When it comes to party food, nothing says “I’m fancy!” quite like a charcuterie or butter board. These gorgeous displays of meats, cheeses and accoutrements can elevate any gathering, whether it’s a small dinner party or a large holiday feast. Plus, they’re incredibly easy to put together, making them the perfect option for last-minute entertaining.
Lets dig into what exactly we mean by Charcuterie boards and Butter boards…
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What is Charcuterie?
Charcuterie is a dish that can be found all over the world, but its roots go back centuries. It’s named for an old French word meaning “pork butcher shop”. However, modern day charcuterie includes all types of dried and cured meats, along with other delicious snacks.
For centuries, people have gathered around cutting boards full of cured meats and sliced cheese, combined with other preserved fruits and vegetables, and breads or crackers.
The drying, curing and preserving of meats was originally developed to extend the life of less-desirable cuts of meat.
The long shelf-life of the ingredients, low cost and quick preparation made charcuterie a popular meal with the working classes. Over years, preserving and fermentation methods, seasoning and other processes eventually resulted in deeper and more complex flavours.
As is the case with many “peasant dishes”, the simplicity of Charcuterie camouflages years and years of culinary development, expertise and artistry.
Recent food trends have expanded on the idea of Charcuterie boards, branching out into dessert “Charcuterie boards”, breakfast boards, butter boards, and even cream cheese boards. All of these variation build on the idea of displaying a variety of foods that pair well together on a beautiful board that encourages gathering around a artful display of delicious food to nosh, drink, and generally be merry.
As the Holiday season approaches, consider this your unpretentious, easy to follow guide to all things Charcuterie and snack cuisine.
Make a Charcuterie Board
A charcuterie board can be the main event of a party or get together or it can be combined with other highly snackable foods like a shrimp ring, chips and dip, cheese board, pumpernickel with spinach dip, etc.
Charcuterie along with these other snacks are a fantastic alternative to a formal sit down dinner. It allows guests to throughout the day/evening and pretty well guarantees that all guests will find something they like.
What to Include on Your Charcuterie Board
Consider sliced classics like ham, polish sausage, salami or soppressata.
Find a pate, terrine or roulade that suits your tastes. These are fancy terms for fine, ground meat served like a spread. Most are typically made with pork or beef, yet almost all items can be made with meat or game of any variety (venison, bison and boar are just some of the more exotic options available).
Spreading knives are essential for spreads and dips. here are many, many options to choose from to match your aesthetic or theme of your get together.
Almost any kind of cheese works well for a charcuterie board, from a mild cheddar to a potent blue cheese. Mix and match hard and soft cheeses, as well as sweet and savoury varieties. Goat cheese is a nice addition and pairs well dried fruits or jams.
In my opinion, crusty bread is an essential addition to charcuterie. A sliced baguette is very common, but consider alternatives such as fruit bread, challah, or a delicious sourdough for different tastes and textures. Warm bread is a nice touch.
Choose whatever is in season for fresh fruits like apples and grapes, but also consider preserved, dried fruit like date, apricots or figs. The sweetness of fruit pairs well the salty and savoury meats and bread – making for a well rounded compliment of flavors.
Select a few favorites like grainy mustard or sweet pickles and mix in any number of the following in small amounts: aioli, bruschetta, cocktail onions, jams or jellies (raspberry and fig jam are my favorites), marmalades, relishes, wasabi, honey, flakey salt.
Nuts and Other Fun Things
I like to add a handful of nuts to charcuterie boards as well. So long as there aren’t allergies to worry about, nuts tend to pair well with other charcuterie board foods and provide an alternative protein for those who may not be big meat eaters.
You can be as creative as you like with your Charcuterie! Sometimes I like to add a pot of my favorite French Onion Soup accompanied with some mini bowl to place it in. It can be a fun addition that your guests will love! Check out our post on French Onion Soup for a delicious recipe.
Be sure to include the right utensils to make it easy for guests to pile up their plates with goodness.
Providing cocktail forks, cheese board knives or cute little spoons for each item of food will also keep your board clean, discourage double dippers and reduce the need for people to use their fingers to grab food.
Make a Butter Board
One of the newest food trends to hit the scene is butter boards. Butter boards were made popular by food influencer Justine Doiron and really took off after a viral video or two on Tik Tok. The concept of butter boards is simple yet delicious: a wooden board topped with butter and various toppings, such as honey, jam, or nuts.
Not only do butter boards add visual appeal to the dining table, they also provide a convenient way for guests to butter their bread or rolls without dirtying extra dishes.
Butter boards can be made with regular butter or with compound butter. Compound butter sounds fancy but is simple to make – just soften a stick of unsalted butter and mix in any desired herbs or spices, such as minced garlic or dried thyme – and voila, you have fancy flavored butter!
