Pimento Cheese

Classic Pimento Cheese

Visit nearly any home in the Southern part of the United States on a weekday afternoon, and it won’t be long before your kindly host breaks out a bowl of pimento cheese. The Southern staple, a simple mix of cheese, mayonnaise, and sweet peppers, is a quick, inexpensive snack to serve to a group of good friends (the kind that you’re not overly preoccupied with impressing), served on crackers, corn chips, bread, pretzels, or scooped up with ribs of celery.

While plenty of brands of fluorescent orange processed pasteurized versions of pimento cheese can be found in supermarkets nationwide, it’s difficult to imagine why you wouldn’t just whip up a bowl from scratch. Some of the best pimento cheese we’ve ever tasted is made up of just a few real ingredients (typically cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper, though some people do schmancy the dish up with additional cream cheese, Monterrey Jack, or scallions); try the tubs of the pre-mixed stuff, and you’re spreading as many chemicals, sweeteners, and flavorings onto your crackers as you are real food, with a resulting product that still doesn’t seem to capture the flavorful sharp cheddar bite, and the mild warming heat, of a batch whipped up at home. Make it from scratch, and it tastes almost like a cheese spread mixed with a fine alcoholic cocktail; a really, really dirty martini, if you will.

This recipe makes a fairly large batch of pimento cheese. What to do with the leftovers? It’s a decadent addition to a cheeseburger, an incredible foundation for a grilled cheese sandwich (with bacon), and tastes great baked into stuffed mushroom caps. Of course, you can always polish the leftovers off the way I do: Straight out of the bowl, in the middle of the night, fridge door open, with a spoon.

Classic Pimento Cheese

Classic Pimento Cheese
Adapted from a recipe on Homesick Texan

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 4-ounce jar pimentos, drained and diced
  • 1/2 cup of mayonnaise
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons of cayenne pepper

Method:

Mix all ingredients together until well blended. Chill for at least an hour to let flavors meld. Serve with crackers or bread.

Malcolm Bedell

Malcolm is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as the taco-centric blog "Eat More Tacos," with writing and photography credits including Serious Eats, Down East, L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and more. His seasonal food truck, "'Wich, Please," was named "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015 by Eater, and he finds it very silly to be trying to write this in the third person.

9 Comments
  1. Whoaaa… I made half a batch at 8:30, and at 9:30, I ate *way* more than I should have. This is some good stuff.

    I pulsed it a few times in my mini food processor to make it a little less, umm, stringy, but had I shredded the cheese on the bias (you know what I mean) I could have avoided that.

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  2. A tasty cousin to pimento cheese is cheddar and red pepper jelly dip. Combine shredded cheddar with chopped pecans and green onions with enough mayonnaise to bind, then make a well in the middle. Fill that well with a jar of red pepper dip. Serve with wheat thins.

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