Cheese Board vs. Charcuterie Board

Are you looking to impress guests at your next party with a stunning charcuterie board, but wondering if you should do a cheese board instead?

Cheese Board vs. Charcuterie Board

These incredible spreads are taking over social media, but what sets them apart?

What is a Cheese Board?

A cheese board is a wooden plank, slate, or decorative platter covered with an assortment of cheeses as the focal point. It often includes cheese accompaniments like nuts, fruit, chutney, honey, jams, bread/crackers, and cured meats.

The various cheese textures, flavors, colors, and shapes make for an appetizing presentation. Cheese boards allow guests to sample an array of cheeses in one place.

What is a Charcuterie Board?

The word "charcuterie" comes from French and literally means "cooked meats." A charcuterie board showcases cured meats like salami, prosciutto, soppressata, and sausages as the main attraction.

Charcuterie boards also tend to feature cheeses, mustard, jams, nuts, pickles, olives, dried fruits, bread/crackers, and other tasty pairings alongside the meats. They offer a savory spread perfect for gatherings.

Now that you know the basics, let’s examine the key differences between cheese boards and charcuterie boards so you can decide which option works best for your party.

The Main Differences Between Cheese & Charcuterie Boards

Focal Ingredients: Cheese vs Cured Meats

The most noticeable difference comes down to the star ingredients:

  • Cheese boards focus on an array of artisan cheeses as the centerpiece. The cheeses drive the experience.
  • Charcuterie boards feature cured/processed meats as the headliner. Various salamis, sausages, prosciutto, etc. take center stage.

You'll find crossover with cheese/meats on both boards, but the balance tips towards showcasing either the fine cheeses or cured meats. Essentially, charcuterie boards contain more meat while cheese boards pack in more cheese.

Flavor Profiles: Mild vs Bold

Due to the anchor ingredients, cheese and charcuterie boards offer different overall flavor profiles:

  • Cheese boards tend to have milder flavors on average based around the dairy. Soft cheeses especially give a delicate, creamy mouthfeel.
  • Charcuterie boards’ bolder cured meats bring pungent, savory flavors. The saltiness and smokiness of salamis, hams, and sausages makes these boards intense.

That said, aging trays, blue cheeses, and charcuterie/cheese combos add kicks. The spectrum stretches based on your specific ingredient choices.

Dietary Restrictions

Given the central components, cheese and charcuterie boards accommodate different diets:

  • Cheese boards work well for vegetarians thanks to their emphasis on dairy over meat. Most cheeses are fully vegetarian, with some exceptions.
  • Charcuterie boards pose challenges for vegetarians or vegans due to cured meats being the main attraction. Recreating them without meats requires effort.

On the other hand, charcuterie boards can work for vegetarians by incorporating alternate proteins like nuts. But for strict vegans, cheese boards also prove difficult due to dairy and honey.

Ease of Assembly

Constructing either board involves lots of ingredients, but cheese boards tend to be simpler to arrange:

  • Cheese boards only require cutting/plating chunks of cheese alongside pairings. Less prep overall.
  • For charcuterie boards, properly slicing multiple cured meats thin and fanning them out artfully takes more effort and skill with a sharp knife.

That said, anyone can throw together quick, humble versions of either board. Creating Instagram-worthy displays worthy of a catering service demands attention regardless.

How to Build Stunning Cheese & Charcuterie Boards

Now that you know the core differences, let's get into the fun part: how to craft incredible cheese and charcuterie boards on your own!

Follow these tips when selecting ingredients and arranging your showstopping spreads:

Ingredients to Include

Cheese Board Ingredients

  • Assortment of cheeses (mix of styles & milk types)
  • Fruit (fresh & dried)
  • Nuts
  • Olives/pickles
  • Honey/jams/chutneys
  • Crackers/bread
  • Cured meats (optional)

Charcuterie Board Ingredients

  • Array of cured meats (salami, prosciutto, soppressata, etc.)
  • Cheeses
  • Mustards/jams/honeys
  • Crackers/bread
  • Fruit
  • Pickled veggies
  • Nuts
  • Olives

Focus on the main ingredients first when shopping. Then complete the boards by adding interest with various accents and garnishes.

