18 Best Cheeses for Charcuterie Board in 2023 [Top Picks]
Creating the perfect charcuterie board is an art and gastronomical joy, so to elevate your culinary game, I have curated a delightful guide to the best cheeses for your charcuterie board. With so many delectable cheeses to choose from, it can be quite overwhelming to pick the right ones that not only suit your preferences but also harmoniously complement the other items on the board.
In this blog post, I will share my personal favorites and recommendations, drawing from my own experience as a cheese lover and host of countless social gatherings. Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned cheese connoisseur, this article is designed to help you choose the best cheeses for your charcuterie board that will thrill the taste buds of your guests while creating a stunning and delicious focal point for your next gathering. So, let's explore the world of exquisite cheeses together!
Also Read: Best Crackers for Charcuterie Board
18 Best Cheeses for Charcuterie Board in 2023
Cheeses are an essential component of a well-rounded charcuterie board. They provide a delicious contrast in texture and an array of distinct flavors that play off the other elements on the board. Here are my top picks for the best cheeses to include on your charcuterie board:
1. Parmesan (Best Hard Cheese)
Parmigiano-Reggiano, more commonly known as Parmesan, is an Italian classic that definitely deserves a place on your board. Aged for 24 to 36 months, this cheese boasts a grainy texture and a nutty, savory, and slightly sharp flavor that pairs well with a variety of accompaniments, from sweet fruits to salty cured meats. Its versatility allows it to complement the other items on your charcuterie board without overpowering them.
Parmesan can be served in chunks, as thin shavings, or coarsely grated. Consider serving Parmesan alongside prosciutto, salami, olives, or even a drizzling of balsamic vinegar glaze for a delicious and classic combination. You must also bear in mind that not all Parmesan is created equal: look for DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) on the label to ensure you are getting the real deal from the specific region in Italy where it is made with the utmost quality and care.
2. Aged Gouda
Aged Gouda is a flavorful hard cheese from the Netherlands that adds a touch of elegance and richness to any charcuterie board. With a deep amber color, it's impossible not to notice this delicious cheese on your board. When matured for an extended period, Gouda develops a dense, firm texture with a crystalline crunch that comes from the small salt-like crystals known as tyrosine.
The flavor of aged Gouda is characterized by its distinct sweetness and notes of caramelized butter, toffee, and sometimes even hints of butterscotch. Between 18 to 36 months of age, the cheese acquires complex and concentrated flavors, making it a favorite go-to choice for many cheese enthusiasts. Pair aged Gouda with figs, walnuts, dark chocolate, or a robust red wine for a mouth-watering combination that will elevate your charcuterie experience.
Asiago is an Italian cheese with a unique flavor profile that varies depending on its aging process. When young, Asiago is semi-soft and creamy with a mild, fruity taste. However, as it ages, it becomes a hard cheese, boasting a sweet, sharp, and slightly tangy flavor that is balanced by its rich and nutty undertones.
Aged Asiago is a perfect choice for charcuterie boards that showcase bold flavors and demand a cheese that can hold its own without overpowering the other elements. You can serve Asiago in thin slices, cubes, or even grated over other items on your board. The cheese pairs beautifully with cured meats like soppressata and prosciutto, as well as marinated vegetables, olives, crusty bread, or even a full-bodied red wine. To ensure you are getting the highest-quality product, look for the Asiago DOP label when sourcing your cheese.
A beloved classic from Switzerland, Gruyère boasts a distinct, slightly sweet, and nutty taste. This cheese is popular for its versatility, pairing well with a variety of accompaniments like crusty bread and charcuterie meats. Its smooth, semi-hard texture keeps its shape on the charcuterie board and provides the right amount of bite to contrast with softer cheeses.
When aged longer, Gruyère can develop a more intense, earthy flavor and a slightly crunchy texture from the small protein crystals that form over time. This cheese shines when paired with fruits like apples or grapes and a drizzle of honey to create a stunning balance between sweet and savory.
Originating in France, Comté is a reminder of why French cheeses remain a charcuterie board favorite worldwide. This artisanal beauty comes with a unique history. Each wheel of Comté tells the tale of the region it hails from—the climate, flora, and soil all playing a role in the resulting complex flavor profile.
