How To: Make a Charcuterie Board

How To: Make a Charcuterie Board

There’s just nothing quite like a good charcuterie board. There’s something about it that communicates generosity on the part of your host and that welcomes guests to relax and enjoy themselves. And to us, that is the cornerstone of a good party.

Charcuterie boards offer a tremendous opportunity to provide an eye-catching appetizer spread that doesn’t require cooking anything at all. While a traditional board is made of cured meats and cheeses, over the past decade or so, boards have expanded in their creativity to satisfy any occasion, including breakfast boards, wellness boards, all-greens boards, dessert boards, and holiday-themed boards. Charcuterie boards of sorts have exhibited no slowing of their popularity because they do a lot--not only do they provide food options but they also provide an interactive element with visual appeal that can help drive home your party's theme.

For today's board, we're sticking to the traditional spread of meats and cheeses with sweet and savory snacks woven throughout. So, without further ado…



First thing’s first: you need a board! Here we are using a sizable, white marble board, but a wooden butcher block (like our Checkered Cutting Board) or a ceramic tray also works. Just keep in mind that whatever surface you use, you will want to fill it out so there aren't any bare spots, so it is best to pick your board based on how many you're feeding--smaller board for a smaller group, and a larger board for a larger group. It may sound silly to point out, but the last thing you want is to have to down- or upgrade to a different surface once you've already laid out your ingredients. You can crowd a lot of food on a board too, so when in doubt, we suggest you size down on your board, which will create a more abundant look.


Wine & Cheese Kit


Once you have your base, it’s time to source your ingredients. The list of ingredients you can add to a charcuterie board is extensive, so we recommend spending some time devising an ideal spread in your mind before creating a grocery list. Ask yourself: How many people am I feeding? Is there a theme? Are there any food preferences/aversions/allergies I should consider?

A traditional charcuterie board includes a variety of cured meats and cheeses along with crackers or bread to act as vessels for devouring said meats and cheeses, and a mixture of sweet and savory bits. Boards can be made such that the cheeses are pre-sliced and arranged, or to add dimension and ease to your preparation, simply set out the cheeses as blocks and stick the appropriate knife into each cheese, as I did with this one, and let your guests portion their bites themselves.

Because meat and cheese are critical components of a traditional charcuterie board, it’s worth spending a minute on these categories so you know how to select the right  items for your creation.


On Meats…

There are number of types of cured meats that are often utilized in charcuterie boards. Below is a rundown of the most popular:

  • Salami: This is a go-to for most charcuterie consumers, so we highly recommend including at least one type of salami. There are different types--Genoa, Spanish Chorizo, Soppressata, Calabrese--and they can be sliced thin or thick. No matter which type(s) you go for, they all undergo a curing process that dries and preserves the meat without cooking. Salami, especially Genoa Salami, pairs well with a soft cheese like brie or with a hard cheese like Gouda.
  • Prosciutto: This is another staple meat, as it is also quite well known and well liked. Derived from curing the whole hind leg of a pig, prosciutto is served in very thin slices and pairs deliciously both with hard and soft cheeses as well as fruit (like cantaloupe).
  • Capicola (or Coppa): Made from pork neck and reps a bright red color that’s marbled with succulent fat and is served in super thin slices. Coppa is delicious and is a great option, as it offers a more vibrant color than most of the other meat options you could opt for.
  • Mortadella: This meat features a distinct texture and look from the other meats listed here. Think of it like the bologna of your youth—it has a uniform color and texture, which is achieved by finely grounding the pork shoulder so it has a smooth texture. The meat is then mixed with bits of pork fat and pistachios (sometimes green olives), which offers some variation from the uniformity of the meat itself. Contrasting from the other meats listed here, mortadella can be cut into cubes, which makes it a great board option as it will innately vary the texture and presentation from the other meats on your board.


On Cheeses…

While there are myriad cheese options out there, they all fall into four main types of cheese:

  • Hard Cheese, e.g.: Parmigiano Reggiano, Manchego, and Asiago
  • Semi-hard Cheese, e.g.: Cheddar, Gouda, Havarti, and Gruyere
  • Crumbly Cheese, e.g.: Blue, Feta, and Cotija
  • Soft Cheese, e.g.: Brie, Camembert, and Chevre

For our board, we selected one cheese from each category (Parmigiano Reggiano, Cheddar, Blue, and Brie, to be precise), but if you don’t have a bunch of people coming over, we'd opt for two or three cheeses instead…Planning for about 2 oz. of each cheese per person is a good rule of thumb to determine the right quantity to buy.