Presentation Tips

Making these boards into masterpieces requires artful plating. Use these display ideas:

  • Utilize contrasting colors - create eye-catching color palettes with ingredients.
  • Add height with stacks – use crackers/bread, small bowls, jars, etc.
  • Alternate placement of items – zig-zag ingredients for dynamism.
  • Make the most of your surface area – don’t leave empty space.
  • Mind the textures – combine crunchy, creamy, crumbly.
  • Get creative with shapes – roll meats, cut fruit/cheese into shapes.
  • Use proper knives when slicing ingredients. Invest in quality blades.

With an abundance of tasty components and vibrant colors, both cheese and charcuterie boards make artistic canvases.

Key Takeaway: Focus on contrasting colors, alternating placement, adding height, utilizing all space, and embracing creative shapes/textures when plating your boards. Quality knives help slice ingredients.

Size Recommendations

Determining adequate board sizes comes down to math:

  • Plan on 2-3 ounces of cheese/meat per person
  • Multiply your # of guests by amounts to estimate total needed
  • Buy boards matching those total amounts

For example, having 10 guests x 3 ounces = you’d want ~30 ounces of cheese and meats. Increase board sizes accordingly.

In general for reference:

  • Small boards: 8-12 inches (great for personal)
  • Medium boards: 13-18 inches (good for ~4-8 people)
  • Large boards: 20+ inches (feeds crowds 10+)

It's better to have extra room than not enough space. If you have leftover ingredients, simply replate or save them!


Are cheese boards and charcuterie boards the same?

No, cheese and charcuterie boards are not the same! As outlined above, they have distinct main ingredients driving the flavor experience. Charcuterie boards spotlight cured meats while cheese boards feature quality cheeses as the anchor.

That said, there is heavy crossover in terms of other components. But the balance tips towards showcasing gourmet cheeses or artisanal cured meats as the respective focal point.

What’s the best option: cheese board or charcuterie board?

The "best option" comes down to personal preference and who you’re serving. If presenting to cheese aficionados, a thoughtfully curated cheese board is tough to beat. For charcuterie fans, a meat-centric spread proves more appetizing.

If hosting mixed company or those with dietary restrictions, offering both boards creates an inclusive selection. Provide options by making smaller versions of multiple boards. Guests can then craft mini-plates sampling their favorites from each one.

How do I arrange a charcuterie board?

Follow these tips when arranging charcuterie boards:

  • Fan out cured meat selections attractively. Use proper knives to slice thin.
  • Incorporate cheese selections for balance. Go for contrasting styles.
  • Add crackers, breads, nuts for crunch.
  • Bring color with fruits, veggies, olives, etc.
  • Use mustards, jellies, honey to enhance flavors.
  • Alternate placement of items in rows, clusters, piles.
  • Fill the entire board creatively so no spaces remain empty.

What are good cheese board pairing ideas?

When building cheese boards, use these tasty pairing ideas:

  • Fresh fruit like grapes, berries
  • Dried fruit including apricots, dates
  • Sweet jams, chutneys, honey that contrast cheeses
  • Spicy mustards, pesto, tapenades that complement
  • Cured meats like prosciutto, salami
  • Hearty crackers, sliced breads, baguettes
  • Crunchy nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios
  • Briny olives, pickled veggies

Experiment with artful platings and combinations of the above accessories to take your cheese board to the next level!


Cheese and charcuterie boards make equally excellent additions to gatherings of all kinds.

But knowing whether to spotlight luscious cheeses or delectable cured meats depends on personal preference.

Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀
Cheese Lover Chloe 🧀

I'm a total cheese fanatic! When I'm not busy studying to be a cheesemaker, you can find me scouring local farmers markets and specialty shops for new and exciting cheeses to try. Brie is my all-time fave, but I also love exploring aged goudas, funky blues, and rich creamy camemberts. Looking forward to sharing lots of melty, gooey cheese pics and reviews!