Let’s Make Cheese Boards and Never Leave the House Again

Look we both know why you’re here — cheese board inspiration and camaraderie — but let me get something out of the way first: cheese boards are the chillest eating-related thing you can endeavor to achieve on this fine planet. Who knows what chill things await us on Mars, but as far as Earth goes, it’s cheese boards. Let’s embrace that chill.

There is no wrong way to board cheese. There are varying degrees of fanciness, yes, and of ease, ambition, selection, and balance, yes! But none of these degrees are wrong. Is there cheese on a board? Then you’ve made the perfect cheese board, friend. No cheese on it? Not a cheese board. Hey, call it a snack board instead. Problem solved.

Today I’m taking you through the basics of boards, sampling four entire mix-and-match board situations, sharing my reasoning for choosing the things I chose, giving a bunch of personal cheese board feelings, and including some recipe suggestions in case you feel like truly giving yourself the life you deserve. (ALSO THERE’S A THING FOR VEGANS IN HERE I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that yet.)


Board Basics

Generally speaking, you might hope to include the following types of foods:

Briney (olives, marinated artichoke hearts, caperberries)
Fruity (jams, literal fruit, the wine)
Fresh (arugula, finely shredded cabbage, grapes, apples)
Fermented (the cheese, pickles)
Hard (crackers, bread sticks, nuts)
Soft (roasted vegetables, onion jam, the cheese)
Salty (smoked fish, nuts, cured meats)
Sweet (chocolate, shortbread cookies, honey)

You’ll notice lots of those categories overlap and yet the world spins madly on. When it comes to your cheeses, one popular rule of thumb is Something Old, Something New, Something Goat, Something Blue. You could also go with Soft, Hard, Funky, Mild. Or even something like Safe, Weird, A Different Color, Rolled In Something.

If you poke around the internet looking for cheese board ideas, you’ll quickly realize that everyone seems to agree on at least one thing, which is that an ideal selection of cheeses clocks in somewhere between three and five. Ok fine, but also? Fuck what the man says. If you want to put two or six or 20 cheeses on a board, do the damn thing. Want to pair them willy nilly with whatever the hell you have in your kitchen? Want to spend hours at the market choosing items that will perfectly complement and balance each other? Darling, yes. Find your destiny.

What are you serving this on? It truly doesn’t matter because it’s going to be amazing, but I like to serve single/two-person boards on an olive wood slab or in a shallow pasta bowl. If I’m setting up a grazing station, I like wood cutting boards or marble slabs.

You’ll also need some cheese knives for self-serving and, depending on what you’re offering, individual spreaders and forks for each person so they can deal with everything once it’s on their plates.

All of your artistic sensibilities or the lack of them will come out to shine when it’s time to arrange your boards, and that’s GREAT. Everything is fine! Some people arrange things by the potency of the cheeses from mild to wild. Or maybe you like a bountiful haphazard feel, where it looks like the board itself just erupted with food. Or you might want to do a minimalist approach where everything is kind of sectioned off and organized by complementary flavors. Do it all! Try everything.

I like to add a pile of greens to every board. Arugula is peppery and textural without being watery, and even though it wilts slightly after a while, it’s still not mushy or embarrassing. Fresh baby spinach and baby kale also hold up.

Eat the rind! Unless it’s wax.

Definitely try new things! Like pickled vegetable varieties, interesting crackers, different cheeses obviously, and every kind of smoked thing you can find. Try everything. People say “just experiment!” and maybe you roll your eyes but honestly, JUST EXPERIMENT. Almost everything you’ll read about food is either an opinion or a suggestion and nothing is in stone. Do anything.

Bread vs Crackers

The question that keeps you up at night: bread or crackers? And if bread, toasted or simply warmed or altogether untouched? Sliced thick or thin? Ripped into chunks?! What KIND of crackers??!

I say go with bread if you want a chewy, filling deal that begs for soft cheeses and any dippable side item. Slice it, brush it with some olive oil and give it a quick light toasting, or wrap an unsliced portion of bread in foil or parchment and put it in a 325 degree oven for 10+ minutes for a softer thing you can rip apart with your hands. Go with crackers if you’re looking for a super low-maintenance affair that does well with all cheese options. As for types of crackers, I support any decision you might make here.


