I’m more determined than ever this year to find ways to make this fall season festive, despite everything going on in the world. And what’s more festive than a beautiful and bountiful autumn-inspired cheese board? In general, a cheese board is such an easy way to class up any occasion, and make a simple happy hour gathering or date night at home feel extra special. And they are totally customizable, so you can always load it up with your favorite (in this case fall-themed) snacks and spreads.
It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, or expensive. It can be fun, creative and ultimately delicious if you follow a few simple steps and rules of thumb.
In this post, I’m sharing all my tips and tricks for building the perfect autumn-inspired cheese board. From choosing the best cheeses and meats to showcase, to all the fun seasonal sidekicks you should include for optimal snacking, and some helpful hints when it comes to arranging your board. Plus, I’ll share some of my favorite brands to turn to when building a fall themed board at home.
Building the perfect fall cheese board…
The first step to assembling the autumn-inspired cheese board of your dreams starts with, what else, selecting your cheeses. Everything else you add and all the other flavors you bring into the equation will revolve around the main attractions.
If you’re making this board to entertain, I recommend choosing 3 cheeses to serve. You want three distinct cheeses that all vary in texture and flavor. Cheeses that will compliment each other and the other items on your snack board, while providing a different experience with every bite.
Some basic rules of thumb: select a hard, a soft and semi-soft cheese, to cover all your textures. Choose at least one cheese that’s mild, one that’s salty and earthy, and one that’s got a little more funk to it.
Some tips to make it fall: Look for cheeses that have been made or infused with other ingredients to help drive home your fall flavors. Cheeses made with garlic and/or fresh herbs work well, as do wine-soaked cheeses.
Don’t drop the ball on the charcuterie: While it’s not necessary, I really love having some charcuterie options to serve with a big cheese board for entertaining. Just one or two is enough to complement the cheeses. I like to go for the variety again here, and choose something soft and thinly sliced, as well as something harder like uncurled salami. Bonus points if you can find meats infused or flavored with notes like black pepper, ginger, garlic, and other warm spices.
My selections: For my autumn-inspired snack board, I picked up all my cheeses and meats from my local PCC Community Market (it’s like a local Whole Foods). If you don’t have a cheese shop that you know and love, your local grocery store probably has some great selections. You also can’t go wrong at Trader Joe’s, and they have some awesome, creative fall-inspired cheeses in stock right now. Whole Foods and Central Market are other great options.
- Mon Sire Brie – This cheese is soft, gooey and mild flavored. It’s the perfect creamy base for almost any other topping or spread on the board.
- Rosemary and Olive Oil Asiago – This is a firm, salty cheese with beautiful earthy notes from the rosemary and olive oil infused in it. It stands up well with a bite of charcuterie, or served with a bite of juicy apple.
- Drunken Murcia Goat Cheese soaked in wine – The texture of this goat cheese falls somewhere in the middle of the other two. And this cheese brings the funk to the party. It’s a goat cheese, so it’s got some tang to it, but also a deep, rich flavor from being soaked in red wine during the aging process. It pairs well with any fruits on the board.
- Niman Ranch Uncured Capocollo – Made from the upper part of a pork shoulder, this cured meat is thinly sliced, has a soft texture, and is marbled with a solid amount of fat. It’s salty and rich, and mellows out the sharp flavors from the goat cheese, as well as standing up well with mustard, or other very tart or sour flavors you might add to your board.
- Coro Uncured Classic Salami – This particular brand of hard Salami is infused with ginger and garlic, making it the perfect addition to this fall-inspired board. The hard salami is chewy, spicy and so tasty. It’s perfect for dunking in mustard, or nibbling on between bites of cheese.
It’s all in the details…
Once you’ve picked out the cheese and meats to star on your autumn-inspired cheese board, the fun part starts. It’s almost like picking out all your accessories after choosing an outfit. Except it’s okay to go overboard in this case.
This is where you can really get creative and play up your autumn theme. Between the crackers you choose, the optional spreads, and the season fruit you add alongside, there are lots of possibilities to bring out your favorite fall flavors.
You need vessels to shovel in all that cheese and meat of course. I suggest choosing 2-3 different types of crackers to lay out. You could even swap out one of your crackers for little crostinis or baguette slices. I recommend choosing at least one cracker or flatbread that’s pretty unflavored, so it can elevate whatever you’re piling on top of it. And then go for at least one spiced or flavored cracker to play up your theme.
I also think a cheese board isn’t complete without some fresh produce and nuts. Both were made to be paired with cheeses, and it’s a simple way to keep things seasonal. Apples, plums, pears, persimmons are just some of the many fruits in season right now that would work well on a fall-themed board. And don’t forget dried fruit as well — like cranberries, figs, dehydrated apples. A mix of both fresh and dried fruit will add great flavors and textures to your board. When it comes to adding nuts to your fall board, go for the honey roasted, pumpkin spiced or candied nuts. They’ll add a pop of sweetness and a satisfying crunch.
And finally, don’t forget to add a few things here and there to make it your own. I love pickles, so I made sure to add a handful of cornichons to my board. I also included some cinnamon apple chips, and some pumpkin spiced yogurt covered pretzels to add some more sweet, indulgent treats to reach for. If you love snacking on it, there’s a chance it has a place somewhere on your board.
