Friends!!! Gather ’round because there is absolutely nothing better than a dessert board to nosh on all night long.
I know, you thought it couldn’t get better than an evening with a simple vegetarian cheese board, right? But now you have the best of all worlds: sweet, with hints of savory if you’d like, and all your favorite treats.
What is a Charcuterie Board?
Let’s start off with the obvious – this is not a charcuterie board in the true definition of the word. Charcuterie is a French term regarding a type of cooking with prepared meat products, delicatessen, or deli-style. So, a true charcuterie board consists of a variety of cured meats such as salami, prosciutto, sausages, and more.
As cheeseboards gained in popularity over the past few years, it seems they have become synonymous with the term charcuterie board – at least here in America – and now many refer to any sort of snack board as a charcuterie board.
Is a dessert board technically a charcuterie board? No, not in the true definition of the word, as you can see. But in essence, sure, a snack board of delicious eats you can enjoy with friends? Yes, that’s what we’re going for! Whatever you call it, let’s get to the assembly of this yummilicious sweet dessert board.
What to Put on a Dessert Board
There is no shortage of ideas for what to add to a dessert board. The beautiful thing about a snacky board is that you can easily mix-and-match ingredients.
A board is perfect for a party where guests can pick and choose their own treats, and even better when you have a variety of dietary needs because it’s completely customizable!
Here are some of my favorite base ideas for a dessert board, and what I like to always have on mine. To keep this board simple, make only one or two items and buy the rest. Easy, peasy!
1. Something to Dip
Having a main component on the board for dipping is ideal because it gives the board a “base”, or a starting point – or a theme – as you brainstorm what other ingredients you’ll pair with it. Some of my favorite dessert dips include:
- Espresso Ganache: hands-down my favorite dip for a dessert board because it’s absolutely luxurious, indulgent, and rich. It’s a delicious dip to pair with so many items, and there’s nothing better than strawberries and chocolate, is there?
- Leave out the espresso and just have a chocolate ganache dip.
- Or simply put out a bowl of its runnier cousin, chocolate syrup.
- Caramel Apple Dip: another fun and delicious dip; this cream cheese dip is sweet and super festive in the fall.
- Whipped Ricotta Dip: paired with honey and mint (omit the parsley for this board), it’s a fun addition to a sweet and savory dip. Excellent with fresh fruit for a spring-themed dessert board.
- Buttercream Frosting: while it’s not technically a dip, have a bowl of frosting to dip cookies into, or spread on fruit.
- Creamy Mascarpone Dip: it’s so indulgent and bursting with vanilla!
2. Fresh Fruit
Fruit is a wonderful addition to any sort of grazing board. It’s fresh and adds a wonderful pop of color, and having it on the board brings balance to the other rich items.
- Berries have an elevated feel and the bright pops of color from strawberries and raspberries are beautiful. Blueberries and blackberries are excellent options, too.
- Apple Slices – you could even dip them in caramel!
- Pomegranate arils – absolutely beautiful.
- Orange Slices – try dried slices too!
- Figs – if they’re in season, they work so well with sweets and cheese!
- Grapes – give roasted grapes a try.
These are just a few of my favorite fruits to add because they all pair well with chocolate. Of course, use your favorite fruits or try something new.
Whaaaat.?? Cheese on a dessert board? YES!
Many consider cheese as dessert in itself, so we are definitely adding some dessert-worthy cheese, and perfect pairings, too!
Look for similar flavor profiles when you’re pairing cheese and sweets. I love an indulgent, spreadable triple creme cheese; the mild flavor and creaminess are one of a kind. And gruyere or gouda pairs well with all dark chocolate.
Lucky for us, many cheese varieties already work well with already-sweet pairings like jam (try a berry or fig jam), honey, and fresh fruit. This means you really cannot go wrong as long as you are thinking about the flavors of your board that will pair together.
4. Sweet and Salty Bites
This is my catch-all for all the other things you’ll add to the board. A variety of crunchy, texture-filled additions!
There’s no limit to what you can add here. I recommend adding a few salty things in addition to all the sweets. It adds a nice balance and gives something for those who don’t like things too sweet to munch on.
- Popcorn! Chocolate-drizzled popcorn and caramel popcorn are my favorites. Of course, you can’t go wrong with the classic homemade butter popcorn.
- Pretzels: a wonderful salty addition because they are so versatile. They are excellent dipped in chocolate and paired with cheese.
- Cookies: find some delicious mini cookies (I have a new obsession with these Cinnamon Churro Cookie Bites).
- Cookie dunkers found at ALDI or Trader Joe’s are great for both eating as they are and dipping in the main-star dip, as are pirouette cookies.
- Of course, you can make your own homemade cookies or honestly include whatever cookie your heart desires! Shortbread, peanut butter, or pistachio…there’s no limit to cookie deliciousness.
- Cashew Brittle: adding a hard candy-like brittle or toffee is a great texture contrast. FYI – the brittle linked is a Minnesota company and is SO GOOD (not sponsored…just a huge fan).
- Nuts: are always a great addition to any sort of board because they add texture and salt, and they pair well with everything!
- Truffles or Chocolates: a must-have on a dessert board, right? Add your favorite truffles or chocolate candies. I’m partial to chocolate-covered caramels, but any kind of truffle will do.
Pro Tip: be sure to check your cupboard and fridge to see what odds and ends you can use up!
How to Make a Dessert Board
When you assemble a cheese or snack board, there are a few tips to keep as you arrange each item.
