If you’ve been to a gathering in the last decade, you’ve noticed that tapas and charcuterie are a hit among classic and trendy tables.
Whether you want to treat your friends or impress a group, here’s how you can be sure to make thoughtful, memorable selections and curate the best cheese for your boards.
Selecting the best cheese for boards of any size requires an eye for the aesthetic as well as an intuitive palate. Varying color, texture, size, and shapes in the right arrangements can make a cheese board more impressive before anyone enjoys the first taste.
Cheeses with multiple colors can be cut into tall, thin slices showing off their patterns, such as
- Bleu cheeses
Some cheese varieties lend interesting visual texture with “eyes” (the term for holes formed in certain cheeses during fermentation). If you’re looking to include more than the well-known Swiss or Emmental cheese varieties, Jarlsberg and Teleme cheeses add the subtle eye features to your board.
Firm and semi-firm cheeses are best accompanied by juicy fruits, such as cherries, grapes, apples, clementine wedges, and pomegranate arils. They can be enjoyed alongside stuffed olives, gherkins, or traditional pickles for a savory experience. You might choose varieties of cheddar, parmesan, pecorino, or Asiago for the harder cheese element.
Semi-soft and soft cheeses are essential when choosing the best cheese for your boards. You’ll want to have enough spreading tools for your guests to sample each one without mixing flavors on the board. Some common semi-soft cheeses are
- Bel Paese
- Buffalo mozzarela
- French Port Salut
Soft cheeses are more fragile and don’t last as long as their harder counterparts, but they are just as important to creating a memorable, delicious cheese board experience. French cuisine offers several rich, buttery, mild options such as Boursalt, Brie, or Brillat Savarin. Brinza is a saltier soft option from eastern European culinary tradition. Serving champagne with your cheese board? Consider adding the French Chaource cheese, a creamier and slightly more acidic alternative to the more familiar Brie.
Unless you’re a cheese connoisseur, it makes the most sense to choose what you’d like to serve with your cheeses and then design the board from there. The most impressive and delicious cheese boards follow a simple formula: combine bread, fresh fruits, dried fruits, nuts, vegetables spreads, and a garnish for success.
Breads and Crackers
Similarly to your cheese textures, you’ll want to include more than one texture of carb to hold each bite of cheese. Water crackers, lightly toasted baguette slices, multi-grain crackers, and cubed sourdough bread are all appropriate choices. You want them to be fresh and delicious but not too herbed or flavored (the flavors will compete with your cheeses and other accompaniments). Soft cheeses spread generously on crackers can be enjoyed more easily and the satisfying crunch makes a perfect complement to the creamy textures.
Plant proteins are especially important if your cheese board is the main course for your gathering. They add an extra dimension of texture and color to your board and provide protein to help satiate guests. Nuts such as pistachios, cashews, pecans, and walnuts are easy to chew and universally popular. They also enhance your cheese selections by being served as one item. For example, if you’re serving a brie, consider lightly crushing some raw pecans and sprinkling them on top. Walnuts can be chopped and sprinkled on top of goat cheese drizzled with a little local honey.
Fruit and Vegetables
The least adventurous party guest will enjoy a washed-rind cheese (known for their strong flavors) with some sweet, familiar fruits to balance the experience. The saltiness and acidity of different cheeses lend themselves to a sweeter accompaniment. Slice some Granny Smith or Honeycrisp apples or pears (brush them with lemon juice so they don’t lose their color while you serve them) and fan them in gaps on your cheese board. Raspberries, grapes, clementine wedges, halved strawberries, and cranberries make vibrant, beautiful additions to your cheese board and help add a gentle comfort food vibe to a board with more acidic, intense cheese flavors.
Don’t hesitate to include small amounts of savory or neutral ingredients such as olives, celery, and baby carrots. Add some thoughtful fruit and vegetable choices to your cheese board alongside adventurous cheese selections like French Livarot, Zelu Koloria, or a spicy Mountain Gorgonzola and let everyone enjoy expanding their culinary experience with a familiar food on the side.
Experiment With Cheese Board Ingredients Today
It’s easy to search for the best cheeses and accompaniments for charcuterie boards at even the smallest grocery store. Sample a new variety every few days before choosing what to serve on your next cheese board. You’ll be pleasantly surprised as your palate and charcuterie knowledge expand.