A Cheese Board for Wines

Yes there are certain cheeses that pair perfectly with certain wines, that is true. I love a fresh goat cheese with a rosé; an extremely funky brie with a cabernet sauvignon; a sharp hard cheese like aged cheddar with a sauvignon blanc; um, those are my three favorite kinds of wine to drink, so that’s my whole repertoire when it comes to the basics. I don’t know if these are the Officially Good Pairings and I don’t care. Also, if you scrambled all of those cheeses and wines around and blindfolded me, I would still have a great time and so would anyone in their right mind because cheese + wine = mhm yes. So again I say GO CRAZY or GO BY THE BOOK just GOoooo to the cheese store and have fun wheee!

The Cheeses

Syrah Soaked Toscano: Like a mild parmesan, and the syrah soak gives it this sort of spiced sweetness right at the end.
Cambozola Blue: An entry-level blue that’s buttery and earthy.
Camembert: A mid-level situation for brie fans looking for something new. Funkier than any entry-level brie, but not as funky as the funkiest brie, but also not without its own, solid funk.
Chèvre: Fresh plain goat cheese. You can roll your own in anything you’d like, including Everything Bagel spices??!

The Other Stuff

Rosemary Flatbread Crackers
Seeded Multigrain Crackers
Chalkidiki Olives
: I prefer my olives with pits because it gives me something to do and I think they taste better.
Grapes
Macadamia Honey
: I think honey goes well with any cheese but maybe I’m wrong, maybe you can find me a cheese that tastes worse with honey. Like, maybe there’s at least one?
Cranberry Sauce: So, so good with all the earthiest cheeses because it’s tart as heck.
Pecans and Almonds: Raw nuts are great, so are roasted ones or smoked ones. All nuts are welcome here.
Glazed Bacon: I meeeaaaan… come on.


A Cheese Board for Beers

Yikes there are also Officially Good Pairings for cheeses and different types of beers that I could spend time researching, but I tend to stick with the very simple idea of having all the things that I’d normally eat with wine. My favorite pairing is the grapefruitiest IPA I can get my hands on, an extremely sharp aged cheddar, a mustardy mustard, and a light airy cracker. Anything else I could add to that lineup would just be gilding the lily but look at me here, gilding away!

The Cheeses

Sharp Aged Cheddar: Sometimes a paper-thin slice is more fun than a thick one. Let your heart be your guide.
Camembert: This went so well with the onion jam (recipe below) that I almost cried.

The Other Stuff

Rosemary Flatbread Crackers: This is what I had on hand (because I bought them for the express purpose of this post) but I would’ve loved a salty stoneground wheat cracker with the cheddar.
Seeded Multigrain Cracker
Chalkidiki Olives
: I’d skip an herb-marinated olive for a beer pairing, but don’t let that stop you from living your dream.
Bar Snack Brussels Sprouts Steeped in Olive Oil and Fish Sauce: I usually go for roasted sprouts but wanted to try this recipe from Gabrielle Hamilton, queer chef and owner of Prune in NY!
Smoked Turkey: Leftover from holiday cooking and a natural bff for the cheddar.
Apple Slices
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
: A properly roasted vegetable is still delicious at room temperature, so go crazy.
Bacon Candy and Curried Pecans: Aaaayyyyy the recipe calls for cashews but I used what I had and I don’t regret a thing.
Dijon Mustard
Fig Jam

Red Onion Jam: Didn’t realize I’d fall in love with an inanimate savory jam but here we are. If you’re serving this particular onion jam, provide your guests with tiny forks so they can get a better handle on all the divine onion strands YES I SAID DIVINE instead of globbed spoonfuls. This goes really well with soft cheese on a multigrain cracker with a pile of trusty arugula.