When assembling the board, the key is to start adding the largest to smallest items. Evenetually, you’ll place bits and pieces of the smaller items around the board, keeping it cohesive yet a little “messy”.
- Start with a main (a.k.a. anchor) item(s). This is the item that the rest of the board items will revolve around; the things that most likely need bowls. You might have one main item or several. In the case of the dessert board, it’s often the dip, but the cheeses can be anchor points, too.
- Get evenly sized bowls for the items as needed. Keep the size on the smaller side so they don’t over-power the board.
- If you have several bowls, place them around the board evenly, creating a triangle or S shape so that it’s pleasing to the eye once it all comes together.
- Place the next-larger items around the bowls. Add the cheese slices and larger cookies on the board next. Again, work in an evenly spaced method.
- Add in the smaller treats. Now it’s time to fill in the spaces that you have left.
- As you can see from my dessert board, this meant placing popcorn in several different spots. This makes it accessible for everyone and popcorn is one of those easy grab-and-snack items, so it works outside of a bowl.
- Place the fruit around the board, as well as any nuts or smaller cookies and truffles.
What do you Assemble it On?
A popular option is to use a food-safe wood serving tray to assemble the dessert board. A large wooden cutting board will work, too.
I like using round boards, but honestly whatever you have on hand will work. If you don’t have a wooden board, a ceramic serving tray will work too. You need something that is flat to spread the items on.
In a pinch, you can even use a large-rimmed baking sheet or even several plates.
Pictured is a 12-inch board from Target. It’s the perfect size to serve about 2-4. For a hungry crowd of 4 to 6 people, I’d recommend sizing up the board to a 15-16 inch board. If you’re looking for a similar board to mine, this board and this board are very comparable.
Vary the size of the board depending on how many people you’ll be serving. That’s the beauty of making a dessert board at home – it’s completely flexible and customizable!
More Tips to Keep in Mind
- You don’t need to put all the food on the board at once. It will be overcrowded if you do.
- Start with a little bit of each item, and refill it as it empties. You’ll get a feel pretty quickly for what people are gravitating to, and therefore what you might need more of the next time you add to the board.
- It doesn’t need to be all on the board, either. If you have a few stragglers that won’t fit on the board, serve them alongside the board in a bowl.
- Bread or crostini is great for off-the-board serving, for example.
- Pile them high! Pile up the popcorn instead of spreading it out…put strawberries on top of the cheese…stack some cookies in a pile. Working up will mean there’s more room on the board for other items.
- It doesn’t have to be perfect! The beauty of boards is their imperfections… you can basically pile on all the goodies without pressure.
Truly, you cannot go wrong with placing a bunch of sweet treats and desserts on a board!
Themed Dessert Boards
You can make a dessert board literally any time of year… for brunch, dinner parties, or holiday gatherings.
There are super fun ways you can theme the boards for specific holidays or events, too. Here are a few ideas to get you started; I’d love to hear how you style it in the comments below!
Valentine’s Day Dessert Board
If chocolate and cheese and strawberries didn’t already scream Valentine’s Day for a dessert board…then I don’t know what does.
Add in more pinks and reds. Use raspberries in addition to the strawberries, and make a heart-shaped Brie cheese. Of course, get some heart-shaped candies, too!
Find more romantic-themed board ideas in the post: romantic cheeseboard for two.
Christmas Dessert Board
What better way to showcase those Christmas cookies than on a dessert board?!
Add in some red and green elements. Throw on some sugared cranberries and I love adding rosemary sprigs for a pop of green that feels like a Christmas tree.
Halloween Dessert Board
Again, Halloween completely lends itself to a dessert board. Make sure to add in orange, green, purple, and black tones. The tips above to spread around fun-sized candy treats. It’s the perfect opportunity to showcase all the Halloween candy!
Consider bite-sized candy that guests can easily grab. Handfuls of M&Ms, Reese’s Cups, Twix, mini Snickers…the list could go on and on.
Fall-Themed Dessert Board (or Thanksgiving!)
Spring-Themed or Easter Dessert Board
Dessert boards don’t need to be dark, rich, and luscious, they can absolutely be light and vibe with the freshness of spring. Think of adding plenty of pastels including green, yellow, pink, and light blue tones.
Lean heavy on freshness and bright colors through fresh fruit and citrus. If making an Easter-specific board, consider adding some Easter candy like Peeps.
Birthday Celebration Board
Keep the birthday celebration going all night long with a never-ending birthday dessert board!
There’s no limit to the treats you can add, just pick your favorites and go!
What to Serve with Dessert Cheese Boards
Everything you want to graze on for dessert should be on the board, so food-wise, I don’t really recommend serving it with much more.
But there are so many fun drink pairings to consider! Hot chocolate with whipped cream and a dessert board? Yes, please.
You can add in an extra layer of adult-beverage pairings. If your board is more chocolate and rich-themed, as the one pictured, go with red wine to match.
Endless possibilities, my friend, endless.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Get the Recipe Simple Dessert Board
- Place your anchor items like the espresso dip on the board. If using more than one bowl for items, place them evenly on the board in a triangle shape, or along an S, for the most visually appealing layout.
- Add in the next larger items like pirouette cookies, cheese, larger cookies, bread slices, etc. around the board. Fill in the remaining spaces with the smaller items like popcorn, pretzels, fruit, truffles, etc.
- Serve with wine as desired and enjoy! Continue adding to the board as it's emptied; don't try to fit everything on at once.
- Servings: you can absolutely customize this board to fit the number of people who will be enjoying it. Make it larger or smaller as needed.