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Easy & Cheap Charcuterie Board

Charcuterie boards have been the hot food trend of the last year or so. They’re stunning, tasty and with a little help incredibly easy and cheap to put together.

In my opinion the best thing about a charcuterie board is that you can customize it to fit your tastes. Everything I put on this fancy looking board came from Aldi.

I wish I could tell you how much I spent but these days grocery runs are a scramble and it was all thrown in with my regular groceries. But let’s be real, it was Aldi’s so it’s pretty budget-friendly!

If you shop at Aldi’s (this post isn’t sponsored by the way) you know the quality of their specialty, store brand food are amazing. Especially the chocolate and honestly, the main take-away from this post is go buy the Dark Chocolate Caramels.

add chocolate caramels to the finished charcuterie board

Traditionally charcuterie is all about cured meat and cheese but as it’s been trending it’s taken on a life of its own and people have started doing all sorts of crazy things with it from breakfast charcuterie to dessert charcuterie.

Today we’re keeping things closer to the traditional side but throwing in a few fun surprises to make it a meal instead of just an appetizer. This tray would make a great at-home date night meal that looks super impressive while actually being pretty easy to put together.

The Set Up

While the food is the real star of this show there are a few supporting actors that need to be acknowledged. I set up my charcuterie boards on wooden cutting boards nestled in a metal tray.

empty charcuterie tray set up before adding food

Trays are great becuase you can set everything up in the kitchen and then easily carry it all to the dining room (or, lets be honest to living room to watch TV). The tray I use came from Aldi’s a few summers ago but they’re everywhere these days.

I have seen some really cool options at TJ Maxx and Home Goods made from either wood, metal, or stone. You can also use a large wooden cutting board if you can’t find a big tray with handles.

Before adding any of the food I like to line to tray with a tea towel, it helps hold the cutting boards in place and it will soak up any spills. Then I add in the cutting boards to hold all the meat and cheese.

If you’re adding anything wet like olives, pickles or artichoke hearts you’ll also want to grab a few small bowls or ramekins as well as a set of fancy picks to help pick up the food.

Cheese

The hardest part about making a charcuterie board is narrowing down the cheese options. You have so. many. options.

In the end, you should pick things that you like to eat that will work well with the other items on the charcuterie tray. Aim for a variety of flavors and textures.

This time I went with a log of Honey Goat Cheese, Cranberry White Cheddar, and a small wheel of brie that I baked in a tiny cast-iron skillet with toasted almonds and maple syrup because I’m extra.

You can leave soft cheeses whole but you should slice up harder cheeses ahead of time or add a knife to your serving tray.

add cheese to the charcuterie board first

I like to set up my cheese and meat first, they’re the real stars of the show and getting them spaced out gives you a good start for a dramatic and delicious charcuterie board.

If that Toasted Almond Maple Baked Brie caught your attention here is my recipe, it will be done by the time your water boils for the tortellini (getting to that in a second).

Maple Almond Brie

small cast iron skillet with baked brie topped with chopped almonds and maple syrup in a charcuterie tray

Baked brie is an easy way to make an impressive appetizer in minutes, by the time the oven has preheated it's ready to bake. This Maple Almond Baked Brie is delicious on it's own or served as part of a charcuterie board

Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 7 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 small wheel of Brie
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 2 T real Maple Syrup

Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 350°
    2. Carefully slice off the very top of the brie, this is optional* and place in a small oven-safe dish or skillet
    3. Toast the chopped almonds in a dry skillet until fragrant, stirring constantly
    4. Dump toasted almonds on top of the cheese wheel and drizzle with maple syrup
    5. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until soft and scoopable
    6. Serve with crackers

Notes

The rind on brie is edible but I think it's easier to scoop up the melted cheese with a cracker when the top portion is removed

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Bowls

Before I add the meat I like to add in anything in a bowl. This time I used large ramekins filled with marinated artichoke hearts, pickled beets and warm tortellini tossed in melted butter.

Traditionally you would have olives on a charcuterie board, but I don’t like olives so I swap them out for marinated artichoke hearts. It’s just one more flavor and texture to add variety to your meal.