Personal Cheese Boards

Ok, cheese boards are widely revered as an easy party pleaser, but lo, hark, what about this party of one? This party of YOU. A personal cheese board is something you deserve, with its careful arrangement and customized variety, and its love. Hot damn! Yes! You have done a good or difficult or boring or harrowing thing at some point in your life and now you’re entitled to an evening alone with your own exclusive cheese board.

Autumn Board for One

I incorporated seasonal fruit and scattered around some leftover fresh sage. You could also include seeds, rosemary sprigs, apples — whatever’s calling your name. The Wild Mushroom Pate recipe is so easy to make, and so damn delicious, you’ll need to lock yourself in a room and scream about it. This board is vegan except for the dark chocolate!


Anytime Board for One

A super simple setup focusing on one cheese and the accompaniments that make it a star. Caperberries pair so well chèvre that it’s crazy. Instead of getting a hit of herbs from crackers or cheese, I went with marinated artichoke hearts.


You’re up! Tell me everything you’ve ever wanted to say about cheese boards. Also, all queer cheesemongers are officially asked to share autumnal and wintery cheese recommendations please! If you’re looking for more cheese feelings and pairing ideas, Cheese Sex Death has you covered, including this Trader Joe’s Cheese Guide that I bet you could get some use out of.

Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and you're the reason she's here. She's 37, has two kids, two dogs, one cat, one Megan, and some personal essays.

Laneia has written 871 articles for us.

84 Comments

  1. These are so beautiful I want to hang them on my wall but also eat them every day.

    Be careful if you ever make it to France though. Camembert here is often un-pasteurized and super funky in the most delicious way. I have some onion chutney I didn’t know what to do with, maybe I oughta throw some on camembert? thanks!

  2. Belgian dubbels are my go-to cheeseboard beer. Or anything brewed with peppercorns is also super good (CBC Sgt Pepper is usually available around Boston, or Dieu de Ciel Route Des Epices is amazing if you want to be fancy)

    Also re: onion jam one time my friend went out of town and left her husband at home with a fridge full of food and she was like “What did you have for dinner?” and he was like “Oh I just finished that onion thing”, which was an entire jar of onion jam.

    Thank you for this, I’m thinking about cheese now and that’s a really nice thing to be thinking about.

  3. i still haven’t finished reading, because i want to savor this post over the course of several hours, but i wanted to share real quick that “Safe, Weird, A Different Color, Rolled In Something” is my brand now

  4. Woah this is way timely! I literally just tried the onion jam at Trader Joe’s and I swooned so hard and wanted to go back for MOAR SAMPLE, but I worried that would push the bounds of Trader Joe’s friendliness so I refrained

  5. Autostraddle is making my stress eating so much more fun. This morning I’ve already pulled a Heather Hogan and stirred (soy) ice cream into my coffee (a thing she mentioned on Twitter recently), and now, Laneia, you’ve provided my all-day grazing solution.

    Now I’m off to throw together a snack board that checks all the boxes for me: gluten-free, pescatarian but with no other animal products, and satisfying enough to quell my rage re: a relative telling me I’m “acting like a Black Panther” (which: um, what?) because I become incensed when people choose to focus on hypothetical wrongfully accused men over the actual women who have waded through shit to bring us their stories of assault and harassment.

    TL;DR the world is garbage and I needed the laughs and promises of deliciousness this piece brought so THANK YOUUUUUU, LANEIA, AS ALWAYS.

  6. “I prefer my olives with pits because it gives me something to do”

    “so damn delicious, you’ll need to lock yourself in a room and scream about it.”

    hahahahaha love you this is so GOOD.

  7. My most favorite cheese is Sartori’s Espresso BellaVitano. It’s a hard cheese (fave) that’s sweet and salty and nutty and awesome and just to make it even better, they rub it with espresso and it’s so delightful.

