This simple Christmas Tree Cheese Plate is the best make ahead appetizer for your Christmas party or Christmas day dinner. A Christmas tree shaped holiday appetizer with easy to find ingredients perfect for a crowd with a red and green color theme.

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On a black background "I need dinner tonight" is in yellow and "this recipe takes less than an hour" in white
A overhead photo of the christmas tree cheese plate.

Beginners Guide to Christmas Cheese Plate

A lot of Christmas cheese boards online have elaborate and weirdly specific ingredients. Sure, cranberry walnut crackers are delicious and will go really well with a specialty cheese from a specialty cheese shop, but they can be super hard to find and expensive.

I also don’t think it is realistic to spend an arm and a leg on a cheese platter with 25 different ingredients. To be more approachable, I’ve developed this cheese platter to be less than 10 ingredients and I was able to find all the ingredients at one normal grocery store. 

Christmas and the holiday season is already very hectic so this is a simple make ahead appetizer that won’t break the bank or keep you in the kitchen for 3 hours. This will allow you to spend time with your loved ones at your party or on Christmas day.

Why make a Christmas tree cheese board? This is the easiest appetizer to set out for a dinner party, Christmas party or before Christmas dinner. It is festive and cute without needing an art degree to decorate it. Plus, it is a cold appetizer that doesn’t need to be chilled or heated to be enjoyed. When you have a cheese plate out you won’t feel as stressed to rush out the rest of the food because your guests already have something to munch on while they settle. You can also scale it up or down depending on how many people you’re feeding.

Method

How do you assemble a Christmas Tree cheese plate? Place the soft cheese at the base of the platter in the center. This is the tree trunk. Next add a row of grapes across the platter above the soft cheese. Continue to build the layers by adding slightly shorter rows of each ingredient. Add pepperoni, cucumbers, clementines, pistachios and dried cranberries. Finally, top the tree with a few pieces of gouda. Add the remaining gouda around the base of the tree. The finishing touch should be the crackers on either side of the cheese Christmas tree.

Process photos on how to build the christmas tree cheese plate step by step.
Process photos on how to build the christmas tree cheese plate step by step.
Process photos on how to build the christmas tree cheese plate step by step.

Ingredients

What brands did you buy? The recipe doesn’t call for any specific brand because I know how frustrating it can be to go to the store, not be able to find a brand you’re looking for. Sometimes you can easily make as substitution and other times you have to go to multiple stores. No one has time for that so I give “broad” terms in the recipe to make your life simple. That being said, if you are curious what exactly I used I’ll list them out.

  • Aged gouda: Prima Donna aged gouda 
  • Soft cheese: Cypress Groves Humboldt Fog
  • Green grapes: whatever they sell at Wegmans
  • Pepperoni: Wegmans brand
  • Cucumbers: small English cucumbers
  • Clementines: Wegmans brand
  • Pistachios: Setton Farms, shelled, roasted and lightly salted
  • Craisins: Ocean Spray
  • Crackers: Wheat Thins Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil

How much cheese do you buy for a Christmas cheese plate? For this cheese platter I recommend four to five ounces of soft cheese (goat cheese, brie, camembert etc) and about six ounces of aged gouda. This should easily feed four to six people as an appetizer and even more if you’re serving other food. 

What type of soft cheese did you use? I had grand plans to use brie specifically in this cheese platter but I remembered I don’t like brie and figured that would be silly to buy something I won’t eat. So, I decided to go for “soft cheese” which is a broad category. Soft cheese is a great contrast to the slightly crunchy aged gouda. 

9 ingredients laid out on a brown background hand labeled.

Tips and Tricks

Where do you get your platter for a cheese plate? I got this specific one at Target. I like it because it’s big but not massive, easy to clean and has sides and handles. This makes it easy to transport. If you’re you don’t want to buy a platter a baking sheet will work just fine. 