Aged for a minimum of four months, this semi-hard, golden-yellow cheese is characterized by a slightly fruity, nutty, and salty taste that melds beautifully with accompaniments like nuts, dark chocolate, and dried fruits. Experimenting with different ages of Comté can enhance your charcuterie board and reveal the beautiful variations in flavor and texture that this cheese offers.
As a cherished delicacy from Spain, Manchego is made from the milk of Manchega sheep, giving it a truly unique and flavorful character. The taste of Manchego can range from mildly tangy and buttery in younger varieties to substantial nuttiness with caramel and olive undertones in aged versions.
With a firm, creamy texture that's slightly crumbly in aged varieties, Manchego makes for an incredible companion to Spanish meats like chorizo, jamón, and salchichón. Pair it with olives, crusty bread, and a dash of aged balsamic vinegar to elevate your charcuterie board with a touch of Spanish flair.
7. Colby and Cheddar
These two iconic American cheeses cannot be left out of our list of top firm cheeses. While often considered quite similar, Colby and Cheddar each bring their own distinct qualities to the party. Colby, with its milder, semi-firm texture and slightly tangy flavor, adds a subtler taste compared to the more robust and sharper flavors of Cheddar.
Experimenting with different ages of Cheddar can reveal nuances in taste, texture, and intensity. From soft and creamy young Cheddar to a strong, mature version that has spent years aging, your choices in American cheese are numerous. Complement both Colby and Cheddar with fresh apple slices, hearty crackers, or even rich dark chocolate for the perfect taste pairing on your charcuterie board.
8. Havarti (Best Semi-Soft Cheese)
Havarti is a Danish cheese known for its mild, creamy, and slightly tangy flavor which just dances on your taste buds. This smooth and buttery cheese is typically aged for about three months, giving it a supple, semi-soft texture that is quite pleasant. Havarti is a versatile cheese that pairs well with a variety of accompaniments such as fresh fruits, artisanal crackers, and thinly-sliced cold cuts.
Perhaps an overlooked aspect of Havarti is its varying degrees of sharpness, depending on its age. It can range from a subtle flavor to a bolder one, but regardless of the age, Havarti consistently offers a delightful creaminess on a charcuterie board. So, do not hesitate to experiment with different ages of Havarti when preparing your next board.
Often referred to as the "German cousin" of Havarti, Butterkäse is aptly named for its rich, buttery flavor and velvety texture. This cheese is also reminiscent of French and Italian cheeses in taste and melts beautifully, lending itself well to gourmet sandwiches or as a dipping cheese. However, it truly shines on a charcuterie board, where its understated creaminess can serve as a supporting player to more robust flavors.
One of the key factors that make Butterkäse a must-try cheese is its subtle nutty note, which adds a layer of complexity to its otherwise simple profile. Paired with crispy baguette slices, salted nuts, and juicy grapes, Butterkäse takes on a whole new depth and leaves a lasting impression on your guests' palates.
Muenster, a popular American cheese of French origin, offers a more complex flavor profile than its semi-soft counterparts. Ranging from mild to sharp, depending on the age, its versatility allows it to be enjoyed with a variety of foods and in numerous ways.
An interesting feature of Muenster is its vibrant orange rind, which is actually a product of annatto, a natural food coloring. This makes it particularly striking on a charcuterie board and adds a pop of color among the varying shades of yellow and white. And although mild in taste, Muenster has a subtle tanginess that lingers on your palate, providing just the right amount of kick to contrast the creaminess.
Muenster cheese pairs well with salty meats like prosciutto or capicola, along with a handful of toasted almonds and some fresh berries to cleanse your palate between bites. Delight in the unique combination of flavors, textures, and visual appeal that Muenster brings to your charcuterie board.
Also Read: Best Cheeses for Salad
11. Burrata (Best Soft Cheese)
Luxurious, creamy, and oh-so-delectable, Burrata is an Italian cheese you simply cannot ignore. It consists of an outer shell of mozzarella filled with a luscious mixture of cream and soft stracciatella cheese curds. I have found that the best way to serve burrata is by cutting it and letting its creamy center spill onto the board, enthralling your guests as they reach for a piece.
