(Note: this post was originally published on February 11, 2021. It was updated on January 31, 2022 with lots of additional examples.)
Why A Snack Board?
Snack boards are blank canvases for all your greatest ideas and inspirations. Because they're unrestricted with regards to size, complexity, and ingredients, you can easily build a snack board for virtually any occasion and to fit any diet. They're such a fun way to celebrate seasonal ingredients, focus on a certain theme, or evoke a specific place, culture, or memory.
A giant snack board is our absolute favorite way to do date night! A couple cocktails and a big board is so intimate and fun. Why spend all day fussing over something fancy when you can put together a color- and texture-filled board that will allow you to actually spend the evening together rather than running back and forth to the oven??
But snack boards are great for entertaining too; they're actually my go-to when we have people over! I love that everyone can build their own plates, taking whatever they love best. A big snack board makes any occasion feel more low-key and approachable.
Goals of This Post
In this post, I'll discuss some possible themes and inspirations for your board, the components I like to put on a snack board, how to organize your board, and some tips for making it super-satisfying (and also easy!).
But my biggest take-home message? Have fun with it! This isn't some fussy catered wedding cheese board; rather, it's your own creation that's meant to be casual and approachable and unique.
You'll see that there are a TON of examples sprinkled throughout this post. I want to give you all sorts of ideas and inspiration for your own snack board adventures! Make sure to check out the captions below each photo for details. I'll keep adding to this post as I create more boards, so don't forget to check out the newer examples at the bottom too.
You Can Do It!
I've had so many people say to me "Oh gosh I could never create a snack board like that, I wouldn't know where to start". Can you cut up veggies? Can you open a box of crackers? If so, YOU CAN MAKE A SNACK BOARD. There is absolutely nothing difficult about this, and in many ways making a big board is actually way easier than cooking a meal.
The best part about making a board like this is that there's no right answer. And unlike cooking, there's not much that can go wrong! It's just a big pile of whatever ingredients are really speaking to you at the moment.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, my biggest suggestion is to start with a theme and then go from there. Having a theme (see below!) narrows down the essentially infinite assortment of ingredients you could add. I always start there, then pick a few centerpiece items (like a dip or two), then fill in. Let's get going!
Choosing a Theme
Although it's not necessary, I find that my snack boards are much more successful if I have a theme. It can really be anything, but having a theme helps you decide what to include and provides some structure behind the otherwise enormous world of possibilities. Plus it's just fun, and a great way to share a memory with people who are special to you. Some ideas for themes:
A place. It could be a place you want to go, a place you've been, or a place you're planning to go. This is my favorite way to do date night; I'll make a snack board in honor of a fun place we've spent time together (see Example #7, an homage to our travels in Italy and Spain).
A season. This is a great way to use local food (see Example #15, which is all about fall). Or, you could go for the vacation vibe and make a tropical, summery bowl on a cold January weekend!
A color, or set of colors. Choose them to match a theme or go rainbow-style and try to include all the colors (see Example #s 1, 6, and 10 for snack board rainbows).
A certain ingredient. Have a favorite or special ingredient you want to celebrate? Build the whole board around it! See example #4 for a board that celebrates bourbon and example #5 for a board that celebrates locally-made pickles.
A flavor. What about a spicy board? Or a sweet/salty combo board (see Example #10)? Or a sweet board for dessert (Example #s 12 and 16)? There are so many options here.
Combinations of the above. One of my favorite boards I've ever made was themed around late summer in Italy (i.e. a season and a place). Or see my rainbow sweet and salty board (Example #10) for one that combines flavor and color themes.
What should go on your awesome snack board?? Here's what I generally like to include, although this will depend heavily on whether you're using this board as a meal and what sort of vibe you're going for.
Raw veggies and fruit. I love the freshness that raw produce brings to a snack board and always always include at least several items from this category. Choose ones that will complement your theme and add different colors and textures.
Cooked veggies. Including something cooked or otherwise prepared (see the pickled beets in Example #3 or the pickled red onions in Example #9) adds depth of flavor and different texture, plus it can make a board feel hearty and meal-like. One of my favorites is roasted delicata squash since it's small and pretty (see Example #1). Choose things that are bite-sized and don't require a fork.
Dried fruit. Almost every board I build includes dried fruit since it adds a delightful chewy texture and is so darn easy.
