I love doing a charcuterie board for the holidays. It is a simple, no cook way to feed hungry guests and keep them out of the kitchen. Full disclosure, I wind up eating more meat and cheese than anyone else, but that’s beside the point. I love making Trader Joe's charcuterie boards because they are easy and affordable with Trader Joe's prices and variety.
If you’ve never made a charcuterie board before, it’s really simple. I try to use flavors that will go well with the dinner I’m making, but I also try to choose products I will use when there’s inevitably leftovers.
Charcuterie Guide for Beginners
I love a good cheese and cured meat now, but charcuterie boards were not something I grew up with. We were a sliced cheddar and pepperoni family, and I still very much appreciate some room temperature cheddar and pepperoni. As I've become more adventurous with eating, I've really come to love and appreciate charcuterie boards; they are a simple yet impressive no-cook way of entertaining.
This guide is not meant for the cheese experts or the cured meat enthusiasts. This guide is meant for the beginners who are testing out the waters with charcuterie boards. The absolute expert in all things charcuterie and cheese is That Cheese Plate, and if you want to get lost in inspiration, check out her stunning work.
How to portion a charcuterie board
If this is your only appetizer, portion out 4 oz. of meat and cheese per person (again, you know your guests so go with more if you’d like). Choose 2-3 dips, a variety of crackers, and a mix of fresh and preserved fruit. I usually do at least one nut, but keep in mind nut allergies when making your board.
Best Trader Joe's Cheese for Charcuterie Boards
I choose my cheese first and build my flavor profiles around them. As a rule of thumb, I do at least one hard cheese, one soft cheese, a "familiar" cheese for the less adventurous, and one seasonal cheese.
Picking a hard cheese for charcuterie boards
My go-to hard cheese is parmesan. I like parmesan because it is familiar, everyone loves it, and I can use it after my event. It is a good, standard Italian hard cheese. Other great hard cheeses are Manchego and Asiago. Asiago is a great Italian alternative for your board while Manchego is a buttery Spanish hard cheese.
Picking a semi soft cheese and semi hard cheese for charcuterie boards
Semi hard cheese has 30%-45% water content while semi soft cheese has more than 45% water. All in all, it is a big range and it is where you will find the most familiar cheeses. My favorite is Trader Joe's Unexpected cheddar. It's familiar because it's cheddar, but its flavor is... unexpected. This cheese is an elevated cheese flavor somewhere between cheddar and parmesan. It's great for pairings of Italian meat and it makes excellent mac and cheese.
Again, Semi soft cheese has the most cheese people seem to be familiar with. My other favorite semi-soft cheeses from Trader Joe's are: Cheddar-Gruyere, Smoked Gouda, Havarti, and Fontina.
Picking a soft cheese for charcuterie boards
Trader Joe's has a huge selection of soft cheeses and it can be overwhelming. Personally, I love grabbing a big slice of brie and a seasonal goat cheese. In the warmer months, Trader Joe's usually carries a blueberry chevre, but the cranberry chevre is my favorite.
If you are new to different cheeses, do not be turned off by goat cheese. It's a spreadable, creamy, and sweet cheese. The cranberry pairs so well with the goat cheese and it quickly became my favorite cheese.
Best Trader Joe's Meat for Charcuterie Boards
When building a charcuterie board, I choose cheese first and pair it with meat second. If you are new to charcuterie, look for the variety packs; they reliably have an Italian meat selection (usually prosciutto, cappocola, and salami) and a Spanish meat selection (usually serrano ham, chorizo, and salami). Even when I am not relying on a variety pack, I typically go salami, prosciutto, and something hot.
When choosing meat, think of the people eating the food and the pairings. If you don't have many adventurous eaters, salami and prosciutto are great beginner meats. I always bulk up on salami and prosciutto. My daughters can easily eat their weight in salami while the adults eat prosciutto like it's going out of style. If most of your cheeses are Spanish and you love olives, try to add more Spanish meats.
Best Trader Joe's Crackers for Charcuterie Boards
I like including a few different cracker varieties for charcuterie boards. Having a variety is not only visually pleasing, but they can make different meat and cheese pairings more fun.
My favorite Trade Joe's crackers for charcuterie boards are Social Snackers, Breadsticks, Gig and Olive Crisps, and Cornbread Crisps. You can also add thinly sliced baguettes, Trader Joe's Pita Crackers, or pick up their variety packs.
Final touches for your Trader Joe's Charcuterie
Once you've filled your board with meat, cheese, and crackers, all that's left is some dips, fruit, and other small snacks. For a traditional board, I try to mix some fresh fruit and dried fruit: typically I go with sliced apples, grapes, and dried cranberries. You can mix and match with whatever you have on hand.
My favorite dips for charcuterie boards from Trader Joe's are Fig Jam, Spinach and Kale Greek Yogurt Dip, and some fresh honey. Trader Joe's also has a ton of different seasonal mustards they rotate including their Pale Ale Mustard and their blue cheese mustard which are both great. However, if you want to make it extra special, you should try out my homemade Sweet Hot Mustard which is always a hit around the holidays.
How to assemble a charcuterie board
Choose a large board and place your bowls for dips first. Next, add cheese. Slice some cheese to set up for guests. Pile complementary meat around the cheese and dips. Once the board is taking shape, fill in spots with crackers--again, keep pairings in mind. Fill in gaps with fresh fruit, loose nuts, and dried fruit. Decorate with herbs to fill in every spot for a show stopping board.
Tips for assembling a charcuterie board
(1) Cheese tastes better at room temperature. Take cheese out at least 30 minutes before serving. (2) These are meant to be easy entertaining. Don’t stress about making it beautiful. People are more blown away at the size and variety to care. (3) Know your guests. Don’t waste money on cheese that nobody will eat and enjoy.