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TEAM ZOELLA DECEMBER 11, 2021

How to Make the Perfect Vegan Grazing Board

Grazing and charcuterie boards have peaked in popularity over the past few years and for good reason too- the creme de la creme of snacking all in one place, these platters of pleasure are perfect for fuss-free hosting.

For those with vegan sceptical friends and family, a vegan board can be a great, interactive way to introduce the delights of a plant-based diet to the ones you love, and experience its deliciousness firsthand.

‘Tis the season to be in a food coma on a daily basis, and what better way to start the festive period than with an extravagant grazing board fit for Mariah, aka Queen of Christmas, herself! Grazing and charcuterie boards have peaked in popularity over the past few years and for good reason too- the creme de la creme of snacking all in one place, these platters of pleasure are perfect for fuss-free hosting whether it be a festive shindig or summertime picnic too. Although typically including cold meats and traditional cheeses, as with so many recipes, there are endless options to vegan-ify this Christmas classic and celebrate the power and goodness of plants with a version that is kinder to the planet and the animal world too. And for those with vegan sceptical friends and family, a vegan board can be a great, interactive way to introduce the delights of a plant-based diet to the ones you love, and experience its deliciousness firsthand. The proof is in the veggie pigs in blankets!

Whether you’re well versed in the world of grazing boards or want to create your own for the first time this Christmas, keep reading for our top tips and tricks to create the perfect board that offers something delicious for everyone. The New York Times named grazing boards “2021’s most gorgeous food trend”, and after feasting on this one ourselves, we can’t help but be inclined to agree…

To graze or not to graze: deciding which items make the cut!

In our extensive experience of (devouring) grazing boards, having a broad selection of snacking items that offer the perfect balance of savoury, sweet, tangy and fresh is the key to a board that satisfies everyone, and is guaranteed to be polished off before you can say “anyone for more homemade baba ganoush?”. A specific cuisine is optional when it comes to deciding on the contents of your board as oftentimes general mezze style snacking is the goal, but if you fancy matching your board to your wines or general feel of the night, consider Italian (vegan arancini), Moroccan (falafels galore), Greek (flatbread x10) or French (who doesn’t love a mini quiche) to put a different spin on the classic grazing board format.

The decadence of a grazing board- especially one that’s cheese heavy- needs to be balanced out with fresh flavours, so ‘go ham’ on a combination of light dishes too.

Although the flavour is the name of the game here, ensuring your board looks Insta Story ready at any moment is also important during the planning stages- get your shopping list at the ready! Use fruits and vegetables to add some crunch and freshness to your board, as well as much needed vibrancy and colour to help break up the design too. The decadence of a grazing board- especially one that’s cheese heavy- needs to be balanced out with fresh flavours, so ‘go ham’ on a combination of light dishes too.

Selecting items that can be easily picked up and munched on by guests rocking around the Christmas tree is also preferable, as with this type of serving option your nearest and dearest will likely be chatting, drinking and bopping into the night without sitting down for a formal meal or using cutlery at all. Think finger food, but make it boujie! 

Ready, set, prep

The menu is decided, the Ocado order has been completed, and now it’s time to get prepped! Depending on the size of your soiree, you can use a large wooden chopping board to complete your grazing extravaganza, or head to destinations such as Etsy, Dunelm, M&S, Anthropologie, H&M Home or Lakeland for wooden, marble or slate effect platters that create the perfect base for a delicious spread. If you’re looking to create a serving sensation on a budget, simply roll out some brown parchment paper and assemble your foodie selection this way.

For the most impressive looking board, adding height, dimension and texture is a must for a platter guests can’t help but dive into, meaning pretty glassware for breadsticks, and pinch bowls and dishes for dips and olives are a must.

One of the beauties of a grazing board is how low maintenance it can be once prepared, giving you all the more time to catch up with family and friends without needing to be tied to the hob or constantly checking the oven – perfect for hosts who plan to be right in the middle of the Dirty Santa action. Make a foolproof timeline in advance of the items that need to be pre-cooked or prepared in advance, allowing ample time to arrange your board, as although the abundance of options can make this style of serving look effortless, behind every grazing board is a considerable amount of faffing and fixating over ya carrot baton placement. 

Pro tip! Odd numbers often work best for the most striking finish, helping to create a more organic and less perfect effect to your grazing goodness. Start with your pinch bowls and mini dishes and arrange sporadically across your platter, and then begin adding your chosen foods!

The shopping list of dreams

The exact contents of your grazing board is totally up to you and the preferences of your guests, but here are some ideas that Team Zoella enjoyed on theirs which may help you feel inspired…

Fresh fruit and veg: 

An important, although sometimes overlooked, part of a grazing board is the freshness that comes from simpler ingredients such as fruit and vegetables to help cut through the richness of vegan cheeses and carbs galore. 

  • Sun-Dried tomatoes
  • Artichokes 
  • Olives
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrot batons
  • Apricots 
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Grapes
  • Figs
  • Green beans 
  • Walnuts 
  • Butternut Squash
  • Peppers

Cheeses:

An essential for festive grazing boards, vegan or not, is a selection of cheeses to accompany crackers and polish off with a glass of red. Some of our favourite vegan cheese brands include Violife, Sheese, Applewood, Follow Your Heart, Vegan Island and Kinda Co.

  • Vegan cream cheese spread
  • Vegan cheddar
  • Vegan feta
  • Vegan cheese slices
  • Vegan Gouda
  • Vegan goat’s cheese

Carbs:

Everyone’s favourite party guest, carbohydrates are top of the guest list! From crackers to accompany cheese and hunks of crusty bread to spread chutneys, they might not be the most aesthetically pleasing part of your board, but they sure are essential. 

  • Classic Jacobs Crackers
  • Rosemary and Sea Salt Sourdough Crackers 
  • Three Seed Cracker Thins 
  • Twiglets
  • Pretzels
  • A selection of crisps
  • A Crusty loaf 

Dips and sauces:

There will be no dry crackers on our watch with this dream team of dips to match every crisp flavour in the book. 

  • Hummus (to really please your guests opt for a selection such as sweet chilli, caramelised onion and red pepper)
  • Guacamole 
  • Baba ganoush
  • Sun dried tomato pate
  • Chutneys and marmalades
  • Vegan pesto

The fun extras:

Because it’s Christmas, why not go a little bit extra? The non-essential items you throw in the M&S trolley at the last minute sometimes end up being the most delicious, and if you’re hosting for a big group then having a range of party foods to chuck in the oven and bulk up your board is never a bad idea. 

  • Veggie pigs in blankets
  • Mushroom and spinach quiche
  • Curried cauliflower
  • Breaded cauliflower 
  • Roasted nuts, such as pecans and walnuts, for crunch and salt

Remember, remember (final tips):

  • Make sure to have extra crackers and breads on hand as these will likely be the first items that need topping up to accompany cheeses and dips.
  • Separate pungent flavours so that they don’t commandeer the items placed next to them.
  • Fruits that oxidise (e.g. apples and avocados) are best to plate up last, as well as soft herbs which may lose their aroma after staying out for too long.
  • Don’t forget the utensils! Cheese knives, spoons for hummus and cocktail sticks for easy access to all the many nibbly bits on offer will be appreciated endlessly by guests who keep coming back for more.  
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