Charcuterie boards were SO unapproachable to me for the longest time. They look Super Fancy (and I’m Super Not!) But after years of making boards again and again for parties and holidays, I’ve finally figured out the tips you need to create the most beautiful charcuterie. I will break it down with ideas for what to put on a charcuterie board and how to make it EASY and simple for the beginner who knows nothing about cheese and fancy meat.

overhead charcuterie board ideas with oranges, apples, honey, pesto.
Table of Contents
  1. What is a charcuterie board?
  2. Why are charcuterie boards so fun??
  3. Charcuterie boards are stupid easy
  4. Rules for an amazing charcuterie board
  5. Meat is optional
  6. Your board is nothing without the sauce
  7. Tips for the best charcuterie board: variety
  8. Find a nice store to shop at. This is not a hole-in-the-wall moment.
  9. How to keep bread from getting soggy on charcuterie board
  10. How much cheese per person on a charcuterie board?
  11. Types of cheeses
  12. Hard / firm cheese ideas
  13. Semi-soft or “firm”cheese ideas
  14. Soft cheese
  15. “Stinky” cheese
  16. What type of meat goes on a charcuterie board?
  17. How much meat per person on a charcuterie board
  18. Charcuterie board ingredients
  19. How to make a charcuterie board
  20. How to arrange a charcuterie board
  21. What to serve with a charcuterie board
  22. Throw a cheese party (BYOC: bring your own cheese)
  23. How to store leftovers from a charcuterie board
  24. Can you freeze charcuterie board food?
  25. How to use leftovers from a Charcuterie board
  26. Gift your leftovers
  27. Lactose intolerant?
  28. Frequently asked questions
  29. More amazing appetizers to try
  30. How to Make a Charcuterie Board Recipe

I was flipping through radio stations in the car the other day, and that “Fast Car” song that Luke Combs covered came on. Edison, who is 3, lit up and said Oh, I like this song! After a minute he said, “This song is good, but I like the original one better.”

Oh you guys, the PRIDE!! Tracy Chapman forever. Who loves that old song? So classic. I may be a hot mess mom, but at least I’ve got one thing right: my kids are learning good music.

They’re learning all about balanced diets, too. Edison came home from a friend’s house yesterday, and I asked what he ate for lunch. “I had Pirate’s Booty! It’s good for your booty.”

Ha! Wouldn’t that be nice! If puffy cheese snacks are good for your booty, imagine what some REAL cheese is going to do for you. Our figures are never going to be better after eating all this charcuterie! I definitely prefer to boost my booty with straight up cheese. Does a body good, right? Or something?? 😂

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Bite of black pepper salami and green olive on toothpick from charcuterie board.

What is a charcuterie board?

The word “charcuterie” means cold cuts of meat. That’s French, but of course here in the states we’ve taken the idea of “laying out food on a board to look pretty” and run with it. Technically, there must be meat on the board for it to be “charcuterie.” And if there is just cheese it’s a “cheese board.” Tomato, toe-maht-o. These days, if you can have a pancake breakfast charcuterie board or a Dessert Charcuterie Board, or even a Soup Board, I say anything goes!

Why are charcuterie boards so fun??

Okay, I actually think ALL food is fun, but charcuterie boards definitely top the list of “fun food for adults.” Everyone loves them. Charcuterie boards make you feel So Cultured and Fancy. But really they are just glorified Lunchables, and a chance to eat with your hands. I’m here for it!

They make stunning centerpieces, and are often the star of the show. I just put one together for Thanksgiving last week, and at the end of the day my dad said to me, “All the food was so good Karen…but my favorite part of the whole day was the charcuterie board. I love all that stuff.” I’m telling you, if you want to win friends and influence people, buy them cheese and crackers.

small boy leaning over charcuterie board.

Our Thanksgiving spread last week. He’s even licking his lips, haha!!

A charcuterie board is such a warm welcome. They make guests feel loved and cared for, and show that you put effort into your gathering. Charcuterie boards are NOT hard, but they look SO amazing. If you are looking to make a big impression for a tiny amount of work, charcuterie boards are perfect.

