A charcuterie board makes a simple but stunning table centrepiece, perfect for big occasions and informal gatherings alike. Filled with a bounty of beautifully-presented gourmet treats, they’re simple to prepare, look impressive, and there’s sure to be something in there for everyone. Find out how to build the perfect charcuterie board for your next party with our helpful tips and ideas.
What is a charcuterie board?
Charcuterie is a French term for cured, aged and cooked meats, which can be purchased from specialist shops, also known as charcuterie. The original charcuterie boards offered a simple selection of quality charcuterie meats, much like this charcuterie selection appetiser, but over the years they have evolved to include all kinds of gourmet treats.
A modern charcuterie board typically includes cured meats and quality cheeses, as well as other tasty morsels that pair well with meat and cheese, often including artisan breads, olives, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, spreads, crudités and crackers. Attractive displays also play an important part, and there are plenty of stunning photographs on Instagram if you’re looking for visual inspiration.
Charcuterie boards are simple to make and endlessly customisable. They can be themed according to a special occasion, adapted to your guests’ diet and tastes, and styled in a more or less formal way, depending on the atmosphere you’re looking to create.
How to make the perfect charcuterie board
What the perfect charcuterie board looks like will vary according to the occasion, and what you and your guests like. Use these tips and ideas to build a board with real visual appeal, along with a variety of flavours and textures to keep things interesting.
Add large items like meats and cheeses to your board first, so you can fit smaller things around them as you go. Keep things interesting with a variety of different meats, and try to vary the textures and presentation, too. Sliced sausage is easier to pick up, and locks great fanned out across the board, while thinly-sliced hams can be folded or rolled into attractive ruffled patterns, which also makes them easier to handle. You can choose old favourites like salami, mortadella, prosciutto, or chorizo, or check out your local deli for something a little different.
Cheeses are another large item that should be added to the board at the beginning. Again, variety is key - a good selection of cheese would usually include a blue cheese, a soft cheese, and a more conventional choice, like a good quality cheddar. Keep your cheeses looking their best, even when you’ve cut into them with our guide to cutting cheese like a pro.
Spreads and jellies
Position some dips, jellies or chutneys in various locations around the board, in small, decorative bowls. Savoury options for spreading or dipping can include hummus, artichoke dip, olive tapenade or pesto, while sweet options might include jellies and sweet chutneys to complement your cheese. Think of the other ingredients on your board and choose spreads that will match them well. Add crunchy vegetable crudités and breadsticks for dipping, and to add some texture to your board.
Crackers and bread
Add a selection of breads and crackers for you guests to pile high with charcuterie board goodies. Look for a few different types of cracker, with different shapes and flavours. Arrange them in groups of the same flavour, and experiment with different ways of presenting them - some flat, some stacked, some fanned etc. Offer a couple of different types of bread, too, with perhaps some sliced baguette or ciabatta and some flatbreads.
Fruit and nuts
Fruit and nuts are great for filling in the gaps between larger items. Use a mix of fresh and dried fruits, with a few different types of nuts, either seasoned or unseasoned.
Garnishes are great for adding those extra finishing touches and filling in any remaining empty spaces. Herbs add a touch of greenery and smell wonderful, while edible flowers provide vibrant splashes of colour.
Remember the utensils
While they might not make it onto the board itself, make sure you have all the right utensils close by so guests can easily serve themselves. You’ll need cheese knives, picks for the meats, and small spoons for spreads and jellies.
Not everything on your board will be instantly recognisable, and it can be useful to make labels for anything a little more obscure, particularly if your guests have special dietary requirements. Use small flags attached to toothpicks to highlight something special, or to point out the gluten-free breads and vegan dips.
Try something different
Making a charcuterie board is all about being creative, and that can mean something as small as experimenting with different shapes and materials for your board, or something big, like building your board around non-traditional ingredients. Try making a vegan charcuterie board from vegan meats, nut-based cheeses, plenty of fruits, nuts and veggies, and some vegan-friendly dips like hummus and baba ganoush. You can even build a sweet board around fruits, chocolates and biscuits.
If you’re looking for some charcuterie board inspiration, feast your eyes on this fabulous selection of party-ready platters.
This stunning cheese board display by Damn Delicious has it all, with an assortment of delicious cheeses, crispy artisan crackers and a bounty of apples, grapes, cherries and pomegranate, all in varying shades of festive red.
This fabulous, no-fuss appetiser board from Damn Delicious features classic charcuterie meats and cheeses, with a selection of antipasti, including artichoke hearts, olives, peppadew peppers and marcona almonds, all served with warm focaccia.
Celebrate Taco Tuesday in style with this Mexican-inspired board by The Yummy Bowl. The board is built around a selection of tasty tacos, with a choice of pulled barbecue chicken or ground beef, with bowls of sauces and extra toppings arranged in between.
This colourful board from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen is the perfect balance between healthy and delicious, with baked or air-fried chicken wings in a variety of different glazes, several dipping sauces, and a huge selection of fresh, crunchy vegetables.
This epic build-your-own-burger board from Reluctant Entertainer is perfect for sharing with family and friends. There’s everything you could possibly need to build the perfect burger, from buns, cheese and salad, to two types of burger and various fixings and sauces.
This vegetarian-friendly board by Ain’t Too Proud To Meg is a feast of Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern treats, with stuffed vine leaves, cubed feta, goats cheese stuffed peppers, pita, olives, figs and chickpeas, alongside a rainbow of vegetables and a selection of dips including hummus and tzatziki.
This clever vegan charcuterie board by Emilie Eats is every bit as bountiful as its carnivorous cousins. With a selection of veggie meats, dairy-free cheese, vegan-friendly dips, fruit, nuts and vegetables, it’s the perfect plant-based platter.
Part cheese board, part fruit platter, this unusual board from Pure Wow is refreshing and tasty in equal measure. Perfect as an appetiser or at the end of a meal, it can be as light or as filling as you want.