Best Meats for Charcuterie Boards: A Curated Guide

Hey, charcuterie lovers! Craving the secrets to a show-stopping board? Let’s slice into the best meats for charcuterie boards that are sure to turn your next spread into the talk of the town. Ready, set, charcuterie!

Charcuterie board with various charcuterie meats and accompaniments.

Hey everyone! Let’s talk about why charcuterie boards are the toast of every party. Trust me, these stunning spreads are way more than just eye candy—they’re a surefire hit that gets everyone talking and tasting.

So follow along as we dive into the art of choosing the right meats that are sure to make every charcuterie board a knockout.

We’re not just sticking to the basics here; we’ll cover everything from the top ten classic must-haves like velvety prosciutto and savory salami to some funkier and less traditional meats for all you adventurous folks out there.

For more helpful tips on how to build your best board – check out our guides for choosing the best charcuterie crackers, the best jams for charcuterie boards, the best charcuterie pickles, and our easy step-by-step guide on how to make a beautiful simple charcuterie board.

Landscape side view of the charcuterie board with cheeses, meat, a mini pumpkin, crackers, and fruit.
How To Make A Cozy Fall Themed Charcuterie Board

Charcuterie Basics

What exactly is charcuterie? This culinary tradition, which originated in France, originally focused on preserving meats like salamis, hams, and sausages.

Today, charcuterie has evolved into an art form, and has become a must-have for every celebratory gathering, blending flavors from around the globe on one visually engaging board.

Charcuterie boards are more than just meat; they’re a creative canvas for combining various cheeses, nuts, pickles, fruits, crackers, and spreads. They cater to a wide range of tastes and make for an interactive dining experience, perfect for everything from elegant parties to casual weekends at home.

In this post, we’ll explore how to select the best meats for charcuterie boards that are not only beautiful but also a joy to devour. Whether you’re hosting a big event or a small get-together, mastering the basics of charcuterie will help you impress and entertain with ease.

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Pinterest image with charcuterie meats and the title in white font over black background.

Top 10 Best Charcuterie Meats

These meats provide a variety of flavors and textures, from spicy and bold to sweet and delicate, ensuring that your charcuterie board appeals to a wide range of palates and preferences.

Without further ado, let’s dive into our top ten best charcuterie meats for your board!



A dry-cured ham from Italy that is thinly sliced and known for its delicate, sweet flavor and buttery texture. Pronounced “proh-SHOO-toh”.



A cured sausage made from fermented and air-dried meat, usually pork. There are many varieties of salami, including Genoa, Calabrese, and soppressata, offering different flavors from spicy to mild.



An Italian dry-cured salami that is typically more rustic and coarsely ground than other salamis. It can be spicy or sweet, depending on the region and preparation.


Capocollo (or Coppa)

A traditional Italian and Corsican pork cold cut made from the dry-cured muscle running from the neck to the 4th or 5th rib of the pork shoulder or neck. It is typically seasoned with wine and garlic, and then dry-cured whole.



A lean, salted beef that has been aged and air-dried. It’s typically very dark red, almost purple, and is sliced very thin with a slightly sweet, musty aroma and a rich taste.



An Italian sausage similar to a large, finely ground pork bologna, traditionally speckled with cubes of pork fat and sometimes flavored with spices like black pepper, pistachios, and myrtle berries.



A Spanish or Portuguese sausage that can be either cured or fresh. The cured version is often spicy, seasoned with paprika and garlic, and is sliced thin to serve on charcuterie boards.


Jamon Serrano

A traditional Spanish dry-cured ham, offering a rich, savory flavor and a firm texture. It’s typically served thinly sliced and is a staple in Spanish tapas. It works well when you need a substitute for prosciutto.



A Spanish sausage similar to salami, made from finely ground pork seasoned with garlic, black pepper, and sometimes nutmeg or other spices. It’s cured and air-dried, resulting in a firm texture and a rich, savory flavor that makes it a popular choice for charcuterie boards.



While not a cured meat, pâté is often included in charcuterie selections. It’s a mixture of seasoned ground meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste. Varieties range from smooth to coarse and can include different types of meat like liver, pork, or poultry.

Less Traditional Selections

Adding some less traditional meats can bring a dash of surprise and sophistication, perfect for adventurous eaters or anyone looking to mix things up. Here are some unique, off-the-beaten-path charcuterie options that can really spice up your board:

