Level up your party appetizer game with a beautiful yet simple charcuterie board that will wow all your guests! So step right up beginners, we’ve got you covered with our easy step-by-step guide that takes the guesswork out of creating your own show-stopping spread.
Charcuterie: the epitome of elegance and sophistication, or so it seems. But let me let you in on a little secret: creating a stunning charcuterie spread doesn’t require a culinary degree or a pantry full of fancy ingredients. In fact, it’s all about simplicity and letting the flavors shine.
With just a few key components and a touch of creativity, you can transform a humble selection of meats, various cheeses, and accompaniments into a stunning display that will impress all your guests! So keep reading to see all of our simple and easy charcuterie board ideas and suggestions.
What is a Charcuterie Board and Why are They so Popular?
A good charcuterie board generally consists of an enticing assortment of cured meats, artisan cheeses, delectable spreads, and mouthwatering accompaniments, all artfully arranged on a board or platter.
Each bite should offer a harmonious blend of savory and salty notes, complemented by the richness of cheeses and the tang of spreads. The visual appeal of a charcuterie board is equally captivating, with a vibrant array of colors and textures that make it a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
The essential charm of the charcuterie board as the go-to easy appetizer for many, lies in its versatility. It is the perfect party food that you can personalize to suit any occasion, from casual get-togethers to elegant soirées. The beauty lies in the freedom to mix and match, creating your own unique combinations.
Looking for more in-depth info on how to create the perfect charcuterie board? Be sure to check out our guides to the best crackers for a charcuterie board, the best jams and spreads for your charcuterie board, and the best pickles to pair with charcuterie.
Essential Elements of a Charcuterie Board
Here is our list of the essential elements for building a simple charcuterie board and a guide for selecting all of your ingredients. All of the selections are commonly available in grocery stores and supermarkets throughout the U.S.
*The portions and suggestions listed below are for serving about 8 to 10 people so plan to adjust accordingly. See the recipe card below for the full list of ingredients to make the board as pictured.
You will need about 2 to 3 ounces of cheese per person. For a well rounded selection you will want at least three different cheeses in different textures. Choose at least one soft cheese, one semi-firm cheese, and one aged hard cheese -or- one blue cheese.
Soft and fresh cheeses (choose one of the following):
- Triple Cream
- Goat Cheese
- Fresh Mozzarella
Semi-firm cheeses (choose one of the following):
Choose one cheese from either the aged cheese or blue cheese sections below (or one from both!):
- Parmigiana Reggiano
- Aged Cheddar
- Pecorino Romano
- Rogue Creamery
- Point Reyes
- Saint Agur
Don’t be afraid to ask your cheese seller for suggestions, they are generally very excited to share their knowledge with you! They can be an especially good resource on the locally produced artisan cheese options available to you.
You can and should consider substituting locally produced versions of the styles of cheese listed above whenever possible. I often find hidden treasures at my local farmer’s market.
You will need about 2 to 3 ounces of meats per person. Choose 3 of the following:
- Prosciutto (or another thinly sliced cured ham)
- Italian dry salami
- Genoa salami
- Dry soppressata
- Calabrese Salami
- Capicola (aka Coppa)
- Smoked turkey
You will need about 3 to 4 ounces of crackers and/or bread per person. Choose 3 to 4 of the following:
- water crackers
- butter crackers
- multigrain crackers
- whole wheat crackers
- flatbread crackers
- wafer crackers
- herb crackers
- nut and/or seed crackers
- crostini (baguette Slices)
- sliced rustic loaf
- sourdough rolls
For something really unique, keep an eye out for fun holiday-shape crackers like the stars and hearts from Valley Lahvosh Baking Co.
One of my favorite things about a charcuterie board is that you can go as fancy or as simple as you want when it comes to the accompaniments. For a more simple budget-friendly board you can just bulk up on the fresh produce and go for some simple jams and mustards or even use your own homemade spreads.
Jams and Spreads
Choose 2 to 3 spreads and plan for about 1 ounce per person. There are so many sweet and savory jams and spreads choices, the sky’s the limit!
- Jams, Jellies, and Preserves
- soft Spreadable Cheeses (Boursin)
Pickled vegetables and olives
Choose two (about one ounce per person):
- Pickled peppers (peppadew, sweety drops)
- Pickled onions (red and cippolini)
- Caper Berries
- Marinated artichoke hearts
- Marinated mushrooms
For a more in-depth guide to all things pickled, check out our list of the best charcuterie pickles for your board.
Pro Tip: for the spreads, pickled veggies, and olives—prep ahead of time by portioning them into small bowls or ramekins for serving.
Fillers and garnishes
These items are perfect for filling up the remaining empty spaces on your board after placing your cheeses, meats, and small dishes and for rounding out all of the flavors and textures.
