14 Key Ingredients of a Traditional Spanish Cheese Board

traditional spanish cheese board with cured meats, olives and two glasses of wine

Take a delicious, curated journey through the flavors and textures of Spain’s different regions while sampling incredible cheeses. A traditional Spanish cheese board can be an elevated snack, an appetizer, or even the main event, depending on how you put it all together. While this dish is bound to be a huge hit with cheese lovers, a well-prepared board has many different morsels to enjoy.    

You can’t create an authentic Spanish cheese board without having a decent variety of cheeses to mix and match with all the other components of the board, ideally around 3-5. Spanish cheeses range from firm and nutty to soft and creamy, each with its own completely unique flavor profile. Some of the must-have Spanish cheeses to include on your board are: 

This smooth, rich cheese comes from the Basque Country of Spain and is made from unpasteurized sheep’s milk. Idiazabal is traditionally smoked over beech or cherry wood, which develops the amazing smoky flavor this cheese is known for. 

One of the most beloved Spanish cheeses, made from sheep’s milk originally from the La Mancha region. Manchego has a distinctive patterned rind and a firm, buttery texture. Manchego can also be aged for as long as two years, resulting in a much sharper and tangier flavor. 

Add an intense, bold note to your cheese board with this strong blue cheese made from mixing cow, sheep, and goat milk. Cabrales comes from the Asturia region, where it’s still being aged in limestone caves, using many of the same techniques that were perfected several generations ago.

The traditional Spanish cheese board is all about balancing out many different flavors, so you’ll definitely want to include some gentler cheeses, like tetilla. The joke with this soft, creamy, sweet cheese from Galicia is that its traditional pear shape resembles a small breast (which is “tetilla” in Spanish). 

This cheese from the island of Menorca is a cow’s milk cheese with a recognizable orange rind and a slightly salty, tangy flavor. Mahon can vary from mild to hard and sharp, depending on how long it’s been aged. 

Spain has so many incredible cheese-making traditions that you pretty much can’t go wrong when putting together a cheese board, as long as there are a few different varieties to enjoy. 

wheel of manchego cheese with slice missing

One of the distinctive aspects of a traditional Spanish cheese board (as opposed to the French cheese board or another culture’s version) is that cured meats tend to be a lot more prominent. The art of curing meat is a centuries-old tradition in Spain and this element is considered essential for pairing with cheeses. 

The crown jewel of Spanish cured meats, jamon iberico is made from the famous Iberian pigs and cured for up to four years. You can’t have an authentic Spanish cheese board without this rich, nutty ham that pairs wonderfully with strong-flavored cheeses. 

This staple of Spanish cuisine adds a vibrant red color to your board due to being seasoned with smoked paprika. Chorizo is a spicy pork sausage that’s served in thin slices and goes great with creamier cheeses. 

A less spicy but still very flavorful sausage made from finely ground pork and seasoned with black pepper.  Salchichon is very similar to salami but with a distinctly Spanish twist that complements both strong and milder cheeses. 

Cured pork loin seasoned with garlic, paprika, and other spices, then air-dried and served in slices. Lomo is very tender, delicate, and slightly sweet so it’s considered a lighter and more elegant addition to balance out some of the bolder flavors. 

If you’re looking to add a savory, meaty depth of flavor to your authentic Spanish cheeseboard, try to include at least one or two of these delicious cured options. 

The idea of the traditional accompaniments on a Spanish cheese board is to create a harmonious blend of flavors that elevates every single bite. Some of the main ways to add a sweet, tangy, or crisp contrast to your board include: 

Also known as quince paste, membrillo is a thick jelly that can be either sliced or spread, adding a sweet tartness that enhances both cheeses and meats.

A smooth, rich, fruity addition to the board that pairs particularly well with hard, aged cheeses, to balance out their saltiness.

These almonds are a Spanish delicacy known for being softer and sweeter than the typical variety. Marcona almonds are usually roasted and salted, adding texture and buttery flavor to all the other elements on the board.

Whether marinated or plain, olives are staples in Spanish cuisine and they can bring a briny, tangy flavor that’s especially irresistible with milder cheeses. 

You’ll need a delivery system for all the sweet and savory treats on your authentic Spanish cheese board! Choose between a crunchy or a soft texture or offer guests a variety of 2-3 options. Some of the top choices are:

  • Picos, small Spanish breadsticks, are very traditional for cheese boards due to their crunchy texture that pairs well with every topping
  • Pan de Cristal, a thin, crispy bread similar to the Italian ciabatta that complements bold flavors 
  • Baguette Slices are soft, chewy, versatile, and ideal for building a heartier cheese board 

The magic and deliciousness of a traditional Spanish cheese board is the harmony of flavors and textures. While the cheeses and cured meats tend to be the focus, the accompaniments round out the entire experience and are equally important. 

A well-prepared Spanish cheese board brings together the very best of Spain’s rich culinary traditions, perfect for pairing with some incredible Spanish red wines. You can find all the authentic ingredients to put together your own board by shopping at International Fresh Market, including a wide variety of cheeses, cured meats, crackers, and other essential Spanish foods. Whether you’re hosting a party or just enjoying movie night, this timeless combination of flavors and textures is sure to be a favorite. 

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