Here's a gorgeous and luxurious holiday-themed charcuterie board perfect for your next dinner party or happy hour at home. Make your Christmas tree charcuterie board with homemade sides and dips, or use high quality store-bought ingredients and the whole thing can be assembled in 15 minutes.
As seafood lovers, the holiday season gives us all new creative ways to showcase the ocean's bounty. While charcuterie boards are all the rage these days, why don't we take it up a notch with a Christmas Charcuterie Board in the shape of a holiday tree?
Here's your guide to crafting your own seafood charcuterie tree, guaranteed to be the centerpiece of all your holiday gatherings.
Looking for more themed boards for your party season? Try these stunners next!
1. Selecting Your Seafood:
The foundation of any seafood charcuterie tree is, of course, the seafood itself. So instead of buying a variety of traditional meats and cured sausages, let's start in a different aisle of the grocery store.
Start by choosing a several types of fresh seafood items for your charcuterie tree, keeping in mind your guests' preferences. You can opt for a mix of cooked, smoked or raw options to create a diverse and visually appealing spread.
Some popular seafood choices for a charcuterie board include:
- Shrimp: Large, plump shrimp are a must. Steam or poach them for a delightful texture and flavor.
- Oysters: Fresh oysters on the half shell are a luxurious addition, providing a briny contrast to other seafood selections. For even more flavor, make Chargrilled Oysters or Southern Fried Oysters.
- Mussels: Green mussels are an especially beautiful option to anchor your Christmas tree shape. Serve with Salsa Verde or Pistachio Chimichurri.
- Smoked Salmon: Thinly sliced smoked salmon adds a smoky, rich flavor that pairs beautifully with soft cheeses. Bonus points if you swirl your salmon into the shape of a star for the top of the tree!
- Tinned Fish: Conservas is having a real cultural moment, so be sure to include a dish or two or fancy tuna or mackerel fillets in olive oil, sardines in tomato sauce, or smoked mussels.
- Ceviche: Create a tangy seafood dish like Octopus Ceviche, or make it with shrimp, scallops, or white fish. Marinate the seafood in lime juice, cilantro, and diced vegetables for a refreshing touch.
2. Accompaniments and Condiments:
The key to a successful seafood charcuterie tree lies in the balance of flavors and textures. Complement your seafood selections with an array of accompaniments and condiments.
- Fresh Herbs: Sprigs of fresh dill, chives, fresh rosemary sprigs or parsley not only provide a burst of color but also enhance the aroma of your seafood spread.
- Citrus: Slices of fresh fruit like lemon, lime or tangerines are essential for a citrusy zing. You can also make citrus wedges available for guests to squeeze over their seafood.
- Dipping Sauces: Offer a selection of dipping sauces like cocktail sauce, Tartar Sauce, and Spicy Aioli for a variety of flavor options. I also like serving a dish of Seafood Boil Sauce when serving shrimp.
- Olives: A few varieties of olives, such as Castelvetrano and Kalamata, add a briny contrast to the seafood.
- Pickles: Include pickled vegetables like cherry peppers, cornichons, and Quick Pickled Onions for a touch of acidity and crunch.
- Bread and Crackers: Provide an assortment of fresh bread, crispy crackers, and breadsticks to serve as vessels for your seafood, dips and cheeses. While I serve some on my board arrangement, I always keep a basket or two of carbs on the side for noshing.
- Fresh Fruit: I chose tart red berries common in Portugal and add beautiful color. But your options are endless. Green grapes, red grapes, sugared fresh cranberries, blackberries or your favorite bite-sized sweet. Seasonal produce like a fresh pomegranate would be another great option.
Want more sauce inspiration? Check out my full list of recommendations for the best sauces to serve on your charcuterie board!
3. Cheese Selection:
To add depth and richness to your seafood charcuterie tree, incorporate a selection of your favorite cheeses. Opt for creamy, mild cheeses that won't overpower the delicate flavors of the seafood. But don't forget your cheddar cheese-loving guests!
