- Food: Pimento Cheese
- Writer: Lizzie Green
- Content-Type: Food Blog
Pimento cheese is one of my favorite foods. That’s it; I said it. “What is pimento cheese?” you might question if you’re not from the South.
Pimento cheese is a traditional pimento pepper and cheddar cheese dish from the South. “Pâté du Sud,” or Southern pâté, is a popular nickname for it.
Pimento cheese is creamy and cheesy, acidic and peppery (if desired), and spreadable. Pimento cheese is going to be your new favorite party dip and sandwich spread if you like cheddar cheese.
When I was a kid, my grandma, Mimi, cooked pimento cheese. Even though I was a finicky eater at the time, I had the foresight to enjoy her pimento cheese.
When I see pimento cheese on a menu, which, to my delight, appears to be more regularly these days, I order it.
I looked through Mimi’s handwritten recipe books, which are among my prized treasures, along with her ring, which I wear on my left hand.
I got lost in nostalgia and came across my great-recipe aunt’s Jell-o cucumber salad, but not Mimi’s pimento cheese.
As a result, I devised my pimento cheese recipe. Let’s get started!
What are Pimento peppers?
Pimento peppers (sometimes spelled pimiento) are little red peppers with a mild flavor. When you buy them fresh in the grocery store, they’re typically referred to as cherry peppers.
Red bell peppers are milder than pimento peppers. They’re the little red peppers placed inside green olives if you’ve ever seen them.
If you’re from the Midwest, don’t worry: pimento cheese is not the same as pimento loaf. The sole common ingredient is pimento peppers.
Ingredients in Pimento Cheese
Pimento cheese is created from cheddar cheese, pimento peppers, and mayonnaise in its most basic form.
Homemade pimento cheese tastes significantly better than store-bought varieties. You can avoid odd preservatives by creating them yourself using high-quality ingredients. This is what you’ll require.
Cheddar Cheese, Extra-Sharp
Make sure to choose a wonderful extra-sharp cheddar so the flavor of the cheese shines through. Tillamook was my choice.
Using the big holes of a box grater, shred your cheese by hand. Don’t buy pre-shredded cheese since it’s coated in powder, which dulls the flavor and makes the texture less creamy.
Cream cheese brings out the taste of the cheddar and makes your pimento cheese tangy and spreadable.
Cream cheese isn’t required in all pimento cheese recipes, but it just doesn’t taste right to me without it. Mimi’s pimento cheese was almost certainly made using cream cheese.
Cream cheese and pimentos have been buddies for a long time, according to Serious Eats’ extensive history of pimento cheese.
Pimento peppers are a must-have in any kitchen. They impart a moderate pepper flavor to the dip and give it its distinctive scarlet hue.
If your peppers come in slices rather than tiny pieces, make sure to rinse them carefully and give them a few extra chops.
If you can’t get pimento peppers, use roasted red peppers instead. Chop them up till you have about a half cup of them.
For my recipe experiments, I used canned peppers, but you could go the extra mile and roast your peppers.
Mayonnaise adds a velvety texture as well as a distinct flavor. We’d make up for the lack of cream cheese with more mayonnaise if we weren’t using it, but I’ve found that combining the two produces the best results.
In Southern pimento cheese, Duke’s brand mayonnaise is the standard. Instead, I used Sir Kensington’s, which is the brand I always have on hand.
Adding a Few Seasonings
The flavorings used in pimento cheese vary depending on the recipe. A delicate and enticing savoriness comes from a blend of garlic powder and onion powder.
Because I like my pimento cheese hot, I use cayenne pepper in my recipe.
The heat is slight, but it keeps me wanting more. Fresh jalapeno pepper, which adds considerable fresh flavor and a mild crunch, takes it up a notch. A small amount goes a long way.
Both the cayenne and the jalapeno can be reduced or omitted if you’re sensitive to heat. You can always turn up the heat, but you can’t turn it down.
Pimento Cheese: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Pimento cheese is simple to make and takes only 10 minutes to prepare. All you have to do now is whisk the ingredients together until they’re well incorporated.
- I use a hand mixer to combine the ingredients, which results in a light, fluffy texture. Because pimento cheese is best when the individual components maintain some texture, don’t blend it in a food processor.
How to Serve Pimento Cheese?
Here are a few traditional serving suggestions:
Sandwiches with Pimento Cheese
If you haven’t had a pimento grilled cheese sandwich, you haven’t lived. If you’re holding a party, you may also serve pimento cheese sandwiched between two slices of bread, split into tea sandwiches.
Pimento cheese pairs well with sliced cucumber (or dill pickles), tomato, sprouts, or arugula, and even a fried egg to make a more substantial sandwich.
As a dip or spread
Pimento cheese and crackers are a winning combination as a dip or spread. Serve it with large pieces of bell pepper (any color except green), cucumber, or celery to lighten up your party spread.
Pimento peppers can be used in place of pimento cheese in your favorite cheddar dishes. I’m looking forward to adding some to my favorite mac and cheese recipe.
|Time to Prepare: 10 minutes
10 minutes in total
Servings: 2 cups
This pimento cheese is out of this world! It’s cheesy, acidic, peppery (and spicy if you want it to be), and easy to spread. There are 2 cups in this recipe.
- 2 cups freshly grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
- 8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1” cubes and softened at room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 4 ounces pimento peppers, well-drained and chopped if in strips
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (Duke’s is traditional but I also like Sir Kensington’s)
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (decrease or omit if sensitive to spice)
- ½ medium jalapeño pepper, ribs, and seeds removed and minced (about 1 tablespoon; omit if sensitive to spice)
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Salt, to taste
- Combine the cheddar, cream cheese, pimento peppers, mayonnaise, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, jalapeno (if using), and several twists of black pepper in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer.
- Use a hand mixer, a stand mixer, or a firm wooden spoon or spatula to combine the ingredients. Mix everything until it’s completely smooth.
- Taste and season with more black pepper and/or salt if desired for a richer flavor (I usually add a pinch of two). Add a pinch of cayenne if you want your pimento cheese to be spicier. Blend once more.
- Fill a smaller serving basin halfway with the mixture. Pimento cheese can be served right away or kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. Pimento cheese hardens as it cools; to soften it, leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- CREAM CHEESE TIP: If you’re like me and forget to take the cream cheese out of the fridge ahead of time, simply cube it and place it in a microwave-safe mixing dish. Microwave it for 15 to 30 seconds, just until it becomes more pliable. It simply has to be heated enough to combine with the other ingredients, but not hot enough to melt the cheese.
- WHERE TO FIND PIMENTO PEPPERS: Pimento peppers are often found alongside roasted red peppers in well-stocked supermarket stores. If you can’t get them, a scant 1/2 cup of chopped roasted red pepper will suffice. You won’t be able to tell the difference.