Learn how to make a healthy meat and cheese platter and surprise your guests and family this holiday season. I’ve also included meat and cheese platter ideas and other accompaniments so you’re sure to create something you love. Bonus – learn how to arrange a meat and cheese tray and everything you need to know about Port wine. This post is sponsored by Llano Estacado Winery.
You know what’s the easiest way to make appetizers for a holiday party or family gathering? Putting together a meat and cheese platter. Seriously, it doesn’t get easier than this.
A great go-to meat and cheese tray is my favorite go-to party trick. I can put it together in just a few minutes. No stress involved whatsoever. Yet, the meat and cheese board always looks so fancy and appetizing. It even impresses me right after I make it — despite knowing how easy it is!
Technically, all you need to make a meat and cheese board are cheese and meat. However, if you want to transform the simple appetizer into a delicious, gourmet experience that’s also nutritionally beneficial, you can load your platter with other accompaniments such as fresh fruits, nuts, spreads or dips, and, why not, a good Port wine, too?! It’s the holidays, after all!
If you’ve never put together a meat and cheese platter, you might be a little intimidated. But not to worry, I’m here to explain everything you need to know about how to make a meat and cheese platter and what to put on a meat and cheese tray. So, this season, surprise your guests with an elegant platter with amazing flavors. Make sure you have some bottle of port wine too. Because we all know cheese and wine are a match made in heaven.
HOW TO MAKE A MEAT AND CHEESE PLATTER
You might be tempted to put meat and cheese on a platter, throw some crackers or bread in the mix and call it a day. After all, it’s meat and cheese, it shouldn’t be complicated, right? And it isn’t. However, if you want to create a beautiful and tasty meat and cheese tray with flavors that complement each other, you have to do a little more than that. Not too much though!
Let’s start with the meat and learn how to make a charcuterie board. Usually, charcuterie boards include some type of cured meats such as:
- dry salami;
- beef jerky, pork jerky or turkey jerky;
- I love to include leaner meats, like roasted turkey as well.
What type of cheese should you choose from your meat and cheese platter? Well, you can choose pretty much any type of cheese you like as long as you remember to consider 2 important things – the taste of the cheese and the texture of the cheese. I’d say having different options on a meat and cheese tray is always best. So opt for different tastes and textures. Here are the most common types of cheese used on cheese platters:
- creamy cheeses, such as camembert, brie, and fresh mozzarella;
- blue cheeses, such as gorgonzola or Roquefort;
- crumbly cheeses, such as feta or goat cheese;
- aged cheeses, such as gruyere, sharp cheddar or gouda;
- firm cheeses, such as Parmigiano Reggiano (aka parmesan);
- smoked cheeses, such as smoked cheddar or provolone.
Crackers and breads are also part of a classic meat and cheese platter.
To add balance, other textures and flavors should be added. Think about something sweet, something crunchy, something savory, and something smooth.
- Fresh fruits such as figs, grapes, pear, cantaloupe, dried fruits, and even honey can bring in the sweet flavors;
- Nuts including macadamia nuts, walnuts, and pistachios can be responsible for the crunch;
- The cheese and meat platter is already savory but think about a different type of savory like the one of olives or pickles, which is savory with a touch of tartness.
- For smooth textures, dips are the best. Think about something that will go well with the cheeses and meats you plan to serve.
ARE MEAT AND CHEESE BOARDS HEALTHY?
Honestly, in most cases, not really. There are often too many processed meats, fatty cheeses, and empty carbs involved. But you know me. I believe any type of food can be made healthy. And that includes the meat and cheese platter. Yes, we can totally make it healthy!
For my healthy and festive meat and cheese platter, I chose:
- blue cheese (large triangle);
- sharp white cheddar;
- gouda (small triangles);
- green and kalamata olives
- sliced turkey
- pita bread
- whole wheat crackers (round ones)
- flaxseed crackers (square ones)
- green grapes
- red grapes
- grape tomatoes
- dried apricots
- raw pistachios
- raw almonds
- raw pecans
- raw walnuts
- raw cashews
- strawberry chia jam
- uncured salami
- uncured pepperoni
- fresh rosemary
- fresh blackberries
- raw honey
These options sound delicious, am I right? And they are healthy, too. WIN!
For wine, I chose a Llano Estacado Cellar Select Port. More about Port wine in a minute (plus have a chance to win your very own bottle!).
HOW TO ARRANGE A MEAT AND CHEESE TRAY
After you chose the meats, cheeses, and accompaniments you want on the cheese and meat tray, it’s time to put everything together. How to arrange a meat and cheese tray to make it look mouth-watering?
- First, make sure the meats, breads, crackers, and fruits are bite-sized. And stay away from smelly cheeses if you don’t know your guests’ preferences. Some people love them a lot. Others not so much. Better safe than sorry.
- Slice the firm cheese thinly or cut it into small cubes and place a cheese knife close to the cheese board for the soft cheeses.
- If you plan to have 3 types of cheese, opt for 3 types of meats. And so on.
- Always include different colors, textures, and flavors.
- Alternate cheeses with meats and fill the gaps with fruits, nuts, and the rest of the accompaniments. The meat and cheese board has to look full.
- Use small boards for small crowds. An empty board doesn’t look too good.
