How To Make + Style a Cheese Board

How To Make + Style The Ultimate DIY Charcuterie and Cheese Board
A comprehensive guide to building cheese boards, including how to choose and pair meats and cheeses, how to calculate quantities for a crowd, and how to style your board into a stunner!

Whether you call it a cheese board, a charcuterie board, or a snack/ grazing board, an arrangement of treats is always a good idea! It can welcome guests into your home, hold off appetites before a meal, or be a meal in itself. Assembling a cheese board can be quicker and simpler than cooking for a crowd, and, if cooking isn’t your thing, its a great way to present something homemade without turning on the oven!

Yes, the pros of cheese boards are plentiful, and they only multiply when you make the board yourself. A DIY board is more cost effective, more customizable, and prettier than a run-of-the-mill store bought one. Plus, its a chance to do something creative– I put cheeseboard styling in the category of crafting with food, along with pasta making and candy making. Like a craft project you can eat!

Below you’ll find a whole lot of information, from how to choose cheeses to calculating quantities for a crowd to design ideas. Did I mention that I’m passionate about cheese boards?

How To Make + Style The Ultimate DIY Charcuterie and Cheese Board

Cheese Board Building Blocks

Below I’ve broken the cheese board down into categories to make building your own board easier!  Feel free to use as many or as few items from each category as you like. Generally, you’ll want to include something from each category.

The Main Attractions: Stars of the show 

  • Cheeses 
  • Meats

Starches/ Bases: Vehicles for all the amazing and rich flavors on your board. All that rich stuff needs a base!

  • Crackers
  • Breads


  • Jams, chutneys, jellies
  • Honey, honeycomb
  • Tapenade, bruschetta
  • Dips (As simple as olive oil with herbs!)
  • Mustards


  • Roasted, spiced, or candied nuts
  • Dried fruits
  • Briny olives, Vinegar-y pickles, or peppers
  • Marinated antipasto (such as artichoke hearts)
  • Coarsely ground pepper and/or flake salt

Refreshers: Renew and refresh the palate

  • Fresh fruits (such as melon, tangerines or mandarins, sliced apples or pears, grapes, figs, and cherries)
  • Fresh raw vegetables (such as cucumber, carrots, endive leaves, tomatoes)
  • Blanched vegetables (Vegetables cooked in boiling water for 30 seconds or up to 2 minutes, then shocked in an ice bath. Works well with such as asparagus and haricots verts.)

So Where Do I Get This Stuff?

Listen, the stuff that you put on a cheese board does not need to be super fancy. It’s the presentation that really makes a cheeseboard lovely in the end!
You can find great stuff at any ordinary grocery store– I’m a huge fan of Trader Joe’s– But if you’re looking for something particular, check out local specialty and gourmet stores or a butcher or deli. You can even order some items online!

Flavor + Texture Pairings

Flavor Pairing 
When building your board, think of filling in flavor blanks: sweet, salty, tangy, spicy, vinegary or briny, mild, sharp, refreshing, rich.
While not all are required, it’s a good place to start! And one element can contain more than one flavor.
For example, a board with sliced green apple, sopressata salami, olives, brie cheese, aged cheddar cheese, and candied almonds would fill all of these flavor blanks: 

  • Sliced green apple: tangy and refreshing
  • Sopressata salami: rich, spicy and salty
  • Olives: briny
  • Brie cheese: mild
  • Aged cheddar cheese: sharp
  • Candied almonds: sweet

When choosing the flavors of your board, consider these questions: 

  • Which beverages are being served? 
  • What other foods (if any) are being served? (A meal or dessert)
  • What time of day is it? (Heavier foods are generally best served later in the day)
  • How do the elements compliment each other? (You can work with a theme or not. Don’t overthink this– if you have quality products and a nice variety of textures and flavors everything will work together!)

