Whether you’re hosting a casual backyard barbeque or an upscale dessert party, a cheese and charcuterie board is a great addition to the menu. A crowd-pleasing appetizer board doesn’t have to require much prep time, and it will keep guests occupied so you can enjoy hosting.
Start with a selection of cheeses and meats. No need to go crazy! Two or three is sufficient for a smaller group, and three to six is plenty for a larger group. Then choose a vehicle for the cheese and meat--perhaps crackers, a baguette, or flatbreads. Lastly, add a few accompaniments like jam, honey, pickles, fruit, or nuts.
Speaking of nuts, peanuts are the ideal addition to your cheese and charcuterie board! When entertaining, you can elevate peanuts way beyond jars of mixed nuts. Think red-skinned Spanish peanuts, spice-roasted peanuts, or boiled peanut hummus.
All of the components of your cheese and charcuterie board don’t have to perfectly go together, but if you’re not sure where to begin, consider a theme. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
The Southeastern United States is responsible for several beloved crops. Peanuts and peaches are two of summer’s best, which makes them perfect to build a board around. Boiled peanuts are about as Southern as it gets, and boiled peanut hummus turns a humble, roadside snack into a novel addition to a cheese board. Peaches appear in two forms: fresh and jam paired with fresh goat cheese (chèvre). Instead of the typical cured meats you see on charcuterie spreads, think artisanal beef jerky and hickory smoked bacon. Roasted peanuts in the shell give a nostalgic nod to baseball (also in season!), and here they act as fun munchies for guests.
What you need:
Goat cheese (chevre) with peach jam
Roasted peanuts in shell
Hickory smoked bacon
Artisanal beef jerky or turkey jerky
Local wildflower honey
Identifying a country as a theme for your board is a simple way to go. For this simple Spanish board, all you need is Manchego cheese, Serrano Ham (Jamón Serrano), Spanish peanuts, and a baguette. Serve with a glass of Spanish wine and be transported to the Mediterranean for an evening.
What you need:
Spanish olive oil
If choosing a specific country is too limiting for your theme, try thinking regionally, like this Asian fusion board. Roast peanuts with Chinese five spice, a spice blend common in Szechuan cooking. Instead of pickles, try Korean kimchi-style fermented vegetables. Although cheese is not prevalent in most Asian cultures, a buttery cheese like Gruyere is a nice flavor pairing with tangy kimchi. Swap cured meat for cured fish, like smoked trout. Add an exotic fruit, like dragon fruit, which is common in Southeast Asia, and round out the board with rice crackers.
What you need:
Roasted peanuts with Chinese five spice
Buttery cheese (like Gruyere)
Chinese cured pork belly
Red bean paste
There are endless possibilities for cheese and charcuterie inspiration, and these are just a few. The Spanish board could just as easily be Italian with Parmigiano-Reggiano, taleggio, and prosciutto. Or you could go to another area of the Mediterranean with chickpea hummus, merguez sausage, harissa-spiced peanuts, and pita bread.
Get more general tips about building a cheese board here.
Kenan Hill is a photographer, cooking instructor, and blogger in Atlanta. She is a passionate supporter of the local food movement, and she uses her background in art to share the stories of food and farms visually. She writes about food, entertaining and travel on kenanhill.com.