What is charcuterie?

Those pretty meat and cheese boards you see all over social media are a trend that actually originated with meat spreads in 15th-century France. The definition of charcuterie is "the culinary art of preparing meat products," according to The Organic Kitchen. Charcuterie was actually developed out of necessity — it's the way meats were preserved long before refrigeration came about.

How is charcuterie pronounced?

Pronounced shahr-ku-tuh-ree, the word "charcuterie" is French for "pork butcher shop." The more you know!

What tools do I need to make a charcuterie board?

Serving Board
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Every charcuterie board has to start with the actual board, of course. You can buy charcuterie boards online, but any large rimmed cutting board or serving platter will work, as well.

Serving Utensils
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Cheese serving knives, small forks and spoons, and mini tongs may come in handy for serving, depending on what you plan to include.

Honey Mixing Stirrer
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If you're serving honey, a drizzling utensil is a nice touch.

Bellemain Ramekins

For spreads, honey, and jams, as well as messier accompaniments like olives and pickles, ramekins (or any small dishes) are a must.

Party trick: For a more intimate gathering, consider putting an individual, mini charcuterie board at each place setting. Especially amid the pandemic, this is also a safer way to serve your guests.

What should be on a charcuterie platter?

Along with the traditional cured meat, the addition of paired cheeses and accompaniments like fruit, nuts, olives, and spreads are common in restaurants that serve charcuterie boards. Here's what you'll find on a traditional charcuterie board:

  • Cured meat
  • Cheeses
  • Olives
  • Nuts
  • Fruits and Veggies
  • Crackers
  • Jellies and jams

Pro tip: Using a bunch of smaller boards instead of one big one means you can move servings around to feed a crowd.

How to build a simple charcuterie board

Building a charcuterie board is about taste, of course, but it's important to not only include a variety of flavors (sweet, savory, salty), but different textures as well.

✔️ Use the Best Cured Meats

For traditional charcuterie, cured meats like mortadella, salami, prosciutto, and bresaola are staples. Charcuterie is all about presentation, meaning there are plenty of styling techniques to try.

✔️ Use the Best Cheeses

Try to mix it up when it comes to cheese: Pick at least one spreadable, one hard, and one soft cheese. Make or buy labels for your cheeses so guests can easily choose the ones they like.

✔️ Add Dried or Fresh Fruit, Plus Vegetables

Dried mangoes, cherries, plums, and peaches offset saltier meats and cheeses. As for fresh fruit, if you don't want to spend time slicing, grapes are a solid option. Choose Concord grapes for their distinctive blue hue and Champagne varieties for their decorative tight clusters. Fresh veggies add crunch and provide a healthier option on your board.

✔️ Fill in Spaces With Breads, Crackers, Nuts, and Seeds

Arrange breads, crackers, nuts, and seeds in different shapes and sizes to fill holes around your meats, cheeses, fruits, and veggies. For a sweet addition, include squares of dark chocolate.

✔️ Garnish with Spreads and Dips

Nestle in ramekins filled with sweet spreads like honey and fig jam, and place them near cheeses that pair well.

More charcuterie board ideas to try

When it comes to making your own charcuterie, nothing is off limits. There are truly no rules, which means you can get as creative (or keep it as simple) as you wish! While a search for "charcuterie" on Instagram yields more than 1 million results, here are some of our favorite epic spreads for inspiration.

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Brunch Charcuterie Board

charcuterie board ideas breakfast or brunch charcuterie board
Mike Garten. Food Styling: Christine Albano. Prop Styling Alex Mata

Keep the party going in the morning with a next-level brunch! Arrange mini pancakes and waffles, bacon, hard-boiled eggs, sliced avocado, sausage, and fruit on a platter; blueberry sauce and cinnamon maple butter spread (combine 1 stick unsalted butter at room temp with 3 Tbsp maple syrup and 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon) round out the tray.

Pro tip: Greek yogurt + honey drizzle = instant breakfast board topping.

Thanksgiving Dinner Charcuterie Board

charcuterie board ideas thanksgiving charcuterie board
Mike Garten. Food Styling: Christine Albano. Prop Styling Alex Mata

Everyone's favorite Thanksgiving flavors in one spread means less dishes and more fun, festive combos.

Time-saving tip: Ask for thick-cut turkey and ham slices at the deli counter if you don't want to roast your own meat.

