(Note: this post was originally published on February 11, 2021. It is continually updated with new examples.)
What is a Snack Board?
Welcome to the ultimate snack board guide! A snack board (a.k.a. grazing board) is a large board or platter heaped with whatever finger foods you love best. A snack board can include a vast array of items including dips, crackers, veggies, fruits, cheeses, dried fruits, pickles, nuts, and so much more.
Snack boards are blank canvases for your creativity. Because they're unrestricted with regards to size, complexity, and ingredients, you can easily build a snack board recipe 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 big grazing board is my favorite way to entertain friends and to do a romantic date night. I like that everyone can choose whatever they like best and that the processes of interacting with the board is entertaining and engaging. A couple cocktails and a big board is intimate and casual; it creates an atmosphere that is approachable rather than formal.
Snack boards are one of my favorite things to make and I can't wait to share all these ideas, tips, tricks, and examples with you!
How to Make a Snack Board
In this post, I'll discuss some possible themes and inspirations for creating your own grazing board recipe, the components I like to put on a board, how to organize a board, and some tips for making it super-satisfying (and also easy!).
But my biggest take-home message? Have fun with it! A snacking dinner is by definition casual, so there's no need to worry about if you're doing the "right" thing. The grazing board ideas in this post are meant to serve only as a starting point.
You'll see that there are a lot of examples sprinkled throughout this post to get you started. Make sure to check out the captions below each photo for details on the specific snack board "recipe". 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.
Is a Snack Board Hard to Make?
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 far easier than cooking a meal. And unlike cooking, there's not much that can go wrong (which can be a big relief if you're entertaining).
My biggest suggestion for creating your own personalized grazing board recipe 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 with a theme, then pick a few centerpiece items (like a dip or two), then fill in with additional elements.
Let's get going! Keep scrolling down for specific snack board ideas, steps, and tips.
Choosing a Snack Board Theme
Although it's not necessary, I find that my snack boards are much more successful if I have a theme. Having a theme helps you decide what to include and provides some structure in the otherwise enormous world of possibilities. Plus it's just fun and is a great way to share a memory with people who are special to you. Some ideas for themes that can serve as the center of your snack board recipe:
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 #3, an homage to our travels in Italy and Spain).
A season. This is a great way to use local, seasonal ingredients and flavors (see example #15, which is all about fall).
A color, or set of colors. Choose a few specific colors to work with (see example #s 7 and 14, which both have a yellow and purple color palette) 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 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 brunch or dessert (example #s 12 and 16)? There are so many options here.
Snack Board Components
What should go on your 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. Remember that these grazing board ideas are just a starting point though, and that there's no right or wrong answer.
Raw veggies and fruit. Loading a board up with veggies and fruit gives people healthy options and creates great freshness. Choose produce that will complement your theme and add different colors and textures.
Cooked veggies. Including something cooked or otherwise prepared (see the briny olives and artichoke hearts 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. Choose things that are bite-sized and don't require a fork.
Dried fruit. Including some dried fruit adds a delightfully chewy texture and is so easy.
Carbs. Adding a few heartier elements makes a board feel more satisfying and dinner-appropriate. This could be anything from crackers to small slices of bread to chips. Opt for whole-grain options if you want to keep your board on the healthier side.
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 guacamole (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. Feel free to add one or several of your favorite cheeses, either traditional or vegan.
Nuts. They really help to make a board more satisfying, especially if it's going to be a meal, and they're so easy.
Garnishes. This could include things like fresh herb leaves, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, everything bagel seasoning, a couple edible flowers, etc. A few small garnishes can really make your board feel special and they add visual appeal.
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 creative grazing board 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 are easy to pick up at the store and require 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 raid the pantry for additional items like a few leftover dates from a baking project or the bottom of a box of crackers.
Raid the fridge. 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. This is a fun way to turn a snack board recipe into a group project rather than just something the host creates alone.
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 homemade hummus but garnished it four ways to give the appearance of four different dips. Similarly, the four guacamole variations in example #8 are actually the same base guac but with different flavorings stirred in.
Tips For Making the BEST Snack Board
How do you make your board feel really special and unique and satisfying? These are a few of my favorite charismatic snack board ideas and strategies:
Think about textures. Your board will be more interesting if you include elements 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 process of enjoying the board is so engaging. 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. This strategy can make people feel like there are more components in your grazing board recipe than there actually are.
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 sharing them. I'll keep adding to this section moving forward, so remember to bookmark this page and check back. I hope all these grazing board ideas can provide some concepts to get you started.
And there you have it! All my tips, tricks, and examples to help you construct your own wonderfully unique snack board recipe. Whether you make one for date night, as an appetizer for a crowd, or for a special event, this is a good way to appease everyone's tastes, make the food feel approachable, and stimulate conversation.
Which of these grazing board ideas is your favorite? Is there a specific grazing board recipe here you want to try, or will you create your own from some of the concepts I've shared? I can't wait to see what you come up with!
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.
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Whether you're hosting a crowd or doing a romantic date night, a snack board is always a great option. Boards are a casual, fun, and infinitely customizable way of approaching food. This guide walks you through everything you need to know.