Fresh seasonal produce:
- Fresh fruits and veggies provide a refreshing and colorful contrast to the rich and savory elements on the board. Seasonal fruits, such as berries, grapes, or slices of melon, offer a juicy and sweet component that complements the cured meats and cheeses.
- On the other hand, sliced vegetables like cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, or radishes bring a crisp texture and a refreshing taste that balances the richness of the charcuterie. Plan on providing about 4 to 8 ounces of fresh produce per person.
Dried fruit and nuts:
- Dried fruits and nuts bring a perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors, delightful textures, and a great way to added nutritional value to a charcuterie board. They are also good picks for boards during the colder fall and winter months when there is less fresh seasonal produce to choose from.
- Fresh garnishes enhance the visual appeal of the board, adding pops of color, texture, and a touch of natural beauty. Choose from:
- Fresh herbs like basil, mint, rosemary, thyme
- Fresh greens like arugula and spring mix
- Edible flowers
Charcuterie Board Styling Techniques
Before we dive into the step-by-step guide for arranging your charcuterie board, let’s explore some creative ideas and styling tips to elevate the presentation of your ingredients. These simple techniques are all about adding that wow factor to your charcuterie board, making it a visual feast that is as impressive as it is delicious.
Use additional boards or serving dishes
- If you’ve got too much for one board why not make several smaller boards instead? Or move your crackers, bread, or other accompaniments to some side dishes and then artfully arrange them next to your board.
- Soft cheeses can be left whole for guests to slice themselves or you can pre-slice them with a sharp knife.
- Semi-firm cheeses should be cut into thin slices (or you can cut them into cubes). The easiest way to get uniform slices is to use a wire cheese slicer. For holiday season boards, you can use cookie cutter shapes like hearts and stars and even Christmas trees to create your slices of cheese!
- Aged firm cheeses tend to crumble into shard-like pieces when cut. So just go with it and cut all of the wedge or block this way or leave part of it uncut on the board.
- Fanning on a charcuterie board refers to arranging sliced meats, cheeses, and crackers in a fan-like pattern. Instead of stacking or layering these items, they are elegantly fanned out to create a visually appealing presentation.
- Fanning not only adds an aesthetic touch to the charcuterie board but also makes it easier for guests to grab a slice of their preferred meat or cheese without disturbing the arrangement.
- Before fanning or placing your cured meats onto the board, consider folding them into
- Half-fold and quarter-folds
- Prosciutto ribbons
- Meat roses – see our step-by-step instructions with images and video in our guide for how to make a charcuterie bouquet.
- A thorough how-to guide on all of these charcuterie folding techniques and more by That Cheese Plate‘s Marissa Mullen can be found in this article on how to style charcuterie.
VIDEO DEMO of SOME CHarcuterie STYLing Techniques
How to Arrange an Eye-Catching Charcuterie Board
This is an approachable board and a great appetizer that anyone should easily be able to put together at home by following these simple steps.
Time needed: 15 minutes
- Place the small dishes on your board:
Start with the small dishes containing your spreads and pickled/briny items and distribute them across the board. You will make adjustments as you continue to add more items, so don’t worry too much about specific placement. I used homemade cranberry mustard, morello (sour) cherry jam, mixed Italian olives, and peppadew peppers for this board.
- Add the cheeses:
Next, strategically place the larger wedges of cheeses (I used brie cheese and blue cheese) and space them apart from each other. If you have a really large wedge or round place it near the center of the board. Then drop a few small handfuls of cubed semi-firm cheeses onto the board. Or alternatively, if sliced, fan or layer them together. The idea is to keep the different elements distributed evenly across your board so that no similar items are right next to each other. I used local Seattle artisanal favorite Beecher’s Flagship which is a delicious cheddar-style cheese.
- Add the meats:
Now distribute the meats across the board. Fan and/or fold the larger meat slices before arranging (scroll down to the styling techniques section below for more on this). This makes them easier to enjoy and creates an inviting visual display. The Genoa salami in the photo came in pre-sliced overlapping layers so I just placed them as is. I folded the smoked turkey into quarters and then fanned around the cranberry mustard dish. And the prosciutto is folded into half-fold “ribbons”.
- Add the crackers:
Distribute and arrange the crackers. If you are layering or stacking them together and having trouble getting them to stay in place, start adding some of your accompaniments alongside them to keep them stable. I used Milton’s Multigrain, La Panzanella Croccantini, 34 Degrees Crisps (Cracked Pepper), and Raincoast Crisps (Rosemary Raisin Pecan) crackers.
- Add the accompaniments:
Fill the gaps and remaining space on your board with the rest of your accompaniments, thereby creating an attractive and balanced arrangement. I used blueberries and sliced strawberries and cantaloupe. The cantaloupe goes particularly well with the prosciutto. It’s a “berry” beautiful board, perfect for summer!