Charcuterie boards are stupid easy

I’ve been working on getting better at building charcuterie boards for years. It did not come naturally for me! I struggled to get the hang of it for a long time.

Americans tend to feel a little insecure about charcuterie because most of us are not educated about fancy meats and cheeses. But I promise, you can do this. I will show you everything you need to know!

I will tell you my big secret: as long as you have a plan before you shop, and follow a few simple guidelines, you will find out just how incredibly easy charcuterie boards are to put together.

ingredients on a counter and board for making a charcuterie.

Prepping a board at my sister Nikki’s house a few years ago, where I labeled what ingredient went in each dish, to save myself time putting it together before the event. (That’s honeycomb right in the middle, a delicious addition and fun conversation starter.)

Charcuterie boards used to be overwhelming to me because there are literally infinite options. As someone who is already a little scatter-brained, walking into the fancy-cheese section in the deli and being bombarded with hundreds of options is super overwhelming. Which cheeses should I pick? I can only pick FOUR?? And there are rules about hard, soft, stinky, mellow? What even?

What I ended up doing for a very long time was going in with no plan, and waaay over buying. I’d walk out of the store with way more cheese than I needed for my party. And often I bought visually, meaning I bought the cheeses that were “cute”: adorable round rinds that look like they came fresh from a French dairy farm. There is nothing wrong with cute cheese, but often that meant I was buying 4 different kinds of Triple Cream cheese and nothing else.

Assortment of nice triple cream cheeses in packaging arranged on a wooden display board.

All of these cheeses are adorable and look like they belong on a board right? I mean come on, look at that red checkered paper and wooden box. The problem is that they all serve the same purpose: all these cheeses are mild and soft. They serve as a buttery, fatty compliment to whatever you pair it with. This is DELICIOUS, but you only need one like this on your board.

Rules for an amazing charcuterie board

Here is a basic overview of what you need to know. I’ve got all the details below, so don’t freak out thinking of all the options! My recipe below tells you EXACTLY what to do if you are a beginner.

  • You need a variety of types of cheese: at least 1 soft, 1 hard, 1 tangy. Variety of cheese, in my opinion, is more important than anything else.
  • I tell people this whenever they start gushing about a board I’ve created: the main thing that’s impressive about a charcuterie board is that there is SO MUCH FOOD. It doesn’t matter what the food is, if you keep piling it on and adding MORE, it’s going to look very colorful and impressive. My goal is to cover every part of the board so you can’t see the wood anymore. But guys, that’s just my style! It doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of amazing boards that are more minimal. But if you have a big party, watch as people’s eyes pop out of their heads when they see the giant mound of food you have on your board. It’s so fun!
  • Variety is everything when it comes to making your board feel special.
  • Choose what you like. Don’t buy ANYTHING if you don’t think your guests will eat it. This trumps every other “rule” for charcuteries.
food on a wooden board ready to eat, like meats, cheese, carrots, jam, etc.

Meat is optional

Meat is tasty but optional! Seriously! People care more about the cheese than the meat. I said what I said guys. Fight me if you want. I have put together SO many charcuterie boards where hardly any of the meat was eaten.

Charcuterie spread out on a wood table.

This was the first board I ever tried to build, for a Christmas party back in…2018? I got SO confused and befuddled at the store and ended up buying way too much. And SO much meat leftover!

I know, no meat technically makes it a “cheese board” and not charcuterie, but go ahead and explain this to your guests and watch as their eyes roll into the back of their head from boredom over this technicality.

Not everyone feels meat is optional, though. One time a couple years ago my sister-in-law realized I didn’t have any cold cuts for the board and she actually went off to the store to get some. I thought it was so funny! Know your audience I guess! But most of all, choose what YOU like.

Also, people will eat more meat if your charcuterie is serving as a light meal rather than as an appetizer to a main course.

Your board is nothing without the sauce

A choice of fun and interesting jams, sauces, and savory spreads absolutely MAKE a charcuterie board. Don’t skimp in this area.

On that note: having even just one homemade item makes your board really special. It’s ALWAYS the star of the board. Here are some of my favorites to serve with a charcuterie board:

pears, chimichurri, mandarin, peppers, and cheese on a charcuterie board.

