Arrive at almost any party these days, and you’re sure to be greeted by some kind of charcuterie board on the table. They’re not only beautiful, they’re also quick and easy to assemble, which makes them the perfect dish for impressing your friends and family when you’re short on time. If you’ve only ever eaten charcuterie at a restaurant and don’t know where to start with your own board, we’re here to help. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the best charcuterie board ingredients, from cheese and meats to charcuterie vegetables, dips, and spreads.
Charcuterie Board Cheeses
Arguably the most important component of any board are the charcuterie cheeses. Soft, hard, spreadable, stinky, spicy… no matter your preference, there’s a cheese out there that fits the bill.
If you’re looking for the best cheese for charcuterie, a Vermont sharp cheddar is a classic. It’s inexpensive and has a slightly crumbly texture that’s great for throwing on a cracker, but it’s not so strong that it’ll overpower the rest of the board. A mild and nutty manchego cheese is another crowd-pleasing option for a hard cheese.
When it comes to soft varieties, brie is one of the most beloved charcuterie cheeses, as it pairs well with fruit jams, spreads, and assorted nuts. The longer you leave it out of the fridge, the stronger and smellier it will be, so keep this in mind when you’re purchasing other cheeses for charcuterie night.
From there, goat cheese with cranberries or marinated fresh mozzarella balls add a zingy flavor combination to balance out the creaminess of your other cheeses.
You might think that you’re finished, but when you’re picking out cheese for charcuterie boards, don’t forget about the vegans. These days, there are plenty of dairy-free cheese alternatives like nut-based cheddar, havarti, or gouda.
Charcuterie Board Meats
Next on your shopping list should be your charcuterie board meats. Genoa salami has a soft texture and one of the milder flavors, making it an excellent base option. Sopressata is also a widely available choice and comes in a range of flavors, from sweet to salty.
Contrast these milder meats with a spicy Spanish chorizo or hot pepper Italian calabrese. Both pair well with creamy cheeses, along with charcuterie fruits or spreads to cut through some of their heat.
Finish off your meat selection with prosciutto, a dry-cured ham that’s aged in salt. It has one of the mildest meat flavors, but its buttery texture counters the more grainy salamis on offer. Prosciutto works with almost any of your charcuterie board ingredients, but sweet fruits like peaches or berries and anything with a balsamic glaze will really bring out the salty flavor of the ham.
Charcuterie Board Crackers
Charcuterie crackers often end up as a last-minute thought. But you don’t want to put together a mountain of delicious choices, only to have to use the equivalent of edible cardboard to get it from the board to your mouth!
If you’re looking for an inexpensive option, crackers like Triscuits are perfect. Original Triscuits are made simply from whole grain wheat, sea salt, and oil, but they also come in several tasty varieties, like garlic and onion, balsamic vinegar and basil, and rosemary and olive oil.
For something slightly fancier, sliced baguette that’s been lightly toasted in the oven or mini melba toasts make excellent charcuterie crackers. They’re sturdy enough to hold onto your meats, cheeses, and spreads but won’t take away from the flavor of the main board ingredients.
Pick between two and four different cracker varieties to give your guests a selection. Water crackers, for example, are quite thin and breakable, which makes spreading cheese on them more difficult. These are better for slices of hard cheeses, whereas a thicker bread-based cracker like a pita chip would work better for your spreadables and soft cheeses.
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Jams and jellies are common charcuterie board spreads, but no one says you have to stop there! For holiday charcuterie spreads, cranberry sauce has a similar consistency, while adding a festive flair to your board. Fig preserve works especially well with goat cheese or anything that’s herb-based.
Pâté and terrines can also be a great addition to your charcuterie board as a meat that doubles as a spread. Chicken liver has a mild and creamy flavor, which works as an accompaniment to your stronger cheeses. Foie gras is strong by itself, so pair it with your mild cheeses.
Adding charcuterie board fruits gives your board a dose of sweetness. When you serve classics like brie or cheddar, crunchy green apples or pears are a delightfully tart contrasting flavor. Grapes are another popular option for charcuteries. Both red and green grapes have a very mild flavor, but their watery texture makes them best suited for eating with fresh mozzarella or hard cheeses.
Berries are another go-to for charcuterie board fruits. Strawberries and blueberries make perfect accompaniments to your soft cheeses, especially goat cheese.
And don’t forget about dried fruits! Semi-dried plums and apricots have a consistency that’s similar to figs and work well with your soft and strong cheeses, whereas banana chips can be a great low-carb alternative for guests who want to avoid using crackers.
Charcuterie Board Sauces
Adding a couple of charcuterie sauces to your board will let your guests adapt their helpings to their own preferences. The tangy flavor of mustard can help to cut through the spice in some of your cured meats and adds an extra dimension to milder cheeses like gouda or nutty options like Swiss. Honey, much like fruit, is a good way to bring in some sweetness without using too much added sugar.
Balsamic vinegar goes perfectly with fresh mozzarella (think of caprese salads) and really brings out the flavor of prosciutto. Or, buy relish to serve as a charcuterie sauce. Most are made from olives and pickles in a vinegar-based brine, but they can also include hot peppers for an extra kick.
Charcuterie Board Dips
When it comes to your charcuterie dips, there are hundreds of potential choices, but try to keep to around four or five options that are balanced between savory and sweet.
Hummus is an obvious choice, but it’s always a good dip to have on the table. Choose a standard, unflavored hummus and perhaps one or two alternatives like an avocado hummus (great with mild cheeses) or a red pepper hummus.
Ranch and tzatziki are ideal creamy dips for your cold cut vegetables and fruits. Apples, celery, carrots, tomatoes…really anything that you’d put on a veggie tray will be delicious with these.
For a savory and slightly salty dip that’s perfect to spread on crackers, try an olive tapenade or pesto.
Charcuterie board nuts add sweetness and crunch that you won’t necessarily find in your meats and cheeses. They’re also small enough to fill in the gaps around your board, making it look full and extremely appetizing to your guests!
Marcona almonds are often served alongside Spanish meats and cheeses, whereas cashews, pecans, walnuts, and pistachios all work with whatever cheese choices you’ve made.
Remember to check whether you’re buying salted or unsalted nuts. There’s no right way to go here, but if you’re planning to serve salty foods, stick to unsalted nuts so that your flavors are complementary.
Charcuterie Board Vegetables
Lastly, add some vegetables to your board. Celery has almost no flavor, which makes it the perfect vehicle for digging into your spreads and dips. Carrots, cucumbers, snap peas, and green beans also have mild tastes that won’t detract from the meat and cheese.
Throw in a few radishes or mini hot peppers if you want to spice things up, while still keeping your other choices milder to suit the group as a whole.
Olives, pickles, and cured antipasti will always go down well on a charcuterie board, along with marinated sweet peppers or artichoke hearts.
Put Together Your Best Board
Now that you’re armed with a list of the charcuterie board ingredients you need to throw a fabulous dining experience, it’s time to go shopping!
Once you have all of your elements, play with the board arrangement to see what looks best, making your board look as great as it tastes.
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