Learn how to make a charcuterie board by using these simple step by step instructions. Pick out your favorite meats and cheeses and follow this easy beginner's guide for how to make the best charcuterie board for effortless entertaining!
This post was originally published in November 2019 and has been updated for content.
Charcuterie is a French word that dates back to the 15th century. It refers to a branch of cooking that is devoted to preparing meat products. It eventually evolved into a term for a meat and cheese board that is served as an appetizer.
Whether it's an elaborate holiday dinner or Friday night with friends, a charcuterie board is a great way to add a simple appetizer to special occasions. It's versatile, takes minimal effort and can be customized to the season, holiday or preferences of your guests.
It's the perfect appetizer to serve in addition to Italian rice balls or short rib ragu for Sunday dinner or for light snacking before Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. You can even do a small charcuterie board for date night!
🧀 Ingredient notes
- Meats - Cured meats such as salami, pepperoni, cappicola or prosciutto are typical on a charcuterie board. Any combination of these or your favorites can be used. Use 1-3 different types of deli meats, with one maybe being more mild and one more strongly flavored or spicy. You can also add things like summer sausage or other cured sausages to the mix.
- Cheeses - Get a mix of 2-4 different types of cheese when making a charcuterie board. Grab a variety of soft cheese and hard cheeses that are both strong and mild in flavor. Goat cheese, brie cheese, blue cheese, manchego cheese, cheddar cheese and havarti cheese are some of my usual picks. You can add slices of cheese or use cheese knives so guests can cut pieces themselves.
- Fruit - Use a mix of dried fruits along with fresh fruit or preserves when building your board. Dried figs, apricots or cranberries are great options along with freshly sliced pears, oranges or bunches of fresh grapes. Jams or fruit chutneys can also be served in small bowls to spread on crackers or bread. I like adding a batch of grapes and olives to the tray to provide both sweet and salty components.
- Crackers - Any crackers or sliced bread can be used as an accompaniment on your board. You can make or buy crackers or slice up a baguette of your favorite crusty bread.
- Extras - Fill in your board with extra savory or sweet items that vary in texture. Olive tapenade, honey, salted nuts like pistachios or almonds, roasted peppers, pomegranate seeds or small pickles are other great additions.
📋 Substitutions and variations
- Vegetarian - A traditional charcuterie board includes sliced cured meats, however, they can be omitted to make a vegetarian cheese platter. Select a variety of cheeses to serve along with crackers, bread, fruit, nuts, olives or spreads.
- Themed - Your board can be themed towards the type of event, season or holiday you are celebrating. Choose seasonal items that are available during the time of year. Persimmons or pomegranates are great during fall or winter, spiced nuts during the holiday season or fresh berries during the summer. Serve your board in the shape of different seasonal items such as Christmas trees, Easter eggs or Thanksgiving turkeys!
- For Kids - Consider cubing the cheeses and serving milder tasting meats to make the board kid friendly.
🍽 Serving suggestions
Board - Don't feel like you need to have a big fancy board or large platter for your charcuterie. You can use a cutting board, a collection of smaller platters placed together or you can even set up your display on parchment paper laid right on the counter top or other flat surface.
Quantities - Depending on your number of guests, plan on about 3-4 ounces of combined meat and cheese per person on your charcuterie board when serving it alongside other appetizers. If the platter is going to be served more as a main course, then increase the quantities to 6-8 ounces per person.
Serving - Make sure to serve items that are easy to grab, easy to eat and don't make too much of a mess for your guests. The goal is simplicity so you all can enjoy your time talking and spending time with each other. Make sure to include tongs, forks or toothpicks, spoons or knives to easily serve the items on the board.
🔪 Step by step instructions
First, find a large board or platter to serve as your base and add a couple of platters or containers. Fill the containers with items that contain liquid such as olives or spreads or things that would be best separated from the other items such as sliced bread or crackers.
Next, arrange the selection of cheeses around the board so they are evenly distributed, making sure to leave some room for slicing.
Cut fresh fruit into slices and arrange them next to the cheeses. Fold or bunch up the sliced meat into different shapes for easy grabbing and tuck them into spots around the cheeses and fruit.
The last step is to fill in any of the empty spots with dried fruit, nuts or any other smaller items. Once everything is on the board, items can be adjusted to make sure there are no empty spots and that everything is easily accessible.
If you ever don't recognize a tool or skill that I mention, be sure to look it up in the Glossary of Cooking Terms and Definitions for more information.
⭐ Expert tips
- Don't feel like you need to buy the most expensive meats and cheeses. Boards can be built with just a few inexpensive items.
- Get your slices of meat at the deli so you don't have to do it on your own at home.
- Use a good selection of sweet and savory items along with both strong and mild flavors and a variety of different textures.
