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When I was growing up my mom would put together a smorgasbord of foods like meats, pickles, olives, and crackers for us – and especially guests – to snack on. We didn’t really have a fancy name for it. But these days similar appetizers are called grazing boards, cheese boards, or charcuterie boards.

In this article, I’m sharing how to create one for your next date night, party, or holiday get-together with these easy step-by-step instructions. Plus get all kinds of charcuterie board ideas too!

What is Charcuterie?

Traditionally, charcuterie is a French word that loosely means a collection of cured meats. It is based on the two French words “chair” which means flesh with “cuir” which means cooked. It was a way of cooking intended to preserve meats before refrigeration existed. 

How is Charcuterie pronounced?

Charcuterie is pronounced shar-KOO-ter-ee. 

What is a Charcuterie Board/Grazing Board?

Strictly speaking, a charcuterie board is a display of cured meats. They have gained popularity in the last several years and now usually include meats, cheeses, crackers, dips, pickles, olives, nuts, fruits, and veggies…which was often previously referred to as a cheeseboard. 

What is the difference between a charcuterie board, a cheese board, and a grazing board? What about antipasto?

The difference between a charcuterie board, grazing board, and cheese board these days (in North America at least) isn’t much. The terms are often used interchangeably. Although technically speaking:

  • a charcuterie board is made entirely of cured meats
  • a cheese board is made up of only cheeses and is can be an entire course in a meal
  • a grazing board is usually much larger than the other two and can fill an entire decorated table with a selection of meats, cheeses, and seasonal fruits

Antipasto is very similar to the boards above as well, including dry, cured meats and garnishes, but usually not including cheese. 

Charcuterie Boards: Where To Begin? 

Charcuterie boards are actually fairly easy to put together. Here are some tips for creating a lovely “board” of appetizers. 

Start with the Base

Of course, you need to start with some sort of board to arrange your food on. This can be a board specially designed for this type of appetizer, like the large wood round with a handle in the photos, or any flat serving dish. See below for more base ideas. 

Decide what goes on your grazing board

The 4 S’s: Sweet, Savory, Salty, Spicy

In order to have a well-rounded and delicious grazing board, you’ll want to include bite-sized ingredients that are sweet, savory, salty, and spicy. Here are some ideas for each. See below for more specifics.

Sweet Ingredient Ideas

  • fruits (fresh and dried)
  • sweet spreads
  • chocolates
  • yogurt covered raisins, nuts, or almonds
  • bite-sized cookies

Savory Ingredient Ideas

  • cured meats
  • cheeses
  • herbed crackers
  • seasoned nuts
  • olives
  • breadsticks
  • pita
  • seasoned popcorn
  • dips

Salty Ingredient Ideas

  • cured meats
  • salted crackers
  • salty nuts
  • pickles
  • olives
  • pretzels
  • chips
  • popcorn

Spicy Ingredient Ideas

  • spiced nuts
  • spicy cheeses
  • spicy meats
  • hot peppers
  • spicy snack or party mixes 
  • spicy dips or sauces 
round wood charcuterie board filled with dips, meats, cheeses, pickles, olives, dried fruit and crackers

How much food do you need for a charcuterie board?

How much food you need on your board depends on how many people you’re serving. The following are guidelines that will allow you to scale your grazing board up or down – so you can serve 2 for a cozy date night or a crowd at a holiday party!


You’ll need:  

  • 2 oz (or 1/4 cup) of meat per guest if your board is served as an appetizer
  • 4 oz (or 1/2 cup) per guest if your board is served as a main.


You’ll need:

  • 2 oz (or 1/4 cup) of cheese per guest if your board is served as an appetizer
  • 4 oz or (1/2 a cup) per guest if your board is served as a main.


You’ll need:

  • 4 oz (or 1/2 cup) of crackers per guest if your board is served as an appetizer
  • 8 oz (or 1 cup) per guest if your board is served as a main.

Fruits, Veggies, Etc. 

You can include as many or as few fruits, veggies, and other snacks as you like. I tend to err on the side of caution and put out more food than needed, something like 2 oz (or 1/4 cup) per guest.

