I must say something clear. I have spent more years actively avoiding cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Pandemic or not, my boyfriend and I often eat a version of that Thanksgiving pasture board below instead of a full Thanksgiving dinner. This pasture board is festive, it's easy, it's all my favorite dishes on one platter, and it pairs perfectly with wine and a day of chill out. And OMG, so much easier than a full meal. 😅
So whether you feel like skipping the big meal all together or just need something to keep your hungry mouth busy while you cook the big meal, a Thanksgiving pasture board is a great option.
PS If you're like me and would be just as happy with a grazing board of goodies instead of a traditional Thanksgiving meal, give me a shout in the comments so I don't feel like a nutcase. 😅
What happens on a pasture board?
When building a pasture board, I like to have items from the following categories: meat, cheese, fruit, bread, dips or spreads, nuts and pickled vegetables. This way you have a great mix of sweet, salty, crunchy, creamy, sour, and maybe even spicy, all of which can be mixed and matched into an endless combination of delicious bites. I think I just described my paradise.
Oh, and toppings are always a good idea, if you want them to look pretty. And food that looks pretty is always more fun.
Thanksgiving pasture board options
For each of the categories I listed above, I'll list what I used as well as some alternative ideas that remain in this Thanksgiving / fall theme, so you can easily create your own custom board.
Meat: I used salami medallions and roast turkey slices. Other ideas include: peppery salami, prosciutto, honey ham, genoa salami, or soppressata.
Cheese: I included brie, smoked cheddar, and aged gouda in my Thanksgiving pasture board. You want to try to have a variety of textures and flavors. Here are a few other cheese options (try not to choose two from either category):
- Creamy: Goat cheese, Camembert, Burrata
- Hard: Parmesan, Manchego, Pecorino, aged cheddar or gouda
- Sliced cheeses: Cheddar, Provolone, Havarti, Switzerland
- Blue: Roquefort, Stilton, Blue
Fruit: I included grapes and pears on my grazing board, along with some dried apricots and dried cranberries to fill in the nooks and crannies. Other autumn-inspired fruits might include: apples, pomegranates, figs, or satsumas.
Bread: I used a variety of crackers (from a varied pack) to provide multiple shapes and textures on the board. I also sliced a baguette and offered it on the side, as there wasn't much more room on the board for bulky pieces of bread. You can use virtually any type of cookie or bread slice for your pasture board.
Dips and Spreads: I included cranberry sauce, honey, and Dijon mustard. Other fall-inspired spreads include: fig jam, pumpkin or apple butter, old-fashioned mustard, or spicy honey.
Nuts: I used a few pecan halves that I had in my pantry to fill in the gaps in the tray, but candied walnuts, almonds, or pecans would also be a nice festive touch.
Pickled vegetables: I ran out of room to include pickled veg on my platter, but they really do provide a nice flavor contrast to the rest of the items and I usually try to include at least one. Sweet mini pickles would be my preference for the flavor profile of this Thanksgiving pasture board, but a classic olive is still nice too.
Toppings: I went with some mini pumpkins and sprigs of rosemary for my garnish, as I already had both on hand. Another fun option would be getting fake or fresh sunflowers, fake leaves, or fake pine cones.
How to save money on your pasture board
It's so easy to go too far when shopping for meats, cheeses, and other specialty ingredients, so here are my tips for keeping your costs under control:
- Stick to one or two articles from each category. You'll run out of room on your board faster than you think!
- Check your refrigerator and pantry for shelf life items you may already have on hand: nuts, dried fruits, mustard, jam, honey, etc.
- Buy a pack of assorted crackers rather than several boxes of single crackers. Crackers are still strangely expensive, IMHO.
- Look for a discount bin in the catering section of your grocer. Many deli meats will discount pre-sliced meats and cheeses, or even specialty cheeses, when they are nearing their expiration date! If you don't see a discount section, ask! You can save big by using this method, just make sure you buy the items at a discount no more than 1-2 days before you plan to serve your pasture board.
- Use a baking sheet as a "board" (this white enamel baking sheet is tied in my shop). No one will see it through all these beautiful cheeses anyway! Haha! If your baking sheets look a little less worn, lay down a piece of parchment paper first.
How Much Does a Thanksgiving Pasture Board Cost?
This board cost me around $ 27.54, with leftover most of the ingredients I could fill in as the board is eaten (almost two ingredient boards). I literally “grazed” this board and the leftovers all week. Here's a look at what I bought and what I already had on hand:
- Salami $ 3.99
- Turkey slices $ 2.99
- Brie $ 2.99
- Smoked Cheddar $ 3.49
- Aged Gouda $ 3.69
- Grapes $ 3.53
- Pears $ 1.59
- Cranberry sauce $ 0.89
- Crackers $ 2.89
- Baguette $ 1.49
Handy (I haven't measured these ingredients, so I can't calculate estimate costs):
- pecan nuts
- Dried cranberries
- Dried apricots
- Mini pumpkins
- Fresh rosemary
How to Make a Thanksgiving Pasture Board - Step by Step Photos and Style Tips
I like to start my board with bigger items, dips and spreads. I find small bowls or spreads make great center pieces for “wrapping” other foods. So there I have a bowl of cranberry sauce, two small cups with mustard and honey, and two mini pumpkins. I also like to keep the board from being too symmetrical, so I kind of scattered these pieces across the board.
Then I added the raisins and pears as again these are bigger items that will be difficult to place once the ingredients are added. I left half of the pear whole for visual appeal. More pears can be sliced as the board is eaten (I actually bought two pears, so I had an extra wait to slice).
Then I came in with the cheeses. Besides having variety and flavors of cheeses, you want to present them in different ways. Hard cheeses are beautiful when they are crumbled. Slice cheeses, like cheddar, are great in sliced or cubed form, and softer cheeses are good to present whole or in large pieces that people can slice or scoop up as needed.
Now it's meat time. Again, you want to present the meat in different ways to maximize the visual texture of the board. There's not much you can do with these little salami medallions, so I just stacked them so that the board looked "plentiful." For the turkey slices, I rolled them into cigars. If you have thin slices of salami or cured meat, it's fun to fold them in half and then in half again to create a sort of tousled look.
Next come the crackers. I like to fan the crackers and wrap them around other items.
Now the board should be very full, keep some very small empty areas. I used small items like nuts and dried fruit to fill in the blanks.
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