The secrets to a perfectly fancy-pants cheese board (spoiler: it's dead easy)

How to make a cheese board
Photos and food styling by Catherine Clark

I recently assembled a dry run of a dead simple fall-themed cheese board for the upcoming holiday season that I desperately want to share with you. It's one of those party staples that taps into our inner Lunchable desires while still being totally lush. It's like cheese and crackers gone upscale. The best part is you just have to slice a little, arrange a little (which you know we love!), and serve.

You can see my original example of a cheese board here, but I've got some tips to take your cheese board game up to eleven. Let's make a cheese board…

Cheeses to make a cheese board

Think variety when it comes to cheeses. I'd steer clear of anything too gimmicky (like pumpkin spice cheddar or something) and stick with quality classics. Here are some ideas:

Soft: soft, spreadable cheeses like double or triple creams, Chèvre, ricotta, and cremont pair well on crackers and with fruits.
Crumbly and strong: Stilton, Époisses, Gorgonzola, and similar strong and stinky cheeses are awesome for those who love them (like me!).
Aged and smoked: I used smoked gouda, but look for aged cheddar, too.

Tips: serve the cheese at room temperature if you can, and use separate knives for each flavor.

Meats

You can't go too wrong with meats (unless you're vegetarian, of course! Then omit). think prosciutto, salami, ham, summer sausage, chorizo, or whatever you love.

I'd allow for about two ounces of cheese and charcuterie per person.

How to make a cheese board
Photos by Catherine Clark

Breads

Carbolicious. I like to include some soft breads for making sliders, sliced toasted bread for crostini, and crunchier bread sticks. You could add melba toast, seed-y breads, and lots of crackers. Consider adding a sweeter bread, too, like raisin bread or graham crackers.

How to make a cheese board
Photos by Catherine Clark

Fruits + Nuts

Dried fruits go really well in a cheese plate since they're so snackable and add a new texture to the mix. Slice fresh fruit also pairs really well with cheese. I used bosc pears, apples, and golden raisins. Grapes are also a given. Also in wine — hint hint. Think seasonal and you'll save some cash and keep it theme-appropriate.

Go nuts with nuts. Any and all are great. I chose walnuts, peanuts, and pistachios. Flavored nuts would work, too. Oh, and add some dark chocolate, if you're really looking to impress.

Savories

Mini gherkins, olives, artichoke hearts, popcorn, mustards (especially dark, grainy ones!), honey, and dipping sauces are where sandwiches are made. You could even include a savory bacon jam, bruschetta, and any varieties of sweet hams. I recommend apricot jam with cheese. See this grilled cheese recipe for solid proof. Yum.

Feel free to fill in gaps with pretty greenery like rosemary stalks, salad greens, or parsley. It's a way to totally fancy it up for like zero money.

Tools + Serving ware

You can totally serve a cheese board on regular ol' plates, but if you've got the means and the drive, here are some items I have on my wish list:

Serving Trays

How to make a cheese board
Acacia Plank Cheese Board
How to make a cheese board
Ron Swanson, Parks & Recreation board
How to make a cheese board
Slate Tray for Cheese with Knives and Dishes

Cheese slicers

How to make a cheese board
Dental floss (without mint!) makes for a great slicer for soft cheeses or snag yourself a marble cheese slicer like this one.
How to make a cheese board
Cheese Slicer Set
How to make a cheese board
"Is butter a carb" knife (Mean Girls reference!)

Serving bowls

How to make a cheese board
Fuji Lines Rice Bowls

I also used a similar serving cart to this one from Target:

How to make a cheese board
Bar Cart – Gold

Do YOU have any fancy gatherings you'll be self-catering? Will you be going the cheese board route?

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  1. This is one of my go to dinners every month. It also works great for having friends over who have dietary restrictions because nothing is mixed in, we can just skip over the food types we don't eat. I add a few preserves or chutneys and some fresh veg to help fill out the meal for folks who don't eat meat or dairy. Mine is usually based around sheep and goat cheeses, and I try to add one oddball every time like a new cheese, or meat, or fruit. Talk to your grocers or butchers or farm stand veg folks and tell them what you're putting together because they usually have great suggestions. I pull out a large strip of freezer paper to go down the center of the table because I can write what the items are next to them, and most things go right on the paper unless it's something that might have a liquid that runs like olives or a soft cheese that will go on a small plate so a knife doesn't damage the table. That also simplifies clean up. And the serving dish doesn't have to be the "correct" one. I put olives and artichokes and roasted red peppers in fine tea cups just because I think they're pretty and I normally use a sturdy mug for daily tea. Added bonus, trying out flavor pairings this way helps broaden my recipe modifications in other meals for more variety.

    3 agree
  2. I'd just like to state, for the record, that when I got up this morning, I had no intention or inclination to have cheese and crackers for breakfast. Any cheesy or crackerey consumption was a direct result of reading this article before breakfast. Also, I'm sad that I don't have an apple to go with it.

    For relevance, coffee and cheese go together quite nicely. And, if you can find some, cheese with coffee in the rind is particularly nice.

    3 agree
  3. Love cheese boards! If you have Trader Joe's in your area, they're making some great crackers with dried fruit in them lately (little toasts really). They come in a box in a dried goods aisle (vs. the cracker aisle which is usually shared with frozen foods). There is another brand that sells a similar product at fancy groceries, but they're hard to find sometimes. LOVE these. I ate them with shaved parm for dinner last night.
    I also recommend the cheese remnants basket at Whole Foods. You can get smaller portions of lots of different cheeses you might not otherwise buy, for under $2.
    And don't be afraid to add some florals to your board if you're entertaining.

    1 agrees
  4. Like the idea of decorating the board with greenery. My father's family is from Paris so any family gatherings we'd always end the meal with a cheese course. For Thansgiving this year though we are mostly having over my husband's family who aren't very adventurous with cheese so instead I'm making for an appetizer a Brie en croute (or Brie bread as my mother and law has dubbed it) with pecans and cranberries; something nice and warm for a cold day.

  5. I'm Jo, an artist, writer, traveller, wild west nut and renaissance soul. I've recovered from thirty years of depression and anxiety and I'm now blogging about the rebuilding of my polymath creative lifestyle. I'm hoping to reach people with mental health issues and creatives in general to give encouragement, inspiration and hopefully some enjoyment. I wondered if you would like to see it. Thankyou! http://www.joclutton.simplesite.com

  6. Heart eyes.
    A couple friends of mine brought figs and pear preserves for a cheese 'n meat plate, and it was a game-changer. Instant fance.

    1 agrees

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