- Place items with liquid such as olives or fruit spreads in separate containers so they don't leak onto the other items.
- Place bread and crackers on a tray or in a bowl to prevent them from getting soggy.
- Add cheese knives or servers to the board for people to serve themselves. I like to pre-slice a couple of portions to get it started.
💭 Frequently asked questions
You do not want to let a charcuterie board sit out for longer than 2 hours. If it's a particularly warm day, don't let it set out longer than 60-90 minutes. If the meat and cheese sit out longer than 2 hours, you run the risk of spoilage and making your guests sick.
⏲️ Make ahead instructions
A charcuterie board is a great make ahead appetizer. With the exception of the sliced fresh fruit, everything can be prepared and set up on the board ahead of time. Wrap the board in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator up to 24 hours ahead of time. When it's time to serve it, remove the plastic wrap and add the sliced fresh fruit.
🥡 Storage suggestions
If the board hasn't been sitting out at room temperature longer than 2 hours, leftover meats and cheeses can be wrapped up individually and stored in the refrigerator for eating later. If the board has been sitting out for 2 hours or longer, it's best to discard the items.
For a quick overview of this recipe, check out my web story for how to build a charcuterie board!
🍇 More appetizer recipes
If you loved learning how to make a charcuterie board, check out these other easy appetizer recipes that I know you will love too!
How to Make a Charcuterie Board
- ¼ pound hard sheep's milk cheese manchego or pecorino romano
- ½ pound soft creamy cow's milk cheese brie or camembert
- ⅓ pound semi-soft cow's milk cheese aged cheddar or gouda
- ⅓ pound soft semi-soft goat cheese chevre or drunken goat
- ¼ pound thinly sliced hot cappicola or pepperoni
- ¼ pound thinly sliced italian dry salami or prosciutto
- dried apricots, figs or cranberries
- fresh pears, apples or grapes apples or grape
- salted nuts almonds or pistachios
- roasted grapes and olives jam or fruit chutney
- parmesan rosemary crackers or other store bought crackers
- fresh herbs for garnish optional
- Layout a large platter or cutting board for the base of the charcuterie board. If the surface or platter is not food safe, parchment paper can be placed on top.
- Place two smaller trays or containers in opposite corners on the board. Fill one of them with crackers or bread and the other with the roasted grapes and olives, jam or chutney.
- Arrange the cheeses around the empty spaces on the board so they are spread out and not all in one place.
- Thinly slice the fresh fruit and arrange them next to the pieces of cheese.
- Fold the slices of meat into quarters or into small bunches and tuck them between the fruit, cheese and trays.
- Fill in any remaining spaces left on the tray with dried fruit and nuts.
- Once everything has been placed on the tray, adjustments can be made to make sure there are no empty spaces and that all of the items are easily accessible.
- Garnish finished tray with fresh herbs if desired.
- Expensive meats and cheeses aren't necessary, but a variety of textures and flavors is good to have. Use a selection of sweet and savory items along with more mild and strong flavors to provide a balanced selection.
- A cutting board or a collection of smaller platters placed together can be used. You can even set things up on parchment paper directly on a counter top.
- Plan on 3-4 ounces of combined meat and cheese per person for an appetizer and 6-8 ounces for a main course.
- Get meats sliced thinly at the deli to make assembly easy.
- Place items with liquid such as olives or fruit spreads in separate containers.
- Place bread and crackers on a tray or in a bowl so they don't get soggy.
- Provide cheese knives or servers and pre-slice a couple of portions.
- Don't let the board sit out for longer than 2 hours to avoid spoilage. If it's a warm day, no more than 60-90 minutes.
Items for the Board
- Meats - Use 1-3 different types of meat, making sure that one is more mild and one is more strongly flavored or spicy.
- Cheeses - Use a mix of 2-4 different types of cheeses with a variety of both hard and soft, strong and mild and different types.
- Fruit - Use a mix of dried, preserved and fresh fruit. Jams or fruit chutneys can also be used to spread on crackers or bread.
- Crackers - Make homemade crackers, slice up a baguette of crusty bread, or buy assorted crackers at the store.
- Extras - Fill in the board with extra savory or sweet items that vary in texture such as olive tapenade, honey, salted nuts, roasted peppers, pomegranate seeds or small pickles.
Substitutions and Variations
- Vegetarian - Omit the sliced meat and provide 3-5 selections of cheese along with crackers or bread, fruit and extras such as nuts, olives or spreads.
- Themed - Choose seasonal items that are available during the time of year. Serve your board in the shape of different seasonal items such as Christmas trees, Easter eggs or Thanksgiving turkeys.
- For Kids - Cube the cheeses and serving milder tasting meats.
I love this guide! Tysm!
Absolutely! I'm glad you found it useful.