Dessert Charcuterie Board

charcuterie board ideas thanksgiving dessert board
Mike Garten. Food Styling: Christine Albano. Prop Styling Alex Mata

Room for dessert? We transformed classic holiday pie fillings into self-serve dips with crust-inspired cookies for dipping, plus thinly sliced apples and plenty of berries to balance out the sweet treats. We included Chocolate Mousse Dip, Salted Caramel Pecan Dip (combine dulche de leche, roasted pecans, and flaky salt to taste), and this No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake Dip recipe (makes 2 cups):

  • 6 oz cream cheese, at room temp
  • 3 Tbsp confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup pure pumpkin puree
  1. In medium bowl, using electric mixer on medium, beat cream cheese, sugar, and pie spice until smooth.
  2. Reduce mixer speed to low; gradually add heavy cream. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until thickened and soft peaks have formed, about 2 min.
  3. Fold in pumpkin puree until blended.

WD Test Kitchen Tip: Our creamy dip is light on sugar to complement cookies for dipping — add a little more if you prefer it sweeter.

Thanksgiving Turkey Charcuterie Board

charcuterie board ideas thanksgiving charcuterie board
Mike Garten. Food Styling: Christine Albano. Prop Styling Alex Mata.

Fresh fruit and veggies, cured meats, and cheeses form the feathers of this pear turkey. Use endive leaves to create little "boats" for scooping up French Onion dip.

Christmas Wreath Salad Board

charcuterie board ideas salad wreath
Mike Garten. Food Styling: Christine Albano. Prop Styling Alex Mata

Family-style greens layered with blue cheese, bacon, vibrant peppers, and a rich Mustard Vinaigrette dressing — it has a nice ring to it!

Get the Spinach Salad with Pickled Shallots and Mustard Vinaigrette recipe.

Snowman Cheese Board

christmas snacks snowman cheese board
Mike Garten. Food Stylist Simon Andrews. Prop Stylist Lis Engelhart

Here's what you'll need for this adorable snowman appetizer: Three cheese wheels, a prosciutto scarf, sugared cranberry buttons, raisin eyes, and a chili pepper nose.

Ice Cream Sundae Dessert Board

charcuterie board ideas dessert board

This sweet sundae dessert board from Charcu in The Lou is sure to delight ice cream lovers of all ages on Valentine's Day. It's also a great birthday party idea — just add your favorite flavor of ice cream and grab a scoop.

Fresh Fruit Charcuterie Board

charcuterie board ideas fruit board
Courtesy of Tavola

This colorful fruit board from Tavola Charcuterie will satisfy your sweet tooth, but without tons of sugar.

Mini Charcuterie Board for 2

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Choose a smaller plate and lower the portion size for a romantic date-night board for two. As a bonus, you can shop for ingredients and create your charcuterie together, too.

Christmas Charcuterie Wreath

Created by @tavola_char, New Jersey's finest husband-and-wife team, this holiday party-ready charcuterie platter features sugar-coated fruit, rosemary, sage, and salami roses.

Traditional Charcuterie Platter

charcuterie board ideas  wegrazedallas

This platter by Gather + Graze Dallas (@wegrazedallas) is droolworthy.

Cute Winter Charcuterie Board

St. Louis food stylists @charcu_inthelou offer classes, so you can easily recreate fun boards like this one featuring pancakes, pastries, fruit, and more.

Large Charcuterie Board

Marissa Mullen, founder of That Cheese Plate (@thatcheeseplate) and author of That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life, shares creative cheese plates and recipes like this one with 332k followers. Oh and she coined the term "salami river" — no big deal.

Simple Charcuterie Board

Need a simpler approach to putting together a platter? Head to @cheesebynumbers for Marissa Mullen's step-by-step tutorials and illustrated maps, a.k.a. her Cheese by Numbers method.

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Jamie Kravitz
Digital Editor

Jamie Kravitz (she/her) is the digital editor at Woman's Day, where she oversees the brand's digital platforms and covers holidays, food, and more. Before joining WD in 2021, she was a digital editor at the Rachael Ray Show. Jamie has over five years of experience writing relationship, entertainment, home, and gifting content for publications including The Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings, Insider, and Elite Daily. She graduated from Emerson College with a BFA in Writing, Literature and Publishing and lives in Brooklyn with her cats, Lumos and Linus.