- Add visual elements:
The last step is to make your charcuterie board even more visually appealing by adding some fresh color-contrasting garnishes. This could include fresh herbs (I used fresh mint crowns for this board), fresh greens, or even edible flowers if you can find them. These smaller items are a great addition that can bring vibrancy and freshness and help to create a truly beautiful board.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a rating in the comments below and let us know how it turned out. Your feedback is important to us. Thank you for visiting Maplevine Kitchen!
Charcuterie Board Recommended Equipment
While it’s not necessary to have all of these suggested tools and utensils, incorporating them into your charcuterie board setup can add that extra special touch. From a well-chosen board to small dishes, cheese knives, and serving utensils, these items not only enhance the presentation but also make it easier for your guests to serve themselves.
Start with a well-sized and sturdy, food-safe board as the foundation of your display. Opt for a wooden board, such as a rustic serving platter or a bamboo cutting board, which adds warmth and natural elegance to the presentation.
A marble slab, slate, or large serving platter are also good options. Choose a small board or a large board depending on how many people you plan on serving. Ensure the board is large enough to accommodate your desired assortment of meats, cheeses, and accompaniments. I use a large cutting board for a party-size serving (8-10 people).
To keep various dips, spreads, or condiments separate and organized, include small dishes or ramekins on your board. These dishes can hold items like olives, pickles, mustards, or honey. Choose dishes that complement the overall aesthetic of your charcuterie board, whether they are ceramic, glass, or porcelain. You can also buy spreads and jams that come in their own cute little jars.
- Cheese knives specially designed for slicing, spreading, and serving different types of cheeses.
- Small spoons for serving jams, spreads, and nuts.
- Small tongs allow your guests to more easily serve themselves without using their hands.
How To Make A Simple Charcuterie Board
- 2 tongs
- 16 to 24 ounces cured meat (salami, prosciutto, smoked turkey)
- 8 ounces soft cheese (brie)
- 8 ounces semi-firm cheese (sharp cheddar)
- 8 ounces blue cheese
- 24 ounces crackers (multigrain, artisan, flatbread, wafers)
- 1 cup jam, spread, or honey (sour cherry jam and cranberry mustard)
- 6 ounces pickled/briny items (olives and peppadew peppers)
- 4 cups fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe)
- 1 handful fresh herbs for garnish (fresh mint crowns)
- Select a board or platter:Choose a large wooden board, marble slab, slate, or any other food-safe surface as the base for your charcuterie board.
- Gather your ingredients:Consider a mix of flavors, textures, and types to provide a well-rounded selection. For the charcuterie, choose a selection of cured meats such as prosciutto, salami, and sliced smoked turkey. Include a variety of cheeses like a soft or semi-soft, firm, a blue cheese or aged cheese. Some popular choices are brie, triple cream, cheddar, gouda, parmesan, goat cheese, and Havarti. Choose 2-4 different crackers in different shapes and flavors. Pick a variety of complementary items like olives, pickles, nuts, fresh or dried fruits, spreads, jams, or honey.
- Prepare the ingredients:Slice or arrange the hard cheeses into bite-sized pieces or thin slices and fold the larger meat slices. This makes them easier to enjoy and creates an inviting display. Prepare any additional accompaniments by portioning them into small bowls or ramekins.
- Arrange the board:Start by placing larger items on the board first, such as bowls of spreads or pickles. Then, strategically place the cheeses, meats, crackers, and other accompaniments in different areas of the board, creating an attractive and balanced arrangement. Fill in the gaps with fresh fruit or veggies, dried fruit, and/or nuts. *See full step-by-step instructions for arranging the board in the main body of the post.
- Add visual elements:To make your charcuterie board visually appealing, consider adding some colorful and contrasting garnishes. This could include fresh herbs, edible flowers, or small bunches of grapes. These additions can bring vibrancy and freshness and help to create a truly beautiful board.
- Serve and enjoy!Provide small plates, napkins, and cheese knives and spoons for easy serving. Encourage your guests to explore the different combinations of meats, cheeses, crackers, and accompaniments.
*Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Maplevine Kitchen makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.
Frequently Asked Questions
As a general guideline, plan on serving about 2 to 4 ounces (56 to 113 grams) each of cured meats and cheeses per person for a charcuterie board.
How do I make a budget–friendly charcuterie board?
Creating an impressive charcuterie board on a budget is all about smart choices and creative planning. Choose affordable cuts of cured meats like domestic ham or salami, and explore local cheese options that offer great flavor without the high price tag. Utilize seasonal fruits and vegetables to add freshness and color, and consider making your own spreads and accompaniments to save money. Look for budget-friendly cracker options and take advantage of sales and bulk sections. With thoughtful presentation and a focus on maximizing value, you can create a visually appealing and delicious charcuterie board without breaking the bank.