  8. i still haven’t recovered from this post! but i wanted to say that, as cheesy as it sounds (lol), this post has given me permission to imagine, to let go, to have fun, to buy the goddamn fancy cheese, the weird cheese, and say yes, I am worth the goddamn bacon jam and wine! Thank you <3

  9. I’m getting emotional over this post, cheese it my favorite thing in the world. Thank you for this post!

    Also, I have a potluck this weekend, and now I’m considering doing a cheese plate in addition to the Eggnog I’m planning on making…

  10. Cheese and beer! YES.

    Here in Belgium, people are pretty serious about this combo. In most bars you can always get a plate of cheese as a bar snack, (usually jonge Gouda)always with mustard and celery salt. Goes perfectly with that 8% trappist beer that you will drink too many of and before you know it you’re doing karaoke and about to have a blackout.

    A lot of the abbeys that brew beers also make cheeses like leffe, orval, rodenbach, westmalle, chimay; even duvel and de koninck also have them.

    In short…. You may as well make Belgium your next holigay destination.

  11. okay first of all, as i said above, LANEIA.

    and second of all, since when are you a fucking gourmet FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER?!?!?! seriously these photos are so beautiful, i want to print them out and hang them on my bulletin board for inspiration.

    • for my birthday a couple of years ago my wonderful handy housemate made me a handmade paddle, sandwiched in between two handmade cheese boards, and labeled the whole package “cheese boards” so if my parents (who were visiting for the week) happened to see them they wouldn’t be alarmed/horrified. needless to say, the “cheese board” and the cheese boards are all perfect and some of my prized possessions.

  12. As a supremely lactose intolerant person, I never imagined that a post on cheese boards would eclipse my previous favorite post on this website (which is What You’re Flagging With Your LaCroix Flavor, obviously), yet here we are.

  13. I have so many thoughts about this Autostraddle + Cheese post, bringing together two of my favorite things. The photos are gorgeous and I love all the recommendations.

    Every year we host a Praise Cheeses Holiday Shindig with a few stations around the house pairing cheese and bevs. I’m already writing shopping lists in my head about fun new ideas to add to the mix— mainly onion jam and bacon jam. Yeah! Thanks.

    Cheese recommendation:
    Harbison
    It’s from Dan Hill, the guy from Jasper Hill Farm. It’s a small wheel of ripened cheese like brie. Let in warm for an hour before serving. It great on those fancy dried fruit and nut crackers. Every person I serve this to is very happy.

    Any chance they’ll be more cheese posts? b/c queer women and cheese clearly belong together.

  14. Laneia, I have never been so motivated to have a goddamn cheeseboard and that’s saying smthng because I always wanna have cheese boards! I will admit that I mostly have them when I happen to be at a fancy restaurant or wine bar, but after this post I now want to myself curate the ULTIMATE cheeseboard! (With allll of the things!) .. also cheeseboard making would be such a cute idea I feel like I need to go back on the dating app to see if any lovely lady would want to participate in this cheeseboard extravaganza with me..

  15. I love this article so much I’d fund its education and take it to exotic locations for fancy vacations. But alas! I don’t like beer OR wine! there, I said it and I’m not sorry, but what cheeses pair best with other boozes? Especially vodka because that’s what I’m about

  16. As a French person who’s now vegan, I am taken aback at how annoying about cheese I will be in the next sentence and paragraph. The camembert and the other cheese in the wine board are cut in a way that makes me cringe!

    Cheese wedges that come from soft cheeses like the ones pictured need to be cut from center to rind, making smaller wedges, because then you get a taste of both the most tasty/smelly/melty part (the center) and the firmer/less smelly one (which is by the rind). Otherwise you get a few super-flavored, even cloying bits (the central ones) and then end up with rather meh ones (near the rind).

    Also, if you end up in France and cut a soft cheese slice like in the pic, it’ll be considered rude. There’s even an expression for this misstep: “couper le nez du fromage”=”cutting the cheese’s nose.” And… On top of that, it’s kind of not super well looked upon to cut individual slices in advance.

    Sorry. I just finished a great Swiss cashew-cheese for breakfast, and need to calm down, as well as stop making cheese into a religion.

  17. After reading this post every day since it was published, I went out and bought 6 cheeses, 2 kinds of crackers, candied bacon, black mission figs, marcona almonds, pepper jelly, onion jam, wine, and beer.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.