How To Make a Healthy Charcuterie Board
When you search for ‘charcuterie board’ on Instagram, you’ll find more than a million results. The variety of meats, cheeses, crackers and other nibbles are ideal for gatherings and, of course, picture-perfect social media posts. If you’re lactose intolerant, gluten-free or avoid highly processed meats, the typical charcuterie board becomes a minefield of potential irritants that can worsen digestion and overall health. The good news is it’s easy to learn how to create a healthy charcuterie board that will wow your guests with its vibrant colours and flavours. Also called an ‘entertaining board’ or ‘grazing board’, a healthy charcuterie board can embrace so much more than meat, bread and cheese!
Why Make A Healthy charcuterie Board?
A healthy charcuterie board makes a delicious addition to any gathering. They look impressive (they’ll definitely make your guests ooh and ahh) but are so simple to make and don’t require a ton of culinary skill or equipment. Plus they’re not only for parties or festive creations – they make an ideal choose your own adventure style meal any day of the week.
Healthy charcuterie boards are:
- Packed with choices for guests or selective eaters
- Great for when you don’t feel like cooking
- Elegant and visually appealing
- Brimming with nutritious choices
Equipment Needed for Serving a Healthy Charcuterie Board
The beauty of a healthy grazing board is you don’t need much! It’s handy to have:
- A simple wooden cutting board or a large platter
- A few knives for cutting into dairy-free cheeses, if you haven’t cubed or sliced them
- A couple of spoons for dishing out the dips
- If you’re serving a lot of soft or runny dips and spreads on your board, you could use little bowls or ramekins to contain them, or get creative by spooning them onto lettuce leaves
As long as you have a large board or surface to work with, you can make an appealing and healthy charcuterie board.
Environmentally Friendly Serving Options
You might see many items skewered with toothpicks on charcuterie boards and paper napkins alongside for grabbing items. We aim to reduce kitchen disposables so we prefer to use regular plates and cloth napkins, along with stainless steel skewers.
For a fun spin, you could try corn tortillas instead of small dishes for serving – it’s a plate you can eat!
what to include On a Healthy charcuterie Board
Photo: Regina Barker on Unsplash
There are no hard and fast rules to what goes on a healthy charcuterie board. Part of the fun is using your imagination, exploring seasonal ingredients and considering which foods will build health for those enjoying the final product.
Generally speaking, we enjoy healthy grazing boards that have:
- A mix of textures (such as crunchy, crispy, smooth, chunky, soft, chewy)
- A mix of tastes (a balance of salty, savoury, sweet, sour, bitter and a bit of umami)
- Small or bite-sized items (no one wants to be the awkward person trying to pluck a handful of grapes off an enormous cluster)
These are some components to consider adding to your charcuterie board.
Photo: Naveed Pervaiz on Unsplash
Load up your homemade board with tons of veggies! What you choose depends on where you live and what’s in season, but cucumber slices, carrot sticks and celery are always solidly popular options to start with – and they’re great for dipping.
All veggies are packed with vitamins and minerals and are good sources of fibre for digestion, cardiovascular health and blood sugar balance.
Other ways to add vegetables to your board:
- Roasted veggie skewers
- Marinated veggies
- Veggie chips like sweet potato chips
Fresh and/or dried fruit offer a hint of natural sweetness to your healthy charcuterie board. For fresh fruits that brown quickly, such as apple or avocado, slice them before serving.
Like veggies, an array of fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are great to scatter across your charcuterie board for visual interest, crunch and plant-based protein. Keep them plain, or roast them with your favourite seasonings.
If any of your guests (or anyone in your household) have nut/seed allergies, place them in a separate dish off to the side of the board to avoid cross-contamination.
In our view, gluten-free crackers are indispensable to a healthy charcuterie board. They’re crispy, full of flavour, and great for dipping or piling with toppings. If you’re grain-free, there are loads of cracker recipes using nuts and seeds or alternative flours.
Recipe To Try: 22 Best Gluten-Free Cracker Recipes
Lettuce or Seaweed
Stacks of lettuce, dark leafy greens or seaweed are perfect for making lettuce cups or tucking other board ingredients into for a wrap. If you’re using a hardy dark leafy green, such as collards, you can lightly steam them for additional pliability.
Traditional charcuterie boards contain dairy cheeses that can have harmful effects on many people, especially those who are dealing with health challenges, which is why the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program is entirely dairy-free. Dairy products can trigger inflammation and immune responses, are difficult to digest, aggravate skin conditions and more (you can learn about dairy’s impact on health and how to reduce consumption here).
Dairy-free cheese recipes are the ideal solution for your entertaining board, and they are fun to make! Note that many dairy-free cheese recipes are nut-based so you’ll want to keep those off to the side if anyone has nut allergies.
Recipe To Try: 22 Best Dairy-Free Cheese Recipes
Dips and Spreads
Add at least two dips or spreads for everyone to dunk their veggies, crackers and bread into!
Recipe To Try: 20 Best Dip and Hummus Recipes, 27 Best Salsa Recipes or 20 Best Guacamole Recipes
Trim your gluten-free bread into cubes for bite-sized dipping. Chickpea socca slices are also incredible as a thin, grain-free option.