My selections: I wanted to really pack my autumn-inspired cheese board, adding multiple types of crackers, fruits, nuts and spreads. I shopped at a range of locations to find all the things I wanted — including PCC Market, my local supermarket, and good ole’ Trader Joe’s.
- La Panzanella Croccantini Mini Black Pepper Crackers – these crackers are simple, mild and they’re the perfect shape for piling with spreads, cheese and toppings. A must have for any cheese board.
- Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps – these really play up the fall theme. I love these seasonal crackers from Trader Joe’s. They have rosemary, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries baked right in for the perfect crunch and burst of fall flavors.
- Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spiced Yogurt Pretzels – I wanted to have a really sweet, indulgent element on the board and these were perfect. Packed with pumpkin spice, really sweet, but with a slight salty kick from the pretzels that makes these just balanced enough to be addicting.
- Sliced fresh plum – Can’t go wrong. Don’t even need to peel.
- Sliced fresh apple – Ditto. Can’t have a fall cheese board without some fresh sliced apple. They go with literally everything on the board.
- Cornichons (got them in a jar at Trader Joe’s) – These little mini pickles add a perfect crunchy, sour bite when you need to cut through the sweet elements on the board. I also love biting into one after eating a big pieces of salami and mustard.
- Dried mission figs – Another fall staple as well as a cheeseboard must. The figs go so well with the Brie and the goat cheese. Extra indulgent with some sweet spread slathered on.
- Trader Joe’s Apple Cider Fruit Spread – This stuff is like apple pie filling in a jar. It’s the perfect seasonal jam to add to your board. It pairs well with any of the cheeses, but especially makes that Brie sing.
- Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter – Another fall classic. Pumpkin butter is rich, sweet and full of spices. It plays well with the other spiced components of the board, and tastes so good when paired with that tangy drunken goat cheese.
- Trader Joe’s Honey Pale Ale Mustard – To balance out the other sweet spreads, I wanted to include something tangy and sharp and this new mustard from Trader Joe’s totally hit the spot. It’s so good ya’ll… the mild notes of honey and ale make it so tasty and creamier than regular mustard. Tastes so good with salami, or on a cracker with the Asiago or even the Brie. Even better when you throw a fresh apple slice in the mix.
- Bare Snacks Cinnamon Apple Chips (got them at Safeway) – These healthy little snacks added the perfect dose of autumn-inspired crunch when necessary, and have a delicious mild, sweet and spicy flavor.
- Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spiced Pumpkin Seeds – Yet another amazing creation from TJ’s this year. These pumpkin seeds are packed with spice, with a hint of sweetness. They make for a fun and creative element on the board and are easy to reach for between bites.
- Sweet and Spicy Almonds – I made these at home! Roasted almonds coated in a cinnamon sugar candy glaze, made with chili for a spicy kick! They are perfect for a fall cheese board, or for just plain old snacking all season long. Click here to get the easy recipe.
Set up for success…
Here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when displaying all the components of your gorgeous autumn-inspired cheese board:
- Spread out your meats and cheeses – Since these are the main parts of the board that everyone will be reaching for, don’t display them all next to each other. Place them in different corners with other elements in between. This will look visually more appealing and make it easier to grab different components.
- Don’t be afraid to cut some things up – When you’re arranging your meats and cheeses, try cutting up the first few slices of salami, or a couple chunks off a block of cheese. Not only does this look rustic and pretty, but it makes it easier for people to start digging in right away. This is especially helpful if your board is overflowing by the time you pack with with spreads and snacks.
- You don’t have to clump everything together – What I mean is, don’t feel like you need to put all of one element in one place. Lay a few apple slices here, and a few over there. Put half of your crackers next to the Brie, and fan out the others over by the goat cheese, so people don’t have to reach across to get the specific cracker they want. Again, this is about adding dimension, but also just making the whole thing easier to eat!
- Use bowls to add height and make serving easier – For some of your nuts and seeds, and especially your spreads, use little bowls and ramekins to make serving easier and less messy. I find that small bowls are easier to serve out of than the jars your spreads came in, without having to pick it up and scoop your jam or mustard out. The bowls also add some height on the board, which makes it look more dynamic.
- Keep the extras stored close by for refills – Especially if you’re adding a lot of elements to your board, there’s a chance that not everything is going to fit. That’s okay. You don’t need to have all your crackers and fruit laid out right from the beginning. Just use what your need to arrange your board nicely, and keep the leftovers close by so you can easily refill when some things start to run out.
- Use fresh herbs to elevate the look and feel of your board – Fresh seasonal sage, rosemary and thyme make for the most gorgeous accents to a fall-themed cheeseboard. Whole cinnamon sticks would also add a nice touch. Stick a few sprigs in random nooks and crannies around the board. There’s no wrong way to do it.
- Embrace the creative process – Have fun with it as you’re building your autumn-inspired cheese board! Move things around, rearrange them as you add elements, and then move them again if you have to until your board looks just how you want it. See what works and what doesn’t, and don’t stress about it. The best part is digging in and messing everything up anyways.