A bagels and lox brunch board is the perfect way to start your weekend. Learn all about brunch boards: why you should make one, when to serve one, how to build one, brunch board themes, and all of the ingredients you need so your guests can build their own bagel sandwiches!
2020 was the year we started doing a lot of things at home.
My favorite? Brunch at home.
My love of brunch blossomed in my early twenties, when I could use the meal as an excuse to get together with girlfriends, stuff my face full of the best of both breakfast and lunch, drink cocktails in the morning, and then after a sufficient amount of bottomless beverages, take a post-brunch nap on my couch.
I’m not as young or as spry as I was 10 years ago, which means I’m rarely going out to eat for brunch (you know, because of adult responsibilities like running important errands or cleaning or exercising on a Sunday morning) but when I do, I make sure to go to a place that serves some of Charlotte’s Best Brunch. If brunch is on my schedule, it’s a celebratory occasion like a birthday or a bridal or baby shower (so long days of bottomless beverages and couch naps).
Throw in a wrinkle of a year of not going out at all and you know what I really want to do?
Go out for brunch.
So while I’m looking forward to a bottomless beverage brunch in my life in 2021, I figured in the meantime, why not bring brunch home with a brunch board?
Why make a brunch board?
I guess lets start with what is a brunch board?
A brunch board is a cheese or charcuterie board filled with your favorite brunch foods (I have a whole guide on How to Build a Cheese Platter that goes into the terminology you should use when it comes to food board building as well as other great tips like surfaces, ingredients, and amounts to serve).
There are a few reasons I like putting basically any food, brunch and bagels included, on a board.
Boards are both easy and beautiful.
Making a beautiful food board boils down to “artful arranging;” it’s a combination of easy recipes from scratch, high quality store bought ingredients and then making those things nice and delicious on a board, plate or platter.
Board building is not just the pinnacle of easy entertaining (therefore cutting down your kitchen stress), it’s also thinking about food as art (added bonus, I get the same kind of relaxed and therapeutic feelings when I build boards that I do when I create art).
You do all the work ahead of time.
When it comes to brunch boards, or boards of any kind, you just need a little bit of prep work up front to have a gorgeous, colorful and delicious display of different flavors and ingredients as your final product.
Based on photos you see on social media or in cookbooks, boards or platters may seem intimidating or something you don’t have the skills for, but they don’t need to be daunting, difficult or time-consuming.
I always like to first think about my board concept (in this case, brunch boards featuring bagels and lox or bagels all the way) and narrow down my ingredients and amounts before I even go shopping.
Then what’s left to do before serving is maybe making a few easy-to-follow (like making a flavored cream cheese, some candied bacon and egg muffins if I’m serving brunch) uncomplicated recipes ahead of time, and then arranging everything to make the board look bountiful and beautiful (which usually takes me about 15-30 minutes depending on how complicated I want to make it.
And after a little bit of work ahead of time, you actually get to enjoy the fruits of your labor and eat!
Guests can serve themselves.
Beyond boards being showstoppers, what I love about them is they take serving at a party or gathering out of the equation because guests can just help themselves.
I’m a big fan of making boards or food bars (a Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar or Taco Bar are both fan favorites in this house) because people can mix and match different ingredients, components, toppings and garnish to make themselves the perfect bite or cocktail.
And you don’t have any other work to do except maybe replenishing ingredients.
When to serve a brunch board
If I learned anything in the past year, you don’t need a special occasion to make yourself or your family a brunch board at home.
A brunch board is something just two people or a crowd of twenty will enjoy, so if you’re looking for some times when brunch boards would be totally welcome and appropriate:
- Baby shower
- Bridal Shower
- Mothers Day or Fathers Day
- New Years Day
- No reason, just because you want to build one!
Brunch board ingredients
There is no set list when it comes to creating a brunch board, they are super customizable and versatile!
You can approach your ingredient list in a few different ways:
- use your favorite brunch or breakfast items and ingredients and put them on a board
- feature some savory and some sweet elements and ingredients
- pick a brunch theme to focus on and build your board around that theme and then round your board out with other breakfast staples
There’s no right or wrong way when it comes to ingredients (like if you don’t want to pick a theme, then don’t) but usually I like to pick a theme because it gives me a basic set of ingredients to work with and then I can pick complementary elements from there.
One of my favorite brunch board themes is bagels and lox, or a DIY, build your own bagel bar situation. The reason? Bagels are one of my favorite breakfasts!
I think my love for bagels is not just because of my love for carbs, but because of the family memories I have associated with bagels and cream cheese. Saturday morning bagels were a ritual in our house growing up. My go-to order as a kid was just a plain bagel with plain cream cheese.
I know, so boring.
But as I got older and became a more adventurous eater, my bagel order also got more adventurous, branching into things like sesame seeds, pumpernickel, everything bagels, scallion cream cheese, and eventually lox, and now bagels all the way (with lox, tomato, onions, and capers) are one of my favorite foods.