Tips for the best charcuterie board: variety

The key to a great charcuterie board is providing an assortment of options that lends itself to mixing flavors to create an endless amount of delicious combinations.

  • Provide a few different types of crackers and bread. Make them bite size so people don’t have to use plates. (Unless you want them to.)
  • Make sure to choose a variety of ingredients based on texture: crispy, soft, chewy.
  • Have something spicy and something sweet
  • Serve cheese room temperature; it’s more flavorful than cold cheese. Get it out of the fridge about a half hour before serving.

Find a nice store to shop at. This is not a hole-in-the-wall moment.

  • Do your shopping at a grocery store that is fancy enough that it has an olive bar. What’s an olive bar? read this conversation about Olive bars, wtf? for a good laugh. (“You can take my olives when you pry them from my salty, oily fingers!!”) An Olive bar is just what it sounds like: a variety of olives and other pickled-y type things that you can package up yourself and pay for by weight. They are SO good and have fresh, high quality ingredients. You will always find something great for your board at the deli olive bar.
  • Last random tip: try to build your board when no one is around. My family acts like they have NEVER SEEN FOOD whenever I’m trying to put one together. They hover like actual vultures. It’s kind of hilarious and endearing that they get so excited actually, so I can’t complain! It’s easier to make placements on the board and decisions about where things go when you aren’t constantly losing ingredients. Maybe this is just common sense and I didn’t need to mention it?? 😆
overhead shot of half eaten charcuterie board.

Here’s a board from a few years ago that was decimated before I could even get started on making it pretty. THESE KIDS!! Look, one of them even opened a granola bar and left it. How dare they.

How to keep bread from getting soggy on charcuterie board

This is a real issue! It’s so sad to realize an hour into your party that all the available dippers are soggy from the honey or oil from your olives. Be strategic in your placement, and arrange the crackers or bread in neat piles or rows, making sure they are not touching anything that will make them soggy.

To be honest though, these days I often don’t put the bread and crackers on the board itself. I usually have baskets and bowls of crackers nearby. I know, I know, this is not what Instagram says to do, but soggy crackers are annoying! Sometimes I will lay out an entire second board that ONLY has breads and crackers on it, arranging them nicely, to keep the dry dippers separate from the charcuterie board.

overhead shot of charcuterie with pate.

My Christmas Eve board from a few years ago, with the Rye bread in a separate bowl. (The pink stuff in the bowl is Liver Pate, a very classic Swedish spread that Eric’s family always makes for their Christmas Eve dinner with Rye bread and Swedish Meatballs. The Rye bread is going up on the blog later in December, I’ve been meaning to post it for YEARS! Do you want the pate recipe? It’s delicious. Those are Butter Pecan Cookies on the top left.)

How much cheese per person on a charcuterie board?

As a general rule, you can plan on about 2 ounces of cheese per person. This is the amount you want if you are serving your board as an appetizer. If it’s serving as a light dinner, move up to 3-4 ounces per person.

Here is a very basic guide for how-much-cheese-to-buy, calculated as an APPETIZER, not dinner:

Cheese per person for a board serving 3-5 people

  • 3 to 4 ounces hard cheese (total for the board)
  • 3 to 4 ounces soft cheese (total for the board)
  • 3 to 4 ounces tangy cheese (total for the board)

Cheese per person for a board serving 6-8 people

  • 5 to 6 ounces hard cheese (total for the board)
  • 5 to 6 ounces soft cheese (total for the board)
  • 5 to 6 ounces tangy cheese (total for the board)

Cheese per person for a board serving 10-15 people

  • 10+ ounces hard cheese (total for the board)
  • 10+ ounces soft cheese (total for the board)
  • 10+ ounces tangy cheese (total for the board)

Types of cheeses

When I am choosing cheeses for a board, I always choose a hard cheese, a soft cheese, and tangy cheese (almost always goat cheese). If you have a lot of guests, add more from there. Here are some cheese ideas in each category:

Hard / firm cheese ideas

Hard cheese examples include: Parmigiano, aged gouda, asiago, well-aged cheddar, gruyere.

