Tuesday, June 25, 2019

How to Make a Charcuterie Board (Meat and Cheese Platter)

Learn how to make a gorgeous appetizer platter (charcuterie board) that'll impress everyone and disappear quickly at your next party. This one's loaded with cured meats, cheeses, seasonal produce (easy to swap out), and lots of sweet & savory bite-sized nibbles, so there's something for everyone. Prep & assemble the simple ingredients in about 30 minutes (so easy), pop open a bottle of sparkling wine or mineral water, and relax while everyone grazes and chats.

How to Make a Charcuterie Board (Meat and Cheese Platter)

Note: This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Albertsons Companies. All opinions are 100% mine.

I am SO pumped to finally share my take on a charcuterie board with y'all. Why? I'm legit obsessed! These fancy-looking platters are my go-to for an easy & light no-cook dinner all year long, but especially during the hot summer months when fruits & veggies are in abundance.

Think of charcuterie boards as a more well-rounded (in terms of nutrition), sophisticated alternative to "wine & popcorn" (a.k.a. easy adult dinner) when you're tired and just want to unplug. They also make the perfect easy appetizer when you need to throw something together for a last-minute gathering.

I've been making different variations of charcuterie boards for years (my sister & I have a yearly tradition of fixing cold appetizer plates over the holidays) and when I sent her a picture of this summer-inspired spread, she got super hungry & jealous!

However, I also shared a snapshot on my Instagram Stories and asked folks if they've ever heard of or fixed a charcuterie board. Almost everyone had no experience with them, so that means there's a pretty good chance you're in the same situation. So, let me give you the basics real quick.

What is a Charcuterie Board?

Charcuterie is a French word (and a noun) for "a store [referred to specifically as a delicatessen] where [ready-made, i.e. cured] pork products (hams, sausages, and pates) are sold" but it also refers to "the items sold in such a store" (definition is from my dictionary.com app + Merriam Webster online). So, the term charcuterie refers to both a type of food place and also the specific foods sold in said place

In case you have no idea how to say it (you & me both), charcuterie is pronounced shar-q-tuh-ree. (Confession: I'm trying to drill the correct pronunciation into my head because I always accidentally saying CHAR-q-tuh-ree like charcoal. Whoops!)

So, with that definition established, a charcuterie board very plainly refers to a board with cured and/or prepared meats (typically pork) on it. As you keep reading, you'll see the name/term "charcuterie" has expanded to encompass much more than that.

What Comes on a Charcuterie Board?

Technically, it's just a sampling of charcuterie (sliced cured meats). However, these days, the term "charcuterie board" has morphed into a more general term for a cured meat & cheese platter that can also (totally optional) include sweet & savory ingredients that complement the proteins.

Examples of extra foods that might be added: Fresh or dried fruits, nuts, sauces, dips, pickled or brined foods, chocolate, crackers, etc. It also doesn't have to be served exclusively on a wooden board (although that ups the cool factor).

It's important to note that even with all these extra ingredients added to the board, cured meat is still the star of a charcuterie board, followed closely by the cheeses. If you don't include any cured meats on your spread, it's no longer a charcuterie board.

By contrast, a meat & cheese platter could include any type of cooked or cured meat. Summer sausage, pulled pork, roasted or fried chicken, pepperoni, tuna salad, sliced steak, smoked salmon or turkey legs (this would be great for a fall or Thanksgiving party).

Many American restaurants now serve charcuterie boards as appetizer platters with 3-4 types of cured meats, a couple of cheeses (soft or hard), maybe a bit of grainy mustard + mixed olives and sliced bread. The charcuterie remains the focus, but these complementary ingredients help fill it out.

Of course, there are still places where you can order meats, cheeses, olives & pickled veggies a la carte (like one of my favorites Italian restaurants in Chicago - Quartino) but even then, I like variety so much that I will often order 3-5 different small plates so I can pair foods together.

How to Make a Summer Charcuterie Board (Meat and Cheese Platter)

Why Make a Charcuterie Board?

Ummm...because they're fabulous? Seriously, they're a food lover & snack-a-holic's dream!

