A Dessert Charcuterie Board is in the Top 3, if not the #1 dessert that gets the highest "wow!" return for whatever investment of effort you put in. You can bake brownies and cookies, make chocolate bark, and even whip up your own homemade chocolate dip, or you can make it easy on yourself and buy everything from the store.
They say the best way to get out of going to All! Those! Holiday parties! this season is...to throw your own holiday party at home.
And since the whole point is to keep your life simple and stress-free, the last thing you want to worry about when you're busy bedazzling your cocktail sweatpants is what to feed your guests. There is nothing easier than buying a bunch of fruit, cheese and sweets, and nothing more impressive than throwing them on an enormous board and effortlessly arranging them into a gorgeous dessert charcuterie board.
I know. You're welcome. But don't blame me when everyone expects you to host eight more parties before the end of the year now.
What Exactly *IS* a Dessert Charcuterie Board?
For some people, actual cheese, and sometimes charcuterie, is the best way to end a meal. That's "cheese and charcuterie for dessert." A Dessert Charcuterie Board, on the other hand, is all the sweet and bite-sized desserts served on a board like cheese and charcuterie, but probably with much less actual cheese or charcuterie, if any at all.
But throwing six cookies and a half dozen brownies on a plate isn't a dessert board, it's a cookie platter. To really make it a Dessert Charcuterie Board, you have to add a variety of things, and of course, serve it on a board!
What You Need for a Dessert Charcuterie Board
Every dessert charcuterie board is different, but for the most part, they all have a few of the same types of things. For example, the board right above is another Dessert Charcuterie Board with different dips, and it does have actual cheese!
Depending on the season, the holiday, your personal taste preferences, and visual aesthetic, the specific ingredients might vary. Here are the major types of things you need for a Dessert Charcuterie Board:
- cookies, brownies, and other bite-sized baked goods and sweets
- chocolate and candy
- nuts of any and all kinds, raw, roasted, salted, spiced, candied
- fresh fruit
- berries: blackberries, blueberries, currants, raspberries, strawberries
- apples and pears
- different color grapes
- citrus: blood, cara cara, and mandarin oranges
- stone fruit: cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines
- tropical: kiwi, mango, papaya, pineapple, star fruit
- dried fruit
- cherries and cranberries
- candied citrus
- extra large crimson (red), flame, and golden raisins
- dried mango (and other tropical fruit like kiwi, papaya, and pineapple)
- sweet dips, spreads and accompaniments
- fruit jams and preserves
- chocolate spread
- caramel dip
- whipped ricotta or mascarpone cheese
- sweetened yogurt
- honey with honeycomb
Pro-Tips and Tricks for a Dessert Charcuterie Board
With a huge board overflowing with brightly colored fruit and sweet treats, you can't really go wrong. However, there are a few tips and tricks that will help it go very very right. Here are the tips and tricks I've learned over the many iterations of Dessert Charcuterie Boards I've made and served:
Dessert Charcuterie Pro-Tip: Sturdy cookies and brownies
Serve cookies and bars that are generally sturdy, hold together well, are not "dusted" with any sort of powdered sugar or loose sprinkles, and are free from soft or sticky sections. Essentially, any cookie, bar, or baked good that is fragile, needs space, or a single layer on a cookie plate is not going to work well on this kind of Dessert Charcuterie Board. Snowballs aka Mexican wedding cookies, lemon bars, and brownies with soft frosting are examples of cookies and bars that don't hold up as well on a Dessert Charcuterie Board.
The cookies and bars that do work well are:
- chocolate chip cookies (try my three day chocolate chip cookies recipe!)
- brownies, as long as they don't have soft or sticky frosting
- biscotti are perfect!
- graham crackers
- macarons, though be warned, they are a little bit fragile
- stroopwafels, so underappreciated
Dessert Charcuterie Pro-Tip: Candy and chocolate at least 1-inch
Serve candy and chocolate that's at least 1-inch big so it's easy to grab without touching too many other things on the board. Even if you provide tiny serving utensils for the board, someone will inevitably grab off the board with their bare hands of questionable sanitation. It's better to have larger pieces that are easier to pick off rather than small pieces like, for example M&Ms or gummy bears, that people will have to shove their hands into a bowl to take. If they're individually wrapped, even better. Some of the candy and chocolate that work particularly well on a Dessert Charcuterie Board
- chocolate bars and barks, like these sea salted dark chocolate barks you can make
- chocolate truffles
- pepita, peanut, and other nut or seed brittle
- Pocky or white chocolate covered grissini with sprinkles
- chocolate half-dipped candied dried citrus, which you can make with this recipe
- wrapped sea salt caramels
- extra large marshmallows
Dessert Charcuterie Pro-Tip Extras
- For chocolate truffles, chocolate-covered anything, or those chocolates that come in boxes, cut them in half before putting them on a board so people can see what's inside, both for taste preference, and also potential allergies. *See chocolate-covered caramels on the board in photo above. I know, no one wants only half a chocolate, but you using a very sharp knife and cutting a chocolate cleanly looks better than someone else's sad-assed attempt of cutting it on the board with some other utensil, or worse, their finger or teeth. If a person wants a whole chocolate, let them find both halves.
