Photo of a collection of small wooden and ceramic bowls

Little Bowls and How to Use Them

What this is: A guide to collecting the right bowls for cheese boards and beyond.

Who it’s for: Cheese board enthusiasts who like the little touches the best.

Here at we love, love, love little bowls—that’s why we sell so many—we can never have enough! Even though cheese board making is not an exact science with specific rules you must follow, there are some things that are true, and one of those things is that a lot of delicious ingredients really do best in a container, and the little bowl is the perfect foil for this need!

Some of the items we like to corral in little bowls include:

  • Jam
  • Honey
  • Chutney
  • Syrup (yes, smoked maple syrup on cheddar is mind-blowing!)
  • Nuts
  • Popcorn
  • Chocolates
  • Potato Chips
  • Olives
  • Pickles—all types but especially the messy ones, such as beets
  • Cheese Dip
  • Hummus
  • Snack mix
  • Candy
  • Marinated cheese

Not all of these items have to be kept in bowls—nuts and popcorn look nice carefully strewn in line across a board, and you can also get artistic with a nice schmear of mustard, but they are all items that at one time or another we have kept in a bowl. How do we decide if we’re going to use a bowl or not? Why can’t we just keep it in the jar it came in or just put it on the board? Here are a few of the ways we make that decision.

  • It comes in a container, but the container is ugly or just not the look we are going for.
  • It comes in a jar that is much bigger than we want or need so we “decant” some into a bowl
  • We made it ourselves, like a cheese dip or hummus and it didn’t come in a container.
  • We will have the board out for a while and we want to serve some now and change out the bowl during the event with a fresh and full-looking container.
  • The item is in a liquid and will keep best on the board if kept in the liquid, such as bread & butter pickles or marinated cheese.
  • We want to use bowls as a decorative accent.
  • We want to give our boards height, and elevating foods up in a bowl helps with that.

Now that you know what to put in bowls and why, Let’s discuss what types of bowls to use and where to find them. We are always on the lookout for little bowls in the wild—you never know where you’ll find the perfect one! Your little bowls and containers can be glass, plastic, metal, wood or ceramic, just make sure they are food safe. Here is a list of some of the bowls we look for and where.

CeramicIf you love handmade items, collecting little ceramic bowls can be a fun way to collect artisan goods at an affordable price. Check out art shows or look up your local ceramic studio and see if they have a regular artist sale.

Glass JarsAlways be on the lookout for foods that come in beautiful little jars that you can repurpose after its contents are eaten. You can usually find these in specialty food stores or where jams are sold, but also check out the yogurt aisle where you can sometimes find yogurt in reusable glass jars. 

WoodWe love the look of little wood bowls which is why we sell so many. Keep your eye out for these in artisan shops or kitchenware stores. Don’t let your wood bowls sit in water, and make sure to oil them with mineral oil or board regularly so they will stay beautiful for a long time.

Shot Glasses These can make great little bowls for holding picks, or for jam or honey.

Ramekins These are useful for so many things and you may already have some in your cupboard.

No matter what the material you choose, make sure to collect bowls in a variety of sizes, you may only need a little mustard one day, and a lot of nuts the next. Variety will serve you well!


Keep your eyes out for little bowls and use them to corral your favorite cheese board foods on your next creation.


Check your pantry. Look in your pantry and refrigerator for foods packaged in little jars that you can clean and repurpose for your next board. To remove the labels, fill the empty jar with boiling hot water and let sit for a few minutes to warm up the glue on the label. Then slowly pull off the label. Use Goo Gone to remove any remaining stickiness.


Click the icons to download a pdf of this lesson and our two handy guides: How Cheese is Made and Cheese and Pairing Types.

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