Imagine a whole spread of snackable, beautifully plated pantry + fridge food (including some seasonal produce) that you can nibble on at your leisure, all the while combining bites of different foods to create new flavor combos (sweet + salty, sour + fatty, bitter + creamy, sweet + tangy, salty + herby).

If you more excuses, here are a few totally legit reasons to fix a charcuterie board:

  • you're throwing or attending a party & need a no-cook appetizer (this is perfect for the hot summer months - especially 4th of July and Labor Day)
  • you feel like grazing for dinner instead of fixing a big meal
  • you're entertaining for the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve, Easter, Halloween, etc.) and want a pretty + tasty spread that will impress
  • you want to do a fridge/pantry cleanout of fresh fruits, veggies, pickled things, nuts & sauces (grab some cured meats + cheeses and crackers & you're good to go)
  • you're having a wine tasting or wine-themed party & need some snacks (in that case be sure to try my easy citrus white wine spritzers, berry wine spritzers, or white wine sangria)
  • you want a light, exciting meal with different tastes & textures that compliment & contrast one another
  • good for meal prepping snacks & light meals (make one board with enough elements & you'll have plenty of grab n' go food for days)

How to Make The Best Charcuterie Board (Meat and Cheese Platter) with Seasonal Ingredients

What Makes a Good Charcuterie Board

To me, a good charcuterie board is one that has a little bit of everything.

Size isn't important. You can make a small plate for 1-2 people with a handful of items or a large platter for 6-12+ people with lots of food. Both are equally good.

What matters is that the charcuterie board has a variety of flavor components. Mixing & matching food is one of the best parts.

Here are the elements I try to gather onto each plate/board/platter I make, even if I only use one type of food to represent that category.

  • SAVORY/FATTY: cured meats (like salami, prosciutto, Spanish chorizo, soppressata, mortadella, pepperoni), hard cheeses (like cheddar, parmesan, manchego, gouda), soft cheeses (like brie, goat cheese, cream cheese (heavenly with jalapeno jam), mozzarella, blue cheese), olives (like kalamata, Spanish green, niçoise), dips (hummus, guacamole, herbed sour cream), raw veggies (good vessels for the dips + they are refreshing)
  • SWEET: fresh or dried fruits (cherries, peaches, figs, pineapple, blueberries, raspberry, strawberries, oranges), preserves/jam, honey, candied nuts
  • SOUR/TANGY: pickled veggies (like cucumbers, red onions, or pepperoncini), mustard, tangy cheeses (like goat cheese), vinegar-based sauces (like vinaigrettes, chimichurri, or hot sauce)
  • SALTY: salted roasted nuts or smoked nuts, crackers (at least two different types for different textures), cured meats (especially prosciutto), olives, or sea salt (good sprinkled on chopped melon)
  • BITTER: leafy greens or fresh herbs (or sauces like basil pesto or chimichurri sauce)
  • SPICY: fresh or pickled chiles, spicy jam, hot sauce (jalapeno, habanero, ghost pepper), fresh black pepper, red pepper flakes, spicy cured meats
If you have time to make another small platter to accompany the main charcuterie board, a butter board would be a yummy option. The salty & fatty elements would pair well with just about anything and you could spread it on sliced bread or crackers.

Easy Charcuterie Board Ideas Using Seasonal Ingredients

Shopping For Charcuterie Board Ingredients

I love when I can make fancy appetizers like this charcuterie board without a bunch of work. By "work", I mean driving to five different stores in one afternoon to find exactly what I need. Please tell me I'm not the only one. When I'm feeling determined, I will waste lots of time & gas. :P

Thankfully, I grabbed everything for this charcuterie board at my local Tom Thumb. Only one stop! That's amazing (for me).

Why Tom Thumb? They have an exclusive line of products called Primo Taglio®, which includes a fabulous assortment of high-quality meats & cheeses made with the finest of ingredients that are actually affordable. A charcuterie board needs good meats & cheeses (they're the essence of the appetizer plate), and it's nice to be able to get high-quality foods without spending a fortune.

