How to Make Party Trays, Including Fruit Trays, Like a Hosting Pro

Check out our best ideas for making homemade party platters, including terrific cheese, sandwich, and fruit tray ideas.

Party trays featuring charcuterie are everywhere these days, and for good reason: they're a simple, splendid way to bring a windfall of textures and flavors to the party table without a lot of fuss. But charcuterie boards aren't the only party food trays out there. In fact, we say it just isn't a party without a cheese party tray for savory richness, a fruit tray for a little sweetness, and a veggie tray for color and crunch. And if party time crosses paths with dinnertime, we also like to include some sandwich party trays to make sure no one goes home hungry. We'll show you how each one of these party tray ideas is easy to make and can be pulled together on the cheap.

tray of sliced vegetables with dip
Jason Donnelly

Your Best Veggie Tray Ever

When was the last time you went to a party where a veggie tray wasn't served? Possibly … never? Indeed, a veggie tray is pretty much a must-have on the party buffet. Yet just because it's the inevitable appetizer doesn't mean it has to be boring. Check out these party veggie tray ideas for party-perfect results.

  • Try new veggies: Head to a farmers market or natural food grocers for less-expected in-season options, such as young carrots, summer squash, radishes, mini bell peppers, sugar snap peas, and cauliflower—varieties tinged with green or purple will especially turn heads.
  • Include raw and cooked: Classic crudités (raw veggies), such as carrots, zucchini, radishes, and tomatoes, go a long way to add color and crunch. For something off the beaten path, add a few lightly cooked vegetables, such as purple potatoes and green beans. Tip: When cooking veggies for party food trays, cook just until crisp-tender, cool them quickly under running water, then refrigerate until party time.
  • Make the cut (yourself): Yes, you can pick up a ready-made veggie tray from a deli, but if you want the pick of the crop—the most unique veggies at their freshest best—you'll need to cut the veggies yourself. Bonus: You'll also save a little cash, as ready-made party-food trays can get a little pricey. Simply cut the produce to a size that's easy to eat but still large enough to scoop up dips.
  • Don't forget the dip: It's not a veggie tray without a dip for dunking. We used a Buttermilk Dressing on this party tray. Another favorite is our Spinach-Dill Dip.
  • Repurpose leftovers: Chop up leftover veggie tray ingredients to toss into an omelet the next morning to enjoy while going over post-party topics of conversation.

Veggie Tray Math

Plan on 4 to 5 dippers per guest and 2 to 3 tablespoons dip per guest. For 12 guests, plan 48 pieces (4 to 6 cups dippers) and 24 tablespoons (1½ cups) dip.

Discourage double-dipping! Put out small serving spoons and small appetizer plates to allow guests to place veggies dip onto their own individual plates.

cheese platter with crackers and jams
Jason Donnelly

Tips for a Great Cheese Party Tray

No list of party platter ideas would be complete without a cheese tray. The options are as endless as the variety of cheeses and crackers in the world. We'll help you narrow it down so you can put together a stunning cheese plate your guests won't soon forget.

  • Go bold and mild: Bold cheese, such as blue cheese, goat cheese, and Manchego, may cost a little more, but because they're stronger in flavor, guests tend to take less. Bring on some milder (and more affordable) crowd-pleasers, such as domestic cheddar or Swiss, to round out the offerings.
  • Add interest: Roll goat cheese logs in chopped fresh herbs, nuts, or spices, or go all in and make a great cheese ball, to add extra flavor and visual appeal to your party trays.
  • Include a variety of textures and milk types: Serve cheeses with a variety of textures, flavors, and milk sources. In the picture above, you'll spot—among other great choices—Manchego (a semi-hard sheep's milk cheese), Camembert (a soft bloomy-rind cow's milk cheese), and goat cheese, which is fresh and tangy. Our Cheese Guide gives you a great overview of the many cheese varieties available.
  • Mix and match: Buy a few types of crackers or look for boxes that come with an assortment of flavors. Or, if you're a diehard DIY-er, make your own homemade crackers.
  • Temperature-smart: Most cheese tastes best at cool room temperature, so arrange the tray and set it out with your cheese knives about 30 minutes before serving.
  • Repurpose leftovers: Cheese is fantastic as is, but you can use leftovers from your cheese tray to top salads, sandwiches, soups, pastas, roasted veggies, casseroles, and more.

