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Difference Between Charcuterie and Cheese Boards (and Tips for Each!)

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A new trend that’s been sweeping parties and get-togethers around the nation is the charcuterie board. I’m sure you’ve seen one somewhere, at an activity or a friend’s house– a rustic wooden board covered in a beautiful arrangement of fancy cheeses, meats, crackers, and fruit, possibly jams, and nuts.

Typically, this will be the main source of food for the evening, and everyone is happy to try the different foods and find their favorite meat, cheese, and cracker combination. You may wonder why everyone seems so invested in this charcuterie board idea.

Curious, you approach the board and select your favorite fruit, a cracker you recognize as good, and a meat and cheese that look appetizing. You stack the meat and cheese on your cracker and take a bite. Mmmm. Delicious! You’re hooked.

Very colorful tapas board of charcuterie with cheese and smoked meats.

You try out all of the different crackers, meats, cheeses, a little jam here and there, and fruit once in a while. You find yourself comfortably aligned with the rest of the crowd, enjoying such a delightful snacking experience.

You go home, and your spouse asks you about your gathering with friends. You respond that it was good, but go more into detail about the food than the event or your friends. You describe your wonderful experience trying the charcuterie board, and propose that you make your own when you host your next party.

That time comes around, and you look up charcuterie board recipes. While on the internet, as it so often happens, you end up in a different place than you started. What had begun as an attempt to know what ingredients to buy for a charcuterie board ended up with you in the midst of a blog post about cheese boards.

Cheese boards do look delicious!

Perhaps you’ve always been a big fan of cheese, especially the exotic ones. Your mouth begins watering at the sight of wheels of cheese such as Brie and Camembert, and you begin to forget all about the charcuterie board. Maybe you want to make a cheese board instead!

Now you’re conflicted. You never see cheese boards at parties. Is there something charcuterie boards have that cheese boards lack? Is there something you’re missing here? And everyone seems to enjoy charcuterie boards– including you!– so why do you want to change it now? Will people not like your cheese board and wish there was a charcuterie board instead?

So, you’ve searched the difference between charcuterie boards and cheese boards to be sure of the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of both, and found this article. In this post, we’ll explore what sets them apart and why charcuterie boards are so successful. Read on!

Cheese, Meat and Olive charcuterie board

What Makes People Love Charcuterie Boards So Much?

There’s something so brilliant about charcuterie boards that makes you excited whenever you spot one at a gathering. You can’t help but get excited by the swirling arrangement of different foods, feeling privileged to be one of the ones to eat from it.


Mostly, it has to do with aesthetics. Charcuterie boards can be made or bought. The aesthetics are usually powerful with bought charcuterie, while those constructed by the host have their unique style.

The arrangement is key. The food is placed on a rustic wooden board, making it feel special, expensive, and European. It is arranged in a manner where there are lines of one ingredient, and one of another, mixing into swirls and lines and bursts with little things in the center such as small bowls of jelly.

Textures are played with to add to the artistry, putting smooth cheese right next to ground nuts to compliment each other. And really, that’s a great way to describe a charcuterie board’s allure: it’s art. Food art– the best kind of art there is!

Its beauty makes the food more alluring, which makes the board more appetizing.

There is also something to be said about the food type. The food is what you may consider more high class, as it’s not the typical party food such as chips and soda. It’s a healthier alternative, featuring fruit and meat and cheese at a party, and although that may seem like a turnoff it isn’t.

Choosing fancy cheeses and meats, colorful jams, and fruits makes the food seem more luxurious and expensive. Therefore, eating it makes you feel special like you’re at an exclusive gathering and it’s an honor to be chosen to attend and partake of the rich people’s food.

The natural tones in the bread and cheeses, mixed with the pale colors of the meat and the complimentary rich colors of the fruit make it even more aesthetically pleasing and all the more appetizing. With the artful arrangement and the seemingly high quality of food, charcuterie boards are hard to resist.

Tasting cheese dish on a wooden plate.

What Are the Differences Between Charcuterie and Cheese Boards?

That’s all fine and dandy, but does that mean you shouldn’t even bother with attempting a cheese board?

You’d prefer a cheese board, but if your guests will not enjoy it and wish there was a charcuterie board instead, it’s not worth the money and the effort.

The main difference between charcuterie boards and cheese boards is the focus of the display. With a charcuterie board, it focuses on the meats and what foods pair best with the meats.

There is typically an even amount of cheese, bread, and meat, as you traditionally are expected to use a piece of cheese and meat on one piece of bread. Any jams, fruit, vegetables, or extras such as nuts are sprinkled around for added appearance on the board, or to eat on the side. These complementary foods are chosen based on their compatibility with the meats you have, such as cheeses, crackers, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

On a cheese board, however, the cheese is the real show. There will be many different types of cheeses, often the fanciest kinds, with some other ingredients on the side you can use to enjoy the cheese.