For this summer-themed charcuterie board, I settled on prosciutto & salami for the meat element (both pre-sliced - super convenient), then for the cheese, I chose goat cheese (it goes beautifully with summer fruits/jams), Manchego (an aged Spanish sheep's milk cheese with a lovely flavor that's not overwhelming), a ball of fresh mozzarella (practically mandatory for basil pesto & in-season tomatoes) & medium cheddar cheese (classic choice for picky eaters). Next time I'm grabbing some chorizo & crumbled feta, and brie.

Features of The Primo Taglio Cheeses & Meats That I Love:
  • cheese sourced from high-quality, local milk then prepared using old world techniques from Italy (for mozzarella & provolone) and France (goat cheese)
  • meat with no binders or fillers, artificial colors or MSG*, much of which is minimally processed and uses whole muscle meat instead of random parts. (*With the exception of some classics like American cheese & certain value meats.) For example, their prosciutto (which is hand trimmed & salted and dry-cured for 7+ months) is just ham + salt. No nitrates or MSG. Now that's impressive!

Primo Tagilo Meats & Cheeses For Making a Charcuterie Board

How to Prepare a Charcuterie Board

If you're making a small plate for one or two folks, it takes about 5-10 minutes to prepare. For a bigger charcuterie board with more variety (like the one pictured today), it'll take you 30-ish minutes to prep everything and layer ingredients across the board.

  • Take Off The Chill: First, set your cheeses out on the counter to warm up while you get everything ready. They taste better when they're closer to room temperature and it makes soft cheeses much easier to spread.
  • Chop The Veggies: Wash and dry all the produce, then slice or chop the fruits & veggies into bite-size pieces.
  • Slice & Cube The Meats/Cheeses: If your meat is in a log, thinly slice it into rounds, and if your cheeses are in brick or ball form, cut them into small cubes. If the meats are pre-sliced, pull them apart so you can roll or fan the pieces across the board for easy snacking. (You don't want each person to have to pick up the whole stack of salami slices and peel it off one by one.)
  • Gather Other Ingredients: Grab all the other jars/containers/packages (jam, nuts, pickles, mustard, etc.) and get ready to assemble.

How to Make a Charcuterie Board

Set up the board & utensils:

  1. Grab your chosen vessel (board, tray, plate) and set it next to the charcuterie ingredients for easy assembling. Some ideas for vessels are wooden cutting boards (they have the perk of being food safe & easy to clean), slate boards (popular for cheeses), and rimmed baking sheets.
  2. Pick a few small bowls, plates, or jars for holding the wet/messy ingredients that you want to keep separate from everything else (jams, olives, dips, pickles, salt, pepper, etc.) + any mini skewers or toothpicks for cheeses/veggies. These small containers make the board more visually appealing by creating contrast in height/shape and breaking up the groups of foods. I like to buy them a few at a time at Ikea, Crate & Barrel, Home Goods, Marshalls, Target & local thrift stores when they're on sale.
  3. Also grab some spoons & knives (small ones if you have them) for folks to serve themselves the wet ingredients, dips & softer cheeses.
  4. (Optional): If you're using wood, spread a layer of parchment paper or wax paper on your board so that the fatty foods (meats & cheeses) don't leave grease stains. You can also opt for a metal sheet pan (good for a large tray), which requires no protective barrier.

Grab your ingredients & start assembling (get creative & have fun with the styling!):
  1. Place one ingredient at a time on the board, starting with the two most important items: cured meats and cheeses. I used salami, prosciutto, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, medium cheddar cheese, and Manchego cheese.
  2. Next, place the veggies and fruits on the board. I select what I'm going to use based on what's in season and try to go for ones with bright, vivid colors so they make the board more eye-catching. Since it's early summer right now, I used sweet cherries, watermelon, red grapes, cucumbers, yellow & orange sweet bell pepper, and multi-colored heirloom cherry tomatoes.
  3. Nestle in the small bowls & containers with the wet/messy ingredients then stick in the spoons/knives for serving. Pictured is roasted red pepper hummus (good protein & so yummy with grapes, crackers & goat cheese), basil pesto (for the mozzarella, tomatoes and baguette bread), blackberry jam (good with goat cheese & crackers), pickles (I used cornichons), mixed olives (I used a mixed jar with green, kalamata & niçoise olives), and mustard (I used a stone-ground one today but there are so many options here).
  4. Fill in the rest of the empty spaces as best as possible with crackers/sliced bread (I used butter & water crackers + sliced sourdough baguette), nuts (almonds, walnuts, candied pecans, or shelled pistachios would be good), and leafy greens or herbs (I used spring mix but arugula would add a peppery bite).

