Nicole McLaughlin, aka NicoleMcmom, shows you how to build three different charcuterie boards, step-by-step.

By Vanessa Greaves
December 23, 2020
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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 you own 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?)

1. Classic Charcuterie Board

Meats

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 sopresatta or pepperoni
  • Pâté or roulade

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

Accoutrements

These are 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 tang and texture with nuts, spreads, and mustard

Crispy Canvas

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

The Build

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.

Here's how to array the components on your board:

  • Plan it out. Visualize where you'll place your thinly sliced and folded meats.
  • If you're placing something that guests can slice themselves, make a few slices to get it started.
  • Place larger items first, such as meats, then start filling in with cheeses.
  • Put items close together that complement each other.
  • Finally, fill in any remaining blanks with the pickled, sweet, tangy, salty items and the crackers and breads or vegetables.
  • Don't forget the utensils for all of the cutting and spreading.

Breakfast Charcuterie Board

Pancake Board
Credit: Mackenzie Schieck

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

Dessert Charcuterie Board

hot chocolate and dessert charcuterie board
Credit: AlbineBougartchev/Getty Images

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

Build away!

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

More tips and tricks from Nicole: