How to Make the Perfect Holiday Charcuterie Board

how to make a holiday charcuterie board

In search of an appetizer that is sure to feed and please a crowd? Charcuterie boards are your perfect answer. No baking required (unless you’re a baked brie kind of person), these last-minute grazing boards will be your go-to for holiday parties. If you’re new to charcuterie boards, or just need some inspiration, here’s your complete guide to making a cheeseboard. Everything you need to know – from cheeses to add to must-have antipasto, we have you covered.

Charcuterie Board 101

Cheeses for a Charcuterie Board

It’s important to have a combination of both soft and hard cheeses for your board. It’s also key to have a variety of flavors and milk types. Whether you choose to add a cranberry goat cheese, an herb cheddar, wine bellavitano, pesto mozzarella or smoked gouda, these add an extra pop of flavor to the traditional cheeses on your board. Here’s our personal favorites to add to cheeseboard (and what we used to make this board):

  • Honey Goat Cheese
  • Espresso BellaVitano Cheese (one of our favorites)
  • Brie Cheese
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Gouda Cheese

Meats for a Charcuterie Board

By adding meat to your charcuterie board, it takes it from just a cheeseboard to true charcuterie. We like to add a variety of cured meats to make a heartier board. A few popular meats to add are pepperoni, prosciutto, salami, sopressata and capicola – most of which you’ll find on our board. Plus, it helps in style points. We used the salami and pepperoni to make those pretty roses you see. These are the cured meats you see on our board:

  • Prosciutto
  • Capicola
  • Black Pepper Crusted Salami (a must-have for us)
  • Genoa
  • Pepperoni
  • Salami

Fruits and Spreads for a Charcuterie Board

Next, it’s time to bring something sweet and fruity to your charcuterie board. Grapes, blackberries, apples, raspberries, raisins, pomegranate and strawberries are some of our favorite fruits to add. As for spreads, we love fruit preserves, fig jam, apple (or pear) butter, honey, pesto, spicy/sweet mustards and more. These fruits and spreads add a burst of flavor in every delicious bite. Here’s the fruits and spreads we used:

  • Raspberry Preserves (in the Brie Christmas tree)
  • Fig jam
  • Apple butter
  • Grapes
  • Blackberries
  • Dried Cranberries

Olives, Pickles and More for a Charcuterie Board

Now the little extras that elevate your cheeseboard. By adding a cured mix of olives, gherkins, artichoke hearts, sweet peppers, bruschetta, spicy peppers, dill (or sweet) pickles, dark chocolate, herbs, popcorn, snap peas, seasonal treats (ie candy corn, chocolate covered strawberries, red and green m&ms, candy canes) and whatever else you come up with. We added the following:

  • Olives (kalamata and green)
  • Fresh Jalapeños
  • Gherkins
  • Rosemary (for flavor and garnish)

Crackers and Nuts for a Charcuterie Board

The vessel for all our favorite cheeseboard combos, crackers and nuts add a delicious crunch to every bite. It’s important to have a variety of sturdy crackers for your charcuterie board. We like to use traditional table water crackers, triscuits, fig and olive crackers, cheese crisps, pretzels, cracked pepper water crackers and crusty artisan bread. As for nuts, almonds, pistachios and cashews are delicious additions to your board. These are the crackers and nuts we used:

  • Triscuits
  • Classic Water Crackers
  • Fig & Olive Crackers (we love Raincoast Crisps version)
  • Marcona Almonds

How to Style a Charcuterie Board

The key to making a wow-worthy charcuterie board is purposeful placement. This means not placing things haphazardly; you need to be thoughtful about your presentation. The secret is to section your board into thirds and to not put like-items next to each other. For instance, you surround each cheese with meats, crackers/nuts, fruits and other extras.

Set Up Your Cheese Board

First, you strategically place your small containers that hold olives and your spreads. The best approach is to scatter them throughout the board, ideally at least one in each section. This way the yummy spreads will be throughout the board to create balance.

Big Cheese and Meat

Second, it’s big cheese and meat placement on your charcuterie board. By big cheese, we mean any cheese you plan to keep whole. Some examples of “big cheese” are wheels of Brie, wedges of Parmesan, blocks of Gorgonzola, balls of Burrata, logs of Goat Cheese..etc. Next it’s time for salami and pepperoni roses, they’re really easy to make! Simply grab a white wine or champagne glass, and fold the slices over the lip of the glass. You layer the meat on top of each other and then tip the glass upside down on the board. Behold – you have a meat rose! From there, you arrange the meats around the small containers and big cheeses – but remember, not next to any other meats.

Cut the Cheese

Third, you need to cut the cheese (hehe). Really though, grab that Sharp Cheddar, Gouda, BellaVitano and cut it into thin, bite-sized pieces. From there, arrange them near the meats and around the containers for spreads. Remember not to put cheeses next to each other – it makes for a better looking board! To make the fun Christmas tree cut out, simply use a cookie cutter to create the design. Pro tips: try to use a smaller cookie cutter, but if not, don’t fret if your brie splits – ours did and still turned out perfectly! Also, be sure to cut the brie when the cheese is firm and run the cookie cutter under water. This will help execute the design. Plus, you can use the cut out on a different section of the board (like we did) to add more festive flair.

Cracker Placement

Stop – it’s cracker time! The fourth step to building a show-stopping charcuterie board is to add your crackers and nuts. Arrange these among the cheese and meats for delicious bite building. Make sure you have enough for all the cheese, meat and extra goodies on the plate.

Antipasto and Fruits

Last, but certainly not least, it’s time to fill in the remaining board with antipasto and fruits. First you put your spreads in the small containers placed in your charcuterie layout. Then you pair fruits with cheeses you think they’ll taste good with. For example, we like to place blackberries next to honey goat cheese or apples next to brie or grapes next to cheddar. We then use jalapeños, gherkins and olives to add pops of green to different sections of the board. For the finishing touch, add sprigs of rosemary and basil for a tasty herb and decorative accent.

Voila! You have a deliciously festive holiday charcuterie board!

While we focused on a holiday cheeseboard version charcuterie, the varieties of charcuterie boards you can make are endless. Brunch, veggies and dip, dessert, holiday-themed, chicken wings, Halloween treats, summer fruits, movie night, s’mores, pancake, after-school snacks, deli sandwich, french fries, Christmas cookies, chips and salsa/guac/queso, tacos, hummus, bloody mary bar, hot chocolate, ice cream, date night, cheeseburgers…etc. Use your creativity!