While a butter board can be a great addition to an elaborate spread, you can also add it as an easy appetizer or side to any meal along with some crusty bread. This food trend is such a simple but original idea – and who doesn’t love butter?!
The best part of the butter board craze is the culinary inspiration it provides to the everyday cook. Butter boards are a concept rather than a recipe (and you know I love a non-recipe recipe, check out our Kitchen Sink Soup post for more!). Butter boards can be made in an infinite number of ways. Your own variations can include your favorite herbs, veggies, or condiments – really anything you can dream up!
How to Make a Butter Board
Making a butter board is exceedingly simple:
Soften butter. Don’t melt it, soften it just enough so it’s easily spreadable
For a vegan option, plant based margarine can be used instead of butter – and margarine is already spreadable!
Spread butter on a beautiful wooden board. Spreading the softened butter can be done in a variety of ways. You can go freestyle and just spread willy-nilly or you can make individual little shapes with a dip or butter knife
Add toppings. You can add whatever toppings you want. Popular toppings include honey, nuts, flakey salt, herbs lemon zest, pepper, cinnamon and other spices, veggies (cherry tomatoes, red onions, edible flowers)
Add a spreading knife or two, cut up some bread and serve!
Popular Variations of the Butter Board
Create your perfect butter board recipe with these ideas!
Sweet butter boards make good breakfast boards. They can be paired with croissants, muffins or simple toast.
Sweet butter boards might include the following:
A drizzle of honey
A drizzle of maple syrup
Fresh or dried fruit pieces
Cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cardamom, gingerbread spice mix
- Chocolate shavings
- Little blob of jam
Make a beautiful and delicious nature inspired butter board by adding a combination of toppings such as:
Compound butter is great addition to a botanical nature inspired butter board. This allows you add herbs and spices that work better ground up or mixed together with spreadable butter.
Make a butter board that includes vegetables and you can justifiably call it health food!
Include vegetables with high impact flavor such as:
Finely green or red onions
Sun dried tomatoes (ideally minced into small peices)
Roasted garlic (roasting garlic makes it spreadable and mellows out the flavor)
Add flakey salt and pepper and you’ve got a taste sensation!
Cream Cheese Board
Bit of a plot twist, because this one isn’t a butter board at all but it uses the same concept and is just as an effective when it comes to taste and style points.
The instructions are just as easy as well – simple spread cream cheese on a board in the same way you would butter, add any combination of the below toppings and serve with bread or bagel pieces! You can use plain or flavored varieties – whatever you think will pair best your topping choices.
Topping ideas of cream cheese board:
Lox (smoked salmon), red onion slices and capers
Cherry tomatoes, olives, capers , chives and flaky sea salt
Cinnamon sugar mix
Crab (or imitation crab) and seafood sauce
Raspberries, blueberries, mint and a drizzle of honey
Just like butter boards, there are endless possibilities and recipes waiting to be created.
Make a Breakfast Board
Have you heard of the breakfast board food trend yet?
The concept builds on the simplicity and display-forward characteristics of charcuterie and butter boards. Breakfast boards are a fun and colorful way to serve up your morning meal.
Instead of individual plates, all the components of your breakfast are arranged on a wooden cutting board or platter.
To create a breakfast board include any combination of the following foods:
Toast with spreads and jams
A bowl of yogurt sprinkled with granola
Scrambled eggs or hard boiled eggs
Avocado slices or mashed avocado
A small mason jar of Nutella
A pitcher full of orange juice or a delicious and nutrition smoothie
Not only is a breakfast board visually appealing and Instagram-worthy, but it also allows for a variety of flavors and textures in one convenient dish.
The next time you have house guests or just want to treat yourself to a morning feast, try arranging some of your favorite breakfast or brunch foods and board and dig in.
Here’s some Breakfast Board inspiration to get you started.
Make a Dessert Board
A dessert charcuterie board looks very impressive but is actually much simpler to prepare than many other desserts.
Quickly pull together a visually stunning dessert board by mixing and matching a combination of homemade and store-bought goodies:
Nuts (cashews are a favorite for me)
Chocolate covered almonds
Chocolate covered pretzels
A variety of chocolate barks
A bowl of Nutella
A bowl of Funfetti dip
A bowl of m&ms or other candy
Popcorn (plain or caramel)
Strawberries (chocolate covered if you’re fancy!)
What will you try first? Leave a comment below!
Charcuterie Boards to Get Started
If you are new to charcuterie, you can get started with any tray you have available but if you are looking to make it a little more fancy, we’ve compiled some well reviewed boards you might want to try!