  • Soppressata di Calabria: While soppressata is common, the varieties from Calabria often include spicy peppers, adding a fiery kick to the rich pork flavor.
  • Guanciale: An Italian cured meat made from pork cheek or jowl, richer and more intense in flavor than pancetta, and fantastic when used to add depth to dishes or enjoyed thinly sliced on its own.
  • Speck: A cured and lightly smoked ham from the Tyrol region of Italy and Austria. Seasoned with spices like juniper and garlic, it’s cold-smoked over beechwood and aged to develop a rich, smoky flavor.
  • ‘Nduja: A spicy, spreadable pork salami from Italy. It’s typically made with parts of the pig such as the shoulder and belly, as well as roasted peppers and a variety of spices.
  • Terrine: Similar to pâté, but often more coarsely chopped and cooked in a mold, which can also include pieces of other meats, vegetables, or nuts. Terrines are served cold or at room temperature, often sliced.
Sliced French terrines on a wooden serving platter.
  • Saucisson Sec: A French dry-cured sausage that can include unique ingredients like nuts, cheese, or even blueberries, offering distinct flavors that set it apart from more traditional options.
  • Jamon Iberico de Bellota: Although on the pricier side, this exquisite ham made from acorn-fed pigs offers unparalleled richness and depth, with a buttery texture that melts in your mouth.
  • Lomo: A Spanish delicacy made from air-dried pork tenderloin seasoned with garlic and paprika. It’s leaner than many other cured meats and has a robust flavor.
  • Smoked Duck Breast: Typically seasoned and smoked, this duck breast offers a smoky, savory flavor that pairs beautifully with sweet jams and mustards.
  • Truffle Salami: Infused with the rich, earthy flavor of truffles, this salami offers a luxurious taste that pairs wonderfully with mild cheeses and crusty bread.
  • Deli Smoked Ham or Turkey: Keep it simple with these standard deli cold cuts and add a savory, smoky flavor to your charcuterie board. These meats are wonderfully versatile, pairing beautifully with a variety of cheeses, fruits, and breads.
Charcuterie board with crackers, sauces, meats, and cheese.
How To Make A Beautiful Simple Charcuterie Board

Tips for Buying Charcuterie Meats

  • Source Locally: Purchase meats from local butchers or farmers’ markets when possible to ensure freshness and transparency.
  • Evaluate Appearance: High-quality meat should have a firm texture, moist appearance, and vibrant color.
  • Smell the Meat: Fresh meat should smell clean; any sour odors suggest poor quality.
  • Ask Questions: Engage with butchers about the meat’s origins and best before dates to ensure you’re getting the best cuts.
  • Check Certifications: Look for labels like USDA Organic or Certified Humane, which indicate higher standards of animal welfare and meat processing.
  • Try Specialty and Imported Meats: Artisan and imported meats often offer superior quality and authentic flavors.

How to Slice and Serve

  • Use the Right Knife: For precise slicing, use a long, thin, and sharp knife. A dedicated charcuterie or slicing knife is ideal for achieving paper-thin slices without tearing the meat.
  • Slice Against the Grain: Look at the direction of the muscle fibers and slice perpendicular to them. This technique ensures the meat is tender rather than chewy, enhancing the eating experience.
  • Thickness Matters: Different meats benefit from different thicknesses. For delicate meats like prosciutto or bresaola, aim for almost translucent slices. Thicker cuts work well for salamis and chorizos, which helps to fully appreciate their texture and spice.
  • Let it Rest: Allow the meats to come to room temperature before serving, as this enhances their flavor and makes them easier to slice.
  • Arrange with Care: Lay out the slices on your charcuterie board with a bit of overlap for easy picking. For a visually appealing presentation, consider folding salami slices into halves or quarters, or rolling them into tubes. You can even learn how to style your salami and other meats into “rose” and “flower” shapes.
  • Pair and Place: Position meats on the board next to compatible flavors like cheeses, pickles, or bread. This encourages guests to experiment with different flavor combinations.
Various charcuterie meats and accoutrements on a wooden board.

Maintaining Your Meats

Proper storage of charcuterie meats is essential to maintain their freshness and safety, ensuring they remain delicious and safe to eat from the moment they are purchased until they are served. Here are several key tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep It Cold: Charcuterie meats should be stored in the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C). The cooler temperatures slow bacterial growth and help preserve the quality and safety of the meats.
  • Use Airtight Containers: Once the original packaging is opened, transfer the meats to airtight containers or resealable plastic bags to minimize exposure to air. This helps prevent the meats from drying out and protects them from absorbing odors from other foods in the refrigerator.
  • Separate Raw and Cooked: Always store raw meats separately from cooked and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination. Use separate containers, and ideally, store them on different shelves.
  • Monitor Shelf Life: Pay attention to the expiration dates on packaged charcuterie. For freshly sliced meats from a deli, consume them within three days for best quality. If you’re unsure, it’s safer to err on the side of caution and dispose of older meats.
  • Avoid Freezing, If Possible: While freezing can extend the shelf life of many foods, freezing charcuterie meats can alter their texture and flavor. If you must freeze, use them for cooked dishes upon thawing rather than serving them on a charcuterie board.
  • Serving Tips: When serving, only take out as much as you think will be eaten to avoid having to store the meats repeatedly. If the meats sit out for more than two hours at room temperature (or one hour in hot weather above 90°F or 32°C), it is best to discard them to avoid the risk of foodborne illness.
A variety of charcuterie meats, pâté, and terrines.

