If you’re looking for an easy way to prep your next meal (or you’re just tired of being stuck at home doing the same-old for dinner every night), a charcuterie board is the perfect solution. It’s simple to assemble and easy to transport if you’re meeting friends at the park for an afternoon of socially distant activities. Just throw the individually prepped components in your backpack, and don’t forget your sunnies to round out the picnic. Ready to get on board? These variations of the French classic will keep you coming back for more.
CHARCUTERIE BOARD BASICS
At its core, a charcuterie (French for “cured meats”) board consists of mostly salami-style cold cuts and cheeses, with fruits and nuts as add-ons. When done correctly, charcuterie boards look simple—but the best ones are full of flavor, colors and textures that are balanced yet complex, says private chef Amanda Skrip, founder of Now Boarding Foods in Chicago. “Try selecting a variety of cheeses with different textures, like soft, semi-soft, semi-hard and hard, that are made from different types of milk, including cow, goat and sheep,” she says. For pops of color and freshness, pick up some seasonal fruit. In late summer, for example, include grapes, blackberries or melon. And don’t forget about the accent pieces: Nuts, dried fruit, pickles, honey, jam and mustard all dress the board up while bringing more flavor to the mix. Want to take your charcuterie board to the next level? Skrip likes to impress her guests by keeping things local. “Make your board extra-special by sourcing high-quality ingredients,” possibly from a nearby farmer’s market or your CSA box, she says. “I also like to add edible flowers and herbs to really elevate the board.”
SIZING UP YOUR BOARD
How much you load onto your charcuterie board depends on its purpose. Aim for about two ounces of meat per person on a shared appetizer board, and raise that up to about five ounces if this is a single-person board serving as your main meal. From there, decide how to split the board between meat and cheese. The classic approach is to use three cheeses and two cured meats, but you can adjust your charcuterie board ratio as necessary to adapt to different nutritional needs. No matter what ratio you go with, cured meats and salty cheeses will make you thirsty, so be sure to pack water if this portable meal is being eating outdoors.
BUILDING A KETO CHARCUTERIE BOARD
Followers of the ketogenic diet are in luck; a charcuterie board’s cheese and meat focus easily falls in line with the low-carb, high-fat guidelines of the keto plan. Pile on the salami, prosciutto and aged white cheddar. Considering the high fat content, though, keep in mind that this isn’t the best eat-and-run meal. Save it for a satisfying post-workout reward. Given keto’s anti-carb credence, you’ll want to skip the fruit on this board. “Swap out fruits for vegetables like cucumber, radish, and tomato instead,” advises Skrip. “They will still add color and freshness.” Another option: Garnish your board with a small number of raspberries or blackberries, which are lower in carbs. Finally, finish things off with some tasty keto-friendly extras, including mixed nuts, pickled vegetables and stone ground mustard to boost flavor while keeping the carbs low.
HOW TO MAKE A WHOLE30 CHARCUTERIE BOARD
No sugar, no grains, no dairy. The Whole30 diet is pretty restrictive, and might leave you wondering what the heck you can add to your charcuterie board. Plenty, as it turns out—even without cheese. Start by filling the empty space with veggies. “Cucumbers are a great addition as they balance salty meats,” Skrip says. Other crisp, whole veggies to add might include radishes, carrots or snap peas. Next, increase the volume of fruits and nuts. Dried figs or cranberries can provide a sweet element to the board (just be sure there’s no added sugar). Slices of apple or blood orange can be stacked with other board ingredients to combine flavors in exciting ways. Finally, add in the meat on your Whole30 charcuterie board—with a few caveats. “Be sure to check the meats are not cured with any added sugars,” says Skrip. Certain additives like MSG and sulfites are also on the no-go list. Consider options like super-finely sliced roast beef or lamb.
DESIGNING A PLANT-BASED CHARCUTERIE BOARD
When you’re going meat-free, it’s time to amp up the dips that are served alongside the veggies and cheese. Think hummus, olive tapenade, sundried pesto or baba ghanoush—these spreads bring serious flavor. “You can also add your favorite plant-based ‘cheeses’ to a vegan charcuterie board,” says Skrip. The dairy-free options taste surprisingly like the real deal. With so many spreads, you’ll want something (along with vegetables, obviously) to spread them on. Slice a baguette into half-inch thick pieces, lay them on a cooking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and put them under the broiler for a few minutes until the top is golden brown for an artisanal take on toast. For finishing touches to your board, garnish with herbal extras like fresh thyme, basil and rosemary. Add pickles, nuts and dried fruits—and enjoy.