What cheeses to buy―and how much―to create a delightful and delicious spread.

By Real Simple Editors
Updated July 14, 2020
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Wanting to host (or help plan) a cheese party needs no justification—who doesn’t want an excuse to sample new cheeses from a lovely cheese board? The part that needs justifying is the cheeses you pick for your cheese platter or cheese board. Including lactose-free cheese or the healthiest cheese may make some people in your group happy, but you also want to include the most delicious or intriguing cheeses you can find to give your cheese platter a little variety. (Goat cheese is always a great option.)

Whether you’ve never crafted a cheese platter or cheese board or you’re a pro just looking for more cheese platter ideas, this guide will teach you the best cheeses for a cheese board, plus how much cheese to get, which accompaniments to include (meat and cheese, anyone?), and how to serve your perfect cheese platter.

Selecting the best cheese for your cheese board

  • Try to include a variety of textures and flavors. Most cheese belongs to one of four basic categories: aged, soft, firm, or blue. For a good variety, choose at least one from each group. Some examples: Aged: Aged Cheddar, Comte, Goat Gouda Soft: Constant Bliss, Camembert, Brillat-Savarin Firm: Manchego, Mimolette, Parmigiano-Reggiano Blue: Gorgonzola Dolce, Valdeón, Stilton
  • You can also try selecting cheeses by the type of milk used (cow, goat, sheep). This will ensure a range of different flavors on the plate.
  • Serve at least one familiar cheese.

How much is enough?

  • A good rule of thumb is one ounce of each cheese for every guest, and about five types of cheese is perfect for any size gathering.
  • For a party in which cheese is the main event, plan on buying 3 pounds for eight people, 6 pounds for 16 people, or 9 pounds for 24 people. If cheese is one of many items being served, plan on buying 3 to 4 ounces per person.
  • If you know from experience that one type of cheese is always most popular, purchase extra of that variety and a little less of the less familiar cheeses.

Cheese board accompaniments

  • Offer a selection of breads, including sliced baguette, bread sticks, and crackers, in all different shapes and sizes. It’s a good idea to vary taste and texture among the breads as well as the cheeses.
  • Jarred condiments and vegetables are quick and fuss-free. Try sweet preserves or honey, tart chutneys, and spicy mustards. You can also add artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and caponata. If you have a bit more time, prepare caramelized onions, which complement most cheese plates.
  • Various other sweet and salty items can work as well. Try cured meats such as prosciutto and salami, or candied nuts and pistachios. Assorted seasonal and dried fruits can include figs, cherries, apples, and pears.

Cheese platter serving tips

  • Separate strong-smelling cheeses. If you want to serve a pungent, stinky-socks cheese, place it on a separate plate so it doesn’t overpower more delicate ones. Four or five choices are enough.
  • Set out a separate knife for each cheese, especially the soft varieties. Soft cheese spreads well with a butter knife; firm cheese might require a paring knife; and aged cheese often requires a cheese plane.
  • Remove the cheese from the refrigerator an hour before serving―cold mutes flavor.
  • Spread out the spread. Place the cheese platters and the other nibbles on several tables to avoid guest gridlock.
  • Label each cheese so you won’t need to recite the names all evening. If you like, also jot down a few poetic adjectives describing their flavors.
  • Learn how to store cheese properly. If you shopped in advance, you want to preserve the cheese’s quality long after it leaves the store. If there are leftovers, wrap them properly so you can enjoy them again later.