Texture Pairing
In addition to flavor blanks, think of filling in texture blanks: Creamy, crunchy, firm, soft, juicy, smooth, chewy. Again, not all are required, and one element can contain more than one texture.
Going back to our flavor example board, the texture blanks are also nicely filled:

  • Sliced green apple: juicy
  • Sopressata salami: chewy
  • Olives: soft
  • Brie cheese: creamy
  • Aged cheddar cheese: firm
  • Candied almonds: crunchy

Balance of texture is especially important when choosing your cheeses, because you don’t want to wind up with only one texture of cheese! 
Have you ever found yourself standing in the cheese aisle, wondering which to choose for your board?? We’re gonna get into how to choose cheeses specifically based on flavor and texture right now.


Generally you want to include at least 3 types of cheese on a cheese board, each varying from one another in texture and flavor. 

Cheese textures: 
soft, semi-soft, semi-firm, and firm

Cheese flavors: 
acidic/sharp, salty, sweet, bold/funky, buttery/creamy, smokey, caramely, nutty, earthy, fruity, mild/fresh (among others!)
Flavors can overlap within one cheese. For example, blue gorgonzola is both creamy and bold/funky

If you aren’t sure what a cheese tastes like or what the texture is like, give it a quick google search!

A good shortcut to choosing your cheeses is to include one of each of these key elements on your board:
soft, firm, aged, and funky.
(again, one cheese can contain more than one of these elements)


  • Fresh Mozzarella (mild/fresh)
  • Brie or camembert (buttery/creamy)
  • Humboldt fog (funky, buttery, and slightly acidic)
  • Saint andre (buttery/creamy)
  • Chèvre (funky, creamy)


  • Stilton blue cheese (funky)
  • Gouda (caramely)
  • Jarlsberg (nutty, buttery)
  • Oka (creamy/buttery, nutty, fruity)


  • Manchego (nutty, earthy)
  • Edam (mild, nutty)
  • Provolone (mild, smokey)
  • Comte (earthy, creamy)


  • Aged cheddar (acidic/sharp)
  • Parmesan (sharp, nutty)
  • Aged asiago (mild, salty)
  • Cheshire (mild, tangy)

Here are some of my favorite groupings of cheeses:

  • Aged asiago (aged, firm, mild, salty) + chèvre (soft, funky, creamy) + roquefort (sharp, funky, semi-soft/ crumbly)
  • Humboldt fog (soft, funky, creamy, slightly acidic) + Jarlesberg (semi-soft, nutty, buttery) + Parmesan (firm, sharp, nutty) 
  • Aged cheddar (firm, acidic/sharp) + camembert (soft, creamy, buttery) + comte (semi-firm, earthy, creamy)
How To Make + Style The Ultimate DIY Charcuterie and Cheese Board
This board used the cheese choosing shortcut “soft, firm, aged, funky:” soft brie, firm and aged cheddar, funky blue cheese.


Charcuterie, pronounced SHärˈko͞odərē (shar-koo-tuh-ree), is a term for cured and cooked meats. Charcuterie literally means “cooked meat” from the french “chair” (flesh) + “cuit” (cooked.)
The word “charcuterie” can also be used to describe a shop that sells these meats! In France, charcuteries date back to the 15th century, becoming popularized because preserved or cured meats keep longer than fresh meats. But not all cured and cooked meats are French! There are also many Italian varieties (known as salumi), Spanish, and German varieties.  

Although there are some beef varieties, the vast majority of cured and cooked charcuterie is made from pork. 

When choosing charcuterie for your cheese board, balance your selection between cured, salty, and fatty meats (called Crudo in Italian) and cooked, sweeter, and leaner meats (called Cotto.) You can also include smoked or dried meats and/or spreadable meats. 

Cured, salty, and fatty meats (Crudo)
Cured meats are similar to fermented pickles! After being salted, cured meats develop good bacteria and mold to self-preserve and develop flavor. 

  • Cured hard salamis: sopressata, pepperoni, chorizo (Don’t forget to remove the casing before slicing and serving– in most cases. Even natural casing is often not tasty.)
  • Cured whole muscle: speck, coppa aka capicola, proscuitto or jamon serrano (similar but spanish), bresaola (italian beef tenderloin) 

Cooked, sweeter, and leaner meats (Cotto)

  • Cooked salamis: mortadella, bologna
  • Cooked whole muscle: parma cotto (like prosciutto, but de-boned and steamed)

Smoked or dried meats: (Usually just 1 per board)

  • Summer sausage, kielbasa, or even smoked salmon! 

