Skip to content

Charcuterie 101

A regular presence at gatherings since the dawn of time (or so it seems), the charcuterie board is an appetizer staple. We all have memories of crowding around boards and platters scattered with all sorts of delicious tidbits and chatting as we seek out our favorite cheese cubes or salami slices.

Part of the charcuterie board’s appeal stems from how easy it is to make. Most people toss together meat, cheese and crackers, and then call it good. While it’s easy to make a good charcuterie board, with just a little more forethought you can make a great charcuterie board that combines an even larger assortment of flavors, textures and colors, and allows for more creativity on the guests’ part.

To make life easier for you, we did all of the thinking. We collected our best tips and advice to create this charcuterie guide. All you have to do is follow along!

Flavor

Cater to palates of all kinds by including an assortment of flavors: salty, spicy, savory, sweet.

Labels

Give everything a label so people know what they’re slicing into.

Color

Appetite appeal begins with the eyes, so look for ingredients that really pop. Seek out rich reds, vibrant greens, and deep purples.

Detail

Adding small decorative elements like sprigs of rosemary twinkle lights and festive serving utensils or tablecloths can enhance the whole ambiance of your charcuterie set-up.

Texture

Keep it interesting by incorporating diverse textures: crunchy and smooth, crisp and creamy, etc.

Serving Utensils

Make sure every item has its own serving utensil so flavors don’t mix haphazardly. That means each cheese should have its own knife and each spread should have its own spoon.

The How To

Boards

Notice that we made this plural. You don’t have to squeeze everything onto a single board. When boards are too full, flavors mix erratically and food falls off (cheese cube down!). So use as many as you need to comfortably fit everything you want to include. Don’t be shy about mixing and matching boards of varying shapes, sizes and colors.

Cheeses

Now it’s time to pair your dry sausage selections with complimentary cheeses. As with everything else, we’re shooting for variety in flavor and texture so aim to include at least three types of cheese.

To please palates of all kinds, you can start with a milder choice like Di Lusso®Mozzarella or Provolone. Its delicate flavor also means it won’t overpower foods with bold flavors like pickled vegetables, jellies or robust dry sausages. For a smoky-sweet element, incorporate something like our Di Lusso®Smoked Gouda. Spice things up with a cheese that knows how to bring the heat. Naturally aged with jalapeño peppers, our Di Lusso® Pepper Jack knows just how to add that fiery flair.

Plan for about 2 ounces of cheese per person. As with your meat selections, have your cheese sliced thin (at a 1-2 thickness) to make layering easier. If you’d like to incorporate cheese cubes, or have guests cut their own pieces, have those sliced at an 8-10 thickness.

Crackers & Breads

Also known as “vehicles” or “carriers” because they hold all of your toppings, crackers and bread aren’t meant to steal the show in terms of flavor. They’re meant to provide a stable foundation on which you can build your charcuterie creation. When you’re picking out carriers, think more about texture and structure. Crisp and mild, water crackers make a great base.  Baguette slices are softer but still hold up well when stacked with ingredients.  Rye crisps and rice crackers are also charcuterie board favorites.

Meats

Dry sausages are charcuterie board classics, and for good reason! Each variety has a unique flavor and texture that make them great counterparts to a variety of other flavors from sweet to spicy to savory.

Slowly aged with peppercorns and robust spices, Di Lusso® Sopressata will add just a touch of heat to your charcuterie board, while supple and softly seasoned Di Lusso® Prosciutto will add a salty and somewhat sweet flavor. Mix in a few garlicky notes with Di Lusso® Hard Salami. And to pull it all together, the ultimate Italian classic:  Di Lusso® Genoa Salami.

Plan for about 2-3 ounces of meat per person. At the deli counter, ask for your meat selections to be sliced thin (at a 1-2 thickness) so they’re easy to layer.

Spreads

Jams and preserves will cater to those with a sweet tooth while those who crave a little zing will love a spicy hummus or Di Lusso™ Chipotle Mustard. For a mix of spicy and sweet, consider including a red pepper jam and Di Lusso™ Sweet & Hot Honey Mustard. Add whole grain mustard for a burst of color and texture.

One of our favorite dips to make at home is simple and combines ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen – simply mix equal parts Di Lusso™ Deli Style Mustard, sour cream and Di Lusso™ Horseradish Sauce.

Accents

This is the part that most often gets overlooked, but it’s just as vital as the other elements. You can layer your board with even more flavor and texture by incorporating accents.

Add pickled vegetables and olives (black, green or Di Lusso® Pitted Kalamata Olives) for a splash of briny flavor. Raw nuts like almonds, walnuts and pistachios help diversify texture with their crunchiness.

During the holidays, candied nuts are a sweet and festive option. Dried or fresh fruit will add some sweetness as well. For a slight charred, smoky flavor, try layering our Di Lusso® Roasted Red Pepper Strips.