Easy Charcuterie Board (Meat & Cheese Platter) with Primo Taglio

My Favorite Flavor Combos in This Summer Charcuterie Board

Before we jump into what specific ingredients you'll need to replicate this gorgeous platter at home, lemme tell you which ones were my favorite foods to pair together - bite for bite.

  • Mozzarella (drizzled with a thick, aged balsamic vinegar) + Basil Pesto + Cherry Heirloom Tomato (I used a mini bamboo skewer a.k.a. large toothpick to spear a piece of mozzarella, then a cherry tomato and then dipped both in the basil pesto before eating all three together!)
  • Watermelon chunk + a slice of Prosciutto (wrapped around the outside). It's sweet & juicy + salty heaven. Now I get why so many folks love the prosciutto + cantaloupe combo
  • Goat Cheese + Blackberry Jam + Butter Cracker. I could eat these for daaaaays - no joke! Soft, creamy cheese + buttery, crisp/crumbly cracker + sweet smooth jam = a classic combo for any group of folks you're entertaining. It's even better if you follow up a bite with a sip of a bubbly wine spritzer made with champagne or prosecco.
  • Red Grapes + Roasted Red Pepper Hummus. Seriously. Just try it! Grab a grape and dip it into the hummus. Commence total satisfaction. If you're feeling adventurous, throw a small chunk of soft cheese into that bite (flavored harvati is my personal favorite here but goat cheese would be fabulous, too).
  • Manchego + Salami + Water Cracker. Semi-strong cheese + flavorful aged meat + crisp neutral cracker. Spread a little mustard on the cracker first to switch things up. Make it even better by pairing the manchego with a small glass of cold Vinho Verde (dry sparkling Portuguese wine with lower alcohol content). I speak from personal experience here! :)
  • Cheddar + Red Grapes. I love cheddar with sweet fruits (especially apple & pear). It's magical. I don't understand the science of why fruits make cheddar taste even better, but they do!
  • Cherries + Almonds (best if they're toasted and/or salted). A classic combo that's made even better if you have some squares of dark chocolate to pair with them. Mmmmm. 
Okay, I've gotta stop there or I would list everything!
How to Make a Charcuterie Board (Meat and Cheese Platter) with Summer Ingredients

Tips & Tricks For Fixing Seasonal Charcuterie Boards

  • Use this recipe as a template and swap out the produce & other ingredients based on what's in season and/or on sale. Right now it's full-on summer, so I used watermelon, cherries, basil pesto & tomatoes. If you're making a fall charcuterie board, you may opt for apples, pears, figs, and roasted butternut squash instead. In the winter that might be oranges, clementines, grapefruits, kale & beets. In the spring, maybe artichokes, rhubarb, strawberries, and carrots. Being flexible & using what's available will save you money & ensure everything tastes better.
  • Place ingredients next to what they'll be eaten with (if possible) to encourage folks to mix things. Example: basil pesto next to the tomatoes, hummus next to the grapes (yes - they're so yummy together), jam near the goat cheese, mustard by the salami, pickles by the meats, and so on.
  • If possible, choose a board or platter with handles or a rim so it's easy to assemble all the ingredients onto the surface in your kitchen then carry the board to wherever you'll be serving the food. If you can't find any sturdy wooden boards locally, check out the charcuterie boards on Amazon
  • Break some of the foods into small groups that are scattered across the board with space in between so that if one person is digging into a particular meat/cheese, another person can do the same without having to stand and wait for their turn. I don't always do this with the cheese, but almost always with the meats because that is typically the most popular food aside from crackers or bread.