Most people don’t want to eat straight cheese all night, even if you might! So, there’s an assortment of beautifully arranged cheese, accompanied by some crackers, meats, and fruits such as grapes to add to your experience.

Cheese boards often have sweeter foods because those pair best with cheese, such as those fruits, jams, and nuts, or briny, salty foods such as meats and crackers. The cheese is the real show on a cheese board, and the other ingredients only enhance its display, while on a charcuterie board, even though the meats are what inspire the rest of the ingredients, they all work equally to display the overall picture.

Charcuterie equals meat board, cheese board equals… well, cheese board.

flat lay photo of Flat-lay of charcuterie and cheese board, some nuts, olives, bread and crackers; hand of a male and female holding wineglasses

What Are the Similarities?

As you can tell, charcuterie boards and cheese boards will use the same types of foods.

Meat goes well with cheese, and cheese goes well with meat, so you will almost always find both foods on whichever board you decide to make. Because meat and cheese go well together, they go well with similar foods, such as bread and crackers, fruits, nuts, and jams.

Vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes are typically found only on charcuterie boards.

Another similarity is presentation. Both boards are often displayed on rectangular or circular wooden boards and arranged in similar manners.

The showpieces of a charcuterie board, the meats, paired with their biggest partners, the cheese and crackers, will be the most prominent, with vegetables and nuts filling in the sides.

On a cheese board, the cheese will be the main figure, with meats, bread, and fruits filling in the space.

These boards are similar in how they are so customizable. You can lay them out on boards in whatever way you’d like– and even use whichever type of board you like! Choose whichever foods you think go best with the meats you have available for the charcuterie board, or the cheeses you selected for the cheeseboard.

Stores have their own generalized assumptions about what tastes best with certain meats and cheeses, so that’s what you’ll get on a board you buy. However, if you make one, the ingredients are all up to you and your unique taste, depending on which cheese or meat you bought and what you like to eat with it. Or, what you think or know your guests like to eat with it.

Arranging gourmet cheese, crackers, and fruits on a board for a large cheese board.

How to Make Your Own Charcuterie Board or Cheese Board

The great thing about making boards? There’s no prep work involved! No cooking or baking, unless you’re making bread or jams or dips.

The hardest part about the whole thing is choosing what ingredients to buy. After you’ve unwrapped everything and got it ready, choose how you display your food on the board. But before you buy, you’ll need to decide: charcuterie or cheese board?

Think of those exotic cheeses you’ve been craving or fancy meats you’ve heard about that you’ve been wanting to try. Or, go to the deli section of your grocery store and choose the meat and cheese that looks the most appetizing!

From there, think of the foods that would work well with it. Maybe grapes or strawberries? Peppers or tomatoes? Walnuts or pecans? Pepper or raspberry jams? Choose your favorite pairings or the ones you are most curious to try.

These boards can also be an adventure in trying new foods or the same foods in different ways! It really is an artistic effort, and you’ve got to use your creative skills as best as you can. Here are some tips on how to make your board into a masterpiece!

Color Balance

Start with the meats on the charcuterie board, and cheese on the cheese board, and arrange them so that they are shown off properly.

Next, start adding the complementary ingredients with the same neutral tones like crackers and cheeses, which will be displayed similarly. Add a few of the less common foods, such as jams, fruits, and veggies, here and there to break up the neutral colors with bright, diverse colors.

Finally, make sure all dead space is filled with an ingredient such as nuts, which have a dark, grounding color that will make the rest of the board pop.

Artisan charcuterie boards different fruits and almond food on the table

Keep Like Foods Together

Don’t mix it up by putting a couple of pieces of meat here, and a couple there. It won’t have the same effect these boards typically have.

Instead, all the same type of meat should go in a row, all slightly stacked on each other in a diagonal or wavy line across the board. Next to that line, put a line of one type of cheese, then, one type of cracker.

You can break the lines by putting little bowls of jam, or bunches of fruit. This will create swirls and lines across your board. When you’ve finished putting the main ingredients, any leftover space can be filled in with items such as nuts.

Use Texture to Your Advantage

Texture is an essential part of a board’s aesthetic. If you’re putting all the smooth foods together and the chunky ones together, the board will look weird and unbalanced.

Try to put foods of different textures right next to each other. Separate the meats and cheeses with a line of crackers. Break the monotony of the lines with a bunch of grapes in the center. Adding texture will give more interest and life to your art piece.

Finally, those empty spaces you fill with nuts, make sure those are given a fine texture, too. Ground nuts will offer a gritty, sandy texture that none of the other foods offer, and can help complete your painting.

And with a final flourish, a final bowl of jam or sprinkling of nuts, there you have it! There’s your masterpiece!