Can you make this ahead Christmas cheese board ahead of time? Yes! The best thing about a cheese plate is that it is a great make ahead appetizer. Cut up all your cheeses and fruits, veggies and arrange them. Add the crackers last minute so they don’t get soggy or stale and set it out for your guests. 

How do you store leftovers? It is important to store your leftovers separate. You can store crackers, craisins and pistachios together on the counter in an airtight container. Cucumbers have a lot of moisture so I usually store those by themselves in an airtight container in the fridge. Store the meat, cheese and fruit together in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. 

Do you have to peel and separate the clementine? I like to make it easy for my guests to eat each item on the cheese platter. This means peeling and separating the pieces in the clementines so they can just grab them and enjoy. Plus they are very easy to peel!

Can you use shell on pistachios? For the same reason I like to peel the clementines, I like to buy shelled pistachios. It makes it much easier to eat. Another reason is that it guests don’t need to worry about disposing of the shells. 

How many people is this for? This always depends on how much other food you’re serving. But I’d say for an appetizer for a Christmas party or Christmas dinner this can easily feed 4-6 people. 

Substitutions

What substitutions can I make for this cheese plate? There are plenty of substitutions you can make to fit your personal taste or budget!

  • Aged gouda substitute: Parmigiano reggiano 
  • Soft cheese substitute: goat cheese, brie, camembert 
  • Green grapes substitutie: green apples or kiwi
  • Pepperoni substitute: prosciutto 
  • Cucumbers substitute: celery, pickles or other green crunchy vegetable
  • Clementines substitute: fresh mango slices 
  • Pistachios substitute: pecans
  • Craisins substitute: dried figs or dates
  • Crackers substitute: baguette slices

Do you have to make this on a circle platter? Nope, you use whatever platter you want. I’d even recommend doing it on a bigger platter than I did. Maybe even a sheet tray or large cutting board. I like the platter pictured because it has a lip and handles, making it easy to move around.

Do you have to make this a Christmas tree shape? Nope, not at all. I just wanted to go for red and green colors, fruit in season and a festive shape to change it up.

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Simple Christmas Tree Cheese Plate

This simple Christmas Tree Cheese Plate is the best make ahead appetizer for your Christmas party or Christmas day dinner. A Christmas tree shaped holiday appetizer with easy to find ingredients perfect for a crowd.
Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Author: Samantha

Ingredients

  • 5 oz soft cheese
  • 1 small bunch green grapes
  • 2 oz pepperoni slices
  • 2 small english cucumbers chopped into coins
  • 1-2 clementines peeled and segmented
  • cup pistachio pieces shelled
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 6 oz aged gouda cubed
  • 4 oz crackers

Instructions

  • Place the block of soft cheese at the bottom of the platter. This is the “tree trunk” of the Christmas tree.
  • Next, take the grapes off the stem and arrange in a layer above the the soft cheese across the bottom of the platter to form the base of the tree.
  • Above the grapes, add the pepperoni in a row, making it slightly shorter in length than the grape layer.
  • Arrange the cut up cucumbers above the row of pepperoni, making it slightly shorter in length than the pepperoni layer.
  • Peel and separate the pieces of the clementines and arrange in row above the cucumbers. Make sure that the row is shorter in length than the cucumber layer.
  • Add the pistachios above the layer of clementines in a row. Ensure it is slightly shorter in length than the clementine row.
  • Above the pistachios but leaving a little room for the top of the tree, add dried cranberries above the pistachios. This layer should be slightly shorter than the previous layer.
  • Finally, add the tip of the Christmas tree with a few pieces of gouda. Sprinkle the rest of the gouda around the base of the tree.
  • Add crackers to the side of the board and serve!

Notes

  • Store leftover cheese, pepperoni, clementines and grapes together in an airtight container in the fridge.
  • Store leftover cucumbers separately because of their water content in airtight containers in the fridge.
  • Store the crackers, dried cranberries and nuts in airtight container on the counter.

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