honey Smoked Ham sliced thin, and soppressata or another salami.
Adding them to the platter. For thin slices, I like to fold them up in rosette shapes and smush together. For thicker rounds, I like to lay them in a row or just mix them in a pile. Or roll them over some mozzarella sticks for even more variety.
Preparing Your Cheese
Honestly, you can choose any cheese you like, but I usually choose 1 from each of these categories:
- Soft Creamy Cheese: Mozzarella, Brie, BabyBel, Roquefort Blue Cheese, Fontina, Borsin, Goat Cheese
- Slicing Cheeses (Semi-hard): Provolone, Vermont White Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, Gruyere
- Hard Cheese: Manchego, Parmesan, Asiago, Grana Padano
- Robust, Tangy Cheese: Roquefort Blue Cheese, Emmantal (swiss), Feta, Romano
What to pick. Again, mixing shapes and textures is the best part. Don’t worry about having a particular kind of cheese; use what your grocery store offers.
Adding to the platter. I’ll leave one kind of cheese as a wedge, cut one kind into cubes and cut the others into slices. A little tip for getting the best cracker-size slices of cheese: Buy the pre-sliced cheese (like for sandwiches) and cut each square into 4 smaller squares. This will give you perfect, even slices of cheese every single time! This is my biggest time saver when it comes to assembling a charcuterie board!
But, don’t worry if you don’t want to follow these guidelines. This is meant to be easy! You can’t go wrong with the classics or the favorites you love.
My favorite part! For me, this is where a charcuterie board really shines. For accompaniments, I focus on toppings for crackers and finger foods including:
- Crackers – get a few different types.
- Nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios)
- Fresh or Dried Fruit (Figs, pears, berries, grapes, apricots, or dried cranberries)
- Pepperoncini peppers
- Ground Mustard
- Flavored Oils
- Breadsticks or crusty bread slices
- Dips like Bruschetta or Avocado Crema
- Fruit Jams or spreads
- Roasted Tomatoes
- Chocolates or Chocolate Chunks
- Sweet finger foods like cookies or baked goods
- Candy (Yes, totally acceptable!)
Step by Step Instructions
There are written instructions in the recipe card and a handy list of ingredients I often use, but I thought I would include my step by step process of building these fabulous boards.
Step 1 – Start with adding any small bowls or ramekins – dips, olives, pickles and soft cheeses like Borsin. These bowls will act as your foundation. They’ll give you a good starting point to add more things to your cheese board. Don’t forget the spoons if needed!
Step 2 – Add the largest items – Wedges of cheese or large fruits are added next.
#3 – Then add your sliced meats, cheeses, and crispy crackers. Anything that is stacked or placed in rows. Fan them out around the bowls and wedges. I usually include a sweet treat or two to complement the salty snacks.
#4 – File in gaps with piles placed closely together. This can be cheese cubes, berries, chocolate and other accompaniments that won’t stack. Use the piles to help prop up the stacked items for more fullness.
#5 – Sprinkle in items, if desired. In some boards, I find there are little gaps not big enough for a full pile. Cheese cubes, candies, and nuts work great to fill these little gaps and give some continuity to the entire tray, while really filling it out.
Watch the Recipe Video
I made a demonstration video of easy ideas to make a charcuterie board using a round board, oval platter, and a rectangle board. Check it out!
Tips for Super Easy Entertaining
- Use berries or fruit that don’t require cutting. Look in the deli section for pre-made items like stuffed olives, marinated cheeses, antipasto, and cold dips.
- Don’t stress about making it picture perfect. Generally, as long as it is full and fresh, it will be delicious and beautiful. Focus on interest and variety to make the most enjoyable boards.
- Some cheeses last longer at room temperature than others. Think parmesan, gouda, or aged cheeses with lower moisture content.
- You may be wondering how long a cheeseboard can sit out safely. It really depends on what you put on it, but according to the US Dairy Council, hard cheeses can sit out for at least 2 hours while soft cheeses should be thrown out after 2 hours. Other perishable items should be tossed or refrigerated after 2 hours.
- To make ahead, you can cut all of the cheese, meat and wash uncut fruits the day before. I also add dips to bowl and cover them tightly. Then it only takes about 10 minutes to put the entire board together just before serving.
Cost Saving Tips
- Buy package deals. Located in the deli section of the grocery store or with the lunch meat, there are often chef curated packages for the meat and sometimes cheese that overall will be cheaper and waste less.
- Raid the pantry for staples that would be good like pickles or crackers. I bet you have at least 3-4 in there right now!
- Use in season fruits and vegetables that are on sale. There are so many fun and colorful combinations that will add some interest to your charcuterie board.
- Having an abundant variety does cost more. However, I have a little trick. Double up by putting the same item in two different places.
By using snacks and staples already in the pantry, this entire platter cost me $24! I separated out a mixed jar of nuts and used some leftover holiday cookies as inspiration. It looks much more expensive though, doesn’t it?
And that’s it, my friends! You have my tips for creating a super convenient, fun appetizer for your guests or party this year that won’t put a dent in the wallet.
Frequently asked questions
Any type of non-porous wood is the way to go to prevent any contaminants seeping into the wood. Maple, Teak, Olive, American Cherry, and Acacia are commonly used. The board should be food safe or covered with parchment paper. This large board is one of my favorites.
Not every board needs sealed, but you can seal the cutting board for your charcuterie platter using a food grade mineral oil. The oil should be applied to the board and allow to sit for one to two days. Wipe off any excess oil and your board is ready for use. It may change color or feel dry to the touch to indicate that it needs to be oiled.
Wood cutting boards or even ceramic serving platters work just fine. Also, if you are looking for portability for a picnic, cupcake boxes are perfect.
You will need about 3-5 ounces of cured meats and cheeses per person. Add crackers, dried and fresh fruits, and other accompaniments as desired.
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Easy Charcuterie Board
- Serving Board
- 4 ounces Prosciutto
- 10 oz Salamis 1-2 kinds
- 6 oz Smoked Ham
- 2 Wedge Cheeses Parmesan, Asiago, Brie, or Blue Cheese
- 12 ounces Slicing Cheeses Provolone, Vermont White Cheddar, Smoked Gouda
- 10 oz Soft Cheese Mozzarella, Brie, BabyBel, Roquefort Blue Cheese, Fontina, Borsin
- 6 oz Crackers At least 2 kinds
- 1 cup Olives
- ½ cup Nuts
- 1 cup Dried Fruits Figs, apricots, berries, or cranberries
- 3 cups Fresh fruits Grapes, Berries, Pear Slices, Figs
- 3 tablespoon Ground Mustard
- 1 cup Cracker Dip Brushchetta or Spinach Dip
- 3 cups Breadsticks or sliced Crusty Bread
- 2 cups Chocolates or Sweet Finger Foods
- Place wet or soft ingredients like olives, dips, or ground mustard in small bowls or ramekins. Arrange the bowls around the board.
- To the board, add the largest items such as wedges of cheese, large fruits or slices of crusty bread.
- Add foods that are stacked or placed in rows like sliced meats, cheese slices, and crispy crackers. Fan them out around the bowls and wedges.
- File in gaps with piles placed closely together. This can be cheese cubes, berries, chocolate and other accompaniments.
- Sometimes, I find there are little gaps not big enough for a full pile. Cheese cubes, candies, and nuts work great to fill these little gaps and give some continuity to the entire tray.
- Prepare about 3-5 ounces of meat/cheese per person. While you are doing your shopping, this will give you a ballpark estimate of how much food you will need. This will vary depending on whether it is an appetizer to a large meal or a simple snack tray, and, of course, the appetites of those you are feeding.