Cheese Options to Include on Your Seafood Charcuterie Board:
- Brie: This soft, creamy cheese pairs well with smoked salmon and shrimp.
- Cream Cheese: Offer herbed or flavored cream cheese spreads for a velvety texture and additional flavor options.
- Goat Cheese: A tangy goat cheese can provide a delightful contrast to the brininess of oysters and other seafood.
- Classics: Cheddar cubes and mozzarella balls are fan favorites and are always welcome on a festive Christmas tree charcuterie board.
4. Step-by-Step Instructions for Assembling the Christmas Tree Grazing Board:
Now comes the fun part...actually building your seafood charcuterie tree. Here's how to assemble your masterpiece:
- Use a tree-shaped wooden board, or simply cut a piece of parchment paper and place on a clean counter surface for serving.
2. Starting at the bottom, pour rock salt to hold the seafood on the half-shell. Then position the shells onto the salt. (I'll garnish with Italian Salsa Verde before serving.)
3. Lay down lemon slices, then position poached shrimp (store-bought from your local grocery store works great here!) over the lemons.
4. Break up the seafood party with a layer of fresh fruit, berries or even fresh vegetables.
5. Build a row of carbs (crackers or baguette slices) punctuated by a display of rich, tinned fish in olive oil. Substitute your favorite smoked fish dip here, if you like.
6. Green olives, kalamata olives or your favorite marinated pickles come next.
7. A soft cheese like brie, or a spreadable herb cheese comes next, paired with a classic like cubed cheddar or havarti cheese slices.
8. Choose a craveable, one-bite wonder like cheese-stuffed pickled cherry peppers for a pop of flavor and color on the board.
9. Build a smoked salmon charcuterie rose as the star on top of your charcuterie board in the shape of a Christmas tree. (For step-by-step instructions for making smoked salmon into a rose, check out this Holiday Charcuterie post.)
10. Finish building the tree with the pretzels or bread sticks for the trunk. Shelled nuts are another good option.
11. Finally, add garnishes like fresh rosemary sprigs to highlight the shape of a tree on your seafood board and fresh bay leaves behind your smoked salmon star.
12. Garnish your mussels or oysters with Salsa Verde. On the side, serve dipping sauces like Seafood Boil Butter Sauce, Italian Salsa Verde and cocktail sauce.
5. Presentation Tips for Christmas Charcuterie Tree:
To make your seafood charcuterie tree truly breathtaking, pay attention to presentation details:
- To keep seafood fresh for your holiday party spread, create a medium-sized spread, then refill each section with chilled seafood as needed.
- Use small serving utensils and toothpicks for easy access to the seafood and accompaniments.
- Offer a variety of small plates, napkins, and utensils for your guests' convenience.
- Encourage guests to explore the flavors by starting from the bottom tier and working their way up.
Creating a seafood charcuterie tree is a fantastic way to elevate your festivities. The combination of fresh, succulent seafood, creamy cheeses, and a variety of fresh and pickly sides makes for a tasty and visually stunning presentation.
With a little planning and attention to detail, your seafood charcuterie tree will become the focal point of all your parties!
Frequently Asked Questions About Building a Charcuterie Board:
The FDA recommends refrigerating seafood and other fresh items within 2 hours. So it's best to build a smaller board or spread, then leave refills of each item in the refrigerator tightly covered in plastic wrap so you can refill the board as needed.
If your goal is wooing seafood lovers, choose a selection of 2-3 different types of seafood or seafood-forward dips and pates. Add pickled and fresh vegetables like olives, grape tomatoes or pickled cherry peppers. Cheese is a critical component of any appetizer table, so choose 2-3 of your favorites. Finally, offer a variety of crackers and breads, as well as garnishes like fresh fruit, herbs and dips.
Store leftover items (that have been at room temperature less than two hours) in airtight containers in the refrigerator. For breads, crackers and other non-refrigerated items, use airtight containers or reusable plastic bags to store in a cool, dry place.