How to Make a Beautiful Trader Joe’s Style Winter Cheese Board
A fun and festive appetizer for guests featuring a variety of cheeses, meats, nuts, and fruit. Everything is easy to find at Trader Joe’s.
The past few years, Matt and I have skipped the traditional Christmas day dinner and have opted for a winter cheese board. We just snack on it all evening and then call it a night. Its fun, satisfying, and leaves you feeling a little lighter than eating a full turkey dinner.
We plan on doing the same thing for New Year’s Eve! So I’ve got a winter cheese board tutorial for you in case you want to join in on our cheese gorging festivities.
Making a cheese board is way easier than it looks. Everything on this board was easy to find at Trader Joe’s. They have an awesome cheese section. And cracker section. And nut section. Basically I’m a little obsessed with everything Trader Joe’s.
The cheese board features a variety of textures and flavors. To accomplish this, we will need something cheesey, something salty, something sour, something crunchy, and something sweet. This will include cheese, meats, nuts, fruits, pickles, and crackers. I arranged my winter cheese board in this order as well. Once I have everything on the board, I will go back and fill in any empty spots until the board looks nice and full.
Now lets break it down by each category.
Choose 2-4 different cheeses for your winter cheese board
Try to choose an assortment of hard, semi hard, soft, and semi soft. I also go for different shapes (some are wedges while others are blocks) to give some visual interest and help others tell the cheeses apart. Make sure you are catering to your audience. I knew that blue cheese wouldn’t be a hit with my family so I stuck to less pungent flavors. But I would break out a good Stilton if I were with my foodie friends. Most cheese does well if you place it onto the board as a whole wedge (example: brie) and allow guests to slice it themselves. With the cheddar, I sliced a pieces and left the rest whole.
Here are some examples of different cheeses.
Harder cheese: aged cheddar, asiago, manchego, gouda, gruyère, iberico
Softer cheese: brie, goat cheese, port salut, stilton, gorgonzola
Trader Joe’s tip: There are so many fun flavors! Some of my favorites are the double cream brie, smoked gouda, and unexpected cheddar cheese.
Cured meats like prosciutto, capocollo, and salami work well here. Try to fold or scrunch up the thinly sliced meats instead of just transferring them straight from the package. This will help add to the aesthetics of the board. A sliced beef summer sausage would be tasty in here too. Place the meat in small bunches around the board. I like to lay them along the cheeses that I think they would pair well with.
Trader Joe’s Tip: Get the variety pack of cured meats. It has 3 different meats which will give you variety without breaking the bank.
Add some different textures with a variety of nuts. The nuts will pair well the all the softer elements on this winter cheese board. Good options include roasted and salted almonds, macadamia nuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pistachios.
Trader Joe’s Tip: The nut selection is amazing! And the prices are great. Grab 2 bags of roasted/salted or glazed/flavored nuts that are easy to snack on. They also have a great variety of flavored almonds like cocoa or cinnamon roasted. Stay away from the nuts that are meant for baking because they are usually raw or broken into small pieces. I chose the salt and pepper pistachios and the glazed walnuts here.
The sweetness from fresh or dried fruits help balance out the saltiness in a cheese board. Jams also work beautifully when paired with a soft brie or goat cheese. You could use dried apricots, cranberries, apples, pears, fresh grapes, persimmons, or figs. I like to stick to the winter fruits to give this cheese board a nice theme.
Trader Joe’s Tip: You can find pomegranate seeds in the refrigerated fruit section to save you the trouble of seeding one yourself. They also carry packs of 3 different colored grapes that would add nice color to your winter cheese board.
We have salty, sweet, creamy, and crunchy so far. Now we need something sour. Add some dill pickles, olives, pepperochinis, or pickled jalepenos. I used these cute little gherkins and kalamata olives. Find some small bowls or ramekins to place them in so that the oil and juice don’t get all over your board.
Trader Joe’s Tips: All their pickled items are grouped together in the dry goods section. I love their little kosher dill pickles because they are the perfect size and flavor for this winter cheese board.
I feel like crackers are optional if you don’t do the gluten thing but if you are bringing it to a party then crackers are kind of expected. Choose 2-3 different crackers. Try to find different textures and flavors that would pair well with your cheeses. I like to always bring at least one plain flavored cracker and one fun flavor.
Trader Joe’s Tip: They have crisps in 3 or 4 different flavors. My favorite is the olive and fig but they also have pistachio pomegranate and raisin rosemary. On this board, I have some pita crackers, olive and fig crisps, and some bread sticks.
Putting it all together:
Start by laying out your cheese, then meats, then fruits. I choose to point my cheeses towards the center and use the pomegranate seeds as my focal point.
Place your pickled items onto the board then scatter the nuts around.
Add crackers to the empty spots and near the cheese that they would pair best with. Here are all my elements laid out. Now I’ll go back in and fill in all those gaps.
I added more grapes, nuts, and crackers to make the board feel more full. Last step is to add some garnishes.
Here is my final winter cheese board. I’ve added cheese knives and herbs to add some color and a finishing touch.
Hope this little tutorial helps you out next time you are entertaining guests or just want a fun board to snack on. A beautiful winter cheese board is simple to put together and even easier when you can buy all the ingredients at one store!