I also like to throw in something pickled. This time I went for beets but pickled cucumbers are always a welcome hit of acidity to cut through the fatty meat and cheese.

add bowls of pickled beets, marinated artichoke hearts and fresh tortellini to the charcuterie board

Beets and goat cheese are a match made in heaven and I’d be happy with a whole tray full of that combo. Round baby beets are much more attractive than the slices but I’m not good at speed reading labels in the Grocery Store Hunger Games.

For our final bowl, how about some warm of fresh, filled pasta tossed in melted salted butter? I picked up a pack of tortellini from the refrigerator section of Aldi.

You can use frozen pasta but the fresh stuff cooks up in barely anytime. There are always a few options of tortellini and ravioli, you never know until you get there but that’s part of the fun of shopping at Aldi’s.

Adding the pasta is a great way to take this from an appetizer to a meal. And it’s portable nature makes it a perfect snacking dinner while watching a movie marathon.

Meat

Taking a step back to the classic charcuterie board, cured meats are the shining star standing hand in hand with the cheese. Just like with the cheese I like to have a few options.

This time I went with a softer summer sausage and a harder Genoa Dry Salami. I had planned on adding Prosciutto but I forgot to grab it.

add sliced cured meat to the charcuterie tray

If you want to make your meat look extra nice slice it up on the diagonal. It takes it from ‘gas station pizza topping’ to ‘damn she’s fancy’ with no extra effort.

When I made my fresh summer charcuterie board I added a few sliced up sausages and served them in a small ramekin.

Whatever you decide to use for meat make sure you space it out on the board. You want to keep the eyes moving and you can do that my keeping your star elements away from each other.

Even though we have over half the food on the board it’s still looking pretty empty and that’s perfectly fine. The next two steps are where it fills out and really comes together.

Fresh Food

This is where we start to get even farther away from the traditional charcuterie elements. I like to add some fresh foods to make things a little lighter (nothing like 15 pounds of cheese sitting in your stomach) and to add some variety.

add fresh red grapes and red cherry tomatoes on the vine to the charcuterie board

This time I went with red grapes and fresh cherry tomatoes. I’m a huge tomato snob, I refuse to buy slicing tomatoes from anywhere but local farmer’s markets but the on-the-vine cherry tomatoes from Aldi have my blessing.

Grapes and cherry tomatoes are perfect for charcuterie boards because they’re small and you can eat them whole, blueberries, cherries and raspberries will also add a bit of sweetness without making a mess of your board.

Small fruits and vegetable work really well on a charcuterie tray from a visual standpoint because they add color and they fill up a lot of space. Casually toss them on in a few of the larger empty spaces.

Bread & Crackers

Unless you’re completely feral you’ll want something to pile the meat and cheese on. Once again, variety is key here.

The best way to get that variety without purchasing a bunch of different boxes is with the 6 Cracker Assortment package. You get 6 different types of crackers, your tray will look fancy and it’s all in one box.

This time I also added in some mini-toasts, they were sort of like giant croutons. Another route is to buy a baguette, slice it up (on the diagonal of course), brush with melted butter or olive oil and pop under the broiler for a minute or so until toasted.

top view of low cost charcuterie board with baked brie, pickled beets, white cranberry cheddar, goat  cheese, summer sausage, salami, red grapes, cherry tomatoes, crackers and dark chocolate caramels

I like to add my bread and crackers at the end to fill in all the empty spaces. This is what gives a good charcuterie board that almost overwhelmingly full and decadent look.

You don’t want to see much if any of the tray and cutting boards. Try to avoid straight lines when you’re adding the crackers, curve around the elements you’ve already added.

Finale

It’s not a meal without desserts and you can’t go wrong with the dark chocolate sea salt caramels from Aldi.

finished charcuterie board

If you’re feeling lost here are the key take away points:

  1. Variety is key, have 2-3 types of meat & cheese & crackers
  2. Cut meat, vegetables, and bread on the diagonal to make them fancy
  3. Add the main elements first, spacing them out, then fill in with the fruit, vegetables, and crackers until you can’t see the base
  4. Avoid straight lines

Have you jumped onto the Charcuterie hype train yet? What would be on your dream charcuterie board? Let me know in the comments, I’m always looking for new ideas!

Check out my Recipes page for more ideas or start here:

bowl of sliced red and purple tomatoes on a metal tray with a cutting board with mozzarella cheese, feta cheese, pepperoni, cherry tomatoes and toasted bread with fresh basil
easy appetizer recipes with 5 ingredients or less

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