Spreadable meats: 

  • Pâté: a paste or loaf of meat and liver, and sometimes vegetables and spices
  • Mousse: similar to a pâté, but lighter in texture. Whipped with cream or egg.
  • Terrine: made from a mixture of larger pieces of chopped meat, fish, or vegetables, cooked and set in a mold and served in slices.
  • Rillettes: pork or goose, salted heavily and slowly cooked in fat, and shredded
  • ‘Nduja: spreadable calabrian pork salami. Spicy!

Creative Themed Board Ideas

A good cheese board can be almost anything! Here are some ideas to help you think outside the box. You learned the ‘rules’, now throw them away!

  • Brunch Board: melon, bacon, 7 minute eggs, toast points, avocado, crunchy salt and coarsely ground black pepper, tomato slices, cheddar cheese, pepper jack cheese
  • Holiday Board: quick pickled carrots with thyme, quick pickled red onions with peppercorn and rosemary, cornichons, assortment of olives, bread sticks, summer sausage, beecher’s cheese, candied nuts, clementines
  • Classy AF Board: champagne, brie, roquefort, honey, sliced pear and apple, prosciutto, pâté
  • Oktoberfest Board: pretzels, pretzel bread, selection of mustards, cooked and sliced bratwurst or kielbasa, beer-cheese dip, quick pickled dill cucumbers and radishes, sauerkraut  
  • Italiano Board: sopressata, mortadella, marinated artichoke hearts, castelvetrano olives, slow roasted tomatoes, olive oil with pepper, salt, + oregano, burrata or mozzarella
How To Make + Style The Ultimate DIY Charcuterie and Cheese Board

How Much Do I Need? Calculating For A Crowd:

I’ve put together some ballpark totals to help you decide how much of each element you will need per person for your board, but here are a few factors that you will need to consider:

  • Know your crowd. If they’re big nibblers, you may want to get a little extra! 
  • Consider if some of your guests have dietary restrictions (Reduce what they won’t be eating, and bulk up what they will be eating.)
  • If there is a VERY large meal following your appetizer-sized board, you may want to diminish the amount of each element even more.

Keep this in mind too:

  • Cheese and charcuterie are rich, so you probably won’t need as much as you think. (Which is nice on price too!)
  • The amounts listed below are for totals. For example, if you have 4 dips, this is the total per person of all those dips combined. If you have 5 cheeses, it’s 1.5 oz cheese per person across all those cheeses.
  • If you serve more than two of each element, you may need less over all.

Use your best judgement. Get plenty of your key elements and favorites, and less of the rest!

Appetizer Board: 1.5-2 oz per person
Main Dish Board with many additional elements: 3-4 oz per person
Main Dish Board with few other elements: 5-6 oz per person

Appetizer Board: 2 oz per person
Main Dish Board with many additional elements: 3-4 oz per person
Main Dish Board with few other elements: 5 oz per person

Appetizer Board: 2 tbsp (1oz) per person
Main Dish Board: ¼ cup (2oz) per person

Mustards, Honeys, Jams, Jellies:
Appetizer Board: 1 tbsp (0.5oz) per person
Main Dish Board: 2 tbsp (1oz) per person 

Dips and Spreads: 
Appetizer Board: 1.5 tbsp (0.75 oz) per person 
Main Dish Board: 3 tbsp (1.5 oz) per person 

Appetizer Board: 2 tbsp (1 oz) per person 
Main Dish Board: ¼ cup (2 oz) per person 

Refreshers (Fresh fruits and veggies:)
Appetizer Board: ¼ cup (2 oz) per person 
Main Dish Board: ½ cup (4 oz) per person

