How To Make A Vegan Cheese Board

With the holidays upon us, it's time to get creative with your party planning, and nothing will impress your guests more than a beautifully curated cheese board. But perhaps this year you've decided to go vegan, taking animal products — including cheese, meat, and bee products like honey and honeycomb — off the (literal) table. What's a host known for fabulous food supposed to do?

Take the best elements of the traditional cheese board, and transform it into a cruelty-free — and more sustainable — platter of deliciousness that will have your omnivorous friends begging you to tell them what they're devouring. Williams Sonoma lists six categories of foods every cheese board needs: crackers/bread, meat, cheese, sweets, salty foods, and edible aesthetic elements. Other than the meats and the cheese, many of these foods are often already vegan. And since plant-based food saw a 6% growth in sales in 2021, according to the Good Food Institute, it's easier than ever to find animal-free meats and dairy products.

But first, crackers

Building a winning vegan cheese board starts with choosing a variety of crackers, bread, and chips with which to scoop up piles of mouth-watering vegan cheese and accompaniments (via Williams Sonoma). Leave your basic party crackers for the Superbowl: To up your cheese board game, select only the highest-quality products you can find. A vegan cheese board is a perfect place to show off how delicious plant-based food can be! Be sure your bread doesn't contain L. Cysteine — an amino acid found in feathers, hooves, and swine bristles and a common non-vegan additive in bread.

Build a traditional still-life cheese plate with elegant, delicate water crackers, thinly sliced Italian or French bread, or good old-fashioned Wasa crackers — three unique textures, three different flavors, three easy cheese plate adds. For the cheese board Picassos out there, choose a more exotic conveyance device. Try 12 Tides Organic Kelp Chips, Mozaics Real Veggie Chips, or Flackers Organic Cinnamon & Currant Flax Seed Crackers (bonus: both 12 Tides and Mozaics uses biodegradable packaging). Other vegan favorites include Mary's Gone Crackers, Lundberg Rice Cake Chips, and Alessi Grissini Torinese Thin Breadsticks. Whatever your style, a variety of sweet and savory, soft, and crunchy gives your guests endless options for flavor.

The art of vegan cheese

In years past, vegan cheese was often the butt of foodie's jokes. Described as "plasticky" and "bland," vegan cheesemonger Charlotte Stevens told Wired UK that many customers who visit her vegan cheese shop "complain that the flavor isn't quite right for them." The same was said of texture. That's because vegan cheese lacks casein — a protein found in dairy. But a new synthetic technique called microbial fermentation allows fungi (the kingdom of microorganisms that includes mushrooms) and bacteria to give off casein protein identical to what is found in traditional dairy, according to Wired UK. Blow the minds of your dairy-eating friends by adding a homemade Fresh Spinach Dip with Nature's Fynd — a fungi-based cream cheese that utilizes their proprietary, liquid-air interface fermentation to rival all vegan cream cheeses.

Take another tip from Williams Sonoma and add in hard cheese. When you slice Violife's Just Like Parmesan Wedge, you'll be instantly transported to Italy — without the carbon emissions from the plane ride or the dairy. Traditional cheese boards often include an aged cheese like gouda. Miyoko's Smoked Gouda Cultured Plant Milk Cheese fits the bill. Need a moldy cheese like gorgonzola? Opt instead for Sheese Blue English Style Blocks. There's a yummy vegan cheese for just about every style.

Faux meat? Fo 'sho.'

Cheese boards famously boast thinly sliced meats, per Williams Sonoma, like salami, prosciutto, and soppressata. And just like with vegan cheeses, the options for plant-based meat have exploded in recent years. The Good Food Institute notes that vegan meats are on their way to being competitive with traditional meat products in terms of availability, taste, and even price.

Give your animal-free cheese plate a carnivorous flair by slicing Field Roast's Smoked Apple & Sage Plant-Based Sausages and searing each side in a pan. Add some Lightlife's Smart Deli Bologna slices, and a few slices of pepperoni from Yves Veggie Cuisine, and you're off to the races. Or at least the gift-opening portion of the evening.

The goal isn't to make your cheese board overflow with options for every single category. You don't even have to include meat substitutes if you choose not to. Remember — every cheese board is as unique as its creator. Make yours your own!

All the fixings . . . and then some

No vegan cheese board is complete without additional sweet and salty snacks to accompany these cruelty-free culinary delights. Experiment with different olives, nuts, herbs, fruits, and jams to pair with your vegan crackers, cheese, and meat (via Williams Sonoma). The foods you choose can also serve as visual decoration for your cheese plate layout. 

Add a splash of color with some rosemary thoughtfully laid out by the vegan parm. The rich red of the pomegranate seeds adds dimension — both in texture, color, and flavor — to the soft vegan cheeses. How you place the foods on your cheese plate can encourage guests to try unique flavor combinations. "Look at it from an artist's perspective," suggests Belle English, the resident cook at Williams Sonoma. "Statement pieces," special foods you'd like to highlight, should be arranged first before other items crowd out their space on your cheese plate.

Take your cheese board to the next level by using a designer-quality piece of wood. Lynn & Liana Designs' stunningly beautiful eco-friendly cheese boards will suffice. "I love a big round board. It feels more abundant when it's round," she told Williams Sonoma. No matter which shape you choose, you've now got all the tools you need to make a truly crowd-pleasing vegan cheese board.