Not only does a charcuterie board offer an easy way to please a crowd with varying tastes and dietary restrictions, it comes together in very little time, making it perfect for holiday entertaining. A charcuterie board is ideal for guests who are gluten-free, dairy-free, or just watching their portions, as they can mix and match and serve themselves.
In most cases, you’ll want to pair three or four choices from each category in order to create a well-rounded board. However, if you’re feeding a large crowd or trying to stick to your holiday budget, choosing two options from each category will still provide ample variety. You should plan for 2 to 3 oz of meat and cheese each per person.
Here’s what to include on your charcuterie board (and what to skip) for a delicious and budget-friendly crowd-pleasing meat treat. And don’t forget your food safety — a charcuterie board should only be left at room temperature for about two hours.
Aim for at least three meat varieties.
A solid charcuterie board will have at least three types of meats — one with a mild flavor, a strong flavor, and one middle-of-the-road option. This way, there’s a little something for everyone. Prosciutto, sopressata, and Genoa salami are all readily available pre-sliced and packaged in the deli section of most grocery stores and major retailers, and make a nice starting point for any charcuterie board.
Include two or three cheeses.
Like the meats, pick a few cheeses with contrasting textures or flavors to round out your charcuterie board. A soft brie pairs nicely with a hard parmesan, while a light and tangy goat chevre contrasts well with a bold blue or smoked cheddar. You don’t have to spend a fortune at the cheesemonger either; the deli section of your favorite store should have plenty of options to suit any price point.
Find a fruit.
Sweet fruit keeps the flavor pairings on a charcuterie board interesting. Dried fruits offer a different texture than fresh fruits, and stay fresher longer. Stick with seasonal choices to help cut down on costs.
Pick a preserve.
Including one or two sweet preserves on your charcuterie board helps to balance the salty and dry meats and cheeses. You probably have a jam or two in your pantry or fridge you can use, and both homemade and store-bought versions are fair game here. Fig and apricot tend to pair well with many types of meats and cheeses, but don’t be afraid to try other varieties.
Bring the brine.
Foods in brine such as pickled vegetables help to cleanse the palate between bites thanks to their acidity, while also pairing nicely with bolder meats and cheeses. Some good options include baby gherkin pickles, pickled carrots or green beans, olives, or pickled pepperoncini peppers.
Sample some spreads.
This step is optional if you’re on a tight budget, as you’ve already got your preserves, but adding another couple of spreads such as mustard, pate, or a tapenade can help bring even more flavors, texture, and variety to your charcuterie board.
Crackers and bread.
While they aren’t entirely necessary, offering a selection of crackers and bread in cute little baskets beside your charcuterie board provides guests with extra sustenance, stretches your meat and cheese budget further, and provides stability to any mini “sandwiches” your guests put together. Stick with crackers that have little to no flavor to allow your meat and cheese selections to really shine.
Finally, add any finishes touches to your board, such as raw or roasted nuts and seeds, chocolate squares, or fresh herbs for a vibrant touch of color.
Arrange all items on a serving platter for a visually-appealing — and mouth watering — appetizer. And don’t forget to check the Flipp app to find the best deals on the tastiest meats and cheese for your charcuterie board. Add meats, cheese, and accompaniments to your Flipp shopping list to check for sales and to make sure you don't forget anything on your holiday grocery list.