Inexpensive Charcuterie Boards

How to Make an Inexpensive Meat & Cheese Tray (Charcuterie Board)

Whether you say charcuterie board, meat and cheese tray, or cheese board, traditional differences aside, what you call it and what you choose to put on it is up to you.

What is Charcuterie?

Charcuterie [shahr-KOO-tuhr-ee] traditionally refers to prepared meats like ham, bacon, sausage, and other pork products. However, modern charcuterie boards include other meats as well as foods like cheese, fruits, crackers, and spreads.

The goal of the charcuterie board is to create a nice contrast between various foods and make it appealing and appetizing so the people you’re feeding are happy. While putting together a charcuterie board truly requires ZERO culinary skills, it will look like you put in a whole lot of effort. 

You can easily get carried away buying way too many ingredients and choosing odd foods you’d never normally purchase, but there are easy ways to avoid this!

Making it Inexpensive

  1. Have a plan and you’ll save $$. Decide how much food you need, what kinds of things you want to serve, and HOW MUCH MONEY YOU WANT TO SPEND. Deciding these things in advance will help keep shopping and spending under control so you don’t buy more than you need.
  2. Find a “board”. You probably have something in your home that would be perfect! This could be a cutting board or serving tray, but think outside the box and use a hunk of wood that has a flat surface, a framed mirror, or even a castoff cupboard door. Use your imagination–just make sure whatever you’re using is clean and food safe.
  3. Search your cupboard for bowls. Look for a few small ones you can set on and around the board to hold things like honey, sauces, and seeds that are easier to serve from a bowl. Don’t worry if the bowls don’t match–that just adds to the charm.
  4. Look in your pantry and refrigerator for ingredients you already have on hand. A few kinds of cheese and meat (Running low? Simply cut what you DO have into small chunks.); condiments like mustard, jam, and salsa; crackers and breads (either yeast or quick); pickles, veggies, fresh and dried fruits, seeds, and nuts.  Only shop for things you absolutely need and that you don’t already have on hand!|
  5. Think about what you could make yourself. Things like granola, cookies, quick-pickled veggies, and dip (Rada has a great selection of dip mixes). Choose recipes that are quick and easy to prep, don’t require a bunch of weird ingredients, and preferably you can make without having to go to the store at all OR at least will only require a couple of purchased ingredients.

There are NO RULES to building an amazing charcuterie board, but keeping just a few things in mind will result in the most appealing, varied, and delicious choices:

  • Include a variety of flavors from sweet to savory, light to rich.
  • Use contrasting textures–crispy and creamy, crunchy and smooth.
  • Arrange your board with pops of color here and there, “fanning” out ingredients for easy serving and an overall good look.

That’s it. Now you can just have fun putting it all together. Keep reading for other great ideas.

Charcuterie boards will change the way you host get-togethers. They’re the answer to EASY entertaining with a look that is wildly IMPRESSIVE. Gone are the days spent cooking, prepping, and fussing over what to feed your guests. All it takes are yummy ingredients, a board or tray, and a little creativity.

The popularity and variety offered by charcuterie boards make them perfect for the holidays, date night, a family fun night, or a gathering of friends any time of year. Simply size your board and ingredients for the number of people you’re serving. Charcuterie boards work equally well for groups large or small.

You can build your charcuterie board any way you choose, but here are a few tips:

  • Start with a foundation. Determine the bowls you’ll be using, fill them, and place those on the board first. Because they take up a specific amount of space, starting with the bowls simply prevents trying to squeeze them in later when all the other food is already arranged.
  • Cheeses & Meats. Next lay out your cheeses on various areas of the board. It’s not necessary to slice all the cheese, but cutting a few pieces gives your guests a starting point. Now add in your selection of meats. Slice, fold, or mound them up to create little groupings around the board.
  • Crackers and Breads. Stack, pile, or fan out crackers and breads. Things shouldn’t look perfect–randomness adds character and makes the whole thing approachable. You don’t want people to shy away from eating from the board because they’re afraid to “ruin the look.” Add a basket off to the side for bread if you don’t want to fit the slices on the board.
  • Accompaniments. Lastly, nestle in all the extras. Fill the remaining gaps with things like nuts, dried and fresh fruits, and veggies. Tuck in small salt and pepper shakers or a tiny bowl with toothpicks if you’d like.

Don’t forget serving utensils like forks, spoons, knives, and spreaders, and be sure to set out a stack of small plates and napkins.

When choosing ingredients for your board, as mentioned above, look through your pantry and fridge first and design your board around what you have. Here’s an example of a yummy Mexican-themed board you can mimic–or come up with your own ideas to suit your guests, your mood, and your budget.

Mexican Fiesta Board


Cheeses: Manchego, Cotija
Charcuterie: cured chorizo, honey ham
Breads & Crackers: corn tortillas, blue tortilla chips
Accompaniments: pickled jalapenos, pistachios, dried mango, avocados, radishes, sweet mini bells
Condiment: Corn Salsa (recipe below)
Garnishes: cilantro, lime wedges


Put the pickled jalapenos, pistachios, and Corn Salsa in small bowls and place them on a board.

Arrange the Manchego, Cotija, chorizo, and honey ham on the board.

Slice the corn tortillas in half and place them on the board along with some blue tortilla chips.

Fill any remaining gaps with dried mango, sliced avocado, radishes, and sweet mini bells.

Garnish with cilantro if you’d like and toss on some lime wedges for squeezing.

Corn Salsa: Stir together 1 (12 oz.) bag frozen corn (thawed & drained) 2 seeded and chopped jalapenos, ½ C. finely chopped red onion, ½ C. chopped cilantro, 1 clove minced garlic, ½ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. black pepper, and the juice of 2 limes. Makes 2 cups

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