Charcuterie boards are the perfect way to combine sweet and savory flavors for a special fall treat. They also make a great dinner, where family members and guests can snack and pick while you decorate Halloween cookies or carve pumpkins.
Charcuterie is increasingly popular as a simple way to feed any crowd with appetizers, snacks, and treats that are easy to put together – plus you can have fun with it and get creative, and Charcuterie boards are easy to tailor to your group’s tastes and dietary restrictions. They are great for every occasion, especially holiday gatherings, parties, or a night in with friends.
Here is our step-by-step guide to creating an epic Halloween Charcuterie board, and even if you’re new to Charcuterie, you can totally do this! (And when you finish, take a photo and enter our Halloween Charcuterie contest. Fans will vote on the 10 finalists after Halloween to select the winners of prizes worth hundreds – you can learn more and enter here.)
The 7 Steps
- Choose Your Serving Platters And Utensils
- Assemble Your Cheeses
- Add Your Meats
- Fill In With Olives, Nuts, Veggies, Fruit
- Add Some Dips & Spreads
- Add the Crunchy Stuff (Crackers, Breadsticks, Pretzels)
- Make It Spooky (or Silly!)
#1: CHOOSE YOUR SERVING DISHES AND UTENSILS
Start by deciding on the serving platter you’re going to use. Be inspired by the boards and platters you have on hand. Got a wooden cutting board? Great, use it. If you don’t have one, a few alternatives are a cookie sheet, an extra-large plate, or any piece of wood or tile you might have. Just be sure to cover any non-food surfaces with parchment paper before assembling your board.
(PS: If you are in the market for a new board or tray, we’ve just added to our online store a gorgeous new 3-piece handcrafted wooden Charcuterie set, with a board, small bowl, and spreader, all made from reclaimed wood – offered for just $99 for the set. Also available now are handmade fused-glass trays measuring 9 by 12 inches, in bright, beautiful colors and three design options; each piece is a work of art from Vira Dobbins Glass Works.)
Next, choose some vessels for jams, sauces and dips. To get a beautiful look for your board, it’s important to add add vessels or bowls with different heights, shapes, and sizes. We’ve got several different sizes and shapes of serving bowls on our website, including some hand-crafted wooden bowls made from reclaimed trees, and handmade fused-glass bowls that match the artful fused-glass Charcuterie trays from Vira Dobbins Glass Works. Got some of those cute ceramic pumpkins or Halloween-themed mugs or small bowls? Grab them, too!
Finally, gather a couple of cheese spreaders if you have some – you can buy those here too, and ours match the art-glass serving bowls and trays – and small serving utensils like spoons and forks to help guests gather meats, nuts and olives.
#2: CHOOSING YOUR CHEESES
Starting with a decent size round or rectangle board, after you’ve placed your condiment/dip bowls, then place your cheeses.
PRO TIP: When selecting cheese for a Charcuterie board, it’s best to include a mix of hard, soft and maybe a crumbly cheese. Brie is always a must because it’s delicious, and it is also very familiar and safe for those who may be afraid to try more unusual cheeses, like a stinky gorgonzola.
A fantastic “beginner” specialty cheese option is Mt. Tam Cowgirl Creamery, the most popular cheese made with organic milk from Straus Family Creamery. This elegant triple cream cheese is dense and fudgy with an edible bloomy rind, featuring flavors of cultured butter with hints of white mushroom.
A huge crowd-pleaser for any Charcuterie board is Stripey Jack, a savory cheese from British cheesemaker Singletons & Co. featuring five popular cheeses neatly layered: Cheddar, Lancashire, Double Gloucester, Red Leicester and Wensleydale. Also known as Five English County Cheese, Stripey Jack is great delight with wonderful flavors from England’s finest cheeses. (Shop Stripey Jack here.)
Next, consider a specialty cheese with a kick and/or some color, like Red Hot Dutch or Red Dragon, which will add to the “spooky” vibe, speckled throughout with whole-grain mustard seeds and a mild Welsh ale flavor. Red Dragon is 25% off while supplies last through Oct. 31, as one of our October Cheeses of the Month. (Shop Red Dragon here.)
Finally, there’s the bolder cheeses like Bayley Hazen Blue – one of the most-awarded blue cheeses at the World Cheese Awards – which is also 25% off currently as one of our October Cheeses of the Month (shop Bayley Hazen Blue here). Bayley Hazen’s texture is fudgy and dense, and it has a lower moisture content than other blues (so it might be good for making little cheese “headstones” or “coffins” for your Halloween board, hint hint! See last section for more info on Spooky ideas for your Halloween board).
#3: CHOOSING YOUR MEATS
Any type of salami is always a good idea, as is a thin-sliced prosciutto, which costs less overall if you buy it from a Charcuterie store or a deli counter instead of pre-packaged. A peppery, thick-cut hard salami is also fun because it offers up a heartier texture than the other thin-sliced meats.
Our salamis are so popular they’re hard to keep in stock, but we generally offer six different salami flavors from award-winning meatcrafter Schaller & Weber of New York City.
Finally, we suggest including the ever-popular Lachsshinken, a dry-cured, cold-smoked pork loin that perfectly highlights the skilled work and strict guidelines of Schaller & Weber’s charcuterie meisters. This unique meat with a mild flavor similar to smoked salmon should be chilled and sliced thin, and like lox can be served with a milder-flavored cheese, pepper jams, spicy dips or capers. Read more about Lachsshinken here.
