Charcuterie is a French term that traditionally has referred to any processed meat, such as cured meats or pate. Charcuterie is like antipasto, but antipasto platters typically stay within the realm of Italian ingredients, whereas charcuterie boards may include ingredients from other regions of the world.
A charcuterie board is loaded with meats, cheese, fruits, some nuts, maybe vegetables, spreads, and bread or crackers placed on rustic cutting boards and appetizer trays. Perfect at special occasions, date nights, picnics and sometimes, just for a fun dinner.
There are no rules to building your meat and cheese plate, so you can design your board based on the people who will be eating from it and fill it with foods that people like.
Here are charcuterie board ingredient options to get going. Choose two or three (or more) options from each of the categories below for starters.
Meats are the centerpiece of any charcuterie display. Any Green Slice Plant-Based Deli Slices will work and lots of variety is a good thing but it is recommended to keep it to 2-3.
The magic number is three. There’s no specific cheese to look for, but a general rule of thumb is to get one soft cheese, one firm and one hard cheese for your charcuterie board.
Fresh or dried fruit will add just enough contrast to the savory and salty flavor profile you’re building. Grapes are perfect as well as pretty much all berries. Apple slices are a nice touch and go particularly well with cheddar.
Options: Sweet cherries | Blueberries | Berries | Grapes | Figs | Grilled Asparagus | Dried Mango | Dried Apricots | Melon | Pear | Apple | Plums | Dates | Cranberries
Sweet Bell Pepper | Cucumber | Cherry Tomatoes | Snap Peas | Baby Dill Pickles | Baby Carrots | Marinated Artichokes | Roasted Red Bell Peppers | Blanched Green Beans
Include a handful or two of nuts such as walnuts, pistachios, or almonds. Some types of olives to look for are Kalamata, luque, picholine and Cerignola. Serve both green and black olives to add different colors and flavors to the charcuterie plate.
Two options are key and no more than four. A beautiful sliced baguette has to be one of them. The other can be some sort of artisanal crispy seedy cracker or pita chip.
A range of condiments and savory fruit spreads will liven up the board and add a nice accompaniment to your choice of meats, cheese, breads and crackers. Jams and spreads made with dried fruit such as fig or date or with fruits such as pear, cherries, and apple are classic pairings but there are many other possibilities for a fun dip or spread.
Options: Whole Grain Mustard | Hummus | Basil Pesto | Fruit Preserves | Honey or Honeycomb | Dipping Olive Oil | Olive Tapenade | Garlic Aioli | Dipping Balsamic
Arrange all the ingredients on a large cutting board, marble slab, slate board, or ceramic platter. In addition to the board itself, you’ll need some small dishes for plating and serving. Antique shops or yard sales are a great place to get unique little spoons, plates and serving pieces from.
When you are selecting ingredients for your board, make sure to choose some that will “pop” on your board such as bright reds (strawberries, cherries, tomatoes), bright greens (grapes, apple slices, herb garnish); otherwise your board will look bland, not brilliant. The same goes with texture. Variety is key.
Start by placing bowls or plates you’re using to serve dips and condiments and any larger wedges of cheese and space them out over the board. Now fill in some of the gaps with sliced meats, cheeses, crackers and bread. You can fold some of the veggie meats like an accordion and set them upright, or roll them into tubes so they’re easy for people to grab.
Fill in any gaps around the board or in the corners with fruit and/or vegetables. Scatter a couple handfuls of nuts around the platter, but don’t overdo it. Add in some fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme and lavender, or some edible flowers to elevate the look of your charcuterie board. It smells good too.
If you want to make this platter in advance, assemble everything on the board except the bread products and fresh herbs or flowers. Cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. Remove from the refrigerator, uncover, and add bread and herbs. Let stand for 15 minutes, then serve.