- Arrange the meat and cheese board 30 minutes before your guests will arrive or a few hours ahead if the board fits in your fridge. Take the board out of the fridge 15 minutes before serving. Cheese tastes better at room temperature.
WHAT IS PORT WINE?
I really like my meat and cheese tray with wine. But not any wine. Port wine. Llano Estacado Cellar Select Port. Llano Estacado Winery is the largest, best-selling premium winery in Texas, producing wines of world-class quality and introducing not just Texans but the entire world to the fine wines made in Texas, which is awesome.
Wondering what is Port wine? Port wine is a sweet and rich red wine that comes from Portugal. Port wine is usually higher in alcohol than most wines because it’s made in a different way. The fermentation process is different hence the different taste and texture.
Port wine is considered dessert wine, but I find it amazing for a cheese and meat tray. Especially with a healthy one that includes lots of fruits and other healthy sweet treats. PERFECTION.
You could also pair this platter with a Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, if you prefer white wine or with a Merlot if you prefer less sweet reds.
Earn a chance at a $25 gift code towards products from Llano Estacado Winery! Just enter a comment below and you’ll be entered to win (must be at least 21 years of age to win!). You can also use my special discount code SWEETPEA20 to receive 20% off online orders in all Llano products. Llano wines are available for purchase online at www.llanowine.com, statewide retailers in Texas or at select retailers nationwide. May your ugly sweaters be merry and bright! Celebrate this holiday season with your favorite wines from Llano Estacado Winery.
PORT WINE HEALTH BENEFITS
Wait… are there any Port wine health benefits? For realz?
Yes, for realz.
Port wine is not too bad for you IF you drink it moderately. Compared to other types of alcohol, Port wine wins in terms of nutritional content. Wondering why?
- Red wines such as Port wine are made with the grape skins which means more nutritional compounds included.
- It contains many antioxidants. Woot!
- Despite the fact that it contains ethanol, the undesirable effects are not as bad compared to other types of alcohol because red wines (and that includes Port wine) contain polyphenols that counteracts the harmful effects of ethanol.
HOW TO PAIR PORT WINE WITH MEAT AND CHEESE
Now, I already mentioned that Port wine is considered a dessert wine. But rules are meant to be broken. Especially when delicious pairings are involved. And particularly if you like to combine flavors. I for sure love contrasting flavors. And, technically, I didn’t entirely break the rules because lots of fruits and healthy sweet treats are included in my meat and cheese platter.
The key to a perfect wine-cheese pairing is to not overpower the flavors of the wine with the flavors of the meat and cheese. Or vice-versa. Port wine is amazing with fruits, dried fruits, and nuts. And it contrasts beautifully, actually, deliciously with the savory flavors. I’d say this is the perfect pairing for festive and Christmassy meat and cheese board, don’t you think? I also think it’d be great to bring this platter and your wine (dressed in a snowman sweater, of course!) to a New Year’s Eve celebration as well.
3 MORE HEALTHY APPETIZER RECIPES
See? Putting together a healthy appetizer is not that hard after all. Not at all, actually. But why stop at a cheese and meat tray when you can try other healthy appetizers as well? Are you with me? Good. Because I have 3 more healthy appetizer recipes for you.
CARAMELIZED ONION DIP
This flavorful and savory Caramelized Onion Dip is the perfect appetizer. And it’s healthy.
Not only is this Caramelized Onion Dip healthier than the store-bought one but it’s also tastier. Plus it’s incredibly easy to make. Get the recipe.
If I’d have to choose my favorite dip, I would definitely choose Homemade Hummus. Nothing compares to healthy, and yummy hummus.
This Homemade Hummus is made with toasted sesame seeds and garlic. It has the best earthy flavors and it’s super quick and easy. Get the recipe.
SWEET POTATO SKINS
I love a good classic turned healthy. Enter Sweet Potato Skins. Clean eating approved but also yummy, these Sweet Potato Skins are the ultimate tasty appetizer.
The sweet potato skins are stuffed with chicken, Greek yogurt, and spinach. They are satisfying, creamy, hearty, and totes amazing. Get the recipe.
- 1/2 cup hummus
- 1/2 cup green and kalamata olives
- 1/2 lb deli turkey, thinly sliced
- 1 whole wheat pita bread, sliced
- 10 whole wheat crackers
- 10 flaxseed crackers
- 2 cups green grapes
- 2 cups red grapes
- 1 cup grape tomatoes
- 1/2 cup dried apricots
- 1 cup blackberries
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1/4 cup raw pistachios
- 1/2 cup raw almonds
- 1/4 cup raw pecans
- 1/4 cup raw walnuts
- 1/4 cup raw cashews
- 8 oz blue cheese
- 4 oz strawberry chia jam
- 4 oz uncured salami
- 4 oz uncured pepperoni
- 1 cup sharp white cheddar, cubed
- 8 oz gouda, divided into triangles
- 2 tbsp raw honey
- 1 bottle Llano Estacado Cellar Select Port
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish
Start with the bowls of hummus, jam, raw honey, and olives.
Add the meat and learn how to make a charcuterie board.
Add the cheeses.
Balance out with crackers.
Arrange fruits, nuts, and remainder of ingredients into small crevices and empty areas.
Garnish with fresh rosemary.
Enjoy with a glass of wine.
This post contains affiliate links for products I use often and highly recommend. This post is sponsored by Llano Estacado Winery.