Prepping for a party? Experts share how to build a healthy charcuterie board (plus five drool-worthy recipes).
Let’s be real: A party isn’t really a party without a charcuterie board. Nothing brings guests together like a delicious spread that everyone can enjoy. And while charcuterie boards are having a major moment (seriously, have you seen all of the board ideas on social media?), there isn’t much conversation about their nutritional value.
Of course, charcuterie boards are typically served at parties, which is a time to indulge and enjoy your food—so there’s no need to stress too much about it. “Charcuterie boards are not an everyday meal for most,” says Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, CLE, education specialist at HUM Nutrition. “With that said, it’s perfectly fine to indulge in your favorite meats and cheeses in moderation without guilt.”
Still, if you’d like to know how to build a healthy charcuterie board, we’re here to help. With just a few small swaps, you can turn your favorite party food into a nutritious (but still delicious) snack or meal. We tapped experts to get their best tips for how to build a healthy charcuterie board (and rounded up our favorite healthy charcuterie board ideas).
What Is a Charcuterie Board?
Technically speaking, charcuterie refers to a branch of cooking dedicated to prepared meats. While the method of using salt to cure meats has been around since ancient times, it was the French who modernized the practice into preparing charcuterie boards.
Of course, we know that charcuterie boards typically don’t solely include meats. “A charcuterie board serves as an appetizer or snack board of cheeses, cured meats, and other finger foods like crackers or dried fruits,” explains Vaca-Flores.
Despite these widely-accepted guidelines, you can put anything you want on your charcuterie board. “When making a board, there are no rules for perfection, except to use what you have, and enjoy it with your family and friends,” says Sandy Coughlin, a charcuterie expert, creator of Reluctant Entertainer, and author of Big Boards and More.
Charcuterie boards have skyrocketed in popularity over recent years, with celebrities claiming them as a favorite food (Florence Pugh says it’s one of her go-to meals) and social media users getting creative with the trend (the hashtag #charcuterieboard has over 1.2 billion views on TikTok).
“I think that charcuterie boards are popular because they are fairly easy to assemble, customizable and they taste good too,” Vaca-Flores says. “Not to mention, they are very aesthetic.” (For real, check out some of the boards on TikTok. We’re mesmerized.)
Are Charcuterie Boards Healthy?
Charcuterie board stans might not love this answer. Despite the mix of protein, fats, and carbs, charcuterie boards aren’t always the healthiest choice. That’s mainly due to the highly-processed, high-sodium meats that usually go on the board (think: salami or prosciutto). Still, charcuterie boards are totally customizable, which means you can make them healthy with a few tweaks to the traditional formula.
How to Build a Healthy Charcuterie Board
So, how exactly do you make a charcuterie board healthy? Experts share their best tips, below.
Use Whole Grains
What’s a charcuterie board without crackers? Swap out your typical choices for whole grains for a healthier board. Use whole-grain crackers, pretzels, or sliced white bread. “Whole grains are usually higher in fiber than their refined counterparts which can help you feel fuller faster—hence, better portion control while enjoying your charcuterie board,” Vaca-Flores says. Plus, research shows that consuming whole grains is associated with reduced risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
Look for Lean, Low-Sodium Meats
All those cured meats—while delicious—can be high in sodium. Too much sodium can lead to detrimental health issues like heart issues, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and more, per the American Heart Association. In the short term, excess sodium consumption can cause water retention, which can lead to puffiness and bloating (not ideal if you’re at a party!). To help with this, swap out the majority of the cured meats for lean, low-sodium proteins instead.“I suggest looking for low-sodium turkey whenever possible and keeping your favorite cured meats at a minimum.” (Pro tip: If you’re heading to a party, try taking a digestive enzyme like HUM’s Flatter Me to get ahead of any bloating.)
Health-ify Your Dips
When it comes to charcuterie, nothing pulls a board together more than a delicious dip (or two or three). Still, there are ways to make them healthy while maintaining a delicious flavor. For example, try swapping cream- or cheese-based drips for a Greek yogurt dip instead. Not only will it significantly reduce the fat and sodium content, but it will also pack a punch of protein (which will help you feel fuller longer). Homemade or store-bought hummus is also packed with protein and fiber.
Roast Your Veggies
One way to get your guests to eat more veggies? Roast them. Roasted tomatoes, cauliflower, sweet potato, or butternut squash are all delicious options that will bring extra flavor (and nutrients) to your charcuterie board.
Substitute Cheese With Nuts
Stay with us here: Swapping *some* of the cheese for nuts is a simple way to make a healthy charcuterie board. “There’s no doubt that cheese is the star of the charcuterie board,” Vaca-Flores says. “But replacing some cheese options with nuts and fruits can help reduce the amount of saturated fats on your board with healthier fat options.”
Opt for Fresh Fruit
Dried fruits are a classic charcuterie board ingredient. While they’re delicious, they’re also extremely high in sugar. Swap your dried fruits for fresh ones instead (think: grapes, blueberries, blackberries, or apples). They’ll still offer a yummy sweet-savory flavor profile without too much sugar.
Select Low-Fat Vegan Alternatives
Yes, vegans can still enjoy a full-on charcuterie board. Thanks to innovative meat and cheese substitutes, there are more options than ever. Just be sure to check the nutrition facts on the back of the packages: Some of these options are high in saturated fat and sodium. Opt for items that have a moderate amount of fat and have protein as well. Look for low-fat meat substitutes, like Hungry Planet. Or, look for a cleaner ingredient list (read: free of additives), like Miyoko vegan cheese.
Healthy Charcuterie Board Ideas
Feeling inspired to build a healthy charcuterie board? Here are a few of our favorite ideas, straight from the pros.
Reluctant Entertainer’s Healthy Cheese Board
Need some help putting together a healthy charcuterie board? Look no further than Coughlin’s Healthy Cheese Board recipe. This has healthy, crunchy veggie ideas (peep the cheese-and nut-filled endive boats), plus dip suggestions. Follow along and prepare to blow your loved ones away at your next party.
Fruit & Spicy Cheese Board
“My go-to charcuterie board always includes grapes (because they’re one of my favorite fruits), candied almonds, prosciutto (in moderation), Ritz crackers (the whole wheat kind), Trader Joe’s Blueberry Fields hard cheese, a spicier cheese like Pepper Jack, and a spreadable cheese for variety,” Vaca-Flores says. “Depending on the event, I’ll serve this on a proper cheese board or make charcuterie kabobs for better portion control (minus the spreadable cheese, of course).”
Reluctant Entertainer’s Fall Cobb Salad Board
A charcuterie board doesn’t just have to be the standard meat, cheese, and veggie combo you’ve seen everywhere. Case in point: This fall cobb salad board. Filled with flavors like tomatoes, beets, bacon, hazelnuts apples, and balsamic dressing, it’ll make everyone’s mouth water. Plus, the chicken and egg add some protein to keep everyone satisfied.
Reluctant Entertainer’s Epic Vegan Charcuterie Board
Serve up your favorite crunchy veggies alongside some delicious vegan meatballs, crackers, and dip (of course) for an absolutely epic vegan-friendly charcuterie board. Want to kick it up a notch? Look for yummy vegan cheeses at the grocery store to round this recipe out.
Reluctant Entertainer’s Vegetarian Burrito Bowl Board
Spice up your spread with this burrito bowl board. It’s filled with saucy beans, rice, pico de gallo, pickled red onion, crunchy cabbage, and creamy avocado. We’re not drooling. If you want to add some meat, try using baked lean chicken pieces.