I love a bagel board because it features all of the makings of a delicious bagel with lox, including all the fixings and then some, and you can also include different flavors of cream cheese, some extra veggies and breakfast staples like bacon and eggs. And it gives me fuzzy family memories too.
So for brunch board ingredients: pick a theme (or at least your main foods), then pick complementary items and the round your board out with breakfast staples. Here are some ideas of ingredients that work well on a brunch board:
- Bagels, plus accompaniments like smoked salmon and cream cheese
- Waffles or pancakes, plus accompaniments like syrup, butter, honey or jam
- Prosciutto or bacon
- Brie, Goat Cheese, or burrata
- Soft or hard-boiled eggs
- Muffins (e.g. blueberry, banana, egg, etc…)
- Sliced avocado
- Fruit (e.g. berries, cherries, peaches, grapes, melon, persimmons or whatever is in season!)
- Veggies (e.g. sliced tomato or cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, etc…)
- Prosciutto-wrapped melon
- Sliced banana bread
- Whipped butter, honey, or fruit jams
- Herbs for garnish (e.g. dill, basil, or mint)
Also, in my opinion, cocktails are an important part of brunch, so don’t skimp on mimosas, Bloody Marys or even a Strawberry Bellini, Sparkling Peach Sangria or some Sparkling Raspberry Lemonade Punch would be delish.
What is lox?
Lox is a fillet of brined salmon.
True lox is brined in a salty solution or a sugar salt solution which cures the fish and leaves a briny, salty taste.
Lox is only brined or cured, never cooked.
Wait…Chrissie you just mentioned “true lox.” So is what I’m usually eating on top of my bagel not lox?
What you are eating could be lox, but it also could be smoked salmon.
Smoked salmon (also known as Nova smoked salmon or Nova lox), is a more generic term for lox. But its actually different from lox because smoked salmon is salmon that is cured with a light salting and then cold smoked after the curing or brining process.
Cold smoking salmon doesn’t cook the salmon while the fish is slowly exposed to smoke over a few days , which is why the flesh of the salmon stays very pink and moist giving it a similar texture to lox. (This is different than hot smoking, where the salmon is cooked through and ends up with a drier, flakier texture like grilled salmon).
In the bagel and schmear world, and the word lox is often used interchangeably with lox (brined but not smoked) and smoked salmon (brined and then smoked). The smoking (or cooking) makes all the difference between the two.
Beyond lox and smoked salmon, there’s also gravlax, which is the Scandinavian specialty for lox. Lots of herbs and spices like dill and juniper berries and pepper, along with liquor, are added to the brining process when making gravlax, and it is the different mix of curing ingredients which makes gravlax different than lox.
Why are lox called lox?
Why are lox called lox?
Fun fact: the English word lox is derived from the Yiddish word for salmon, laks. The Yiddish word is actually derived from the German word for salmon, lachs.
In Scandinavian languages (which are also from Germanic languages), cured salmon is called gravlax or gravad laks.
I find food etymology fascinating!
How much lox per person?
When it comes to a bagel and lox brunch board where guests can pick and choose their toppings to build their own bagels all the way, I recommend having at least two ounces of lox or smoked salmon per guest but up to four ounces (1/4 pound) if you have a lot of smoked salmon or lox lovers in your group.
Smoked salmon or lox can be pricey, so if you have a lot of guests and want to try to keep your budget lower, think about rather than serving a certain amount of lox per guest, you could always make a smoked salmon spread or smoked salmon cream cheese as a board option.
How to serve bagels and lox?
My favorite way to serve bagel and lox is to put a variety of ingredients on a board to let guests pick and choose to build their own open faced bagel sandwiches.
The basics for a bagel and lox (or what I like to call a bagel all the way) are:
- Fresh store bought bagels. I love getting my bagels from a bakery rather than the grocery store, and Poppy’s is my place in Charlotte. You’ll want at least 1 bagel per person.
- Lox or smoked salmon
- Cream cheese. You can also buy cream cheese at the bakery with your bagel or get your favorite store bought kind. You can kick cream cheese up a notch with a variety of mix ins like chives, scallions, everything bagel seasoning, fresh herbs, or more. It’s always fun to offer a variety of different flavors. You’ll want about 2-3 ounces of cream cheese per person.
- Thinly sliced red onions
- Fresh, sliced tomatoes
- Dill and lemon for garnish
Favorite bagel toppings
Your bagels all the way are not just limited to the list above…build your bagel board beyond the basics!
Here are a few other topping ideas beyond the basic ingredients for bagels and lox:
- Smoked seafood salads. You can serve something beyond just smoked salmon or lox! Whitefish, tuna or salmon salad are all good choices.
- Sliced cucumbers
- Sliced avocado
- Green onions, diced
- Arugala or lettuce
- Pickled veggies
- Sliced hard boiled eggs
- Jams, honey or other spreads for people who prefer a sweet tasting bagel
Other brunch board themes and ideas
Brunch boards are not just limited to bagels! If prefer pancakes or waffles are calling your name, here are a few other breakfast and brunch themes that could star on your brunch board beyond bagels:
- French toast
- Breakfast sandwiches