Pickles, Olives, Nuts

You don’t have to be too specific with amounts for these. Just buy a few different kinds and add them like garnishes to the board. 

When in doubt, buy and cut up extras of everything, and just refill as the board gets empty. Worst case, you’ll have leftovers. Leftover charcuterie board foods are a favorite around here – especially after church when we’ve had company the night before!

A Quick Overview of How To Make A Charcuterie Board

(More details and step-by-step instructions are below.)

  1. Pick a board, utensils, and a variety of small servings bowls.
  2. Place the small bowls (for dips, etc.) on the board as desired.
  3. Add 2 to 3 different kinds of cheese to your board. 
  4. Next, add a variety of cold cuts and cured meats to your board. 
  5. Add various breads, breadsticks, and artisan crackers. 
  6. And finally, add a variety of fruits (fresh and dried) and veggies (fresh and pickles) as well as nuts in the spaces that are left.
  7. Garnish your beautiful charcuterie board with fresh greens, herbs, and/or edible flowers.
  8. Now serve and enjoy!

Grazing board supplies

A board or platter

If you don’t have a charcuterie board, you can use just about any flat dish as a board.

Board options:

  • charcuterie board
  • cutting board
  • baking sheet
  • platters (yup, a turkey platter works!)
  • pastry boards
  • a tray

You could even put two of the above side by side if you need more room. Or you could put together a deconstructed board with various platters and dishes arranged together on your table, buffet, or countertop to form one large arrangement or grazing table. 

If you’re unsure if the surface of your board is food-safe, line it with parchment or other baking paper. 

Bowls for dips and little things

You’ll also need small bowls – ramekins work well – for dips, sauces, and other small things like olives or nuts. 


To keep everything sanitary you will need a plethora of small utensils like cocktail forks, appetizer spoons, and small tongs for guests to use to get their food. 

What Else Might I Need?

You will need small plates if your charcuterie board is being served as an appetizer and larger plates if you’re serving it as a meal. 

If you’re serving any non-finger foods, your guests will also need forks or spoons for eating with. And napkins will be extremely helpful too – cocktail size for appetizers and regular size for a meal. 

round wood charcuterie board filled with dips, meats, cheeses, pickles, olives, dried fruit and crackers close up

The Ingredients – More Specifics

The Cheeses

There are many types of cheeses that make a great addition to grazing boards. My favorites are a soft goat cheese with cranberry topping and a veggie and herb Havarti. You know, when I’m cheating and have a little dairy. 

Spreadable cheeses

  • cream cheese – plain or flavored
  • brie
  • gorgonzola
  • Daiya or other non-dairy spreadable cheese
  • Boursin
  • Laughing Cow

Soft and hard cheeses

  • parmesan
  • gouda
  • cheddar
  • mozzerella
  • colby
  • jack
  • Havarti
  • Baby Bell
  • goat cheese
  • Daiya or other non-dairy cheese

The Breads (Crackers, Etc.)

Breads and crackers are wonderful on a charcuterie board. You can, of course, include other grains and starches if you’d like. 

  • breadsticks
  • pita
  • flavored crackers like vegetable thins
  • saltines
  • seed crackers (great for keto diets!)
  • cassava crackers (also good for keto diets)
  • potato chips
  • pretzels

The Fruits

Fruits – dried and sweet – add a naturally sweet flavor to charcuterie boards. Here are some good ones:

  • grapes
  • strawberries
  • blackberries
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • cherries
  • apricots
  • figs
  • dates
  • raisins

The Vegetables

Raw veggies – crudites if you are feeling fancy – add a nice crisp texture to this type of snack board. Here are some great options:

  • bell peppers
  • cherry tomatoes
  • celery
  • cucumber slices
  • carrot sticks
  • radishes
  • zucchini
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • mushrooms

The Meats

Of course, the very word charcuterie implies that meats will be involved! Here are some yummy options. 

