One of my very favorite traditions for our Thanksgiving dinner every year is to make a big ol’ charcuterie board for everyone to snack on before dinner begins. I love a good meat and cheese board, and I’ve had a lot of fun over the years honing in on my skills.
My friend, Parisa (who runs Fig & Fromage) is the charcuterie board queen, so I asked her to come over to my house and help me put together a Thanksgiving charcuterie board to share with you. I learned so much about how to plan and style a good Thanksgiving charcuterie board, so get ready to be inspired!
Thanksgiving Charcuterie Board Tips
Let’s start off with some tips and tricks for planning out your Thanksgiving charcuterie board. The one we put together would work really nicely for 6-8 people as an appetizer leading up to the big turkey dinner.
I do the vast majority of my shopping for charcuterie boards at Trader Joe’s. It’s affordable, they have really fun and unique options, and their stuff is high-quality! But, of course, you can easily put together a delicious charcuterie board with meats and cheeses from any store.
Basic Charcuterie Board Formula
Here’s a quick rundown of the basic ingredients you need for a delicious charcuterie board. You don’t need to follow any specific recipe here, it’s more of an art than a science! Play around with different combinations to see what you end up loving, and remember there’s no wrong way to do it.
You want to choose a variety of textures and flavors here. Be sure you include:
- Soft cheese (like brie, Boursin, blue cheese, or burrata)
- Hard cheese (like parmesan, sharp cheddar, or manchego)
- And I always like to have something with a fun flavor (like a cranberry goat cheese or dill havarti!)
3-4 Types of Meat
Again, you want a variety of textures and flavors in your meat as well (this will be true of every category!). Here’s a few tips on what I like to include:
- Genoa Salami
- Plus one other fun option – I love Trader Joe’s Rosemary Ham!
Trader Joe’s has a combo pack of cured meats that works really well – I always like to start there!
A variety of crackers
Parisa said she always buys two crackers that are unflavored (but with different shapes/textures) and one or two other crackers that have some fun flavors. I’ll list a few specific favorites below, but just remember people will typically pair the crackers with meats and cheeses, so sticking to simpler flavors is generally ideal.
Fruits, Spreads, & Nuts
You can have a ton of fun adding in different flavors and textures with these additions. I’d recommend 2-3 different choices from each of these categories! Here are a few ideas:
- Fruit: grapes, blackberries, blueberries, persimmon, pears, apples, figs, pomegranates, cranberries, oranges, or apricots
- Nuts: almonds, cashews, walnuts, candied pecans, etc.
- Spreads: jams, jelly, hummus, cranberry sauce, etc.
- Other: olives, cornichons or pickles, marinated artichokes
- Fresh herbs: It’s always nice to add a sprig or two of fresh herbs like rosemary around the board for a really fresh and beautiful look.
I also always recommend including a couple of sweet items – chocolate covered pretzels or almonds and pure chocolate pieces are always a hit. It pairs beautifully with everything else on the board and is always a kid favorite.
(It’s my favorite too, let’s be honest.)
If you follow that formula, you can play around with the basic flavors, colors, and textures and create tons of different combinations!
Recommended Meats + Cheeses
Parisa and I both love shopping at Trader Joe’s for our boards – here are our favorites for your Thanksgiving appetizer:
- Unexpected Cheddar
- Havarti with Dill
- Cranberry Chevre Goat Cheese
- Truffle Brie
- Rosemary Ham
Recommended Crackers + Other Additions
A few favorites (also from Trader Joe’s) include…
- 3 Seed Beet Crackers
- Fig & Olive Crisps
- TJ’s Cornichons
- Chocolate covered pretzel thins
Those are our specific recommendations for TJ’s products! Everything else can easily be found at your typical grocery store – but I promise the above will make a big difference.
How to Make a Thanksgiving Charcuterie Board
Step One: Arrange Cheese
Your first step (after choosing a big, beautiful board to display your food on) is to arrange the cheese. Parisa notes that the more you cut up the cheese, the more approachable it is. Blocks of cheese should be cut into bite-sized pieces, crumbly cheese can be broken up into chunks, and anything that is scoopable (like brie or Boursin) is going to feel less intimidating to your guests if you cut a small slice out.
Play around with the shapes of your cheese – slices or crumbles can look beautiful if they flow along in a curved line on the board. You can also create small piles of crumbly cheese around the board. Just be sure to spread it out and leave some room for the rest of your food!
Step Two: Place ramekins
The next step is to grab a few empty ramekins or small bowls and place them around the board. These are where you’ll place things like olives, cornichons, dips and spreads, etc. I’d recommend no more than 2 or 3 ramekins, depending on the size of your board.
We have two little ramekins on our board – one has cornichons and olives and the other has a fruit spread in it. If you have more additions than you have ramekins (or room on your board), you can also grab some extra bowls and arrange them around the charcuterie board when you’re done!
Step Three: Add in the crackers
Next, you’re ready for crackers. As you arrange them on your board, play around with the shapes and placement of them. Lining crackers up on their sides and propping them between cheeses and/or ramekins can look a lot more visually appealing than just a big pile of crackers!
Also, as with almost everything on your charcuterie board, it’ll look best if you don’t group everything of one type together. Create a few different rows of each cracker scattered around the board. It looks more varied and layered that way, and creates a flow that you can’t achieve if you group all of the crackers together.
Step Four: Add fruit
Now you’re ready for fruit! This is where you really want to start playing around with color and thinking about how the colors work together. Darker fruits like blueberries and blackberries pop really nicely against lighter cheese like brie. Be intentional about placing fruit all around the board to really spread out the colors and textures.
It bears repeating here that smaller, bite-sized pieces are going to feel more approachable to your guests. Slice fruits like apples and pears and arrange them standing up on their sides. Break bunches of grapes into small clusters of 4-5 so it’s easy for your guests to grab one and set it on their plate.
Step Five: Add meats
Why save the meats for the very end? Because thinly-sliced meats like prosciutto can start to “melt” and lose their shape quickly if they’re left out for a while. They also don’t taste as good the longer they’ve been in room-temperature air. So, by saving them for last you can ensure they taste and look as good as possible.
Meats are one of the hardest things to arrange to make them look visually appealing. Take a little extra time to fold or roll individual pieces and arrange them together on the board – it’ll be worth the effort! If you need a quick video tutorial of how to do this, click here to head to our Instagram page. There’s a Thanksgiving Charcuterie Board highlight with a closer look at exactly how to do it.
Step Six: Add nuts, chocolates, and garnish
And finally, you’re ready to add the finishing touches!
This is where you start to look at the board and analyze where you have any empty spots – your goal is to not be able to see any of the board! Add small piles of nuts in areas that are looking a little bare. Chocolate covered pretzels are always a crowd pleaser and are also a really great way to fill in some blank space.
When it comes to garnish, adding a few sprigs of rosemary around the board can feel really festive and beautiful.
Charcuterie Board Gear + Supplies
If you need a new platter or serving board for your charcuterie board, here are a few great options from Amazon. They should all ship quickly so you’ll get them in plenty of time for the holidays! I’ve also included a few other essentials you may not have on hand like cheese knives and ramekins.
And that’s everything you need to know to create the most beautiful and delicious Thanksgiving charcuterie board ever!
Stay tuned for more, because I have a feeling themed charcuterie boards are gonna become a thing around here.