Arrangement of hard cheese on wood board including pecorino romano, black pepper toscano, white cheddar, manchego, and asiago with rosemary.

When you cut into a very hard cheese, it will crumble like this:

Close-up shot of cheese chowing different crumbly qualities including pecorino romano.

If you look closely at this Pecorino Toscano cheese, you can see the white crystals (called Tyrosine crystals) that form as cheese ages. They are crunchy and SO flavorful. If you see any crystals like this, you know you are holding a very flavorful, hard, aged cheese.

Semi-soft or “firm”cheese ideas

Semi-soft or firm cheese examples: Havarti, not-as-aged cheddar, muenster, fontina, not-aged gouda, comte, manchego (my FAVORITE), colby.

Arrangement of semi-soft packaged cheeses including havarti with dill, habañero cheddar, fontina, and gouda.

Firm/semi-soft cheese is not as squishy and squeezable and spreadable as a soft cheese (think brie), but not as crumbly as a very hard cheese (think Parmesan). It’s somewhere in the middle.

Sometimes the best way to know what type of cheese you’re thinking about buying is just to squeeze it. Does it feel as hard as Parmigiano? It’s probably hard cheese. Does it feel soft like goat cheese? It’s a soft cheese by golly! Does it feel like your average cheddar cheese that you put on your sandwich yesterday? Then it’s “firm” or semi-soft.

Soft cheese

Soft cheese examples: Brie (or anything labeled “Triple Cream” or “Double Cream”), Boursin, burrata, mascarpone, stracchino, cream cheese, goat cheese, ricotta cheese, camembert, even cottage cheese.

Arrange of soft cheeses in packaging on wooden board including burrata, boursin, brie, camembert, goat, ricotta, cottage, and pave.

Ricotta, cottage cheese, and cream cheese are all GREAT options to include if your audience might be a little nervous about eating soft cheese. (Kids, for example. And wimpy adults.) They are mild and accessible and still great for spreading on crackers. Fancy them up by sprinkling with salt and pepper or beating and then drizzling with olive oil.

“Stinky” cheese

These cheeses can range in softness to hardness, but they are all very strong.

Arrangement of crumbly, stinky cheeses in packaging on wooden board including gorgonzola, blue stilton, and triple cream.

Stinky cheese examples include Blue cheese, gorgonzola, dunbarton blue, marbled blue jack, goat cheese. Any cheese that has blue marbling in it goes in this category. I put goat cheese in this category (even though it is soft enough to be spreadable) because I feel like it serves the same purpose as a blue cheese: it’s tangy and very potent.

What type of meat goes on a charcuterie board?

There are endless options, but I like to keep it SIMPLE and buy what I actually like. My favorites include:

  • thinly sliced Pastrami or sliced black forest ham from the deli
  • Genoa salami or peppered salami
  • Soppressata (is similar to salami)
  • Calabrese Salami (spicy)
  • Proscuitto
  • Chorizo
  • Mortadella
  • any type of cured sausage
Assortment of packaged deli meats including mortadella, procsiutto, salame, chorizo, and roast beef.

If you go to a nice store, often they will have meats packaged together, chosen specifically to go on a charcuterie. I find it so much easier to buy one or two of these prepackaged ones! That way you know you are getting a good variety, instead of accidentally buying 3 kinds of meats that all taste very similar.

How much meat per person on a charcuterie board

Meat per person for 3-5 people

  • 3 to 4 ounces Genoa salami or Soppressata
  • 3 to 4 ounces prosciutto, Mortadella, or pancetta
  • 3 to 4 ounces spicy meat like Chorizo or Spicy Coppa

Meat per person for 6-8 people

  • 5 to 6 ounces Genoa salami or Soppressata
  • 5 to 6 ounces prosciutto, Mortadella, or pancetta
  • 5 to 6 ounces spicy meat like Chorizo or Spicy Coppa

Meat per person for 10-15 people

  • 10+ ounces Genoa salami or Soppressata
  • 10+ ounces prosciutto, Mortadella, or pancetta
  • 10+ ounces spicy meat like Chorizo or Spicy Coppa
Arranging a bite of triple-cream cheese, deli-cut roast beef, homemade pesto, on a slice of baguette close up.

