You can improvise a cheeseboard (or snack board, charcuterie board) for any occasion and season if you remember some simple rules…

Boards are so easy and endlessly customizable. Should you choose to go with whatever looks good to you, or a fun theme (“backyard camping” for example, with s’mores ingredients or burger-themed snackies) you can be sure everyone will find something to talk about on the board. 

cheeseboard template

The best boards are balanced in flavors and textures and have something for everyone. When building cheeseboards, for example, one person may love a strong cheese, but another may prefer a lighter flavor. You want to make sure that your board has a little of everything: sweet, salty, crunchy, creamy, pungent, fresh, or pickled. 

But it’s almost too hard to make a board sometimes. How do you choose? Is your board “balanced”?


I have a few guiding rules I like to use when composing a cheese plate:

  1. Pick 2-3 cheeses from different categories. Mild and creamy or sharp and hard or semi-hard. Try to also pick a cheese that is from different types of milk – a cow’s milk cheese, like a cheddar, and a sheep’s milk cheese. If you have one cheese that has herbs or spices, have other options that do not. You get the idea – keep your cheeses interesting!
  2. Keep the “extras” seasonal or themed. Like spiced nuts for fall or chocolate-covered strawberries for a “lover’s” themed board in February. The “extras” on a board are what give it personality and keep even standby favorites interesting. You could use the same 3 kinds of cheese each season and just update the supporting cast for a whole new show!
  3. Think about the types of flavors and bites that will be created. As you’re shopping, you can imagine this on the fly by looking at the shelf and imagining it pairing with things in your basket. A savory cracker with a honey goat cheese – yum! A water cracker with blue cheese? Meh… I try to pick things that I think will create interesting combos and give people options to mix and match flavors. A fresh grape or crisp apple piece following a bite of sharp cheddar. YES.

Boards for the seasons:


Spring: Fresh or pickled asparagus, boiled, tender peas or new potatoes (especially if there’s a sharp cheddar), pickled or roasted beets. Kiwi, papaya, and mango if they look ripe will also be coming into season. Fresh flavors, herbs like dill, chives, and parsley are welcome. 

My perfect spring board: Pickled asparagus, beets, and green beans with crackers and a honey chevre or walnut cream cheese.


Summer: fresh fruits like berries, watermelon, and mangos. Avoid chocolate, which will melt and get all over your hands during backyard soirees. Crackers, light cookies, yogurt-covered raisins, and fresh flowers are also lovely to sprinkle on a summer cheeseboard. Mellow cheeses and light flavors, with one or two “punchy” flavors for interest. Herbs like basil, rosemary, and fresh thyme. 

My perfect summer board: Sliced tomatoes with burrata mozzarella and basil all sliced together and served with crusty bread. 


Fall: Fall boards can include richer flavors, sharp and pungent cheeses with one or two mild cheeses for relief. For the extras, go outside the box and do some roasted chopped pieces of squash, sun-dried tomatoes in oil, and add in easily grabbed snacks like olives and spiced nuts. One of my favorite fall boards I once served at Thanksgiving included kimchi I made with butternut squash, pine nuts, and kale from The Kimchi Cookbook

My perfect fall board: Figs, spiced nuts, olives, pretzels, and herbed beer cheese dip or caramelized onion cheddar from Trader Joe’s. Another favorite cheddar is the Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar. Also good is sage cream cheese spread.


Winter: Winter is all about whatever makes you feel cozy. I love a winter board that includes one or two sweet items, like a ginger cookie or a chocolate-covered almond. Winter cheeses I like to use are usually similar to fall, but I might also add in some parmesan or asiago – basically a hard salty cheese that is super-rich. I also love Bleu cheese, and there are some wonderful ones that are only available in the winter from Rogue Creamery. Make sure that anything pickled/savory isn’t going to crowd and cross-contaminate the sweets! 

My perfect winter board: Roasted beets with blue cheese, rosemary garlic bread, cured meats like salami or prosciutto. 

Are you planning on making a board for your next party? Here’s some more inspiration: 

Cheeseboard Cookbooks: 

Platters and Boards

That cheese plate will change your life


Beautiful Boards

Blog Posts:

sage cream cheese

walnut cream cheese

Shutterbean’s post on cheese boards with Trader Joe’s items.