‘Tis the Season for Holiday Movies, Hot Cocoa and Charcuterie

Alyson Fendrick 200x200

Alyson Fendrick, RD, Marketing Communications Manager at Midwest Dairy

Scroll through any social media channel this season or open a glossy magazine and chances are you’ll find at least one article about charcuterie, whether it’s one designed as an appetizer or a dessert board.

“Whether you are building a cheese or hot cocoa charcuterie board, you can’t go wrong as long as you include dairy!” says Alyson Fendrick, Marketing Communications Manager at Midwest Dairy. “Experts attribute the popularity of handcrafting eye-catching boards to a few factors. One theory is that putting together photogenic charcuterie boards brings together craft and food cultures, making for a satisfying DIY experience.”

According to Progressive Grocer magazine, “Charcuterie and the deliciously gorgeous boards used to serve it have become so popular that Instagram influencers are quitting their jobs to design colorful charcuterie boards full-time.”

Move over Hot Cocoa Bar… Hot Cocoa Charcuterie is what’s hot this holiday season. The leading lady in Hallmark Channel’s “A Little Christmas Charm” offered her guest hot cocoa with a tray filled with candy canes for stir sticks, marshmallows and chocolate chips.

Hot Cocoa Mug

Photo credit: Undeniably Dairy

Fendrick suggests offering a mix of sweet and savory flavors on a hot cocoa charcuterie board. She includes cinnamon crisp cookies, as well as gingerbread cookies, for that savory flavor. She also includes candy canes, marshmallows, caramels, dark chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and whipped topping.

“Hot Cocoa Charcuterie sounds fancy and it’s a way to elevate your hosting skills,” says Fendrick. “Charcuterie boards also photograph beautifully, making your spread Instagram-worthy. Our consumer insights tell us that Gen Z loves to explore with flavors and what better way to do that then with a Charcuterie board?”

You can even combine boards, says Fendrick. Consider splitting a board down the middle with a traditional cheese charcuterie on one side and hot cocoa on the other.

Cheese board

Photo credit: Undeniably Dairy

I’ll confess that I used to associate “charcuterie” with “fancy.” My first experience with a charcuterie board was at a wine bar in San Antonio during Commodity Classic. That beautiful board included lamb and rosemary sausage, triple cream cheese, prosciutto, brandied cherries, balsamic mustard seeds and honey that tasted like sea salted caramel. I spread triple cream cheese on a cracker, drizzled honey on top and thought I’d found heaven on earth!

But holiday spreads don’t have to be fancy or fussy to be fun and festive. Fendrick shares these tips for putting together a cheese board for the holidays:

  1. Find the right board.  A large wooden or slate cheese board helps add contrast to the colors of the cheese.
  2. Select the Cheeses.  Follow the rule of odds. Plan on three to five cheeses, depending upon the size of your party. Choose a variety of flavors and textures. After all, variety is the spice of life!
  3. Select the Meat.   To add more variety and flavor to your cheese board, add a selection of cured meats. One to three cured meats such as Coppa, Speck, Prosciutto or Salami, are a great start.
  4. Add Sides.  Add color, texture and a variety of flavors to your cheese board. You can’t go wrong with fresh or dried fruits, nuts and bread. Add surprising items like honey, mustard, jam and pickled vegetables.
  5. Artfully Arrange. Your guests will always remember your creativity and the delicious cheese!

“The best thing about any charcuterie board is that it’s all about creativity,” says Fendrick. “Ensuring you have a variety of options that everyone will enjoy is key to success. A pop of color is more appealing to the eye and the appetite, so be sure to change it up. Start by finding the right board that complements your color scheme. Next focus on the staples. Finally add sides galore with a variety of color and textures, and don’t forget to have fun!”

When planning a hot cocoa charcuterie, Fendrick suggests using a smaller board. Stick with the basics, including cocoa, steamed milk and, of course, real whipped topping. Then choose three or four ingredients your guests will love.

Below is a recipe for The World’s Best Hot Chocolate recipe to help you get started. Feel good about choosing dairy products this holiday season as good dairy starts on the farm with excellent animal care and dedication to sustainability. America’s dairy farmers are committed to feeding their communities while taking care of the planet.

The World’s Best Homemade Hot Chocolate Recipe

14 Servings
  • Prep 5 Min
  • Cook 10 Min
  • Total 15 Min


  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 4 cups whole milk or fat level of choice
  • 2 cups (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips*
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract**
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Optional garnish: whipped cream, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, shaved chocolate


  1. Combine sugar and cocoa powder in a medium, heavy-bottom pot and whisk until evenly combined. Whisk in milk and bring to a simmer on stovetop over low heat.
  2. Stir in chocolate chips, vanilla extract and salt and stir constantly until chocolate is completed melted and mixture is smooth.
  3. Pour hot chocolate into mugs and garnish with whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate chips or chocolate shavings as desired.

* If a sweeter, creamier hot chocolate is desired, swap in milk chocolate chips for semi-sweet.

** For peppermint hot chocolate, reduce vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon and add an additional 1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Recipe and photo credit to: https://www.usdairy.com/recipes/worlds-best-hot-chocolate-hot-cocoa-recipe