When placing your meat selections on the board, start by putting out several slices of each, but then add in more at the end to fill in holes, so make sure you only put out about 2/3 of each type of meat you’ve purchased, and set aside the remaining pieces to fill in gaps as needed.
#4 FILL-IN ITEMS – NUTS, OLIVES, VEGGIES, FRUIT
Next, it’s time to put in some filler items like olives, pickled veggies, nuts, and bite-size veggies to help offset the heaviness of the meats and cheeses, and milder fruits to help balance out all the saltiness. We recommend these Crunchy Okra Pickles that pack some heat – one of our most popular pickled veggies! Another item our customers love is Peppadew Peppers, a fiery red but milder on the heat level, with a bit of sweetness to boot.
Fiber-filled fruits like berries, apples and figs will also serve to aid with digestion, as noshing on cured meats, cheeses and crackers all night can do a number on the tummy.
For a fun Halloween twist, choose purple, black and blue fruits (think blueberries and purple figs) and black olives for a dark spooky feel.
Anything sweet and tart is great for Halloween!
Other great options are green olives, candied walnuts, Marcona almonds, or our Spanish Cocktail mix, which includes Quicos, a crunchy snack made with a special giant variety of corn from Peru, mixed with toasted fava beans, chickpeas, and meaty Valencia almonds. The result is a combination that’s crunchy, salty, savory and just plain addictive.
#5 DIPS & SPREADS
Every Charcuterie board needs a dip or a yummy jam with surprising spices to spread on a soft cheese. Some great savory dip options are our Sweet & Hot Mustard for Cheese (they go great with these Dipping Pretzels!), any kind of hummus, tapenade, or ranch. Sweet dip options could include marshmallow, peanut butter, honey, and in our case whipped pumpkin dip.
To go next-level with your board, add some killer gourmet mustards for dipping, unique pepper jams or organic specialty preserves, which are simply fantastic spread over goat cheese, Brie, or similar softer cheeses.
#6 DON’T FORGET THE CRUNCH
The crackers, breadsticks and pretzels are the last ingredients you should place on your board because you want them to stay as crisp and fresh as possible, and if your tray is really jam-packed (see what we did there? Don’t forget the jam! LOL), chances are if put out too soon, the crunchy items may get soggy from touching other ingredients for too long.
On the breadsticks aisle, we’ve got the best vegan, all-natural breadsticks on earth: Jennifer’s Homemade Breadsticks! They’re amazing (you will want to stash a box in your car, for real), and they are available in Regular flavor, Rosemary, and Salt & Pepper.
#7 WAYS TO MAKE IT SPOOKY FOR HALLOWEEN
PUB CHEESE PUMPKINS
Use the instructions below (or click this link to download a printable PDF of the whole recipe) to make pub cheese – or you can pick some up at most grocery stores.
To create the mini-cheese pumpkins, place the pub cheese in the freezer for 30 minutes to get it really cold, but not frozen. Then take a spoonful and make small round balls. Break a small pretzel stick in half for the stem, and then add a little green garnish, like cilantro or parsley, or whatever you have in your herb garden or the frig.
Use a toothpick to make little lines (black food coloring works great for dimension), and then place it on your board. They’re small enough to just scoop one with a cracker!
Edible Googly Eyes
There’s not much funnier on a dinner table than discovering googly eyes on one of your food dishes… May we suggest putting edible googly eyes on anything or everything!
You can find edible “candy” googly eyeballs at Walmart, Target and Amazon. Or you can use olives, like the creator of this fantastic Halloween board pictured here did.
Putting funny googly eyes on blocks of cheese, pieces of fruit, or ghost-shaped meat slices is sure to bring out the smiles and add some fun to your Halloween board.
Spooky Shapes & Slices
Most stores with Halloween goods or baking supplies will have Halloween-theme cookie cutters that you can use to cut shapes out of your salami or pepperoni slices, or you can make spooky shapes from any semi-soft or firmer cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano, our popular Welsh cheddar with mustard seed and ale Red Dragon, Barbers Cheddar, etc.
Another idea is to place the items on your board into the shape of a Halloween figure, like the skull board pictured here. It’s pretty awesome!
Making a board in the shape of a jack-o-lantern seems like a winning idea, as well, using dark-colored fruit or olives to form the shape of the eyes and mouth, for example… You get the idea!
A Cheese Cemetery
Most any cheese that is semi-soft or hard can be cut into the shape of a coffin, or you can cut a dozen or so mini-headstones to make your board look like a cemetery, like the examples shown here (isn’t the internet a glorious thing when you need ideas?!?).
You can also carve “grave crosses” into blocks of whatever cheese you like and place them over a parsley-filled “lawn” to make it look even more like a cemetery.
The effect of having a dozen little cheese headstones and some crosses is fantastic, and it’s super-easy to do.
Got those ideas flowing now?
As you can see, there are a million-trillion ways to build a Charcuterie board, and tonnnns of ways to design it for whatever theme or holiday you’re celebrating.
We hope you’ll snap a photo of your board or tray and enter our Halloween Charcuterie Contest!
There’s no cost to enter; the only requirement is that you use either Red Dragon or Bayley Hazen Blue cheese on your contest entry, regardless of where you get it. (Both are 25% off here through the end of October.) Deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. October 31!
You can read the details here, but short version: Judges will pick the Top Ten after Oct. 31. then the public will be invited to vote Nov. 4-7 via our Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. The three entries with the most votes will win prizes, and the grand prize is valued at $250.
Show us those Charcuterie skills, and have a happy and safe Halloween!