Learn how to build three different Instagram-worthy charcuterie boards, step-by-step.
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Elaborately composed charcuterie boards are so popular right now that the term is used to describe any kind of food array, whether or not it includes actual charcuterie (cooked meats, although some narrow the definition down to cured meats in particular). Besides, it's just a fun word to say. Shar-KOO-tuh-ree.

To help you build your bountiful charcuterie boards, our own Nicole McLaughlin will show you step by step how to choose the components for a classic charcuterie board and how to arrange them so the whole thing looks as good as it tastes.

And in defiance of the charcuterie purists, Nicole will show you how to build two more charcuterie boards: one for breakfast and one for dessert. (The breakfast board does contain meat, so it technically qualifies. But the dessert board? That's just for pure fun. And who doesn't love a little fun?)

Tools for Building a Charcuterie Board

  • A serving platter: You can purchase a cheese board, or you can use a cutting board, rimmed baking sheet, or any sort of serving platter you have on hand.
  • Serving utensils: You can purchase a special set of cheese knives and a spreader, or use regular forks and butter knives for serving. Some charcuterie boards even come in a set with serving utensils included.
  • Small bowls and ramekins: Any small dishes or ramekins you have lying around the house will work well for jams, pickles, mustards, etc.

How to Build a Classic Charcuterie Board

Arrange the board about 30 minutes prior to serving in order to give the cheese time to soften and come to room temperature.

charcuterie board on steel counter
Credit: Meredith Food Studios

Step 1: Meats

Meats are usually one of the largest components on the board, so start there. Play up the variety by offering at least three different types of meats. Popular choices include:

  • Cured meats such as salami & prosciutto
  • Cured sausage such as soppressata or pepperoni
  • Pâté or roulade

If you're placing something that guests can slice themselves (such as sausage), make a few slices to get it started.

Step 2: Cheeses

Next, start filling in the board with cheeses. Pick out two to three different kinds of cheese with varying flavors and textures:

  • Hard cheese such as Parmesan or Manchego
  • Semi-soft cheese such as Gouda or Cheddar
  • Soft cheese such as Brie, chèvre, blue cheese, or flavored cream cheese

Step 3: Accoutrements

Now it's time to add the extras that help you build the perfect bite:

  • Briny or salty elements, such as pickles and olives to balance the richness of the meat and cheese. To cut down on cost, you can easily quick-pickle your own produce such as pickled red onions and pickled carrots.
  • Sweet components, such as dried and fresh fruit, jams, jellies, and honey.
  • Add texture and tang with nuts, spreads, and mustard.

Small bowls and trays can come in handy for holding jams, jellies, mustards, dips, and more.

Step 4: Crispy Canvas

Finally, fill in any remaining blanks with crackers, breads, or vegetables. This is the foundation upon which you custom-build each delicious mouthful:

  • Crackers
  • Bread slices (sized for one or two bites at the most)
  • Slices of cucumber or carrot

Don't forget the utensils for all of the cutting and spreading!

How Much Should You Buy Per Person?

Now that you know what components to include, the next question is how much do you buy? Nicole suggests two ounces of meat and one to two ounces of cheese per person if the charcuterie board is meant as an appetizer before a more substantial meal. If it's meant as the main meal itself, you can double the amount to four ounces of meat and about three ounces of cheese per person.

How to Make a Breakfast Charcuterie Board

close up breakfast charcuterie
Credit: Meredith Food Studios

Using the basic guidelines from the classic charcuterie board, you can build a fun-to-serve, fun-to-eat breakfast charcuterie board.

Components

  • Meats such as bacon, sausage, and sliced ham
  • Smoked salmon
  • Peeled and sliced hard-boiled eggs
  • Mini pancakes and waffles
  • Biscuits, bagels, muffins
  • Jams, jellies, syrups
  • Fruits

How to Make a Dessert Charcuterie Board

dessert charcuterie board
Credit: Meredith Food Studios

For the prettiest "charcuterie" board of them all, create one with a variety of sweet treats. Make it extra easy on yourself and buy everything premade; it's the presentation that counts here.

Components

  • Cookies and sliced pound cake
  • Pretzel rods to dip in melted chocolate
  • Mini brownie bites
  • Marshmallow fluff and cookie butter dips
  • Sugared nuts
  • Fresh fruits

You can connect with Nicole as NicoleMcmom on Allrecipes and on Instagram @nicolemcmom.

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