  • prosciutto
  • salami
  • pepperoni (sticks)
  • cocktail weenies
  • deli meat (rolled up)
  • kielbasa

The Nuts

You can include just about any type of nuts and seeds on your charcuterie board – provided of course NONE of your guests has nut allergies. You can choose seasoned, salted, or raw nuts and seeds. 

  • almonds 
  • peanuts
  • cashews
  • pistachios
  • macadamia nuts
  • brazil nuts
  • pecans
  • walnuts
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sunflower seeds

The Condiments & Dips

Condiments and dips are a necessity for grazing boards. Here are a few you might use:

  • hummus
  • guacamole
  • ranch dip
  • mustards
  • hot sauce
  • salsa
  • olive oil (with herbs and garlic – yum!)
  • bruschetta
round wood charcuterie board filled with dips, meats, cheeses, pickles, olives, dried fruit and crackers from above

How to Arrange Charcuterie Board/Grazing Platter

Here are some styling and arranging tips for your board:

  • Just like in decorating, an odd number of items look best. This is more applicable to the bowls or large items on your platter. 
  • Be aware of color combos and try to space out your foods that have similar colors so they’re not all grouped together. 
  • Help your guests to know what goes with what by putting things like cheese and crackers and brie and crusty bread slices side by side. 
  • Serve everything in bite-sized pieces. This is just simpler all around. 
  • Start with the largest items first and work your way down to smaller things. (This is a good rule of thumb for everything including decorating Christmas trees and life in general!)

How-To: Grazing Boards Step-by-Step

01 | Place the bowl(s)

We start with putting the bowls on the board first because if you wait until later you may not have room. 

There are no rules for where to put the bowls on your board, but here are some guidelines to help you arrange your grazing board. 

  • If you’re only using one bowl – place it to the side of your board. Or put it in the center and have all the other ingredients expand out from that center point. 
  • If you’re using two bowls – place them near opposite corners or sides of your board. 
  • If you’re using three bowls – place them on the board so that they form a loose triangle. 
  • And finally, if you’re using lots of bowls – place one or two on their own and then group a few others together on another part of the board. 

02 | Place the cheese

To make your board look balanced space your variety of cheeses around the board, leaving room for things like crackers and meats next to them. 

Always make sure your cheeses are cut up into bite-sized pieces, crumbled, or spreadable. 

03 | Add the meat

Fill the main gaps between the cheeses with different types of cured meats. 

Cutting and displaying them differently makes for a more interesting arrangement: 

  • small pepperoni sticks and cocktail weenies placed in little “piles”
  • sliced straight from the package like kielbasa
  • folded once for half moon-ish shapes, or twice for a more triangular shape
  • rolled into a tube shape
  • folded into a rose shape (see below for instructions)

How to Make a Rose from Meat Slices

  • Find a glass that is smaller in diameter than your meat slices.
  • Place a single slice of meat over the rim of the glass, folding one half down into the glass and the other half over the outside of the glass. 
  • Repeat with another slice of meat, but place it so it overlaps the first slice by 2/3. 
  • Keep repeating with additional slices around the glass until there is no more room left in the glass. 
  • Carefully turn your glass over onto your charcuterie board, gently removing the rose from the glass. 

*A meat rose isn’t shown on our charcuterie board because I learned how to do it after I took photos. But it’s actually really simple to do and makes a big visual impact!

04 | Position the fruit and vegetables

Next, after the meat is to fill in more large spaces with fruits and/or vegetables. 

Since fruits and veggies tend to be more vibrant and varied in color, now is a good time to space those colors around your board. 

05 | Add crackers or bread

Place these now so that they don’t get buried or soggy under other things. 

06 | Fill in any gaps

You will likely still have some small gaps that can be filled with:

  • fresh herbs
  • dried Fruit
  • olives
  • nuts

07 | Add the dips, etc. 

Of course, you already have the bowls in place for the dips and sauces. But now is the time to place the hummus, guacamole, ranch, jams, mustards, etc. into those bowls.  

08 | Garnish with edible blooms and herbs (optional)

You could at this point also make your platter look prettier with the addition of edible flowers and herbs if you’d like. 

