How to Build a Charcuterie Board

published Sep 20, 2022
Charcuterie Board Recipe

A step-by-step guide to shopping and putting together the ultimate charcuterie board.

Serves6 to 8

Prep15 minutes

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Olives, grapes, dried apricots, meat, crackers, pickles, radishes, and cheese on a charcuterie board.
Credit: Kristina Vanni

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Over the past few years, charcuterie boards have moved from restaurant apps to at-home affairs. And it’s easy to see why. The assortment of meats and cheese looks great, has a little something for everyone, and is infinitely customizable. They’re the perfect appetizer or nibbles board for a party and can even be a fun no-cook dinner.

They’re really all about the shopping, making them a fun project for those who like to leisurely browse the grocery store or check out new markets. There’s really no set recipe for what goes onto a charcuterie board, but it helps to have some basic suggestions to get you started. Our guide offers a template for getting started, but the most fun part is getting creative and making it your own.

What Does Charcuterie Mean?

Charcuterie is the French word for cold and often cured cooked meats, most often pork. Charcuterie nowadays really means things like salami, prosciutto, potted meats like rillettes, and meat mixtures like pâtés and terrines that are cooked in a loaf and sliced.

Charcuterie boards don’t strictly have just charcuterie on them anymore either: Cheese, fruits and vegetables, spreads, and many other things now join the meat, and they are closer to a cold appetizer or grazing board where you can pick and choose from a large variety of items.

Credit: Kristina Vanni

What Is Usually on a Charcuterie Board?

I like to think of charcuterie boards as a collection of items from different categories. If you get a few from each category, there will be a wide variety of textures, flavors, and colors to choose from, making it both pretty and interesting to eat.

Here are the categories I use when shopping at the store or in my pantry (don’t forget you might have things in there!). But don’t be limited by what’s listed here, there are so many other things in these categories that you can use:

Cheese

Go for a variety of textures, ages of cheese, and mild and stronger cheeses.

  • Soft: Brie, chèvre, camembert, fontina, Saint-André
  • Hard or Semisoft: Manchego, Gruyère, Comté, aged cheddar, fontina, Gouda
  • Crumbly: blue, aged goat, Parmesan
  • Marinated or Flavored: marinated feta, marinated fresh mozzarella, herb-and-garlic cheese spread

Meat

Charcuterie isn’t just sliced meats like salami. There are spreadable meats and also things like terrines and pâtés, which are cooked mixtures shaped into a loaf and sliced.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

For ease, I generally stick to vegetables that don’t require cooking. If using fruits that will brown easily when cut, toss them with a little lemon juice or slice right before assembling.

  • Small grape clusters or fresh cherries
  • Berries
  • Sliced apples, pears, or stone fruits
  • Quartered figs
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Sliced or quartered radishes
  • Edible flowers for decoration

Breads and Crunchy Things

It’s always nice to have an assortment of carbs for building your perfect bite. Aim for a variety of textures so you have both soft and crunchy.

  • Crackers
  • Sliced bread
  • Crostini
  • Pita chips
  • Nuts
  • Corn nuts
  • Pretzel chips
  • Parmesan Crisps
  • Crunchy breadsticks

Spreads and Dips

Little bowls of dips and spreads are great, as well as condiments like mustard for those who like to dab a little onto their charcuterie or bread.

Briny Things

Traditional all-meat charcuterie boards often include cornichons or pickled onions to offer a sour contrast to the salty meat and rich cheeses.  

Sweets

Sweet things pair deliciously with the savoriness of charcuterie boards and are welcome last nibbles to end on a sweet note.

  • Dried fruit
  • Honey
  • Fig jam
  • Chocolate pieces
  • Membrillo
  • Guava paste

How Do You Fold Meat for a Charcuterie Board?

Instead of just laying the slices of meat flat on the board, which take up a lot of space and isn’t very visually interesting, gently fold and pile them instead. It’s best to wait to add the meat until you’re partway through your build. This gives pockets of space that have “walls” around them, which are essential for holding the meat in place. For salami, fold a few slices into quarters, pinch the pointed ends together, and tuck into an empty space to look like a flower. For longer meats like prosciutto, separate each slice and gently drape and fold into a vertical pile that looks a bit fluffy.

