What if I told you that I had a dinner idea that will fit your dietary preferences, whatever they are? Additionally, it involves no cooking, helps prevent food waste, and your family will love it. Sounds great, right? If so, keep reading and learn to assemble your own butcher block recipe dinner. It’s been a real game-changer for my family, and I think it will be for yours too!
I first discovered the concept of the butcher block recipe in this Lil Blue Boo post from back in 2012. It was incredibly helpful to me during my weight loss journey, and I think you will like it too.
Even if you don’t have a weight loss goal, this “recipe” will help you get dinner on the table fast. It cleans out those leftover fridge odds and ends. You can modify as needed to fit the preferences, diets, allergies, etc. of your household members.
Also, it requires no cooking, and you don’t have to eat with utensils. There is basically no downside to butcher block dinners, so why not give them a go?
I’ve developed a recipe (formula?) over the years to construct butcher block dinners. Here are the components I include in each meal, and I’ll cover each in more detail below:
- 4-6 ounces of protein (cut bite-sized)
- Three different non-starchy veggies (as much as you want)
- One ounce of cheese (or another source of calcium)
- One serving of crackers (whole grain or another type)
- 2-4 tablespoons of dip
What this gives you is a meal of cheese and crackers with additional protein, plus veggies and dip. It’s all finger foods, which tend to be a hit with kids. Also, all of your food groups are covered (or close enough, since many items we call veggies are botanically a fruit).
4-6 ounces of protein (cut bite-sized)
The first thing that you want to make sure you include in your butcher block recipe is a source of protein. Don’t forget we’re aiming for finger foods that do not need cooking, so leftovers are perfect here. In the past, I’ve used cooked:
- Rotisserie chicken breast (cubed)
- Steak (cubed)
- Ham (cubed)
- Turkey (cubed)
- Marinated tofu (cubed)
My baked popcorn chicken bites would be great as well. They work as an excellent stand-in for chicken nuggets (another finger food option).
In the dinners pictured with this post, I am using prosciutto cotto as the protein in the meal. Prosciutto cotto is a cooked ham from Italy. I received some in a pork sampler order from one of our local farms. It's such a treat!
I have never had prosciutto cotto before, so I had to look up what to do with it. It is often served with bold cheeses, so I thought it might be perfect in a butcher block dinner. (Indeed, it was!)
P.S. I left the slices whole to show what they look like and cubed it after I took the photos. If you have a meat slicer, you can get nice, thin slices that can’t be achieved with a knife.
This prosciutto cotto had a spectacularly buttery fat and was easily one of the most delicious meats I’ve tried. That said, this Mediterranean delicacy is definitely not a lean option if you are looking for a low-calorie meal. Some of the other options I listed above will be better for you.
Three different non-starchy veggies (as much as you want)
The butcher block recipe dinner is a great way to help clean out any leftover veggies you have hanging around in the fridge. Since we’re serving the vegetables raw with a dip, you want to use non-starchy salad veggies.
I typically try to use veggies of three different colors for a broader range of phytonutrients. As you can see in the photos, I did not quite do that here with the cucumber, green beans, and carrots. (Well, I guess we can argue the cucumber is mostly white and let this slide.)
If you don’t happen to have three differently-colored veggies, it’s fine to make do with what you have. In fact, feel free to use sliced fruit if you don’t have enough vegetables. (You’ll have to use good judgment regarding whether to use the fruits with the dip, of course.)
Even if you have a weight loss goal, you can pretty much add as many non-starchy veggies as you want to your plate. They are extremely low in calories and provide a lot of volume to the meal. Here are some of the options I typically use (and yes, I know some of these are botanical fruits and mushrooms are actually fungi):
- Carrot sticks
- Celery sticks
- Grape tomatoes
- Radish slices
- Mushroom slices
- Jicama sticks
- Cucumber slices
- Green beans
- Snow peas
- Broccoli florets
- Cauliflower florets
- Bell pepper strips
If your family members prefer certain veggies while you like others, you can give everyone a slightly different meal. This is one of the easiest “recipes” to modify since it does not require additional cooking.
One ounce of cheese (or another source of calcium)
I always serve 1 ounce of cheese (per person) with this meal to add some calcium. We’ve had fun trying an assortment of cheeses through the years in our butcher block dinners. This time we went with smoked sharp cheddar (from a brand that was new to us).