Burrata pairs well with a myriad of accompaniments; I personally love it with slices of ripe, juicy tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze. It also complements crisp crostini and an assortment of cured meats like prosciutto and salami. Plus, the contrast of its white color with the other elements on the board makes for an exquisite visual presentation.
A staple in iconic Italian desserts like tiramisu, the rich and velvety Mascarpone is a versatile addition to your charcuterie board. Even though it's not as fameux for savory applications, its mild, slightly sweet, and creamy flavor offers an exquisite counterbalance to the other, more robust cheeses.
To make mascarpone stand out from the crowd, I like to serve it alongside fresh fruits or a refined fruit compote. Its smooth texture also works great as a base for savory spreads or dips - have you ever tried combining it with a spoonful of pesto or sun-dried tomatoes? You can also make a simple but delicious spread by mixing mascarpone with honey, lemon zest, and a hint of cracked black pepper. These options harmonize with crackers and sliced crusty bread, adding a touch of elegance and finesse to your charcuterie experience.
Stracchino is an undiscovered treasure in the world of soft cheeses. With a tangy, almost yogurty undertone and a delicate, buttery texture, Stracchino wields the power to subtly delight your taste buds like no other.
Due to its mild flavor, Stracchino allows the various accompaniments on your charcuterie board to shine. In a perfect pairing, I recommend combining it with slices of fresh pear, walnuts, and a drizzle of honey. Also, if you want to add some color to your spread, Stracchino can be beautifully combined with lightly grilled zucchini or eggplant strips. As with all cheeses, serve it at room temperature to ensure the flavors can truly be appreciated.
14. Gorgonzola (Best Blue Cheese)
Gorgonzola, an Italian classic, is a versatile choice that can be found as either a more piquant and firm, aged version known as Gorgonzola Piccante or a creamier and milder one called Gorgonzola Dolce. Both forms have a delicious balance of earthy, sharp, and slightly sweet flavors, making it the perfect companion for a variety of accompaniments.
These can include fruits, such as pear or fig, or drizzled with honey for an incredible sweet-savory duo. If you're a fan of tangy cheese but don't want anything too overpowering, Gorgonzola can be an ideal starting point. It's also fantastic for crackers or thin slices of crusty bread, as its creaminess melds perfectly with its crispy texture.
15. Dunbarton Blue
For those looking for something out of the ordinary, the Dunbarton Blue brings innovation to the charcuterie board that's hard to beat. Hailing from Wisconsin, this American blue-veined cheddar is a unique, game-changing option for cheese lovers.
Dunbarton Blue presents a harmonious marriage between the bold, earthy notes of traditional blue cheese and the nutty, creamy quality of cheddar. This blue cheese strikes the ideal balance between robust and approachable flavors. Pair it with some dark chocolate or toasted nuts to really appreciate its complex taste profile.
16. Marbled Blue Jack
Introduce an American twist to the blue cheese section of your charcuterie board with Marbled Blue Jack, a cheese that marries the mild flavor of Monterey Jack with the punch of blue cheese. What sets this cheese apart is the beautiful marbling of the blue veins running through it, creating an enchanting visual that's sure to wow your guests.
Marbled Blue Jack offers a gateway to blue cheese for those who may be hesitant to try more intense varieties, as it provides a mellow, buttery flavor with just the right hint of blue cheese sharpness. Try serving it with fresh apple slices, a dab of fig jam, or even incorporating it into a grilled cheese sandwich for an elevated take on a classic comfort food.
Feta's Mediterranean roots make it an ideal choice for bringing in and complementing a vibrant range of flavors to your charcuterie board. This brined, white cheese has a distinctive tangy taste with a hint of saltiness, owed to its traditional production from sheep's milk in Greece. Often, it's also made with a blend of sheep's and goat's milk, which adds subtle notes of earthiness to its well-balanced flavor.