Cheese Party Tray Math

Plan on 3 to 4 ounces cheese, 4 to 5 types of crackers, and 1 tablespoon spread per guest. For 12 guests, plan on 2 to 2½ pounds of cheese, one box of crackers, and ¾ cup or 1 jar of spread.

tray of assorted fruit with dip
Jason Donnelly

Fruit Trays for Parties

Party food trays with fruit add instant sweetness and color to the buffet. Add a few cookies, and the fruit tray can count as dessert. Here are a few fruit tray party ideas:

  • Choose variety: Pick fruits of varying flavors, textures, and colors for the most interesting fruit tray.
  • Keep it fresh: Even in season, berries and cherries can be pricey. Purchase berries just before serving since their life span isn't very long once picked. Find out how to choose, store, and wash berries.
  • Don't forget a dip: We made our tray with a Marshmallow Dip. To make your chocolate-loving guests swoon, try this Chocolate Almond Butter Fruit Dip.
  • Get ahead: Most fruit can be washed, peeled, and sliced up to 24 hours before serving. Store fruit in separate containers in the fridge until party time. Cut up apples, pears, and bananas at the last minute to avoid discoloring as they stand.
  • Size-wise: Cut fruit into manageable pieces for easy dipping and eating.
  • Repurpose leftovers: Blend fruit leftovers into smoothies, add to fruit salads, top ice cream, or garnish cookies and cakes.

Fruit Tray Math

Plan on ½ to 1 cup fruit, 2 to 3 tablespoons dip, and 1 cookie per guest. For 12 guests, plan 6 to 8 cups fruit, 24 tablespoons (1½ cups) dip, and 12 cookies.

Wrap & Roll Basil Pinwheels
Jason Donnelly

Sandwich Party Trays

If your party is going to extend into mealtime, it's a good idea to bring some sandwiches to the table. A few tricks:

Don't knock yourself out: Honestly, there's no need to make half a dozen different kinds of sandwiches—if you're serving a couple of the other trays featured here (e.g., a fruit tray, a veggie tray, a cheese party tray, and/or a charcuterie board), you'll have plenty of variety on the table. Simply set out one or two enticing sandwiches. Two of our favorite recipes for sandwich party trays include Cucumber Tea Sandwiches, sandwich pinwheels, and (for something more hearty) Balsamic Vinegar and Honey Pulled Pork Sliders.

The right cut: Be sure to cut the sandwiches into sizes that are easy to manage while mingling.

Sneaky tip—let your guests do the work: If you don't have time or energy to make sandwich party trays for the gathering, simply set out a selection of mini-buns alongside your cheese and charcuterie party trays, and let your guests build their own sandwiches. Be sure to offer a few sandwich fixings, such as mayo, sliced pickles and onions, and fancy mustards.

Easy Country Pork Pate with Dried Apples and Pistachios
Jason Donnelly

Charcuterie Party Tray

Charcuterie is a catchall term for cured and cooked meats. Artfully arrange such meats in luscious ribbons and tasty thin disks, alongside olives, pickles, spreads, and more, to create one of the best-loved party food trays around. Learn all about how to build the perfect charcuterie board.

Now you know what's on the menu for your next party. Indeed, homemade party platters are definitely the way to go—much of them can be assembled in advance, and they never fail to satisfy. To take this easygoing style of entertaining one step further, serve either pitcher drinks or party punches. They'll get the party off to a great start, and you'll avoid having to make all kinds of different drinks for each guest.

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