Last fall, national gift basket retailer Harry & David began selling vegan charcuterie ingredients, highlighting a plant-based trend that plenty of Mainers had already embraced. When Super Bowl Sunday arrives on Feb. 12, I’ll be among the Mainers who plan to make vegan charcuterie boards for their annual parties. Vegan charcuterie boards feed a crowd but also keep party-goers feeling peppy and light, unlike much traditional football fare.

The beauty of a vegan charcuterie board is that there are no recipes or size requirements and that any plant-based finger food – from sweet to savory – is in play. The flip side, though, is that the abundance of options can present its own problems, as I’ve learned through trial and error. My own challenge is that I often gather too many items to fit on the board. Fortunately, it’s an easy problem to fix.

“If you have too many items, don’t be afraid to put just a scoop of a dip on the board instead of using the whole container,” suggested Shelby Faux, who, with sister-in-law Payson Cunningham, owns S+P Social in Newcastle, which is known for its vegan charcuterie boards. “Then fill in around the board with your fruits and veggies, nuts, pickled things, sweets. Leave the crackers off until the end or just put them on the side.”

Placing the crackers off to the side is a technique I’ve used many times, including once when I set out to create a Maine-shaped charcuterie board. In the end, only a guest with sharp eyes could have detected the state outlined in carrot and celery sticks, pea pods and vegan pepperoni, because my design was crowded in by a crush of bowls and plates filled with nuts, pickles, vegan cheeses, tofu dips, olive tapenade, pretzels and crackers. When I assemble my Super Bowl charcuterie board this year, I’ll follow Faux’s space-saving advice.

Shanna Bickford runs At My Table catering in Westbrook with her mother, Shannon Bickford. The company is known for its charcuterie boards, both vegan and non-vegan. Put out a little bit at a time, Shanna Bickford said, which is especially helpful advice when it comes to reducing the load of crackers, bread and chips on the table. Bickford shared her system for building charcuterie boards.

“Detail needs to come first, then the refills come last,” she said. “I do the hard things first. Biggest to smallest and hardest to easiest. You have to look at it as a whole and get a feel for how it looks. Color is a big deal for me. People like that rainbow stuff. They like different shades of olives. They love variety.”


Diversity and color are the name of the game when it comes to putting together a visually attractive board, and vegan boards excel in these areas.

“Throw all the rules out the window, because vegan food is a balance of texture, flavor and color,” Cunningham told me. “You want to try to incorporate a mix of salty, sweet, umami, spicy and vinegary items, and also more neutral flavors so that everything can pair together.”

The range of foods is what distinguishes a charcuterie board from a cheese plate or a fruit platter. Many vegetarian charcuterie boards feature vegan meats, but others focus on vegan cheeses, tapenades and pâtés.

“If you have lots of flavorful dips and spreads, find a more plain flavored cracker,” Cunningham said, “If you only have plain hummus on hand and a mild cheese, find an herbal or very garlicky cracker to pair with it. Always add fresh herbs and edible flowers to your board to give it an extra pop visually.”

Both Cunningham and Faux are on the road for the winter season. Their market, catering business and wedding venue are closed until spring. I reached them in Buenos Aires, where they were taking cooking classes, Spanish lessons and enjoying the local vegan food.

Non-dairy cheeses, plant-based meats, hummuses, cucumbers, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, pickles, olives, salsas, chutneys, tapenades and jams are standard fare on many vegan charcuterie boards, but the creative possibilities spiral in all directions.


For instance, a vegan charcuterie board for a Super Bowl party where there will be lots of children might focus on fruits, nuts, nut butters, carrot sticks and bean dips, while a more adult gathering might warrant a board with hard vegan cheeses, plant-based cold cuts, oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, fig preserves, castelvetrano olives, pickled beets, cornichons and slices of fresh fennel. Adding one sweet treat can also be a fun touch, such as dark chocolate squares on the adult board or Annie’s bunny fruit snacks for the younger set.

Bickford said her go-to fruits in winter are citrus and pomegranates, and she also leans on jams and fruit preserves. In addition to using a lot of microgreens to plate charcuterie boards, Bickford and her mother sometimes feature hot items, such as stuffed pasta shells and raviolis or vegan phyllo tarts. Both At My Table and S+P Social make their own vegan cheeses and dips.

Whether simple or gourmet, homemade or store-bought, a vegan charcuterie board is a guaranteed touchdown with Super Bowl party guests.


Vegan charcuterie boards are just one way to inject more plants into your Super Bowl party. These two cookbooks offer plenty of other ideas.

“Cooking with Plant Based Meat: 75 vegan and vegetarian recipes for all your meaty cravings,” by America’s Test Kitchen, $27.99.
The Boston-based TV, cookbook and magazine mini-empire experts serve up everything needed to successfully cook with realistic vegan meats. After delivering product recommendations (the testers preferred Impossible ground meat and Beyond Sausages), cooking tips and flavor-boosting suggestions, the book shares ample recipes ready-made for Super Bowl parties, including pub sliders, Jamaican meat patties, meaty chili, mapo tofu, tamale pie and sheet-pan Italian sausage.

Vegan Fast Food: Copycat burgers, tacos, fried chicken, milkshakes, and more!, by Brian Watson, Harvard Common Press, $25.

When a fast food lover goes vegan, what does he do about the Big Macs, Whoppers and Baconators he loves? Veganize them, of course. Fast food lover turned vegan Brian Watson has figured out how to replicate the sauces, seasonings and textures of meaty fast food favorites using plants. He also delivers vegan versions of Taco Bell’s crunchwrap supreme, White Castle’s slider, Panera’s white cheddar mac ’n cheese, Subway’s meatball sub and Panda Express’ kung pao chicken and many more. Finger foods (Wendy’s chicken nuggets, Red Lobster’s cheddar bay biscuits) and breakfast items (McMuffins, French toast sticks) are covered, as is dessert (Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Cinnabon’s classic roll and Dairy Queen’s Oreo Blizzard).

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at

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