The important part of this butcher block component is the calcium, not that it must be cheese. You can serve the meal with a glass of dairy milk if you’d prefer. Or you could skip this component and use a yogurt-based dip instead (see below).
If you don’t consume dairy, keep in mind that many of the non-dairy cheese alternatives are not fortified with calcium. My sardine salad includes bone-in canned sardines, an excellent source of non-dairy calcium. Using the crackers and veggies to scoop the salad keeps everything a finger food.
Some brands of tofu are fortified with calcium, potentially covering your calcium needs in this meal. Be sure to check the label of the tofu you purchase, as not all products have been fortified. The bioavailability of calcium in spinach (and some other greens) is poor; you should not use these as your calcium source.
One serving of crackers (whole grain or another type that fits your needs)
If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know I’m the proud caretaker of a homemade sourdough starter. Every week when I feed the starter, I end up with a little sourdough discard to use in recipes.
One discard recipe I return to again and again is the King Arthur sourdough cracker recipe. I used my homemade whole grain crackers here.
I promised no cooking or baking at the top of the article, and I meant it. You are welcome to use store-bought crackers instead. If you are on a low-carb or gluten-free diet, you could use store-bought crackers that align with those approaches.
And if you are on a low-carb or gluten-free diet but want to make something, you could try my cloud bread. It’s not crackers, but it adds something bready to the plate.
Occasionally when I was on my weight loss journey, I’d skip the serving of crackers in my butcher block dinner. It’s an easy way to cut 100-150 calories from the meal while keeping the more nutrient-dense components.
On the other hand, sometimes my family members (particularly my teen) serves himself a double helping of the crackers. Hey, this is one of the most flexible meals around. You can do whatever floats your boat!
2-4 tablespoons of dip
Dry raw veggies can benefit from enhancement, so I always serve the butcher block dinner with a dip. There are approximately one million options to choose from! Here are a few to get you started:
- Black bean dip
- Yogurt-based dips
- Your favorite salad dressing or dip
If I’m serving shrimp with the meal, I often add cocktail sauce on the side as well. The calories on certain dips and dressings can add up fast. I recommend paying attention to this component’s portion size if you have a weight loss goal.
I made a low-calorie tzatziki for this butcher block dinner. It is a yogurt-based dip that is packed with grated cucumber. (Am I wrong for dipping cucumber slices in a cucumber dip? Haha)
Most of the time, I use a store-bought dip for these dinners. Trader Joe’s has a lot of great options. I feel like there is usually a new one to try every time I visit.
That covers the basics of what you need to know to create this meal. The butcher block recipe is a great way to sample new meats, cheeses, crackers, veggies, and dips you’ve never had before. Have fun with it!
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The calorie information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to this post. Let’s get cooking!
Butcher Block Recipe – The Ultimate Dinner Game-Changer!
- 4-6 ounces cooked protein-rich food, cut into bite-size pieces (113-170 grams; leftovers are perfect for this)
- 3 types non-starchy veggies, cut into coins or sticks (as much as you want)
- 1 ounce dairy cheese, cubed (28 grams; see article above for alternatives)
- 1 serving crackers of choice (100-150 calories total)
- 2-4 tablespoons dip of choice (or use ⅓ of the tzatziki recipe provided)
- 1 cup plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt (low-fat)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon dried dill
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¾ cup grated cucumber (from about ½ of a cucumber)
- salt, to taste
- 1 scallion, sliced (for garnish)
- For more detailed information on choosing components for your butcher block dinner, be sure to read the post that accompanies this recipe. If you are making the tzatziki dip, stir all of the ingredients for the tzatziki together first. Let it rest while you assemble your platter.
- Plate your protein, cut veggies, cheese, and crackers. Enjoy with the dip. Seriously, that is it. Can dinner get any easier?
- 4 ounces lean protein (~150 calories)
- Three non-starchy veggies (under 50 calories)
- 1 ounce of cheese (~120 calories or use a low-fat cheese)
- One serving of crackers (~100-150 calories) or skip these
- 2-4 tablespoons of a light dip or dressing (~50-100 calories)
There are endless possibilities for the variety of foods that you can serve in a butcher block recipe. What do you think you’d like to try on your plate? Is there a new-to-you veggie, cheese, or other food that you’ve wanted to sample?