Carbs. They're just so satisfying! This could be anything from crackers to small slices of bread to chips. I like to choose options that are whole grain and loaded up with all sorts of seeds and nuts for fun texture and additional nutrients.
Spreads/dips. Depending on the board, these can really be the focal point (see the trio of bourbon dips in Example #4 or the four different hummus variations in Example #10). This can be anything from hummus to guac (check out the guac party in Example #8!) to various dipping sauces or jams. To avoid getting overwhelmed at the possibilities, try to pick a few that complement your theme.
Cheese. Note that I've called this post "snack board" rather than "cheese board", so I view cheese as an occasional special add-in rather than a necessity. If you do dairy, a couple kinds of special, local cheese can be a really wonderful element.
Nuts. Always nuts!! They're so fatty and decadent and crunchy. I love using a few different kinds. They really help to make a board more satisfying, especially if it's going to be a meal, and they're so easy.
Garnishes. Think little things like fresh herb leaves, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, a couple edible flowers, etc. While completely unnecessary, they can really make your board feel special and add loads of visual appeal; Example #7 shows this well.
Tips for Efficiency
Okay, so you want an epic snack board but don't want to spend all evening on it. I get it! Here are a few ideas to help you streamline:
Pick your spots. Not everything on the board has to be a homemade masterpiece. I generally like to have a few special centerpiece items that I've made, then I look to the grocery store for help with the others. Things like bread, crackers, dried fruit, and nuts require almost no prep.
Raid the pantry. As I assemble my board and see how it's coming together, I always seem to have holes to fill. This is when I crawl around on the floor looking into the bottom-most cupboards for random items that I can add, like a few leftover dates from a baking project or the bottom of a box of crackers.
Raid the fridge. See above. This is the time for little bits of random mustard, jam, a few leftover pickles, etc, to shine.
Delegate. Having friends over? We've had a few really fun cheeseboard parties when I've asked everyone to bring their favorite local cheese. I assemble everything else ahead of time, leaving spaces for everyone's cheese to get added at the last minute.
Be sneaky. You can take a single item and prepare or garnish it in different ways to make your board feel more diverse. See Example #10, in which I took plain hummus but garnished it four ways... all of the sudden like magic I had four different dips!
Tips For a Charismatic Board
How do you make your snack board feel really special and unique and satisfying? These are a few of my favorite tips:
Think about textures. Your board will be more interesting if you include some things that are juicy, soft, crunchy, chewy, and crisp.
Think about color. Likewise, unless you're working within a specific color theme, diversity is always good. Your board will have more visual appeal if you include a lot of different colors.
Think about shape. I like to cut my ingredients to have different shapes to create a more interesting board. You can even cut any single ingredient into multiple shapes (see Example #s 1, 9, and 12 for inspiration).
Make it interactive. This is especially great for a board with bread or crackers, from which people can assemble their own bites. For example, if you set up the board so that each time you pick a cracker you also pick a spread, a piece of cheese, and a piece of fruit, the options are endless and so fun. The bourbon board, Example #4, was perfect for this.
Think about your layout. I like to put my biggest items down first (e.g. a big block of cheese or a bowl of hummus). Then fill in with medium-sized things like crackers and veggies. Save the little things for last, like nuts and dried fruit, since you can pile them into whatever holes are left. This strategy allows you to use up all of the available space, making your board feel bountiful and over-flowing.
Use repetition. Example #s 3, 7, and 13 show this really well. The board will feel more exciting if the ingredients are scattered about rather than all clumped together. So put crackers in a few different places, cucumber slices in a few different places, etc.
Evoke movement. I like to lay out slices of veggies or bread in arc-shaped patterns to convey a sense of movement throughout the board. It's so much more interesting than putting things in static piles! Example #s 3, 5, and 10 show this particularly well.
Even More Examples
Because snack boards are such a go-to for us, I'm always making (and photographing!) them. I'll keep adding to this section moving forward, so remember to bookmark this page and check back. You never know what will appear!
And there you have it! All my tips, tricks, and examples to help you construct your own wonderfully unique snack board. Whether you make one for date night, as an appetizer for a crowd, or for a special event, this is definitely a good way to make everyone happy. Food that's casual, interactive, and customizable?? Sign me up!
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
Whether you're hosting a crowd or doing a romantic date night, a snack board is always the right decision! Snack boards are a casual and fun way of approaching food, and they're infinitely customizable too. This guide will walk you through how to build a killer board that will be the star of your event.
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