Despite its crumbly texture, feta holds enough moisture to create a creamy sensation in your mouth, and its savory profile adds a delightful contrast to sweet accompaniments like figs, juicy grapes, or even honey. This versatile cheese harmonizes well with various olives, offering a Mediterranean flair to your board that guests are sure to appreciate. Go for authentic Greek feta if you can, as it's the real deal, bearing the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status.
18. Goat Cheese
Also known as chèvre—which is the French term for goat—goat cheese is renowned for its pleasantly tangy taste, underlying sweetness, and earthy notes. Made from goat's milk, it ranges from a soft, spreadable form to a thicker, aged variety with a more assertive flavor. Regardless, its crumbly nature and subtle complexity make it a charcuterie board staple that's adored by many.
You'll find that there's an entire world of goat cheese to discover, with diverse options like Humboldt Fog, featuring a line of ash to impart a streak of eye-catching contrast, and Garrotxa, a Spanish artisan goat cheese with a firmer texture and slightly nutty flavor. The milder varieties of goat cheese blend seamlessly with a multitude of accompaniments, such as fresh fruit, jam, crackers, or a drizzle of balsamic glaze. The choice is yours!
Also Read: Is Parmesan Cheese Gluten-Free?
Pairing Cheeses with Accompaniments
Crafting a beautiful charcuterie board involves not just selecting the best cheeses, but also pairing them with the right accompaniments to enhance and balance their flavors.
When it comes to choosing what to serve alongside your carefully curated cheese selection, the possibilities are endless. The following are some of my favorite pairings, broken down by cheese category, that are sure to elevate your charcuterie board to the next level.
1. Hard Cheese Pairings
When it comes to hard cheeses like Parmesan, Aged Gouda, and Asiago, you'll want to balance their salty and nutty flavors with some fresh or dried fruit. Here are some great options:
- Parmesan: Some thinly sliced pears, grapes, or dried figs will complement the sharpness of this classic cheese.
- Aged Gouda: Sweet caramelized walnuts or pecans pair wonderfully with the rich flavor of aged Gouda.
- Asiago: Apple slices or dried apricots provide a fruity balance to the sweet, tangy characteristics of Asiago.
Pro tip: You can also serve a small dish of honey or fig jam as an additional accompaniment to drizzle over the cheese for extra flavor.
2. Firm Cheese Pairings
Firm cheeses including Gruyere, Comte, Manchego, Colby, and Cheddar, can be paired with a variety of fresh or preserved accompaniments. Consider the following:
- Gruyere: Smoked meats like prosciutto, salami, or even some sausage will work beautifully with Gruyere's subtle, creamy flavors.
- Comte: Pickles or olives provide a nice tangy contrast to the nutty and sweet taste of Comte.
- Manchego: Pair Manchego with a Spanish quince paste called membrillo for a delightful and authentic flavor combination.
- Colby and Cheddar: Crackers, crusty bread, or even some crunchy vegetables like cucumber or bell pepper slices are ideal partners for these versatile American classics.
3. Soft and Semi-Soft Cheese Pairings
Soft and semi-soft cheeses, such as Havarti, Butterkäse, Muenster, Burrata, Mascarpone, and Stracchino, are best served with light and crisp accompaniments. These pairings will highlight their creamy and delicate flavors:
- Havarti and Butterkäse: Fresh berries, like strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries, provide a sweet and refreshing balance to the buttery flavors.
- Muenster: Fresh cucumber slices or thinly sliced radish add a refreshing, mildly-spiced crunch to Muenster.
- Burrata and Mascarpone: Drizzle high-quality olive oil and sprinkle sea salt over these delicate, creamy cheeses. You could also serve them with thinly sliced tomatoes and fresh basil for an elegant Italian touch.
- Stracchino: A mild cracker or lightly toasted baguette slice brings out the tangy flavors of Stracchino without overwhelming it.
4. Blue Cheese and Crumbly Cheese Pairings
Blue cheeses like Gorgonzola, Dunbarton Blue, and Marbled Blue Jack, and crumbly cheeses such as Feta and Goat cheese all offer bold flavors, so matching them with equally bold accompaniments is key:
- Blue Cheeses: Pair with dried fruits like dates or apricots, or bold-flavored nuts such as candied pecans or walnuts.