Charcuterie board ingredients

Here are my favorite ingredients and must-haves! Remember, charcuterie boards are completely customizable, so make whatever changes you want. Because the sky is the limit, I used to find the prospect of choosing my own cheeses and garnishes very overwhelming, so for this post I have added in very specific ingredients, just to give you somewhere to start.

Exact instructions and amounts for these are in the recipe card below, but please remember this is about creating a board that YOU love, or that will really fit the theme or group you’re aiming for. Use these as a guideline and switch them up to meet your needs! 

  • Brie
  • white cheddar
  • goat cheese
  • manchego cheese
  • pesto
  • marinated olives, or marinated roasted peppers
  • fig jam
  • pastrami
  • peppered salami
  • Capicola
  • pears
  • pickles
  • tomatoes
  • blueberries
  • cuties
  • berries
  • baguette
  • Almond thins
  • Club crackers
  • Pretzel crisps
  • honeycomb, or bowl of honey
  • dried apricots
  • rosemary sprigs
  • mustard
overhead shot of a round charcuterie board with brie, cheddar, oranges, pesto, crackers, bread, etc.

How to make a charcuterie board

Here’s the basic order for how to make a charcuterie board. I’ll go into more detail below. All specific ingredients are just suggestions!

  1. Add cheese: Place Brie, white cheddar, Manchego, and goat cheese on the board.
  2. Add “anchor” bowls or jars. One bowl of pesto, one bowl of olives, one jar of fig jam.
  3. Add meat: pastrami, peppered salami, and Capicola.
  4. Add fresh fruit: add a sliced pear, apple, blueberries, strawberries, cutie oranges.
  5. Add veggies: cherry tomatoes.
  6. Add crackers or bread slices: baguette, Club crackers, Pretzel Crisps.
  7. Add nuts, dried fruit, plus more spreads and sauces. Add pistachios or Marcona almonds, dried figs or apricots, and a tiny bowl of honey.

How to arrange a charcuterie board

Start by toasting your baguette so it’s ready to go. Slice the bread on a bias because it’s pretty. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toast in the oven at 450 for about 5-6 minutes, until just firm, you don’t want them too brown. Set aside to cool.

Prepping sliced french bread with oil, salt, and pepper and toasted slices after having come out of the oven.

Make the pesto, if that’s your savory sauce of choice. I didn’t snap any pictures of this, but it’s so easy. Just dump all the ingredients in the food processor, whirl it up, and bam, pesto in 5 minutes. The recipe is in the notes at the bottom of the recipe card.

Now it’s time to start putting it all together! Place your cheeses on an 18-inch board.

Assembling charcuterie board starting with four cheeses in packaging and then sliced and ready out of packaging.

If you are planning to pre-slice it for your guests, do it now while you have space on the board. It’s totally okay to leave the cheese whole and allow guests to slice.

Next step: add your “anchor” bowls. Today we are using one jar of spicy fig jam, one bowl of pesto, and one bowl of marinated olives:

Arranging charcuterie board with cheeses, sauces, and olives in the first part of assembling the display.

Don’t forget to add in spoons for these items.

Next up: the meat. Don’t stress about arranging it in the exact right spot. Just throw it on there wherever you think it looks good, and you can shuffle it around as you add more food.

Rolling roast beef and other meats in order to add to charcuterie board also with above shot of board in assembly.

Folding meat: It’s trendy right now to get super fancy with the meat folding. I’ve never been much into this, but don’t let that stop you from using your salami to make paper-crane origami level creations. Above you can see how I rolled my pastrami, and here is a simple example of how to fold salami so it looks flower-y.

How to fold a piece of black pepper salame for display.

See? simple. Still looks great. Don’t stress yourself out!

Next up: If you choose to add bread and crackers to the board itself (as is traditional) add them in now, along with fruits and veggies. I love to include a variety of crackers. I LOVE those Delallo Sesame crackers on the bottom left there. And it’s always fun to include something fancy like the Fig and Olive Crisps:

Assort of of crackers in boxes and picture of charcuterie board during assembly with cheeses, meats, sauces, spreads, olives, and bread and cracker options.