Flowers like nasturtiums, zinnias, bachelor buttons, and calendula are great options. And basil, lavender, chives, and dill are excellent herbs to use. 

Note: If you’re going to add edible flowers and herbs, either wash them gently but well or make sure you get varieties that have been grown without pesticides as your guests will assume they’re safe to eat. 

09 | Add labels (optional)

Adding labels is another optional, but helpful, step in creating your grazing board. Labels will allow your guests to know what they’re eating – so they know if they’re going to get a mouthful of sweet peach Havarti or spicy jalapeno Havarti!

round wood charcuterie board filled with dips, meats, cheeses, pickles, olives, dried fruit and crackers from above

Grazing Board/Charcuterie Board Grocery List

To create your APPETIZER-SIZED charcuterie board you will need at least 3 varieties of EACH of the following:

  • 2 oz (1/4 cup) PER GUEST cured meats (a mix of beef, turkey, chicken, and/or pork)
  • 2 oz (1/4 cup) PER GUEST cheeses (a mix of hard, semi-soft, and soft)
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) PER GUEST crackers (at least one plain and the others seasoned/flavored)
  • 2 oz (1/4 cup) PER GUEST fruits and/or veggies
  • dips, spreads, and/or jams
  • garnishes, pickles, and olives

To create your MEAL-SIZED charcuterie board you will need 3 or more varieties of EACH of the following: 

  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) cured meats (a mix of beef, turkey, chicken, and/or pork)
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) cheeses (a mix of hard, semi-soft, and soft)
  • 8 oz (1 cup) PER GUEST crackers (at least one plain and the others seasoned/flavored)
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) fruits and/or veggies
  • dips, spreads, and/or jams
  • garnishes, pickles, and olives

Bonus tips

How long can a charcuterie board sit out?

Whenever you serve appetizers like this it’s important to keep track of how long they are left out of the fridge. The general rule of thumb is that perishable foods should not be at (or just above) room temperature for any more than two hours. 

So keep an eye on your charcuterie board and if necessary return it to the fridge (if it fits) for about 30 minutes or until it’s all chilled again. Or you can disassemble it and pack it up for later. 

What about people with food allergies or sensitivities?

Personally, I have more than a few food sensitivities that I’d rather not have. As do the other members of my family. It’s frustrating to be a guest somewhere and not be able to eat any of the food because your body can’t tolerate it.  If I could, I’d eat just about anything, honestly. Unfortunately, I can’t, and neither can some other people.

That doesn’t mean that as a host you have to make ALL the food you serve dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, keto, paleo, or kosher. But extend a little extra kindness and find out ahead of time from your guests if they have any food issues, intolerances, sensitivities, or dietary restrictions. Then prepare your boards accordingly.

For example, if you have guests that can’t have gluten, there are SO many types of crackers now that taste and look great on a charcuterie board. Or if your guests can’t have dairy, there are many non-dairy types of cheese you can include. And there are so many non-pork options for meats for any guests who avoid that. We easily served an entirely grain-free, pork-free charcuterie board for some family members we had over not long ago.  

Be sure to check that none of your guests have anaphylactic allergies to any foods. If they do, you will need to avoid those foods and foods with those ingredients entirely on any part of your charcuterie boards. 

Pro-Hostess Tip

If you or your guests can’t eat certain foods, or you’re simply not sure, label everything so everyone can relax knowing what they’re eating. And maybe consider keeping the packages of the foods you serve tucked into a corner in the kitchen so your guests can check the ingredients for themselves if they need to. They will LOVE you for taking extra care of them like that!

round wood charcuterie board filled with dips, meats, cheeses, pickles, olives, dried fruit and crackers

How to Build a Charcuterie Board Printable

The Best Charcuterie Board Ideas from Around the Web

Charcuterie boards have taken over the internet. I’ve seen everything from breakfast in bed charcuterie style, to a whole date night spread.

While charcuterie boards are pretty amazing, they are also easy to put together yourself!

round wood charcuterie board filled with dips, meats, cheeses, pickles, olives, dried fruit and crackers close up

Have you ever made a charcuterie board or grazing board? Did you grow up calling them something else?

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