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How to Make a Charcuterie Board

Created May 22, 2024
Charcuterie Board with vegitables
There’s nothing quite like a perfectly curated spread of meats, cheeses, and tasty touches to put you in the mood to mingle. A charcuterie board is the ultimate festive appetizer that just screams celebration. And whether you’re a seasoned host or charcuterie-newbie, we’ll take you through the steps to creating a board that’s as stunning as it is tasty.

What Equipment Do I Need to Build the Perfect Charcuterie Board?

An artful charcuterie tray starts with the perfect board. Pick something that’s sturdy enough to support your spread and visually fits the vibe you’re trying to capture. Go for materials like wood or slate for a laid back, rustic touch, or sleek marble for a more polished look. Consider the size of your gathering as well, so your finished charcuterie board is large enough to feed your whole crew. If you’re serving up a super-sized charcuterie board for an extra-large gathering you may have to use multiple boards.

Now that you’ve chosen the perfect base for your charcuterie board, you’ll want to have a few other items on hand for the perfect presentation and seamless serving.

Cheese knives: Knives with different shapes and sizes cater to various cheese textures. A pronged cheese knife slices and serves soft varieties, while a flat knife handles semi-soft cheeses. There is a narrow plane cheese knife to slice firmer cheeses, and a cleaver to tackle the hard types. A spreader works wonderfully for creamy, spreadable cheeses, or there is even a cheese wire, a fantastic tool for cutting hard cheeses that might be likely to split or crumble during slicing. Consider slicing all but your softest cheeses ahead of time, so your guests can help themselves with ease.

Small spoons and butter knives: Spoons are ideal for drizzling honey or scooping jams, and butter knives help serve spreadable ingredients. Position them alongside the component they’re meant to serve to keep your board neat, even as people eat.

Little tongs: Place a few throughout your board for serving and portioning. They’ll give people a neat and easy way to pick up meats, crackers, or other large components.

Containers, jars, bowls: To contain loose items and add visual interest, incorporate containers, jars, or bowls for items like olives, nuts, or spreads. These neat little vessels not only keep your board organized but they can also add some extra flair to your overall presentation.

With your equipment at the ready, you can start to think about how you’ll tackle assembling your charcuterie board. While it might be tempting to take a free-for-all approach, improvising may not be the best tactic. You’ll get the best results if you start by anchoring your arrangement with the biggest elements and working your way down.

Start with the Bowls

This includes the containers, bowls or jars you’ve picked and the extras that go into them, like nuts, brined or pickled items, and jams or spreads. Typically you’ll want to have about 2-3 of these items, so making room for them first is the best way to start your board.

Add the Cheeses

The next step is adding the cheeses. No need to worry about choosing a ton of different types—2-3 will do the trick. For added visual interest, try cutting your cheese into different shapes before arranging on the board: chisel a hard cheese like Parmesan, cut brick style cheeses into slices, and leave soft or wedge cheeses whole.

Arrange the Meats

Now that you have the bigger items arranged on the board, fill in the open spots with your meat. Placing them in patterns that resemble loose waves will create “rivers of charcuterie” that are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palate! And just like with your extras and cheese, 2-3 kinds are ideal.

Add Crackers & Breads

Now add your crackers. You can place them in small stacks around the board, or fan them out if you have room. Crackers and breads create a base for all the deliciousness on your board, as well as another enticing visual, so make sure to offer 2-3 varieties.

Add Additional Items as Garnish

Now you’re ready for the final touches! Fill in any remaining spaces with fun extra items like fruit, fresh herbs, or even edible flowers. This step is all about adding a pop of color and your own personal style to your charcuterie board, so go ahead and get creative!

Speaking of styling, it’s a good idea to think through your color theme beforehand as you’re planning your charcuterie board. Stick to 2-4 colors for a cohesive look. For example, neutral crackers and cheeses are offset beautifully with pops of dark purple, red and green achieved with raspberry jam, green pears, green grapes, and a darkly marbled cheese.

A charcuterie board is only as good as it is accessible. So make sure that all elements are easy to reach and serve. If there is a hard to cut cheese placed near the middle of the board, you can guarantee it will be virtually untouched after your guests leave.

And remember, a charcuterie board is best enjoyed at room temperature. So let your board sit out for about 30 minutes before serving so all elements are ready for guests to dig in.

Adding meat to Charcuterie Board

What Are the Best Meats for a Charcuterie Board?

As the main attraction in your charcuterie board, a good selection of meats (aim for 2-3 varieties) sets the stage for snacking success. Cured meats offer the robust salty and savory notes that perfectly balance the richness of the cheese with the crisp, acidic pickles or sweet fruits. Smoked salmon or tinned fish also work nicely on a charcuterie board, just keep food safety in mind, as these items are only recommended to sit out at room temperature for two hours. Here are some classic meats to consider.


Prosciutto has a delicate, buttery texture and slightly sweet flavor. It pairs well with figs or dried fruits for a classic combination of sweet and savory. You can find prosciutto at an Italian deli or specialty foods store.


Salami is a more intensely flavored, coarsely ground sausage that is seasoned with a variety of spices, including garlic, pepper, and sometimes wine. The flavor can range from spicy to slightly sweet, with a firm texture and bold taste that holds its own alongside more robust cheeses. You can buy salami at nearly any grocery store.