Sometimes I like to keep my bread and crackers separate, in their own bowls or on plates. That way they don’t get soggy!

Next up, we are adding in fruits, veggies, and other fillers like nuts. I love these teeny tiny 1-ounce jars of honey and jam you can find in a charcuterie display of the deli. It’s a great way to add variety without going overboard on amounts:

three small jars of spread including sour cherry, fig, and hot honey on wooden board for display.

I always have honey available on my boards, but to my own downfall because hello, I have 4 kids. My 7-year-old comes in and sees bread and honey and goes to town. Every time we have a charcuterie board I end up with honey all over my counters and in her hair. Ha! I love honey on my cheese too much to leave it out, but fair warning if you have any kids/heathens you’re feeding.

Charcuterie board arranged with assortment of cheese, fruit, meats, nuts, sauces, spreads, bread, and crackers.

And voila! Here she is! Remember, at this point, you can keep adding more of all the same things you already have until the board is full and overflowing. A board that is piled high is SO much fun! (if that’s your style ;)

Delectable morsel of cheese, sweet cracker, deli meat, and fig jam close up on white plate.

One of my favorite things to do when making a board is ask guests what their favorite combo from the board is! Sometimes people come up with things I wouldn’t have thought of. This is Manchego, Fig-Olive cracker, spicy Coppa, and fig jam.

What to serve with a charcuterie board

Usually for me, snacking on a charcuterie board is a meal on its own (I can’t stop myself from going back!)

But it’s perfect to serve as an appetizer before a large holiday meal, at any kind of party. They are also fun at bridal or baby showers, or even a game night.

I mentioned above that one of my favorite things to do is have at least ONE homemade item on my board. Here are some other ideas:

Throw a cheese party (BYOC: bring your own cheese)

I mentioned that I was shooting charcuterie boards this week, and my friend Jackie told me about a fun party idea she’s done before. Ask all the invitees to bring 1 kind of cheese and a couple extra ingredients of their choice: meats, crackers, bread, a dip or spread, or some fruits/veggies/nuts. It’s fun to see what people pick, and even more fun to put it all together on the board and snack away together.

Picture of a charcuterie board with cheese, meat, fruits, honey, oranges, blueberries, etc.

How to store leftovers from a charcuterie board

If you know you’ll be snacking on it again soon, like later in the evening or the next day, you can remove all the crackers and bread, then cover the whole board well in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge where everything will be fine til you pull it out. Keep the crackers and bread in their original bags or in ziplock bags.

If you’ve made the charcuterie directly on parchment/butcher paper on a buffet table, you can leave it out and just cover anything that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Put the cheeses and meats in their original containers or tupperware until ready to eat, then add back to the board later.

If you don’t plan on serving any of the leftovers together, just repackage each item in its original container or a new one if need be. Refrigerate cheese, meat, jelly, or veggie leftovers. Bread and crackers can stay in the pantry. Follow the best-by date on the package for how long each item will last. 

One thing to note. Sometimes, a charcuterie board can get messy, especially depending on the people you’re serving (ahem, like if any children will have access to it). Take a moment to judge your board when it’s all said and done. There may be some items that just make more sense to throw away if they were dripped on or picked at. Just use your discretion!

Can you freeze charcuterie board food?

Honestly, I wouldn’t even bother. Most of what you put out on your board, like cheeses, meats, pickled veggies, crackers, will all last a while in the fridge/pantry. If you have a lot of any single item and want to try to freeze it, then I would do a search online for how to freeze that specific item. (Meat is an exception. Cold cuts freeze beautifully.) In general, cheese is not a great candidate for freezing because it changes the texture so much (shredded cheese is fine to freeze though.)

a round charcuterie board with apples, oranges, pesto, pastrami, nuts, etc.

