The right stuff.
There is an art to assembling a fantastic fall charcuterie board. Here’s how to select and arrange the right cheeses, condiments, and decorative elements to wow your guests (or instagram) this autumn.
How to you make a charcuterie board for fall?
There are fall charcuterie boards, and there are the absolute best fall charcuterie boards. No charcuterie board is bad; after all, what’s not to love about a platter full of cheese, crackers, cured meat, and condiments?
But there are certain principles you can adhere to in order to take your fall-themed charcuterie board from fine to fantastic.
- Choose the right charcuterie and cheeses. (There’s a method.)
- Choose the right complements, like jams, chutneys, nuts, crackers, bread, fruit, and the like.
- Add some decorative elements to give your fall charcuterie a sense of the season. Think pumpkins for fall and Thanksgiving and so on.
A word about the so-called “3 3 3 3 rule” for charcuterie boards
Some people subscribe to the so-called “3 3 3 3 rule” for charcuterie boards: 3 cheeses, 3 starches, 3 meats, 3 accompaniments. I do not think you need to be as strict as that. It’s a good idea to check all those boxes, which we will discuss more, below, but you certainly don’t have to do strict rules of three.
How to Choose Best Cheeses for an Autumn Charcuterie Board
When I was in pastry school at the C.I.A., we had an official cheese and charcuterie board class. There, we learned how to make sure that a fruit and cheese plate hit all the right marks. We kept things very classy — no Thanksgiving turkey charcuterie boards, not that it wouldn’t have been fun!
Start with a selection of dairy sources, textures, and age. Most standard grocery stores offer a good selection and variety of cheeses. Trader Joe’s has one of my favorite, affordable cheese aisles.
1. Vary Your Fall Charcuterie Board Dairy
When arranging a charcuterie board, don’t just stick to cow’s milk cheeses. Have at least one cow’s milk cheese, but also throw in one goat’s milk cheese (chèvre), and/or a sheep’s milk cheese.
Cow’s milk cheese are incredibly diverse, so you won’t have any trouble finding some very good options. Popular cow’s milk cheeses include
- Most blue cheese (such as Gorgonzola)
Popular goat cheeses include:
- Fresh chèvre
- Bucheron (a bloomy French cheese I love; it has been aged and develops a funky rind)
- Humboldt Fog, which has a vein of vegetable ash running through it that looks quite chic
Popular sheep’s milk cheeses include:
- Manchego, an aged Spanish cheese that tastes fantastic with quince paste (membrillo) or fig jam
- Pecorino Romano and Pecorino Toscano
2. Vary the textures and age of the cheeses on your board.
Now that you’ve offered a variety of dairy cheeses, make sure that you are hitting different flavor and texture notes. Have a wedge of ever-popular, soft and creamy brie? A crumbly aged gouda would be a wonderful counter for the cheese platter. And both taste great with sliced apple or some honey.
Did you cube up some delicious aged cheddar? Add a hard wedge of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano? Add a soft, fresh goat cheese to the charcuterie board as a counterbalance.
Follow your intuition, but make sure that you have enough variety to keep things interesting.
What else can you put on your fall charcuterie board besides meat and cheese?
Keep these principles in mind when assembling your fall snack board: Salty, sweet, crunchy, soft. From there, you can fill in the blanks with a wide variety of crackers, nuts, fruit, and beyond. I also love a garnish of seasonal herbs, such as rosemary or sage, for color and to fill in any empty spots.
- On the crunchy side: crisp crackers, nuts (salted or candied almonds, walnuts, and pecans being my favorite), fresh apple slices, cold black or red grapes. Crisps and crunch add important texture variation.
- On the sweet side: local honey, fig jam, fruit chutney, preserves, fresh fruit like grapes or figs, dried apricots, dried cranberries, or dates. I tend to avoid out-of season fruit like like blackberries and blueberries. In addition to being expensive this time of year, they tend not to enhance the seasonal look of fall flavor profile.
- Salty condiments: Your savory charcuterie (ham, cured meats such as good-quality pepperoni or prosciutto di Parma, olives, some types of crackers, hard pretzels
- Soft-textured condiments for your fall charcuterie board: the aforementioned chutneys and jams, ripe pear, and maybe simple dips in small bowls
I like to keep my pairings within a range that naturally goes together. For example, I would not recommend putting crudités and hummus on the same platter as aged cheeses and honey, since they do not naturally “flow” together.
