Here’s How to Make a Great Cheese Board Using Grocery Store Staples

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Have you ever gotten lost on Pinterest or Instagram looking at cheese boards? Is that just me? There’s a world of beautiful-looking platters of cheese out there that I just want to dive right into. All too often, though, the ones I put on on my coffee table for my friends lack that abundance because, well, it can feel daunting to recreate at home — cheese is expensive!

Here’s the trick: Instead of draining your wallet to make a killer cheese board from the fanciest options at the speciality shop, head straight to your regular ol’ grocery store. The block you pick up weekly for your grilled cheese fix can make just as killer of a cheese board as the fancier guys. (Maybe even more so because it’s budget-friendly!) It all comes down to keeping certain things in mind as you build it.

How to Make an Ingenious Cheese Board with Nothing but Budget Grocery-Store Cheese

The secret to building an awesome cheese board with nothing but some grocery-store staples is to celebrate those staples. Some of the most simple cheeses really are the most satisfying, so loading a board with them is pretty much an instant win. Once you’ve raided your neighborhood store, call up your friends, grab your prettiest plate or platter, and definitely open up some wine.

The Cheese

When building any kind of cheese board, the key is to have a bit of variety — a mix of soft and creamy, firm and salty, and maybe even a little funky to keep things interesting. Choose anywhere between four and six cheeses to ensure you have your bases covered.

  • Boursin Garlic & Fine Herb: This soft, spreadable cheese flecked with garlic and herbs is an instant party starter. Be sure to keep a couple of butter knives or cheese spreaders close by to make it easy to spread.
  • Mini Babybel: This semi-soft cheese is mild and approachable. Leave some of them still in their classic red wax so that your friends can unpeel them themselves and feel like kids again.
  • Block Cheddar: You’ve got tons of options in this category, as the block cheddar game at most grocery stores are usually pretty strong, although I personally vouch for either Cracker Barrel and Cabot. An extra-sharp cheddar, either white or yellow, is especially nice — or grab one of each!
  • Kerrygold Cheddar: Yes, more cheddar, but here me out: Kerrygold is different! Especially the Dubliner, which is aged to be firmer, saltier, and nuttier.
  • Pepper Jack: Any block of pepper Jack will work well. Cut the cheese into cubes and pile them onto the board to add a little spice to the situation.
  • President Brie: The grocery store-standard for Brie might not be as fancy as some of the other guys, but really isn’t all Brie kind of fancy? Plop the whole wheel on the board, but cut out a wedge to make it easy for your friends to dig into it.
  • Blue Cheese: This one’s not a surefire thing in the regular cheese section of all grocery stores, but if you happen to see it in yours, grab it. I’m not talking about the dry, pre-crumbled stuff, though. Keep your eye out for a nice wedge, often wrapped in blue foil.
  • Domestic Parmesan: The imported Parmesan from Italy will be over in the fancy cheese section of the store. That stuff is lovely but pricey. Instead grab a wedge of the domestic stuff, which is just as salty and snack-able — it should be right by those blocks of cheddar. Serve the wedge in bite-sized crumbles.
Here Is the Correct Way to Serve Grapes(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

The Accompaniments

One cannot live on cheese alone. Fill the empty spaces of your board with a mix of classic accompaniments that balance all that dairy. Again, opt for anywhere between four and six extras, in order to keep that abundant thing going.

  • Crackers: Pick your favorite here, although you can never go wrong with Triscuits or that Keebler Toasteds Party Pack.
  • Hard breadsticks: Sesame seed, for extra crunch, if you can find them. They’re fun to dip into the Boursin!
  • Fresh fruit: It’s nice to have something juicy to break up all this salty goodness. Slice up a few apples and plop down a handful of grape bunches.
  • Honey and jam: Again with the contrast — sweet condiments counteract the savoriness of the board. A small jar of honey and a classic jam, like raspberry or blackberry, are nice to set out.
  • Nuts: Good ol’ salted mixed nuts are perfect here. Or you can opt for roasted almond or pistachios if that’s more your crowd’s speed.
  • Meat: Most grocery stores have pre-sliced packages of prosciutto and salami kicking around and both are great options. Deli ham is also a totally venerable option that nobody with disagree with.
  • Olives: Raid the olive bar or, if your store doesn’t have one, grab a jar of unpitted ones — Kalamata or any green olive are both tasty.
  • Gherkins: Little pickles! These crunchy guys are sweet, sour, and easy to love.
  • Dried fruit: One more bit of sweetness to keep your board in balance. Go for whatever dried fruit you like. Dried apricots, dried cranberries, and dates are just three that will do well on your board.