Deli Style Meat and Cheese Tray: A Must-Have Party Appetizer! (+ Tips)

5 from 14 votes

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Meat and cheese trays are a great appetizer or an easy way for guests to make their own sandwiches. Perfect for parties, potlucks, BBQs, or family gatherings!

Meat and cheese tray with turkey, ham, salami, and roast beef

Deli Style Meat and Cheese Tray

Meat and cheese trays are always a hit at family gatherings. You can put them on the table as-is, or you can serve them alongside rolls or bread slices so your guests can make sandwiches. They are so much fun to garnish and make look pretty! Plus, they are SO EASY to make up. You can whip up a meat and cheese tray faster than you can make most appetizers.

Meat and Cheese Tray vs. Charcuterie Board

This meat and cheese tray is more of a deli-style platter than a fancy charcuterie board. This tray is meant for making deli sandwiches or serving as more of a catering platter. We make trays like this for game-day parties, baby showers, work meetings, etc. Charcuterie boards are typically more involved with everything being more bite-sized with more textures and dips. We have LOTS of great charcuterie board ideas! If a charcuterie board is what you are looking for, check out these fun ideas:

For the Meat

First of all, you want to choose 2-3 different kinds of deli meats. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Turkey (try some fun flavors like honey, maple, cajun, smoked… etc.)
  • Ham (black forest, honey, smoked, Virginia, maple, brown sugar.. etc.)
  • Roast beef
  • Salami 
  • Pepperoni
  • Pastrami
  • Bologna
  • Corned beef

For purposes of folding and/or rolling the meat, you will want to have it sliced fairly thin. You can ask your deli to slice it as they would a typical “sandwich slice”. It will be easiest to ask your deli to give you the slice amount rather than the weight you are looking for. For meat and cheese trays, you will want ten slices of each kind of meat.

It is a good idea to separate the turkey and the roast beef on a deli platter. The roast beef is really dark and can discolor the turkey if it is sitting next to it.

A close up of deli meats and cheeses on a tray

When preparing the meat to be placed on the tray, you can either roll it or fold it. Rolling is great for when you are serving the meats on their own (not as sandwiches). If you are wanting to use the meat for your guests to make sandwiches, it if better to use the folding method. That way it is easier to pick up and place on the roll or bread. When folding, you just fold like an accordion, back and forth with about 1 1/2″ folds.

When placing the meat on a round tray tray, be sure to leave some room right in the middle. You want the meat and cheese to be in a ring. If you don’t have circle guides on your tray, you can place a condiment cup or any other small, round object in the middle to prevent you from overlapping any of the meats or cheeses in the middle.

Close up of deli turkey on a meat and cheese platter

When stacking the folded meat, try to make it look like a pyramid. You will put four folds (or rolls) of meat close together on the tray, then three folds of meat directly over those, then two, then one. You will do the same for each of the meats until you have several stacks of meat. This works well on any shaped platter you are using.

For the Cheese

You can use as many different kinds of cheeses as you would like for your deli tray. The harder sliced cheeses (like cheddar or Swiss) work best for meat and cheese trays because they don’t stick together as much and can easily be picked up with tongs. Here are some more sliced cheese ideas:

  • Cheddar
  • White cheddar
  • Swiss
  • Baby Swiss
  • Provolone
  • Pepper Jack
  • Havarti
  • Muenster
Deli meats and sliced cheeses on a cutting board

Once again, when asking you deli to give you cheese slices, go by the slice instead of weight. You will want eight “sandwich” sized slices for each kind of cheese. Once you have your cheese squares, stack them directly on top of one another and slice them all diagonally (do this separately for each kind of cheese). This will give you two stacks of 8 triangles for each kind of cheese (so four stacks total).

You may have to separate some of the slices a little to get the perfect fan effect. You can also separate the cheese and place them on top of each other one at a time to make the fan, it might just take a little longer. When placing them on the tray, put each “fan” in a different direction and fill up the remaining space on the tray.

Because this is a deli tray, we used all sliced cheeses. Crumbly or spreadable cheeses like blue cheese, feta, goat cheese, brie, etc., aren’t the best for deli-style platters. Those types of cheese work best for more of a charcuterie-style cheese board (see notes above).

Garnishing Your Meat and Cheese Tray

Now you can let your creativity run wild. You can garnish your tray any way you would like. For our tray, we rolled up some leafy green lettuce like a bouquet, ripped the excess off the bottom, and placed it in the hole in the middle. You can also use kale, red leaf lettuce, or anything else pretty and leafy.

A side view of a meat and cheese tray

We also like to use fruit for garnish. To slice the lemons, limes, and kiwis, we did a deep zig-zag cut around the center and simply pulled it apart once it was cut all the way around the axis. This gives it that cool 3D star shape in the middle. For the strawberries, we did several parallel cuts across the strawberry, cutting all the way through, then fanned it out.

For Making Sandwiches

As mentioned above, you can keep it strictly to meats and cheeses for serving, or you can include bread or rolls for sandwich making. There are so many fun different breads that you can use, including:

Sub rolls in front of a deli tray

Remember to serve with little condiment dishes of mayonnaise, mustard, Dijon, or pesto if you are using your meat and cheese platter for the purpose of making sandwiches. You can also add plates or small bowls of olives, sliced pickles, or sliced tomatoes.

A deli sandwich on a meat and cheese tray

Tips for Storing and Serving

When you are making a meat and cheese platter, it is best to prepare it the same day you are serving it. If you aren’t going to serve it immediately after you make it, be sure to cover it well and refrigerate it until ready to serve. It will stay good in the fridge for up to 24 hours. I wouldn’t recommend going over that. When setting it out to serve, don’t let it sit out too long. No more than 2 hours.

Top view of a meat and cheese tray

How to Make a Meat and Cheese Tray

5 from 14 votes
Meat and cheese trays are a great appetizer or an easy way for guests to make their own sandwiches. Perfect for parties, potlucks, BBQs, or family gatherings!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 12




  • Fold or roll each deli meat and place on tray in stacks (see notes above). Space meat apart on a tray or if using a round platter or plate, place in a ring leaving an open space in the middle.
    A close up of deli meats and cheeses on a tray
  • Place 8 slices of each type of cheese in a stack and cut diagonally into triangles. Fan out each stack of cheese and place on on the tray.
    Deli meats and sliced cheeses on a cutting board
  • Garnish with green leaf lettuce and/or fruit in the empty spaces on the tray.
    A side view of a meat and cheese tray
  • Serve with dinner rolls or bread.
    A deli sandwich on a meat and cheese tray

Nutrition Information

Calories: 209kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 16gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 521mgPotassium: 113mgSugar: 1gVitamin A: 340IUVitamin C: 0.4mgCalcium: 286mgIron: 0.5mg

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her three beautiful girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

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  1. 5 stars
    This is the greatest idea when you have no idea what people might want to eat. I make this very similar board for and easy Christmas Eve dinner when the family gets together. Having a nice selection of deli meats, cheeses, small rolls and some party rye bread is perfect. I also have small bowls of different condiments for the fam.

  2. 5 stars
    I really enjoyed this guide for making easy meat and cheese trays. I will be making a lot of these trays this summer.

  3. 5 stars
    This would be a great way to prepare lunch for my boys on the weekend. Easy enough for them to grab what they want and everyone is happy. Love it!

    1. Meat and cheese platters r the best things invented. Everyone loves sandwiches, and with the lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles it makes for a beautiful luncheon.

  4. 5 stars
    I love making my own trays. Then I get exactly the meats, cheese and other items I want on there. So much better.