Recipe To Try: 20 Best Gluten-Free Bread Recipes
Photo: Brooke Lark on Unsplash
Fermented foods add gut-friendly, immune-supportive properties to any healthy charcuterie board. Try:
- Pickled Vegetables
- Fermented Hot Sauce
- Cultured Nut/Seed Cheese
Ready to start fermenting? Learn to make fermented foods yourself in our online, self-paced Fundamentals of Fermentation course!
Protein of Choice
Typical charcuterie boards contain loads of deli meat, salami, cured meats or pepperoni. We are very conscious of the animal products we consume, and many processed meats are factory farmed and contain ingredients such as nitrites and other preservatives, excess sodium and sugar that are harmful to our health.
Instead, on your healthy charcuterie board try:
- Organic, free range and pastured hard-boiled eggs
- Thinly sliced organic humanely raised cooked meat (learn how to roast a whole chicken for this here)
- Fresh organic sausages (that you cook yourself)
For a vegan protein option, try:
- Marinated beans (learn how to cook them perfectly every time)
- Cooked organic, non-GMO tofu or tempeh cubes
- Organic edamame pods
Discover the world of plant-based protein here.
Other Fun Bite-Sized Snacks
These are delicious on charcuterie boards!
- Roasted chickpeas
- Mini pizza, quiche or salmon cakes
- Energy balls
- Cauliflower wings
- Veggie nuggets
Recipe To Try:20 Best Bite-Sized Snacks
Make It Sweet: Healthy Dessert Grazing Board
Dessert-themed boards are a joy for both adults and kids! Scatter your platter with:
- Dark chocolate
- Chocolate spread
- Fresh fruit, or fruit skewers
- Cinnamon and maple syrup roasted nuts or seeds
- Coconut whipped cream
- Flavoured nut and seed butter
- Mini muffins, brownies or cookies
- Healthy, whole food frosting
- Chocolate-covered figs or strawberries
Breakfast or Brunch Board
Pick a few elements from the dessert board above (such as fresh fruit, muffins, nuts/seeds and coconut whipped cream), and add:
- Gluten-free waffles or pancakes
- Boiled or scrambled eggs
- Pastured bacon or sausage
- Fresh veggies
- Gluten-free bread
Recipe To Try: Fun Breakfast Board Ideas by Maple + Mango (*Culinary Nutrition Expert)
How Many Things Is Too Much on a Healthy Charcuterie Board?
Photo: Marcin Skalij on Unsplash
It’s really up to you! It’s nice to have variety, but that doesn’t mean you need to make 15 recipes for your healthy charcuterie board. Keep it as simple or complex as you like.
For a basic board, consider:
- 2–3 different fresh veggies
- 2 types of fruit
- 2 dips
- 1 type of cracker or bread
- 1 type of dairy-free cheese
- 1 protein of choice
- Smattering of nuts and seeds
Do I Need To Make Everything on My Charcuterie Board From Scratch?
A portion of your board will involve prepping rather than cooking (chopping fresh fruit and veggies, portioning raw nuts and seeds, boiling eggs, etc.).
Some of the major benefits to a healthy charcuterie board are:
- knowing all the ingredients of everything you’re consuming
- preparing items to be as health-building as possible
- limiting packaging waste
However, you may not have the capacity to bake fresh gluten-free bread or crackers, or feel overwhelmed by blending your own dips. Have a store-bought brand you trust? Then use it on your board (these are some of our faves!).
If you’d like to take some of the overwhelm out of healthy, from-scratch cooking, our self-paced online course Everyday Culinary Nutrition teaches you how to make basic meals and staples in your own kitchen.
Styling Your healthy charcuterie Board
Let your creativity run wild! Entertaining boards are supposed to be rustic and a little messy, so try not to worry too much. These are some general starter tips:
- Position your larger items in dishes, such as dips and spreads, either on opposite sides of the board (if you have three dips, place one in the middle)
- Place large piles of items used for dipping/spreading, like crackers, breads or vegetables, surrounding the dips.
- Fill in the gaps with fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, and your protein of choice. You can also garnish with fresh herbs.
You can look to Pinterest for inspiration – but remember, it doesn’t need to be fancy!
Creating a healthy charcuterie board is enjoyable for all occasions, and you don’t have to make it the same way twice. Have fun experimenting!
More Wisdom from our Experts
Out of all the dairy products, cheese is one of the most difficult items for our students in the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program to eliminate….Read More
There are many foods you can dip into hummus, guacamole or salsa, but there’s nothing quite like the satisfying crunch and flavour of crackers. Simple…Read More
We love the holidays, but we definitely don’t love feeling overstuffed and uncomfortable after a holiday meal. We wholeheartedly believe that the holiday season can…Read More
Potluck events are one of our favourite ways to entertain – there is less work on the host, and you can discover a bevy of…Read More
Cultures around the world have used fermentation for thousands of years, and each region has its own fermented specialty. From tempeh to kimchi to kefir…Read More
This garlic artichoke dip can be your BFF right now – not only is it gluten-free, dairy-free, and Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) compliant, it will please…Read More