Other Items…

Once you have your meat and cheese on lock, you will benefit from adding other sweet and savory items to provide more snacking options and to elevate the color and dimension of your board. Here are some options…

  • Olives: These are a classic charcuterie component, so we wouldn’t skip these. In fact, we would recommend selecting a couple of types of olives in different colors. The color of an olive reflects its ripeness at the time it was picked (green for less ripe, purple/black for riper), which will result in varying flavor profiles and pops of color to your board. Our faves are Kalamata (purple, Greek) olives and Castelvetrano (green, Italian) olives.
  • Crackers/Bread: We recommend tackling this once you’ve selected other items like cheese, meat, and dips/spreads as these choices may influence what type of carbs would be best. Make sure to consider how spreadable your cheeses are and select a cracker or bread that will stand up to the spread.
  • Pickled items like cornichons and mixed vegetables (e.g. carrots, red onion, cauliflower).
  • Nuts Almonds, cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, pistachios are all are great choices; we just shy away from peanuts as they aren’t really nuts and aren’t perceived as high quality as other options. (Sorry, peanuts.)
  • Sweet spreads like jam, chutney, and yogurt fruit dip.
  • Savory spreads like red pepper relish, hummus, spinach/artichoke dip, tapenade, and mustard.
  • Fresh Vegetables like carrots, celery, broccoli, radish, and tomato.
  • Fresh Fruits like grapes, oranges, kiwi, berries, melon, cherries, plums, and mango. Go with what’s in season! And if you’re serving in the winter and there isn’t anything good in season near you, consider leaning more into dried fruit options.
  • Dried Fruit like apricots cherries, pineapple, currants, and candied ginger.
  • Chocolate like a special dark, chocolate-covered pretzels, and chocolate-covered berries.
  • Fresh Greenery/Flowers like clippings from the garden or from a flower bouquet. We highly recommend including this element, as it sets off the board in a way that can’t be achieved without it. But to be on the safe side, make sure the flowers you select aren’t poisonous if eaten, because if you’re serving a big group, you know there’s bound to be someone who tries to eat the ornamental garnish!

    Creating your Board…

    Once you’ve made your plan and sourced your ingredients, it’s time to put your charcuterie board together! Below is a pic of the items we gathered for our board. (The meats are from Costco, which saved some money and time. But if quality is your top priority, we suggest sourcing your meats and cheeses from a local butcher, specialty foods store, or Whole Foods.)



    Whether you’ve decided to wing the construction of your board or you have a literal drawn-out map of where everything will go, keep in mind that as far as we're concerned, the biggest factors in making an attractive charcuterie board include making sure you have a variety of items, colors, textures, and also that you have enough supply to completely cover the board. With that said, here are some specific styling tips...

    • Boundary Lines: When planning out the placement of your items, consider the color, textures and flavor of your items and mix them throughout your board to create balance. Additionally, anticipate the needs of your guests and place items to minimize mess and hazards. Add a bowl to contain a sauce or spread, offer an empty bowl for things like cherry pits, and place crackers next to a crumbly cheese to limit it spilling into other ingredients over time. (I.e., don't do what we did and put almonds next to this cheese that will crumble all over in no time!)
    • Check for Blank Space: Once you’ve gotten to about 90% completion and have set out all your items, look at your board through a lens of positive and negative space. You shouldn’t have any negative space, so maybe add a few more almonds, greenery, or fluff your meat slices to take your board from covered to generous.



    Final Thoughts...

      A big part of the fun of making boards is creating a visual, culinary treat that doesn't require too much skill. Charcuterie boards emanate casual elegance, so don’t stifle it by being to rigid with the item selection and design. If it feels good making it and tastes good eating it, it will look good to your guests because they will pick up on the heart that you put into it. So once your board’s complete, make sure to enjoy! Pour up some wine, kick back, and nibble to your heart’s content. Or, if you’re hosting a shindig, get ready for some compliments on your handiwork. 




      Owner, Humble Abode


      If you test this out, snap a pic or vid of it and tag @humbleabode_usa on Instagram so I can see it and ogle over your delicious creation! 

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