Tip for Building a Charcuterie Board

  • Board Size: This recipe is a guide to fill up a board about the size of a baking sheet. If you want to use something smaller or larger, just keep that in mind and scale the variety and amount of food you need accordingly.
  • Prep Before You Build: Cut up cheese, breads, veggies, or fruits first. Make sure everything you want for the board is out so you can pick and choose easily. You also don’t want to forget something, especially if there’s no room left on the board anymore. 
  • For Gluten-free Guests: Make sure either all the components are gluten-free, or place the items that do have gluten in separate bowls apart from the main charcuterie board.
  • Pack the Board: The prettiest charcuterie boards are loaded with goodies and look abundant, so fill it up!
  • Don’t Forget the Utensils: Have a few small sets of tongs scattered about, make sure anything in a bowl has a small serving spoon, and add cheese knives if you choose not to pre-cut the cheese.
  • Don’t Pack It with Bread: Bread and crackers take up a lot of room. Display a few on the board but just put the rest in a side bowl or plate so people can grab more.
  • Did You Remember the Wine? Wine and charcuterie boards are a natural pairing, so don’t forget to add a bottle or two to your shopping list. I love a crisp sparkling wine or a lambrusco during happy hour, which also pair well with cured meats and cheeses.

Charcuterie Board Recipe

A step-by-step guide to shopping and putting together the ultimate charcuterie board.

Prep time 15 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1 to 2 Spreads:
    - Dips
    - Hummus
    - Tapenade
    - Whole-grain mustard
    - Whipped cheese
    - Pepper jelly
    - Salted butter

  • 2 to 3 Cheeses:
    - Soft: Brie, chèvre, camembert, fontina, Saint-André
    - Hard or Semisoft: manchego, Gruyère, Comté, aged cheddar, fontina, gouda
    - Crumbly: blue, aged goat, Parmesan
    - Marinated or Flavored: marinated feta, marinated fresh mozzarella, herb-and-garlic cheese

  • 2 to 3 Meats:
    - Cured and Sliced: salami, ham, prosciutto, serrano, Spanish chorizo
    - Pâtés and Terrines
    - Rillettes and 'Ndjua

  • 2 to 3 Fresh Fruits and Vegetables:
    - Small grape clusters
    - Berries
    - Sliced apples or pears
    - Quartered figs
    - Cherry or grape tomatoes
    - Sliced cucumbers
    - Sliced or quartered radishes
    - Edible flowers for decoration

  • 2 to 3 Breads and Crunchy Things:
    - Crackers
    - Sliced bread
    - Crostini
    - Pita chips
    - Nuts
    - Corn nuts
    - Pretzel chips
    - Parmesan Crisps
    - Crunchy breadsticks

  • 1 to 2 Sweets:
    - Dried fruit
    - Honey
    - Fig jam
    - Chocolate pieces
    - Membrillo
    - Guava paste

  • 1 to 2 Briny Things:
    - Olives
    - Cornichons
    - Pickled vegetables

Equipment

  • 1

    large rimmed baking sheet or large platter or serving board that's roughly 13x18-inch

Instructions

  1. Start by having a rimmed baking sheet or large platter or serving board that’s about the same size ready. Gather all your ingredients, then start arranging them on the board in this order:

  2. Place spreads, dips, honey, jams, spreadable meats, and olives in very small bowls. Add small spoons or knives to the bowls if needed. Place them on the board, spacing them out.

  3. You can leave cheeses whole, cut into individual pieces, or cut up only half of each piece and leave the other half whole (very soft cheeses should be left whole). Place on the board, again spacing them out. Add cheese knives if needed. Fill in some of the gaps with fresh fruit and veggies, sweets, and briny foods. For grapes, cut them into smaller individual clusters for easier serving.

  4. Tuck the cured meats in clusters on the board between the other ingredients, shingling them or folding them artfully so they don’t sit flat.

  5. Add crunchy elements like crackers and nuts to fill in any remaining spaces. Don’t worry about putting too much out of those, put extra crackers or bread in a separate bowl next to the board to have enough to serve.