I've been putting together some epic gluten-free cheese boards over the last couple of years. In fact, not only are they gluten-free, they're also cow-dairy-free. And, these boards are all made with only goat and sheep milk cheeses because neither my husband nor I can tolerate most cow dairy!
So, here's how I build gluten-free and cow-dairy-free cheeseboards.
There are lots of ways to change these up, and to mix-and-match seasonal ingredients with pantry ingredients to make your own cheeseboard really special and catered to your tastes.
First, here are my basic ingredients to build your gluten-free cheeseboard:
Choose a combination of hard and soft cheeses and mix in one with some flavor if you like. Also, labels are great if you use a cheese with a flavor mixed in (like a honey or olive chèvre, for example) or if it's spicy (like a pepper jack, for example). I recommend using a toothpick and a small label to identify what's in it, so that your guests aren't unpleasantly surprised by the flavor if it's not their favorite.
In fact, you can label everything that may be unclear on the board (including meats!) to make snacking even easier. By labeling, if you have a large party you're serving or if you're bringing your gluten-free cheese board somewhere that a lot of folks may need the notes.
And, as a note in general, if you live near a Trader Joe's, they have a great selection of both goat and sheep milk cheeses if you're like us and can't do cow dairy, but they also have tons of cow cheeses as well of course – all for great prices. Most of the cheeses I list here aren't from TJs since I do have my favorites that aren't found there. Go with what works for you in terms of taste, availability, and budget. (I never said my tastes were the least expensive – wink!)
Some of our favorite hard cheeses for a cheeseboard are:
Cypress Grovers Midnight Moon Goat Gouda (Costco, Whole Foods, or a local cheese shop) – if you can get this at Costco get it there since it's a pricey one and it'll be half price there!
Cheddar (goat milk from Trader Joe's or other)
Manchego (sheep milk from Costco)
Some of our favorite soft cheeses for a cheeseboard are:
Laura Chenel Chèvre – plain, honey, fig, olive, or truffle (Costco, Whole Foods, or a local cheese shop)
Laura Chenel Goat Brie
Cypress Grovers Humboldt Fog (goat milk from Costco, Whole Foods, or a local cheese shop) – if you can get this at Costco get it there since it's a pricey one and it'll be half price there!
Choose a combination of fresh and cured meats such as salami, chorizo, prosciutto, turkey, roast beef, and sopressata.
Some of our favorite meats for a cheese board are:
Prosciutto, Salami, Chorizo, and Coppa(brands include La Quercia, Applegate, Vermont Smoke & Cure, Wellshire Farms, Gusto, and Olli Salumeria available at Whole Foods)
Hard or soft boiled eggs (or even some leftover frittata cut up into pieces)
3. Savory and/or fermented items
I love including pickles and other fermented goodies on a board – even a small container of sauerkraut can go perfectly with meats, cheeses, and some mustard!
Some of our favorite savory and/or fermented items for a cheeseboard are:
Pickles (brands include Sonoma Brinery and Grillo's available in the cold/fresh department at various grocery stores) or any homemade you like
Pickled or marinated onions (you can make these, here's a recipe for pickled onions and there's a sugar-free/21DSD marinated onions recipe in The 21-Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide)
Sauerkraut (brands include Farmhouse Kraut, Wildbrine, and Trader Joe's brand)
Olives – some favorites of ours are oil cured, Castelvetrano, and Kalamata (any kind you like, I especially love using pitted olives because it's less messy, but some with pits really have great flavor)
Roasted vegetables like carrots, peppers, or potatoes
Grilled vegetables like zucchini, peppers, or eggplant
4. Sweet and/or spreadable items
We absolutely love using fresh fruit on cheeseboard! You can enjoy it for nibbles between cheese and meats as a palate cleanser. Or you can use fruit slices as the vehicle for the toppings! Spreadable fruits or honey are also a fantastic addition.
Some of our favorite sweet and/or spreadable items for a cheeseboard are:
Apples, pears, persimmons, peaches, cherries, berries, grapes, and oranges (especially Satsumas in winter)
St. Dalfour preserves (we especially like the black cherry, apricot, or orange for a cheese board – these are less expensive in stores) or other jams or fruit spreads
5. Savory spreads & mustards
To add some punch to the combination of meat, cheese, and crunchy crackers or crispy toast, a creamy spread can add a lot of flavor and break up the fattiness of the bites.
Some of our favorite savory spreads and mustards for a cheeseboard are:
6. Crackers, bread, nuts, etc.
Mary's Gone Crackers (my favorite lately are the Super Seed Everything flavor, which are also soy-free while the original have Tamari in the ingredients)
Jilz Crackers are also a great option that are grain-free (but they are almond-based, so we don't use them since I can't eat almonds due to my allergy)
Trader Joe's sells some rice crackers (I'm pretty sure these are sold elsewhere as well, but they do contain soy/Tamari so use them if you like and can eat soy)
Simple Mills makes some gluten-free and grain-free crackers
Gluten-free bread or focaccia toasted and made into points or crostini (Canyon Bakehouse makes some)
Gluten-free baguette from Cate & Co. (this is one of the BEST gluten-free baked items we've ever had, and we wish we could get this anywhere else but it's only sold in Napa currently as far as I know)
And, of course you can add any number of either plain roasted, raw, or spiced / candied nuts to the board as well
Next up, some tips & hacks to optimize the look of your board:
You know, to make it totally Instagram-worthy 😉
Use a great board
The backdrop for your food doesn't matter as much as the food itself, but it can make for a much more impressive presentation. The board I use most often is custom from WoodChen, but you can also find a Boos block one here, too.
First and foremost when selecting ingredients for your cheeseboard, pick things you love! If you pick a few things you love and others you don't, you'll end up avoiding the things you don't love.
When balancing flavors, pick some sweeter and some more salty, sour, and pungent items. Then, select some spicy meats and some mild ones. Next, pick some cured meats and some fresh (if you can!). Lastly, choose some fresh or fermented veggies and some cooked or roasted.
When you prepare the cheeses, meats, and fresh fruits, slice them evenly and relatively thinly. You want to optimize how many bites your guests can enjoy, so keeping each piece a bit smaller enables that. And, you'll be able to more beautifully spread the items onto the board if they're cut evenly.
One of the best-kept secrets about assembling cheese boards is this: you can throw together something really impressive looking (and tasting) using scraps and almost-finished items in your fridge.
Arrange the cheeses in a staggered or zig-zag shape – and select at least 2 or 3 options but no more than 4 or 5. Then, place the more brightly colored items like fruits, meats, and pickles so that they are spacing out the white/yellowish colored cheeses. The way the colors balance and space-out helps to make the board more enticing.
You can place everything right onto the board, or use some small bowls or dishes to contain items like sauces or olives. This is also helpful for items that may drip or spread more than you'd like into the other board items. Using dishes also adds some dimension and visual interest to the board.
Go-to pantry items are your secret weapon
A lot of the items listed above can be kept on-hand so that you can easily prepare a board that's well balanced at nearly any time! It's also easy to have a couple of meats and cheeses on-hand, so adding just a few jarred items or a box of crackers is then a quick path to success.
And, check out this additional DIY Cheeseboard post by my good friend Jenny of Cook and Savor! She's actually the one who assembled the amazing board at the top of this page when she came to visit for our annual Holiday Champagne Brunch Party a couple of weeks ago!
Now, tell me, what are your cheeseboard favorites? Do you always use the same ingredients or do you mix it up?
I'd love to hear your best tips and feel free to add a link to your own Instagram post of a photo of a board that you make with the help of this post!