How to use leftovers from a Charcuterie board

  • Make the cheesiest best omelette of your life!
  • Use meats and cheese for a Frittata.
  • Slap all the ingredients on an epic Dagwood sandwich.
  • Use as toppings for your next Homemade Pizza
  • Wrap up the ingredients in this Easy Stromboli
  • Add ingredients to an Italian Pasta Salad
  • Make an amazing Quiche with leftovers

Gift your leftovers

I bought SO much cheese, produce, and meat for photographing this post that I’m planning to package a lot of it up on individual paper plates and gift them to friends and neighbors for an early Christmas gift. Even if you don’t have leftovers, this would be such a fun neighbor treat for the holidays! A nice break from all the sugar!

You can keep it simple by packaging 1-2 types of cheese (the whole thing, unopened, so they can eat it when they want), a selection of meat, and produce. Make sure to include at least one sauce or spread of some kind (I love the little mini honeys and jams they sell in the deli section.) And include an unopened box of crackers or baguette slices.

Lactose intolerant?

You can still enjoy a fun charcuterie board if you’ve got tummy issues. Avoid fresh cheese like mozzarella, mascarpone, ricotta, and soft, creamy cheeses. Instead stick to cheddar, parmigiano, and other firm and aged cheeses. Hard cheeses don’t have much lactose in them!

Frequently asked questions

what is a charcuterie board?

A charcuterie board is a cheese or snack board with a lot of variation that is artfully arranged. It can be small, or it can be quite large! The larger the group you plan to serve, the more variety (and the larger board) you should plan for.

What goes on a charcuterie board?

There are so many tips in the post, but the most simple rule to follow is the 3-3-3-3 rule: at least 3 cheeses, 3 meats, 3 starches, and 3 accompaniments (sauces, fruit, veggies, etc). This rule alone will help you have a successful board! Once you have those, you can add any little details you like, or if you are serving a large group then you can add to have 4-4-4-4, or however much you think you’ll need. There really isn’t a wrong answer here.

how to arrange a charcuterie board

I go into detail in the post, so be sure to check that out, but the simplest version is to add your cheeses spaced around your board, add your salami or other meat in a few different places, place bowls of olives or honey or jam down the middle, add crackers and vegetables in large open spaces, and then place bunches of grapes, nuts, and produce in all the in-between spots.

where to buy a charcuterie board?

If you are looking to buy the wooden board itself, Target has some great options. That’s where I got the ones you see in the photos. These boards are so popular you can find them in almost any store that sells kitchen items! World Market, Kohl’s, Crate and Barrel, William Sonoma, Walmart, etc. all have boards and serving platters that could work.

If you are looking to buy a pre-made board with food on it, check your nearby specialty grocery store, and if they don’t have one packaged, ask them if they will make one for you. But keep in mind that making your own is easier than you think and MUCH cheaper. Just read through this post and I’ll guide you step by step in making an impressive board for any event!

chimichurri on a charcuterie board with cheese, peppers, grapes.

More amazing appetizers to try

A charcuterie board is a great place to start if you have a lot of people to feed appetizers to. Make some of these recipes below if you need to have even more options for your party! These all pair well with charcuterie. Some of them you could even feature on the board itself.

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How to Make a Charcuterie Board

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 10
Charcuterie boards were SO unapproachable to me for the longest time. They look Super Fancy (and I'm Super Not!) But after years of making boards again and again for parties and holidays, I've finally figured out the tips you need to create the most beautiful charcuterie. I will break it down with ideas for what to put on a charcuterie board and how to make it EASY and simple for the beginner who knows nothing about cheese and fancy meat.


  • 1 18-inch wooden board
  • cheese slicers and knives
  • small spoons
  • mini bowls
  • honey spoon thing officially called a "honey dipper" apparently


4 types of Cheese:

  • 8 ounces Brie*, or other soft cheese
  • 8 ounces aged white cheddar*, or other hard cheese
  • 5 ounces goat cheese, or other tangy cheese
  • 8 ounces manchego cheese, or other semi-hard cheese of choice

Things in "anchor" bowls:

  • 8 ounces pesto, or other savory dip / spread. A simple pesto recipe is in the notes
  • 8 ounces marinated olives, or marinated roasted peppers
  • 8 ounces fig jam, or jam of your choice

3 types of cold cut meat:

  • 8 ounces thinly sliced pastrami, or any other sliced meat from your deli
  • 8 ounces peppered salami, or other salami of choice
  • 8 ounces Capicola, or prosciutto, or other