- Feta: A classic Mediterranean pairing would be fresh vegetables, olives, or even some couscous salad.
- Goat Cheese: Drizzle with honey or serve with a tart fruit compote or chutney for the ultimate flavor contrast.
With these suggested cheese-and-accompaniment pairings, your charcuterie board will be irresistible and absolutely delightful to enjoy.
Why Choosing the Right Cheeses Matters for Your Charcuterie Board?
When it comes to assembling the perfect charcuterie board, the selection of cheeses can make or break the overall experience. Choosing the right cheeses is crucial for several reasons:
1. Enhancing the overall flavor experience
A well-curated cheese selection contributes to a wide variety of flavors, from mild and creamy to bold and sharp. The right combination of cheeses allows you and your guests to explore new taste sensations and enjoy the complexities of different flavors.
Example: Pairing a tangy blue cheese, like Gorgonzola, with a milder option, such as Brie or Havarti, creates a delightful contrast in flavors that will keep your guests intrigued.
2. Pleasing guests with various preferences
It's essential to cater to your guests' diverse tastes when creating a charcuterie board. A balanced assortment of cheeses ensures that everyone can indulge in their favorites while also discovering new favorites.
Example: Including a mix of hard, firm, semi-soft, soft, blue, and crumbly cheeses caters to a wide range of preferences, guaranteeing there's something for everyone to enjoy.
3. Creating a unique and memorable spread
The cheeses you select for your charcuterie board are a reflection of your style and taste for your guests. By choosing a variety of visually appealing and flavorful cheeses, you can create a one-of-a-kind spread that your friends and family will remember long after the party is over.
Example: Incorporating local and artisanal cheeses, alongside well-loved classics, adds a touch of individuality to your charcuterie board, showcasing your knowledge of and appreciation for unique flavors.
Selecting the perfect assortment of cheeses for your charcuterie board is an essential aspect of creating a memorable and delicious experience. By considering taste, aesthetics, and guest preferences, you can create a unique spread that is sure to delight and impress.
Benefits of Having a Well-Balanced Charcuterie Board in 2023
Creating a well-balanced charcuterie board has numerous benefits, both for you as the host and for your guests. From exploring new flavors to sparking conversation, here are some of the key advantages of presenting a thoughtfully curated charcuterie board.
Exploring New Flavor Combinations
A well-balanced charcuterie board allows you and your guests to discover exciting and unique flavor combinations. By offering a variety of cheeses, along with complementary accompaniments such as fruits, meats, and nuts, you can create a symphony of flavors that tantalize the taste buds and leave a lasting impression.
Showcasing Your Creativity and Sense of Style
A beautifully arranged charcuterie board is a visual treat and a reflection of your creativity and sense of style. An eye-catching display, featuring an assortment of textures, colors, and shapes, can speak volumes about your attention to detail and your ability to curate an unforgettable experience for your guests.
Encouraging Conversation and Interaction
One of the primary benefits of a perfectly balanced charcuterie board is the social aspect. The shared experience of tasting and discussing the various cheeses and accompaniments can facilitate lively conversations and foster a sense of camaraderie among your guests.
Providing Options for Diverse Palates and Preferences
A well-balanced charcuterie board takes into account the tastes and preferences of different individuals. By including a mix of soft, hard, aged, and blue cheeses, you cater to a range of palates. This thoughtful approach can make your guests feel more at ease and appreciated, as they can readily find something they enjoy.
|Type of Cheese||Example||Nutty, versatile, and aged|
|Hard||Parmesan||Creamy, buttery, and smooth|
|Firm||Gruyere||Melty, mild and crowd-favorite|
|Semi-Soft||Havarti||Luxurious, rich, and velvety|
|Soft||Burrata||Sharp, tangy, and bold|
|Blue||Gorgonzola||Salty, tangy, and Mediterranean staple|
|Crumbly||Feta||Salty, tangy and Mediterranean staple|
A well-balanced charcuterie board is not only a feast for the eyes but also offers an engaging and memorable experience for your guests.
How to Properly Arrange a Charcuterie Board?
