Skip to content

8 Items Every Impressive Cheese Board Needs, Experts Say

For a crowd-pleasing charcuterie spread, don't forget these crave-worthy essentials.

The product recommendations in this post are recommendations by the writer and/or expert(s) interviewed and do not contain affiliate links. Meaning: If you use these links to buy something, we will not earn a commission.

Whether you like to host small gatherings with a few friends or enormous dinner parties for the whole extended family, keeping a well-equipped cheese board on hand is a must. Not only does it provide an easy, aesthetically pleasing way to display a wide variety of foods for guests to pick on, but it's versatile, too.

"A thoughtfully arranged cheese board becomes a canvas for culinary exploration, encouraging delightful combinations and enhancing your overall dining experience," says Melissa Funk, CEO and co-founder at Lynn & Liana Designs. "So, having a beautifully designed cheese board on hand not only elevates your entertaining game but also encourages creative gastronomy."

Of course, not all charcuterie spreads are created equal. But rest assured the following expert-recommended items will help you build a cheese board that's anything but basic.

RELATED: The 6 Best Things to Ask Guests to Bring—If They Offer.

What to Put on a Cheese Board

1. A wide variety of cheeses

Cheese plate with different arts of cheese grape and nuts served on wooden board.
nerudol / Shutterstock

According to Kate Shungu, owner and blogger at Gift of Hospitality, a traditional cheese board typically has at least three cheeses: a hard cheese, a soft cheese, and a blue cheese. She notes that you'll definitely want to pre-slice the hard cheeses to make serving easier for guests.

Tony Susi, executive chef at Bar Enza, recommends using an aged pecorino sardo with a flaky texture because it's easy to break up and melts in your mouth. For semi-hard cheese, his top pick is Italian piave or French compte cheese, which has a smooth, buttery texture. Lastly, he suggests using brie or robiola for a crowd-pleasing soft cheese, and stilton blue cheese or gorgonzola dolce for something more pungent.

Jason Maynard, executive chef at Sogno, recommends taking things up a notch with truffle cheese—for example, his favorite from Central Moliterno.

Pro tip: Make sure your cheese is not too cold when you serve it, says Bistro du Midi chef Robert Sisca. Bringing it out to room temperature before serving will help ensure you can taste all the nuanced flavors of the cheese.

RELATED: 6 Items You Need on Your Bar Cart Before Guests Come Over, According to Mixologists.

2. Mini serving bowls

charcuterie board with sesame seed breadsticks
Shutterstock / Elena.Katkova

Miniature serving bowls can definitely come in handy—not only from a visual standpoint but also for preserving the different textures of foods on your cheese board.

"Try to keep moisture-rich ingredients like fresh-cut fruits and pickled vegetables apart from crispy foods like crackers and nuts, so they don't get soggy," advises Maegan Brown, food blogger behind The BakerMama and author of the cookbook Beautiful Boards.

She recommends placing any spreads and briney items—like olives or cornichons—in these bowls as well.

3. A sweet spread

Mini Jam Jars
Nataliia Karabin/Shutterstock

No cheese platter would be complete without something sweet to offset the cheese, like fig jam or sour cherry preserves.

"I love juicy quince paste paired with a dry, hard Spanish Manchego," says Alison Cayne, founder and CEO at Haven's Kitchen.

When in doubt, Cote says you can never go wrong with local honey. More specifically, Sisca recommends truffle honey or hot honey. If you're up for making a jam, he suggests something with whatever fruits are currently in season. For example, a strawberry rhubarb jam is perfect for a summer cheese board, while an apple and concord grape jam is well-suited to a fall board.

"Spicy, savory jam goes great with pungent cheese—think jalapeño and pineapple, or blueberry habanero," shares Dan Cote, executive chef at Pelham House Resort.

"I like to lean towards savory and sour, so mostarda is a winner—or even marmalade," adds Erin Miller, owner and executive chef at Urban Hearth. "We make an autumn mostarda with late-season peppers and apples that's wonderful with alpine cheeses."

For a gourmet twist, Eric Caron, executive chef for Lombardo's Hospitality Group, loves pairing cheeses with complex wine-laced jams.

RELATED: 6 Items You Should Always Have in Your Kitchen When Guests Come Over.

4. Glazed nuts

Walnuts in White Cup

Nuts are another must on any cheese board—they lend some satisfying crunch, which is a nice contrasting texture to creamy cheeses.

Cote recommends buttery cashews, while Susi says Marcona almonds are a particularly tasty addition.

"Marconas have a higher fat content than California almonds, giving them a creamy mouth feel and rich flavor—paired with sea salt and an herbal note, they're addictive," adds Miller.

Caron notes that Q's Nuts is his go-to brand thanks to the wide variety of sweet, salty, and savory options.

RELATED: The 6 Best Things to Bring to a Potluck, Experts Say.

5. Slices of crusty, rustic bread

Whole wheat bread.

"As far as the vessel goes for all these delicious ingredients, I recommend grilled rustic bread or sourdough over crackers," says Maynard. "Bread holds up better than crackers that crumble—especially with a spreadable cheese."

Sisca and Cote advise slicing up a French baguette. Guests can spread jam or soft cheeses onto the bread, but Sisca suggests also including high-quality olive oil for dipping.

If you are going to go the cracker route, Susi recommends "something plain and lightly salted that is firm enough to hold cheese but not too dry and hard."

6. A trio of meats

Sliced Italian Prosciutto on Wood Cutting Board
fcafotodigital / iStock

Meat isn't necessarily a must on your cheese board—and you can obviously skip this addition if you're serving a vegetarian crowd. That said, for a heartier board, Maynard strongly recommends selecting three types of meat: one to pair with each of your three cheeses.

"For meat, I'd suggest using a prosciutto de Parma aged 24 months, a spicy soppressata or salami, and mortadella," he tells Best Life. "My favorite retail brand for cured meats is La Quercia from California."

For more entertaining advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

7. Something briney

Olives Best Foods for Maximizing Your Energy Levels

Salty additions can help round out the other flavors on your spread.

"For vibrant, pickled vegetables, we reach for Mama Lil's Peppers," says Caron. "Or, for those feeling like making their own, try adding a housemade giardiniera to your next cheese board."

Miller concurs that giardiniera adds a nice crunch, and sharp, clean flavor. "And if all else fails, briny and crisp olives like Cerignola do the trick," she adds.

Maynard also likes using grilled artichokes for an unexpected and earthy touch.

8. Dried fruit

dried fruit and nuts on wood
DC Studio / Shutterstock

Fresh fruit isn't always ideal for a cheese board because of its high water content—plus, certain fruits will brown quickly when pre-sliced. That's why experts recommend opting for dried fruits instead.

Try dried Asian pears, which are available online, says Cote. Their honey-sweet flavor pairs nicely with a wide variety of cheeses.

"In the fall and winter, dried fruit like figs and apricots are another great option for filling out the board," adds Miller.

If you have your heart set on fresh fruit, Cayne suggests using grapes, which won't brown or turn other foods soggy. For a summer cheese board, Susi suggests whole strawberries—they hold up pretty well and have a subtle tartness that complements many cheeses, including brie, fontina, and goat cheese.

Rebecca Strong
Rebecca Strong is a Boston-based freelance health/wellness, lifestyle, and travel writer. Read more
Filed Under