Get on Board: charcuterie food boards

Amanda Harper


Charcuterie boards were the surprise hit of 2020 that none of us saw coming. Here's how to make this unfussy treat a part of your holiday celebrations.

Okay, fine. So it’s not technically a charcuterie board without… well, charcuterie. But when this trend took to the ‘Gram earlier this year, people weren’t so worried about semantics. Everyone was just looking for an unfussy way to make quarantine dining (such as it was) feel a little more special, elevating midday snacktime. Think grown-up Lunchables.

That “make it work” spirit is what’s going to make food boards the star of your holiday celebrations… no matter how un-fancy they may be this year.

“Charcuterie” is a French term for a whole branch of cooking that centers on preparing meat products. Most are preserved in some fashion, like through smoking or salt curing. By giving those meats longer shelf lives, charcuterie was a food for the peasant class – something you wouldn’t probably guess when you order a charcuterie board at a schmancy restaurant.

Breads, olives, oils, fruits and spreads were natural additions to charcuterie boards, all to help you experience the cured meats in new ways. But as the idea of what could go with charcuterie expanded, so did our thinking about what a “charcuterie board” was in the first place. After all, we’ve been serving cheese sans charcuterie on boards for ages. Why not throw it all out and have cookies, instead?! (Truly, great words to live by.)

The versatility of the charcuterie moderne means you can steal this idea whether you’re having a Friendsgiving on the patio or a romantic holiday at home.


The Traditional

There’s nothing like a classic to make your holiday feel comforting and timeless. While there aren’t rules for charcuterie boards, strictly speaking, the basic gist is that you want a balance of meats, breads, cheeses and accoutrement.

Pre-sliced meats: prosciutto, guanciale, mortadella, Ibérico ham or speck

Meats for guests to slice themselves: hard salami or smoked sausage 

Spreads and dips: pâté, tapenade, hummus

Cheeses: choose to complement your other selections, but one bold cheese, one soft cheese and one hard cheese will usually do it (short on space? soft, spreadable cheeses can pull double-duty for the “spreads” category!)

Bread Elements: crackers, toast, crispy breadsticks

Extras: figs, pomegranates, cranberries, olives, giardiniera, grapes, dried fruit

One pretty thing: sprigs of rosemary, sage leaves, orange peel twists



Worried that your diners might feel intimidated by your fancy charcuterie board? Write out the spread menu with descriptions of each product to help them navigate the flavors. Helpful hints about smart bite pairings would surely be welcome, too!



The Sweetie

Let’s be honest: new ways to have dessert are our favorite innovations. This platter by Meaghan of Everyday Tables will make your guests say, “Ho, Ho, Ho-ly cuteness!” Here’s how to make one happen:

Pick a color scheme: whether it’s red and green, blue and white or monochromatic, cohesive colors will help elevate the whole look. (Meaghan went peppermint colors AND flavors! How fun is that?)

See stars: notice how this round board radiates out from the center? Placing your goods in clever shapes creates structure.

More is always more!

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The Naughty

Okay, this bad board is about as un-fussy as it gets. If your family is more into the Turkey Day football game than the parade, this board might just be for you!

Fry hard: Have a plan of attack to ensure that everything makes it to the board nice and hot. Make use of the air fryer, your oven and any other fryalator you’ve got on hand and get crackin’.

I dip, you dip, we dip: honey mustard, buffalo wing sauce, ranch, bleu cheese dressing, ketchup and more!

Remember fresh: crudités, chopped green onions, parsley and radishes will be a nice break from the heavy fried stuff.


The Early

The problem of what to eat on the morning of the big meal is finally solved! This breakfast spread invites everyone to serve themselves (because it’s too darn early!)

Carb it up: Pancakes, waffles, crêpes and French toast all work wonderfully!

Top it up: add sliced fresh fruit, jimmies, whipped cream, syrups, jams and nuts.

Meat: if your guests need a little savory to kick start their morning, bacon and sausage are a natural friend of the pancake



Make your boards COVID-friendly with individual tongs for each guest. You could also serve everyone from the board.