How to Arrange an Autumn Charcuterie Board
There is much to be said about a minimalist approach, with negative space between each element. But if you want to build up a full fall charcuterie board, here’s how to layer on all the different snacks components:
- Start with the base: an appropriately-sized wood board or large serving platter — preferably white, which matches everything. And remember, you don’t need to fill in every last square inch of space. Negative space can look quite beautiful.
- Anchor your charcuterie board with your cheeses, cut as necessary, in different areas of your board. I would already have cheddar diced and Manchego sliced into triangles. Soft cheeses like chèvre and brie should be served in a log or wedge, respectively, with an appropriate knife or spreader. Crumbly cheese like an aged Parmigiano or aged gouda should have a pointy spade knife, if you have one.
- Add the charcuterie. Create height and interest to your fall themed charcuterie board by ribboning your prosciutto, or fold slices of aged salami in half or quarters instead of leaving it flat.
- Fill in with fruit, crackers, and condiments. No need to have a huge variety, but a couple different crackers or fruits will look more fun, and offer more variety for eaters.
- Add some tasteful decorative elements. For a good fall charcuterie board, I would add mini pumpkins (washed, please!), and sprigs of fresh, cold-weather herbs like sage, thyme, or rosemary.
- Don’t forget utensils! Cheese spreaders and knives, spoons for the chutneys, and toothpicks for olives and cheese cubes, please.
What Wine Pairing Is Best for a Fall Charcuterie and Cheese Board?
Just as there is no one wine that goes with all food, there is no one wine that pairs best with cheese and charcuterie. Rather, certain wines pair best with certain cheeses.
Examples of best wine and cheese pairings:
- Sauvingnon Blanc + goat cheese
- Pinot Noir + brie
- Malbec + aged cheddar
- French chardonnay + Gruyère
- Port + Blue Cheese
- Brut (dry) sparkling wine + aged parmesan and bloomy, funky soft cheeses like brie or Epoisses
Overall, you will hit the most targets with a dry white wine with notes of fruit (as opposed to a lot of minerality), and light reds like Rioja and pinot noir.
How Far in Advance Can I Make My Charcuterie Board?
Your beautiful autumn cheese and charcuterie board will keep for a few days in the fridge, loosely covered with plastic wrap. But do not add the crackers or bread until right before serving. Bread and crackers will get stale and soggy.
Also avoid slicing into oxidizing fruit like apple and pear in advance. They will turn brown.
Love a good cheese and charcuterie platter? You’ll also love:
How to Make a Fall Charcuterie Board
- A variety of cow's, goat's, and sheep's milk cheeses (see article for suggestions)
- A variety of cheeses of different textures, age, and color (see article for suggestions)
- Assorted charcuterie, such as prosciutto di Parma, salami, andouille, bresaola, Coppa, and so on
- Fresh fruit, such as crisp apples or grapes, ripe pears, and dried apricots
- Assorted nuts, such as pecans or almonds
- Sweet condiments, such as honey, chutney, fig jam, apple butter, and preserves
- Decorative mini pumpkins (washed) and a few springs of very fresh rosemary, sage, or thyme
- Assorted crackers, crisps, pretzels, or slices of fresh bread
Start your fall charcuterie board by arranging the cheeses, then charcuterie
- Anchor your charcuterie board with your cheeses, cut as necessary, in different areas of your board. Cheddar shold be diced and Manchego sliced into triangles, for example. Soft cheeses like chèvre and brie should be served in a log or wedge, respectively, with an appropriate knife or spreader. Crumbly cheese like an aged Parmigiano or aged gouda should have a pointy spade knife, if you have one.
- Add the charcuterie. Create height and interest by ribboning your prosciutto, or fold slices of aged salami in half or quarters. Do not merely plop the charcuterie directly from the package onto the board, or it will sit too flat and remain stuck together, which is hard for guests to use.
Enhance your charcuterie and cheeses with the "extras."
- Fill in the charcuterie board with fruit, crackers, and condiments. No need to have a huge variety, but a couple different crackers or fruits will look more fun and textural, and offer more variety for eaters. Place jammy condiments like chutneys or fruit butters in small bowls. Bowls of dips and things tend to look best in the corners, not center, of the board.
- Add some tasteful decorative elements. For a good fall charcuterie board, I would add mini pumpkins (washed, please!), and sprigs of very fresh, cold-weather herbs like sage, thyme, or rosemary.
- Don't forget utensils! Cheese spreaders and knives for soft or block cheeses, some toothpicks for olives and small cheese cubes, and the like.