It’s officially charcuterie board season. These cheesy, nutty platters’ popularity spikes two times each year: at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s no coincidence they’re popular during some of the biggest gatherings of the year because they’re one of the best dishes for a crowd of growling bellies.

When it comes to the Thanksgiving charcuterie board, autumnal themes like abundance, harvest foods and fall colors give it a whole identity of its own. 

Crafting Your Thanksgiving Charcuterie Board

Perhaps you’ve been impressed by a Thanksgiving-themed charcuterie board you saw online and want to try your hand at it. With their kaleidoscopic colors, warming flavors and welcoming design, a charcuterie board can add a lot to any event—especially Thanksgiving. 

Hand-Picked Ingredients

Using a shiny, silver knife, two hands cut into a hunk of round cheese on a wooden cutting board. Surrounding the cheese are a variety of fruits, meats, and cheeses, like a pomegranate and blackberries.
Photo by RODNAE Productions
The best charcuterie board begins with high quality, hand-picked ingredients.

If you’ve already dabbled in charcuterie board creation, you probably know a few of the most basic ingredients. You’ll likely find some sort of cheese, meat, nuts, spreads, and fruit and vegetables on any given board. But the flavors of fall are what make Thanksgiving charcuterie board ideas unique.

Focus on the harvest season with vegetables like beets, carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato. Adding in these ingredients doesn’t mean cutting up some beets, placing them on your platter, and calling it a day. (Although this is perfectly fine!) Feel free to get more creative by using a bright pink, beet-based spread, crispy sweet potato crackers, or whole, sweet, roasted carrots. 

You can also play off classic fall flavors like:

  • Apple
  • Warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg
  • Maple
  • Sage
  • Brown Butter
  • Pear
  • Fig
  • Pomegranate

By infusing ingredients with these flavors, your charcuterie board will automatically have a Thanksgiving themed. Don’t forget that fall isn’t just a cornucopia of flavors, it also has a bevy of textures and colors. 

A cracker shaped as a maple leaf can add just as much as a maple-flavored goat cheese. A pop of pomegranate seeds, a few copper-bottomed magnolia leaves or a turkey-shaped design are a few more examples of how to infuse different textures, colors, and shapes into your board. 

When it comes to the amount you need of each ingredient, 3oz of food per person is a good rule of thumb. 

Garnish with Grace

A hand places a burgundy flower onto a charcuterie board filled with cut strawberries, nuts, cheese, and crackers.
Photo by RODNAE Productions
The perfect garnish can play a key role in the harmonization of color and texture.

Just as fall is nothing without its golden leaves, crisp air and bountiful food, an easy Thanksgiving charcuterie board is nothing without its garnish. Adding the right garnish is a way to celebrate the ingredients you’ve already added to your board.

Get inspired by local markets that stock their stores with seasonal ingredients. Bright colored pansies will take away the fall feeling while autumnal additions like whole star anise, juicy currants, and delicate figs will add to it. 

Spice up your board with seasonal garnishes, including:

  • Dried winter citrus slices like grapefruit
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Mini pumpkins
  • Thyme, sage, and rosemary
  • Peppercorns
  • Mini squash
  • Fall colored flowers

Don’t be afraid to get messy. You can evoke the feeling that your food is ready to be enjoyed by cutting a few slices of cheese, cracking open a nut, or pre-spreading a few crackers.

Perfecting Your Presentation 

Three rings of oranges are surrounded by a variety of cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and crackers. With crispy cucumbers, deep-hued cabbage, and slices of creamy cheese, the board is a pop of color against a more neutral colored background.
Photo by Anto Meneghini on Unsplash
Create a cornucopia of color and shapes with well done board design.

For a more classic looking board, use different vessels to your advantage. A variety of crimson, burnt orange, and yellow bowls on a solid oak cutting board will provide a different feeling than white bowls on marble. Experiment with contrasting colors, repetition, and texture by testing different locations and angles for reach of your ingredients. 

Any fall charcuterie board creator will benefit from focusing on the broad brush strokes of their board before finalizing the details. Your main ingredients might be a pumpkin-shaped hunk of brie, a bowl of fig spread and a bunch of deep-hued grapes. Place these on your board and then fill in the empty spaces. 

Finally, remember to have fun with folding, tearing, and cracking your food. Try creating charcuterie roses, tuck in bowls of condiments, or fashion a sweep of texture fruits to add visual interest to your board. 

Your One of a Kind Thanksgiving Charcuterie Board

There might be thousands of charcuterie boards created for Thanksgiving each year, but there won’t be a single one exactly like yours. When making a unique thanksgiving appetizer charcuterie board, consider its story. Should it feel warm and casual or cool and formal? Do you want to make it look more inviting by pre-slicing the cheese and making it a little messy or do you want it looking pristine? 

Vary your Thanksgiving charcuterie board depending on the number of people you’re hosting, the overall feel of the event, and the other dishes you’re preparing. 

Turkey-Shaped Charcuterie Board

If you really want to wow your guests, a Thanksgiving turkey charcuterie board is both innovative and inviting. Use half of a pear or apple to create the turkey’s face and then spread out all of your ingredients in the shape of its jazzy tail feathers. 

Dessert-Themed Charcuterie Board

For some, Thanksgiving desserts are truly the star of the show. Make them the star of your charcuterie board by crafting it around your sweet tooth. For this, swap out salty spreads like hummus for sweet ones like apple butter. Trade your crackers for cookies and baguette slices for pumpkin bread. 

A lot of classic fall flavors are made to be sweet, so experiment with the flavors, textures, and colors you already know and love but only focusing on dessert. 

Vegetarian and Vegan-friendly Board  

Allergies and dietary restrictions might not be the most exciting part of planning a charcuterie board, but they are the most important. Consider reaching out to your guests to double check on any allergies and inquire about specific diets like being vegetarian, vegan, or dairy-free. 

Try using nut or seed-based milk in any cakes, pies, or breads to make one of your usual dishes dairy-free. Options like hummus, nuts, and a variety of fruits and vegetables will always be crowd pleasers in a vegan charcuterie board. Most vegetarians will be able to enjoy your range of cheeses, spreads, and crackers, but make sure everyone has at least a few items to choose from. 

You’ve Polished Up Your Charcuterie Board Skills, Now to Polish Off Your Plate

Take a few minutes to write down what inspired you most throughout all of these ideas. Maybe you really want to focus on texture and color this year. Create two columns of different ingredients that could play off these visual identities.

Or you might be interested in playing off more unique fall flavors. Consider taking a trip to a local grocery or farmers market and see if you can find any ingredients that will make your charcuterie board extra special. Now this might sound cheesy, but with all you’ve learned about Thanksgiving charcuterie boards, you’re going to have the best one on the block. 

Written by:

Calli Zarpas