Cheese Board Construction + Presentation


  • The surface for building your cheese board can be almost anything, so long as its food safe. A large, wooden cutting board or large tray both work great! Even a clean rimmed baking sheet can work. You can also build a mosaic of platters, dishes, cake stands, and plates. You can even build directly on a cleanable surface like a marble countertop (using parchment paper as a buffer if you like!)
  • Spreadables like dips, mustard, or honey will need small dishes or glasses to contain them. You can also use small dishes for other elements for visual variation and height. 
  • Speaking of height, sometimes (for large boards especially) height variation both looks nice and is helpful for accessibility. Use cake stands, hide boxes or crates under tablecloths, (catering style) or create your own stands by (safely)  stacking a plate or bowl on top of a glass. (It helps if the bowl or plate has a lip on the bottom. I love the variation that CB2 offers)
  • Don’t forget the serveware! You will also need small knives or cheese knives, spoons, picks, or oyster forks. Use spreading knives for soft cheeses and spreads, sturdier/ sharper knives for firm cheeses, and shaving planes for aged cheeses.
  • Purchase or create labels for your cheeses if you like! Labels with the name, flavor, or region of the cheese can be a fun conversation starter, and, bonus, you won’t have to recite them over and over!

Platter Building:

  • If the platter is really large, you may want to build it in the place it will remain. If your board needs to be transported to another location, consider choosing a platter with a lip. (This will keep things from sliding off, and will be easier to cover without messing up your board.) 
  • Consider separating the meat and/or cheese from the other elements if you have vegetarians or vegans at your gathering, or any element that a guest may be allergic to.
  • Use other elements to separate strong smelling cheeses from mild or delicately flavored ones so odors aren’t absorbed.
  • Consider spreading out the bounty to multiple locations if the space is big or there are a lot of guests for easier grazing.
  • Cheeses and charcuterie are best served with the chill off, as cold mutes flavor. Let sit out for 10 minutes or so for best flavor and texture!

This is where you can get really creative! When deciding on your overall design, consider these patterns. Choose one or mix them all!


(The piles won’t be circle shaped necessarily– I just used the circles as a symbol to represent piles. You can also think of them as dishes if you’re using dishes to hold spreads, dips, or condiments.)

Radiating Wedges:
(Radiating from one point or several)

Or… Combine Them All! 
My personal favorite.

How To Make + Style The Ultimate DIY Charcuterie and Cheese Board
This board uses a combination of river and pile designs, with cracker rivers, salami rivers, piles of almonds, dried cranberries, and dishes of olives, mustard, and cornichons.

Fill ‘er up! 

  • Bounty is appetizing! A full looking board is exciting, and it will look nicer for longer as things are nibbled. 
  • A great way to make your board look full is to let your elements touch, and even overlap slightly. 
  • Another great way to build a bountiful aesthetic is to distribute the same elements in more than one place throughout the board. This will also give guests easy access to a variety of elements no matter where they stand.

Garnish isn’t necessary, but it can be beautiful! Use fresh herbs, leaves of fruits, and edible flowers to add pops of color and freshness.

Styling can elevate any product to look like a million bucks!

  • Fold, fluff, squiggle, and rosette your meats. This technique can help your board look full and bountiful, and make charcuterie easier to grab. This works best for thin sliced, wider meats such as prosciutto and mortadella– really anything you can bend.
  • Buy your cheeses whole and slice some of them yourself: this will save you money and look fresher and lovelier than pre-sliced cheese. This also lets you control the shape and size of the slices! (small, big, thin, fat, triangle, rectangle, square.) Other cheeses you can leave whole and allow guests to cut themselves. A combination pre-sliced and slice-it-yourself cheeses and charcuterie can be a nice look!
  • Bounty! Disperse little pockets of elements around the board, and pile them high to make the board look full. Make little mountains of nuts and fruits, and let the elements touch each other.

Food Safety:
It is recommended that cured meats and cheeses are not left out for more than 2 hours. This is pretty strict, especially for a reasonably cool room, but definitely be sure to refrigerate any uneaten meat and cheese after 3-4 hours.

Looking to add some homemade elements to your board? Check these out:

I teach this guide as a hands on class at The Works Seattle. Come see me and make your own cheese board!

How To Make + Style The Ultimate DIY Charcuterie and Cheese Board
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