Variety of Fresh Fruits

  • 1 pear, sliced thin
  • 1 apple, sliced thin
  • 1 lemon, juiced, for coating apple and pear
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 pint strawberries, or raspberries, blackberries, etc.
  • 4 cutie oranges, opened and split into sections

Variety of Veggies (optional)

  • 1 small box tomatoes, or carrots, cucumbers, or celery

Crackers and bread

  • 1 baguette, sliced, and toasted if you like
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, for the baguette slices
  • salt and pepper, for the baguette slices
  • 1 box Fig and olive crisps, or any cracker you like
  • 1 box Club crackers, or any cracker you like
  • 1 box Sesame crisps, or other artisan cracker that you like

Extras and Fillers, Spreads, and Sauces

  • 2 ounces honey, or honeycomb (spicy hot honey can also be fun)
  • 1 cup dried apricots, or dried figs, or any dried fruit
  • 1 cup Marcona almonds, or any nut
  • 1 cup sesame cashews, or any nut
  • rosemary sprigs, for garnish, optional


  • Start by gathering your ingredients. Choose a grocery store that is a little upscale, if you can. Buy the baguette from the deli section (or an actual bakery). Make your cheese choices: buy exactly what's on this recipe if you are a beginner, or make choices at the store based on what looks good to YOU, focusing on variety. Ask for help from the grocer if you need it. Make your meat choices. Visit the olive bar and see what have that looks interesting, but don't go too crazy. One or two selections is fine. Make sure you have a nice board, some cheese knives, and some small spoons and bowls.
  • Toast your baguette: Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Slice your baguette on a bias. Place on baking sheet and brush each side with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toast at 450 in the oven for about 5 minutes, until firm but not overly browned. Remove and set aside to cool.
  • Add the cheese to the board: open all the cheese packages and add them to your board, with plenty of space around each one. Take the time to slice the cheese now, if you want. Add the knives/spoons you need for each cheese.
  • Add the "anchor" bowls: 1 jar of jam (spoon jam into a small bowl if it's too large), a small bowl of pesto (recipe in notes), a small bowl of olives.
  • Add the meat: Roll or fold 8 ounces of pastrami. Fold 8 ounces of salami. Roll 8 ounces of Capicola. Arrange on the board wherever you like.
  • Add fruits and veggies: Slice the pear and the apple and squeeze with lemon juice so they don't brown. Peel and section the oranges. Arrange the apple, pear, blueberries, strawberries, and cutie oranges on the board. Arrange the cherry tomatoes on the board.
  • Add crackers and bread: Arrange the baguette toasts, Fig and Olive crackers, Club crackers, and Sesame Crisps on the board, or on another board or bowl nearby. (I like to do this so they don't get soggy.)
  • Add fillers and nuts: Pour a bit of honey into a tiny bowl and arrange on the board with a spoon or honey dipper. Arrange apricots, almonds, and cashews on the board, filling in the cracks. Garnish with rosemary if you have some! Voila! Dig in! See post for notes about how to store leftovers.


Pesto Recipe:

  • 2 cups basil leaves (at least 2 bunches)
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • several chunks of Parmigiano-Romano cheese, what looks like it might be 3/4 cup when shredded
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • black pepper to taste
Add it all to a food processor (a blender will work too) and whir until blended. Scrape the sides. Don’t go too far, pesto is supposed to be a little textured. Make sure the mixture is homogenous (no big chunks.) 


Calories: 492kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.002g | Cholesterol: 42mg | Sodium: 1034mg | Potassium: 367mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 602IU | Vitamin C: 31mg | Calcium: 160mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American, French
Calories: 492
Keyword: board, charcuterie
Did you make this? I’d love to see it!Mention @thefoodcharlatan or tag #thefoodcharlatan!

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  1. So excited about this Karen! My bookclub Christmas party is Friday and I was wondering what to make! Definitely shrimp and my moms cocktail sauce (which is BY FAR) the best cocktail sauce I’ve ever eaten) and I was planning cream cheese with my hot pepper jelly but now I’m going to do the charcuterie board for sure!

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