A well-arranged charcuterie board not only looks visually appealing but also makes it easier for your guests to enjoy the variety of flavors you've prepared. Follow these steps to create an attractive and organized charcuterie board:
Choose the Right Board or Platter
Start by selecting an appropriate board or serving platter for your cheeses and accompaniments. This could be a wooden board, a slate tray, or even a large marble or ceramic platter. Make sure it's spacious enough to accommodate all the items you plan to include.
Organize Cheeses and Accompaniments
Group similar items together to create a visually appealing and easy-to-navigate spread. For example, you can arrange hard cheeses in one section, soft cheeses in another, and so on. You may also want to place complementary items, like fruits and cheeses, close together.
Create Focal Points
Focal points are essential for highlighting the star ingredients of your charcuterie board. You can use attractive bowls or small plates to showcase items like nuts, olives, or preserves. Another great idea is to artfully arrange meats in a way that draws attention, such as fanned out or folded, to create some visual interest.
Use Appropriate Serving Tools
To maintain the appearance of your charcuterie board and make it easy for guests to serve themselves, provide suitable serving tools. This might include:
- Cheese knives for cutting different types of cheese
- Small forks or tongs for grabbing meats and fruits
- Spoons or spreaders for jams, chutneys, or soft cheeses
Add Color and Texture
Incorporate colorful and textural elements to make your charcuterie board eye-catching and appetizing. Fresh fruits, like berries, grapes, and figs, are excellent options for this. You can also use vibrant edible flowers, dried fruits, and crackers with unique shapes to create visual interest.
Label Your Cheeses
For more elaborate charcuterie boards or when you are featuring unique or local cheeses, consider labeling each type of cheese with a small sign or tag. This way, guests can easily identify their desired cheese without having to ask.
By following these steps and putting in a little effort, you can create a visually stunning and well-organized charcuterie board that's sure to impress your guests and make your gathering a memorable one.
Also Read: Does Panera have Gluten Free Bread or Not?
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the ideal number of cheeses to include on a charcuterie board?
Aim for a selection of 4 to 6 different cheeses to offer enough variety without overwhelming guests.
How can I ensure my charcuterie board is visually appealing?
Use a combination of textures, colors, and sizes in your cheeses and accompaniments, and arrange them in visually appealing groupings or patterns.
Which accompaniments pair well with various kinds of cheese?
Some popular accompaniments include fruits (fresh and dried), nuts, cured meats, crackers, and artisanal bread.
What type of board or platter should I use for my charcuterie spread?
Opt for wooden, slate, or marble boards, or even large cutting boards for an attractive presentation.
How do I properly store and serve cheeses at a gathering?
Remove cheeses from the refrigerator about an hour before serving, and use a separate knife for each cheese to avoid mixing flavors.
Can you prepare a charcuterie board ahead of time?
Yes, you can assemble most of the board ahead of time. However, keep the cheeses covered and refrigerated until an hour before serving.
How do I store leftovers and maintain my cheese's freshness?
Store leftover cheese in wax or parchment paper, and then wrap it in plastic wrap or place it in airtight containers before refrigerating.
Are there any seasonally-themed charcuterie board ideas?
Yes, you can adapt your charcuterie board to various themes and seasons by incorporating seasonal fruits, themed decorations, or specialty cheeses.
How can I accommodate guests who are lactose intolerant or have other dietary restrictions on my charcuterie board?
Offer a selection of dairy-free or lactose-free cheeses, plant-based alternatives, and gluten-free crackers, as well as a variety of non-cheese accompaniments to cater to various needs/preferences.
Ultimately, the secret to crafting the ideal charcuterie board lies in the diverse selection and thoughtful pairing of delectable cheeses, coupled with a variety of intriguing textures and bold flavors. Personal preferences play a key role, but remember that experimentation is the spice of culinary life! Don't hesitate to venture beyond the tried and tested choices, and trust your instincts as you build your own version of the perfect cheese board.
The art of creating a charcuterie board is a skill that evolves with time and experience, and the joy it brings to you and your guests is worth all the effort. So keep refining your selections, relish each beautiful cheese, and savor the countless delightful conversations ignited by your enchanting and delicious charcuterie masterpiece.