Ideas For Using Up Leftover Charcuterie Board Ingredients

After everyone's had their fill, you may end up with leftovers (yay). You can continue grazing on them, portion them into containers to take to work or school for healthy cold lunches (basically protein boxes), or repurpose them individually into new meals. Here are some ideas:

More Appetizer Recipes You'll Love:

charcuterie board, how to make, best, easy, meat and cheese platter
Yield: 12 as an appetizer, 6 as a light meal
Author: Elaina Newton - The Rising Spoon

How to Make a Charcuterie Board (Meat and Cheese Platter)

prep time: 30 Mcook time: total time: 30 M
Learn how to make a gorgeous appetizer platter (charcuterie board) that'll impress everyone and disappear quickly at your next party. This one's loaded with cured meats, cheeses, seasonal produce (easy to swap out), and lots of sweet & savory bite-sized nibbles, so there's something for everyone. Prep & assemble the simple ingredients in about 30 minutes (so easy), pop open a bottle of sparkling wine or mineral water, and relax while everyone grazes and chats.


  • 4 different kinds of cheese, ideally a mix of hard and soft (I used goat cheese, Manchego, fresh mozzarella, and medium cheddar)
  • 2-3 different types of cured meats, thinly sliced or cubed (I used prosciutto and Italian dry salami)
  • 3 different kinds of fresh, in-season fruits (I used sweet cherries, watermelon & red grapes)
  • 3 different kinds of fresh, in-season veggies (I used sweet bell pepper, cucumber & heirloom cherry tomatoes)
  • 2 different kinds of dip (I used roasted red pepper hummus & basil pesto)
  • mixed olives (I used a jar with a blend of green, kalamata & niçoise olives)
  • fruit jam or preserves (I used blackberry jam)
  • mustard (I used stone ground mustard)
  • pickles (I used cornichons/gherkins)
  • two different kinds of neutral crackers (I used butter crackers & water crackers)
  • Fresh crusty bread, sliced into small chunks or rounds (I used a sourdough baguette)
  • nuts (I used toasted almonds - rosemary spiced nuts would be great, too)
  • leafy greens (I used spring mix)
  • salt & pepper (optional) - for sprinkling on a variety of foods


How to cook How to Make a Charcuterie Board (Meat and Cheese Platter)

  1. Grab your board or preferred serving platter, along with any small bowls (for wet ingredients) and small knives & spoons for serving. 
  2. Optional (but recommended): spread a layer of parchment paper over the board to keep the fats/oils from the meat & cheese from seeping into the wood.
  3. Slice or cube the meats & cheeses (if needed), then wash & prep the veggies and fruit. 
  4. Arrange all the ingredients on the board, starting with the meats & cheeses, followed by the fruits & veggies, then the wet ingredients in small bowls (olives, dips, sauces, condiments). Fill in any gaps with crackers, sliced bread, nuts, and bunches of leafy greens. 
  5. Serve immediately with toothpicks, napkins, and/or small plates. Replenish popular ingredients as needed (this almost always happens with crackers). 
Created using The Recipes Generator

Did You Make This Recipe?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how it went! Please leave a comment here on the blog, on Pinterest via the "tried it" feature, or use the hashtag #therisingspoon & tag @therisingspoon when you share pics to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. It helps me to get feedback on my creations and it totally makes my day. :)

Click Here to Save This To Your Appetizer Recipes Board on Pinterest!

Need an easy & eye-catching no-cook appetizer for summer parties, a backyard BBQ, holidays (like Memorial Day, Fourth of July & Labor Day), camping & picnics? Learn how to assemble a simple charcuterie board (meat & cheese tray) with seasonal ingredients in 30 minutes. This one features cured meats, hard and soft cheeses, fresh produce like grapes, watermelon, cucumber & heirloom tomatoes, plus sweet & savory nibbles so there's a variety of flavors. Keep reading for lots of ideas & tips!

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. However, I ONLY recommend helpful products that I myself would use.

MEDICAL DISCLOSURE: The information included on this website is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions expressed here are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for your own situation or if you have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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