How to Make a Cheese Board Your Guests Will Graze on All Night

Learn to set up the perfect cheese platter with our go-to essentials—plus tips for making your next cocktail party a smashing success.

If you want to learn how to set up a cheese board for your next party, it may be easier than you think. Whether you choose to go for a fancy cheese board or keep it simple, the snacks at your next get-together will be a smashing success. When thinking about snacks or appetizers for a gathering, making a cheese board (especially a large cheese platter) might seem intimidating at first. But really, with the huge variety of cheeses and crackers out there, the more the merrier! As long as you choose several different cheeses, you really can't go wrong. There are no rules for how to make a cheese board that's a showstopper, but a few easy tips can help if you aren't sure where to start. Get inspired by all of the cheese choices you have, and create something you and your guests will love nibbling on.

cheese platter with crackers and jams
Jason Donnelly

Cheese Platter Essentials

Start with the star of the platter: Cheese! When you're brainstorming cheese board ideas, remember that it's best to provide a few different varieties of cheese, since your guests' tastes can vary. The mix of flavors and textures also makes the tasting experience more fun, and you or a guest might discover a new favorite, especially if you include a couple of offbeat cheeses.

For a basic board, include at least one of each of three different types of cheese—a hard cheese, a soft cheese, and a blue cheese. Popular hard and semi-hard cheeses include cheddar, Gruyère, and Swiss, while a few soft cheese choices include goat cheese, Camembert, chèvre, and Brie. Some blue cheeses to consider include Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and Stilton. You can also try dressing up your selection with cheese balls or goat cheese logs rolled in fresh herbs, nuts, or spices. You can also mix it up a little more by including a few in-between cheeses, like semi-soft varieties (Fontina, Havarti, Muenster). Warm cheese is always a hit too (here's a hint—if you haven't had Halloumi cheese, now is the time!). The best cheese for a cheese board is any variety you and your guests are willing to try.

Test Kitchen Tip: When you're figuring out how much cheese you'll need, keep in mind how strong the flavors are. For example, you'll be fine with smaller amounts of strong cheeses like goat cheese and blue cheese because guests tend to take less of these per serving. Invest in more of each mild cheese you include, like cheddar and Swiss, because their flavors aren't as strong and are popular among most partygoers. And if you're serving other appetizers alongside the cheese, you won't need as much as you would if it's the only snack at the party.

Sangria Jelly on tray with cheese and crackers
Blaine Moats

Include Crackers and Spreads

Most people will probably be happy to just eat plain cheese, but you'll also want to include a few crackers or bread slices and maybe a fruity spread or two for guests to mix, match, and assemble their perfect bite. For crackers, you can use a few different varieties, like multigrain and butter. If you're assembling a small cheese plate, it's fine to use one kind. You can also branch out a little to include slices of toasted bread.

As far as spreads go, you can never go wrong with chutney, and some jellies will also be popular (fruit spreads are usually a safe bet). Pepper jellies can bring a little heat to your cheese board. Consider adding other condiments like mustard and honey for guests to spread alongside their cheese and crackers. If you really want to make a fancy cheese board and start adding meats, fruits, and other crudités, it might be time to consider upgrading to a full-on charcuterie board.

charcuterie board with grapes, cheese, crackers, bread, and jams
Jason Donnelly

How to Arrange a Cheese Platter

When you're thinking of cheese board ideas, picking your favorite cheeses and crackers might seem like the easy part. Don't stress if you get stuck when thinking about how to arrange a cheese board that's worthy of posting on Instagram. The trick is actually really simple—just heap everything on. The more tightly packed in, the better.

To make it easy for your guests, group each individual food in one spot (it's much easier to enjoy a cheese board if you don't have to hunt over the whole platter for another slice of cheddar), but otherwise there are no rules. If it helps you to have a guide, you can try arranging similar ingredients next to each other—keeping all your cheeses together, for example. It might also help to place larger items first—if you have a bowl of crackers or bread slices or a larger wheel of Brie, position those on the platter first, then fill in with smaller cheese slices and crackers. Letting all the ingredients touch will add to the look of a bountiful, large cheese board. If you have small extra spaces, try adding even more cheese, a few nuts, or fresh herbs and fruits.

How to Pair Wine and Cheese

Need a few drinks to pair with the board? Wine and cheese are a natural, delicious, and sophisticated pairing. One safe tip to follow is to pair wines with cheeses that are produced in the same country or region (pairing Spanish wines and cheeses, for example). Another good rule of thumb is to try to match up flavor intensities. A dark Cabernet Sauvignon has a strong flavor, so it might overpower delicate cheeses, but it'll pair well with similarly strong flavors like an aged cheddar or Gouda. If you want to serve lighter wines, such as Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio, less-intense cheeses like Brie and Gruyère will work just fine. If you have a specific wine or cheese in mind that you want to serve (or even if you don't), visit a specialty shop or supermarket on sampling day, if possible, for a taste before buying, or ask for recommendations while you shop.

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