- Even though it's dessert, add some savory, or savory-ish things like a Sweet and Savory Bacon Jam or savory blue cheese shortbread to balance the sweetness. You can make or buy either of these things.
- Serve a variety of types of things, as well as a variety of colors for visuals
- Absolutely add actual cheese, and it doesn't have to be a "sweet" cheese like ricotta or mascarpone. Some of us would rather have cheese at the end of a meal, anyway! I love a mild blue cheese to end a meal, with some sweetness coming from its natural wine pairing, a sweet dessert wine or rich port.
And speaking of sweet wine....
Wine Pairing for Dessert Charcuterie Board
The general rule for wine pairing is that the wine should taste sweeter than the food to which it's being paired. For dessert then, the best wines are those that are actually identified as a "dessert wine." There are hundreds of styles of dessert wines, but most of them fall into a few categories: sparkling sweet wines, naturally light sweet wines, naturally rich sweet wines, and fortified wines. Dessert wines are such a broad category that deserve their own post, so I'll just stick with a few specific bottle recommendations:
- DeForville Moscato d'Asti, a light, sweet sparkling wine from Piedmont
- Domaine Huet 'Le Mont' Demi-Sec Vouvray, a lighter sweet, though still decidedly sweet, wine from Vouvray, France, made with chenin blanc grapes
- Quady "Essensia" Moscato, a California produced dessert wine made with orange muscat grapes
- Dolce, an American late harvest blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc
- Chateau d'Yquem, a luxe dessert wine from Bordeaux that's such a special splurge, you should probably drink this by itself as the dessert, without any other food
** For more wine pairing guidelines, especially with cheese boards, check out this comprehensive Wine and Cheese Pairing Guide, using specific bottles as examples.
Ingredients Notes and Resources
Honey Yogurt. To make honey-sweetened yogurt, mix 1 part honey (or other sweetener) to 4 parts plain, Greek yogurt, i.e. ¼ cup honey +1 cup yogurt. Add a drop or two of vanilla.
Chocolate Dip. My recommendation will ALWAYS be to make your own of anything if you can, mostly because you can control what ingredients go into it. This is especially important in the case of commercial chocolate dips and spreads, which are grossly high in sugars, sometimes high fructose corn syrup, and less desirable oils. Try making this Chocolate Spread that has a secret weapon ingredient that makes the spread refined sugar-free, and added fat-free! Otherwise, make sure to read labels of any chocolate dips you buy from the store (ahem, nutella).
Cookies, Bars, and Biscotti. Everything is store-bought.
Dark Chocolate Bark. Easy to find at the grocery store, and also dead-easy to make yourself (you can use the microwave oven) with this Chocolate Bark with Nuts Recipe.
Pink Apple. There are a couple of different varieties of the pink-fleshed apple: Hidden Rose, Lucy Glo, Mountain Rose, and Pink Pearl. They are not as accessible in regular grocery stores. Look for them at specialty produce suppliers, and of course, local farmers' markets. These are Lucy Glo apples I got from the produce section at Eataly.
All other produce from Whole Foods or my local farmers' markets.
Dessert Charcuterie Board Recipe
Sweet Dips and Spreads
- 1 cup honey-sweetened yogurt
- 1 cup chocolate dip or spread
Bars, Cookies, and Sweet Baked Things
- 6 chocolate chip cookies
- 6 large chocolate dipped almond biscotti
- 8 pizzelles or stroopwafel cookies
- 4 madeleines
Candy and Chocolate
- ½ pound dark chocolate matcha bark
- 12 chocolate covered caramels cut into halves
- 1 cup fresh strawberries
- 1 cup fresh raspberries
- 2 blood oranges, sliced into wedges
- 1 hidden rose apple or other pink/red flesh apple
- ½ pomegranate broken into 1-inch pieces
Dried Fruit and Nuts
- ½ cup dried cherries or cranberries
- ½ cup dried apriots
- 1 cup dried prunes
- 8 dried persimmon slices
- 8 candied dried citrus slices
- ½ cup roasted almonds
- ½ cup toasted walnuts
- honey for yogurt
- mint and rosemary
- edible flowers
- Place yogurt and chocolate dip in small serving bowls and place on board.
- Arrange bars, cookies, and other sweet baked things on board around bowls, then candy and chocolate
- Add dried fruit and nuts, preferable closest to bars and cookies to create a "barrier" between baked ingredients and fresh fruit, which may drip or "leak" onto the baked goods and make the soggy.
- Add fresh fruit last, making sure to keep "juicy" fruits like fresh citrus away from baked goods.
- Garnish with honey or honeycomb, fresh herbs, and edible flowers.
Dessert Charcuterie Complete Shopping List
Here is a downloadable spreadsheet that has a fairly comprehensive Shopping List of possible things for a Dessert Charcuterie Board from fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts, to baked things that are sturdy enough to work on a board.
You can use this list as a starting point, and just pick and choose the ingredients for your board, based on the season, holiday, theme, tastes, etc.