The next time you throw a party or are ready to curl up on the couch to watch a movie with your honey, these charcuterie board ideas will help you create a beautiful spread of meats and cheeses without too much effort.
The holidays are upon us and that means parties, parties and MORE parties! And with all that entertaining, that means food. If all of this is daunting for you, I have the easiest party food for you to put together: a beautiful charcuterie board.
What is a charcuterie board?
Charcuterie is a French term meaning “cold cooked meats.” They have seriously evolved from the simple salami and cheese on a plate scheme I grew up with. Gourmet meats and cheeses are easily available at supermarkets.
And then there are the other goodies you want to snack with your meat and cheese. The choices are endless, and I will share with some fabulous charcuterie ideas so you can customize and build a gorgeous spread for your next party.
How to build a meat board
I tackle a charcuterie board the same way I develop recipes: it’a all about blending flavors and textures, plus adding color and eye candy. And after you are done, you will have a gorgeous charcuterie board that goes beyond just meat and cheese.
There are two styles of charcuterie boards, from simple boards to those that are packed to the brim with bites to eat. How you pack your board is up to you. Start with the basic necessities, the meat and cheese, and then branch out from there.
As I mentioned before, mixing textures and flavors is the key when you build a charcuterie board. For meat, this includes options like:
- Hard dry salami
- Softer cotto salami
- Serrano ham
- Smoked kielbasa
With the meats, I like to have a variety already sliced. I love the look of a log of salami, so I tend to slice a few pieces, then place a knife so guests can slice their own. Other meat options include smoked salmon or paté.
You can choose a theme or your board and select Italian, Spanish or French meats. Then you can keep the theme going for the rest of the board.
Well, the sky’s the limit here. You can get technical and research the best meat-cheese parings, or you can choose based on your own taste preferences.
For example, I am not a fan of blue cheese and will never serve it. But you could be a gorgonzola fan and always have it on your charcuterie board. Again, mixing flavors and textures is my guide.
So for the hard cheeses, I personally like:
- Cheddar (mild, sharp or extra sharp)
- Pepper Jack
For soft cheese try:
- Goat cheese
- Fresh Mozzarella
Like a log of salami, I like to leave my cheese in wedge or wheel on the board. For the harder cheeses, I slice a few to get things started. Remember to have a knife, fork or spoon for each item you are serving. You don’t want the flavors mingling from mixing utensils.
Pickles and olives
But a charcuterie board is not just about meat and cheese. In small bowls, or strewn through your board you can add:
- Chopped pickles
- Little cornichons
- Olive tapenade
- Artichoke hearts
- Marinated mushrooms
- Pickled onions
- Roasted bell peppers
- Sun-dried tomatoes
My family is addicted to all these things, so we always have them in the refrigerator. Add any of your favorite pickles to add a bit of sour to compliment the meat and cheese on your charcuterie board.
Sauces and dips
Again, you are looking for complimenting and contrasting flavors. To compliment the dry meats and cheeses you have on your board, you need something to add moisture to your food.
Fruits, herbs and vegetables
I love adding colorful produce to my charcuterie board. What a wonderful way to feature what is in season! It is also another flavor component to compliment what you are featuring on your meat and cheese board.
For summer, add sliced peaches, melons, grapes or berries to your board. For fall, choose wonderful choices fruits like grapes, figs, pears, apples and pomegranate. But it’s not just about fruit.
I love adding gorgeous vegetables as well. There are so many choices and varieties to select from: cherry tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, baby carrots, radishes, asparagus, snap peas, fava beans, jicama, zucchini and even sprouts or micro greens.
For the vegetables, you can serve them raw, blanched or grilled — or a variety of all three! And don’t forget the fresh herbs. They aren’t just for garnish, either: Add sprigs of fresh basil, tarragon, mint, rosemary or green onions for more flavor options.
Breads and chips
To pull it all together, you need the carbs! You can select freshly baked breads, add some baguette slices or share a beautiful sourdough for the charcuterie board. You can even include breads baked with herbs, olives or sun-dried tomatoes.
These charcuterie ideas share one theme: variety. Besides bread, you can also include bread sticks, pita, lavash, pretzels, crisps and crackers. For gluten free or low carb options, there are root vegetable chips, chard chips or rice and seed crackers.
Even more charcuterie board ideas
And if you still have room for your charcuterie board after using all of these charcuterie ideas (ha ha ha), add some nuts (rosemary roasted cashews), seeds, dried fruits, hummus, pasta salad and edible flowers. Did I miss anything else???
What type of board do I need?
So now you have all of these fabulous charcuterie board ideas and the items you want to eat. But what should you serve it on? This is not a complicated question to answer. You can use whatever board you have at home, whether it’s a simple cutting board or a fancy one.
If it is just for two people, a small board is what you need. But if you are sharing your charcuterie board at a big party, well, you need to up your game with a larger board or perhaps two boards?