Sopressata is an Italian dry salami with a flavor profile that includes hot pepper or sweet fennel. It’s coarsely ground, giving it a chunky texture and rustic look. Sopressata pairs well with sharp cheeses and olives and you can pick it up at an Italian deli or specialty grocer.

Chopping board with olive and meat

What Cheeses Should I Add to My Charcuterie Board?

Cheese adds richness to your charcuterie board, and provides a wonderfully tasty complement to the salty, smokiness of the cured meat. For an eye and palate pleasing selection, it’s best to go with 2-3 varieties. When determining quantities, a good rule of thumb is to purchase 2 oz. of cheese per person. Make sure to round out the flavor and texture notes while sticking to your color theme. These cheese options can ensure you have the right mix, and you can pick them up at your local cheese shop or specialty foods store.

Mild, Soft Cheeses

Soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert offer a buttery richness that melts in the mouth, contrasting beautifully with the saltiness of cured meats.

Hard or Semi-hard Cheeses

Semi-hard cheeses, like Gouda or cheddar, introduce nutty and sweet notes that pair well with dried fruits and jams, while hard cheeses like Parmesan have a salty bite that pairs well with fruits and nuts.

Funky or Marbled Cheeses

Blue cheese or Gorgonzola, with their signature blue veining, bring in an interesting visual element and a strong flavor that balances perfectly with sweeter items like honey or jams. These more flavorful options go over especially well with adventurous eaters, so it’s important to know your guests and what they might enjoy.

Olive, Crackers and Breads adding to Charcuterie Board

What Crackers and Breads Can I Add to My Charcuterie Board?

The unsung heroes of the charcuterie board, crackers and breads use their more subtle flavors to make the other ingredients sing! Offering 2-3 options gives textural contrast while adding visual interest. Mildly flavored crackers complement the cheeses and meats without overshadowing them, while breads like baguette or sourdough slices add a wholesome, hearty element. Crackers infused with nuts, seeds, and herbs and spices like rosemary or pepper can really compliment different cheeses and meats, tying the different elements of the board together. Here are a few options for a perfect assortment.

Crisps with Nuts & Seeds

A hearty cracker with a lot of flavor that stands up to even the most robust meats and cheeses. Find these on the shelves of your favorite grocery store or in the specialty foods aisle.

Black Pepper Water Crackers

A thin cracker made from flour, water and little or no salt, water crackers have a mild flavor that pairs perfectly with all components on a charcuterie board. A black pepper variety adds a bit of a twist that works well with with both sweet and savory elements–and you can pick them up at almost any grocery store


These toasted bits of bread are the perfect pairing for softer cheeses and spreads. Find them already prepared at your local specialty foods store.

Adding meat to Charcuterie Board

What Extras Usually Go on a Charcuterie Board?

Possibly the most fun element of all, these extra touches are what really make your charcuterie board special. Extras like fruits, nuts, jams, honey, pickles, olives, dried fruit and fresh herbs let you introduce additional flavors and colors, while you let your creativity shine. Make sure to keep your theme in mind as you choose your extra ingredients, but most importantly, have fun! Here are a few flourishes to consider when assembling your charcuterie board.


Green grapes, purple grapes, pears, green apples, berries, cherries, as well as dried fruits like apricots and figs add sweetness. These sweeter notes can offset the rich cheeses and salty meats, while adding bright and beautiful pops of color.


Shelled nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios or cashews, or even candied nuts bring savory, salty flavor and some much needed crunch to your charcuterie spread.

Spreads & Pickles

Incorporate some soft liquids like jams, mustards and honey that compliment your cheese and  meat choices. You can also choose some pickled or brined items like cornichon, olives, or pickled peppers for a bright, acidic pop.


It’s so much fun to garnish your charcuterie board with fresh, woody herbs like rosemary, mint, basil, thyme, or even edible flowers to tie your presentation and color palette together.

When in doubt, follow the 3-3-3-3 rule: that’s 3 meats, 3 cheeses, 3 crackers, and 3 extras. This will help ensure you have a well-rounded selection of items on your board.

Veggies and fruits on board

When Should I Make a Board?

The very best thing about charcuterie boards, aside from being delicious, is that you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to make one. They’re simple, fun and oh so versatile. So you can create a board perfect for any gathering (or cozy night at home).

Dinner or Cocktail Party

A charcuterie board is the perfect app to impress your guests. Just set it out before people arrive (remember, it needs 30 minutes to come to room temperature) and you’ll be good to go. If you want to try a twist on a classic board, this Burger Board is practically perfect for a dinner party.

Small Gatherings

From bridal showers to birthday parties, book clubs to holiday celebrations, a charcuterie board is always a hit. With so many amazing flavors, it will keep people mixing and mingling while they come back for more. Or try this BBQ board for your next backyard get together, or this Cheesecake Brunch Board that’s perfect for a bridal shower or birthday brunch.


Not sure what to bring to your next potluck? A charcuterie board is a guaranteed can’t miss. Eye-catching, delicious, and quick to assemble, it’s an easy option that’s also sure to get you plenty of compliments. You can even try this Kid’s Game Day Charcuterie Board, it’s a potluck all-star.

Now that you have all the secrets to assembling the perfect charcuterie board, you’re sure to wow at your next event. But even though they look impressive, this delicious dish is so quick and simple to assemble, you can create one any time for an easy meal or quick snack at home. And whatever you do, don’t be afraid to experiment—part of the fun is discovering your own signature combinations. Enjoy!