Pairing Meats with Other Board Components

Here is a general guide on selecting the cheeses, crackers, jams, fruits, pickles, and nuts that will complement the best meats for charcuterie boards:


Choose a variety of textures and flavors. Pair milder meats like turkey or chicken with creamy, mild cheeses like Brie or Camembert. For spicier meats like chorizo, opt for bold, aged cheeses such as Manchego or sharp Cheddar. Include a blue cheese like Gorgonzola for its strong flavor that complements fatty meats like salami.

Crackers and Bread

Choosing the right base is crucial for showcasing your charcuterie and cheeses. Opt for a variety of textures: delicate, crisp crackers complement soft cheeses and spreads, while denser breads like baguettes or hearty artisan crackers hold up well against thick cuts of meat and robust pâtés. Keep flavors simple to avoid overpowering your meats and cheeses. Explore our comprehensive recommendations in our guide to the best crackers for charcuterie boards.

Jams and Spreads

Complement the salty and savory notes of charcuterie meats with the right jams and spreads. Fig jam pairs exquisitely with rich meats like pâté, while a savory caramelized onion jam is a hit with bresaola. Quince paste cuts through the richness of aged cheeses like Manchego. For those who enjoy a bit of heat, a dab of spicy mustard or pepper jelly can add a delightful contrast. For a detailed selection, check out our guide to the best jams and spreads for charcuterie.


Fresh fruits can add sweetness and acidity, balancing the richness of meats. Grapes, figs, and slices of pear or apple are classic choices. For a tangy twist, add dried fruits like apricots or cherries. Citrus segments can also cleanse the palate and enhance the flavors of the meat.

Pickles and Condiments

The acidity and crunch from pickles and related condiments offer a refreshing counterbalance to the richness of meats and cheeses. Cornichons, with their tart bite, are a classic pairing, while pickled onions or peppers add a vibrant zing. Don’t forget other briny delights like olives and artichoke hearts, which blend beautifully with the varied flavors on your board. Dive deeper into our specially curated guide to the best pickles for charcuterie for more ideas.


Nuts bring texture and earthiness to your board. Almonds and walnuts are versatile and work well with almost any meat. For a saltier kick, try salted pistachios or cashews. Marcona almonds, which are slightly sweeter and softer, pair wonderfully with ham or prosciutto.

Jars of jams, preserves, and spreads on a red background.
The Best Jams and Spreads For Your Charcuterie Board

Some Classic Charcuterie Pairings

  • Prosciutto and Melon: The sweetness of ripe melon contrasts beautifully with the salty, rich flavor of prosciutto, making this a timeless summer pairing.
  • Salami and Aged Cheddar: The sharpness and slight crumbliness of aged cheddar balance the fat and spice of salami, making for a robust and satisfying pairing.
  • Bresaola and Parmesan: The air-dried, salted bresaola with its lean, beefy flavor complements the nutty, crystalline texture of aged Parmesan cheese.
  • Chorizo and Manchego: The spicy, robust flavor of chorizo pairs perfectly with the firm, buttery texture of Manchego, a sheep’s milk cheese from Spain.
  • Salchichón and Aged Provolone: The garlicky, slightly spicy bite of Salchichón pairs seamlessly with the bold, sharp flavors of aged Provolone cheese.
  • Soppressata and Roasted Red Peppers: The spicy and garlicky notes of soppressata are wonderfully balanced by the sweet smokiness of roasted red peppers.
  • Mortadella and Pistachios: Often incorporated directly into the meat, pistachios also make a great side pairing with mortadella for their textural contrast and complementary flavors.
  • Speck and Asiago Cheese: The nutty, slightly sweet flavors of this hard cheese balance well with the rich, smoky taste of speck.
  • Capocollo and Pickled Onions: The fatty richness of capocollo is offset by the sharp tanginess of pickled onions, enhancing the flavors of each.
  • Pâté and Cornichons: The rich, smooth texture of pâté (liver or otherwise) is nicely cut by the tart and crunchy cornichons, providing a classic French bistro experience.
  • Guanciale and Sharp Pecorino Cheese: The lush, fatty richness of guanciale is brilliantly complemented by the salty, tangy profile of sharp Pecorino cheese, forming a pairing that is both indulgent and satisfyingly balanced.
The fully assembled and finished charcuterie bouquet.
How To Make A Charming Charcuterie Bouquet With Salami Roses

And there you have it – there’s something truly magical about assembling a variety of the best meats for charcuterie boards along with a mix of complementary cheeses, fruits, and crunchies.

Whether it’s for a cozy night in with your favorite movie or a lively gathering with friends, a charcuterie board brings more than just great flavors; it brings people together. It’s a canvas for creativity and conversation, a way to explore new tastes, and a chance to showcase your personal flair.

So why not make your next get-together a delicious adventure? Dive into the world of charcuterie, mix and match flavors, and maybe even discover some new favorites.

Remember, there’s no one right way to do it – the best charcuterie board is one that reflects your unique tastes and the joy you find in sharing it with others.

So go ahead, get creative, have fun, and let your charcuterie board be the centerpiece of your next unforgettable gathering!

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