Pimento Cheese

This pimento cheese is a Southern classic made from Cheddar cheese, pimentos, sweet onion, and mayonnaise.

After having consumed approximately half of Vermont’s supply of Cheddar cheese in the name of research, I’ve discovered that this pimento cheese recipe from Rebecca Lang is the best dang pimento cheese I’ve ever had. I also found that doing yourself a favor and making it a day ahead of time only improves the taste. The onion mellows, the pimento perks up, the color blends, and everything becomes, well, ambrosial. And it’s one less thing for you to do the day of when guests are on their way. And you can do waaaaay more than just slather the pimento cheese on crackers. You can also  set it out as part of a crudités platter, stuff it in sandwiches (whether petite tea party bites or gooey grilled cheese sandwiches), or perhaps even scoop it straight from the container at 2:00 a.m. as you lean against the sink. Not that I know anything about that.–David Leite

Mellow Yellow Cheddar Cheese Note

When a Southerner makes pimento cheese, he or she is usually pretty particular about the type of cheese. David isn’t a Southerner but he is plenty particular about his recipes. He instructed us to share with you that he uses white Cheddar, not orange. He prefers the flavor of white. Besides, you still get a lovely orange tint from the pimentos. We haven’t run this by the author of the recipe, Rebecca Lang, although we’re curious to hear what she thinks. Let’s see if she notices…

Video

Video: How to Make Rebecca Lang’s Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese

Crackers topped with pimento cheese.
This pimento cheese is a Southern classic made from Cheddar cheese, pimentos, sweet onion, and mayonnaise.
David Leite

Prep 10 mins
Total 10 mins
Hors d’Oeuvres
Southern
4.86 / 7 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Around the Southern Table cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound sharp white Cheddar cheese (or if you’re a true Southerner, by all means, stick with orange Cheddar)
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • One (4-ounce) jar pimentos drained well
  • 2 tablespoons grated Vidalia or other sweet onion
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Crackers, toast points, crudités, or anything else you can think to serve with it

Directions
 

  • Grate the cheese in a food processor or on the large holes of a box grater. (Just between us, a food processor is the way to go. Five seconds max. Although you can do it by hand just for old-time's sake to get that Southern nostalgia mood going.)
  • In a bowl or your food processor, mix the grated cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos, grated onion, and a few good grinds pepper until blended. Resist the urge to dig in immediately. Instead, cover it and stash it in the fridge for at least a couple hours and, preferably, 24 hours. (Trust us, the pimento cheese is unspeakably better after it rests. You can refrigerate it for up to 4 days, provided you can resist it that long.)
  • To serve, decant the pimento cheese into your loveliest serving dish. Serve with crackers, toast points, crudités, or anything you fancy.
Print RecipeBuy the Around the Southern Table cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This pimento cheese is very addictive! It’s easy to prepare but the 2-hour to overnight waiting period is definitely difficult to endure. Your reward, though, is a pleasingly rich cheese dip that really shows itself off, especially at room temperature.

Using a food processor will save some time but I do recommend grating the cheese first. After that, put everything into the processor and pulse a few times until you get texture and orange color you’re after. I found some of the pimento from the jar were rather large, so if doing this all by hand, be sure to finely chop the pimento so they mix adequately with the cheese, mayo, and onion.

Originally published December 30, 2020

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Comments

  1. I guess I like it somewhat sweet, is what I meant to say. I’m not really a Miracle Whip person…more a mayo person (except for deviled eggs, and then I have to do half-mayo and half Miracle Whip), but I used the Miracle Whip to see if that would give me the sweetness of the store bought version. Also, David, thanks for the article on pimiento vs. pimento. So, pimiento it is!

    1. Vicki, you need to add sweet pickle juice (and maybe a few of the sweet pickles themselves – or not) and that might achieve what you are looking for. I think of this as ‘Carolina Pimmena Cheese’. I had boarding school roommates from small town South Carolina and that’s how it was made in their kitchens.

    2. Vicki, sure thing. Although the article said the two versions of the word are often swapped. I don’t think you find many a Southerner pining for Pimiento Cheese!

  2. Okay, this is the first time I’ve made it (I’ve eaten it several times), and I used the basics, but something’s missing. Apparently the store-bought and convenience store sandwiches (yes, don’t condamn me) were made with added sugar, or SOMEthing. I grated Cheddar, put in pimientos and juice, and added mayo and black pepper, and tasted. No. Added some Miracle Whip. Better, but still something missing. Will have to check the label at the grocery store. And what’s with the spelling…either or? I’ve always seen it as pimiento. Guess that’s just the Spanish spelling.

  3. I just watched the documentary. Very interesting, educating, and entertaining! Now I’m salivating for some pimenna!!

  4. 5 stars
    Oh, dear me. Pimento cheese is a weakness for me. If you leave a batch in front of me (a good batch, anyway), I’ll eat the whole damn thing. I wasn’t born here, but I’ve lived in the capitol of Virginia long enough to develop quite a hankering for it. In fact, my friend made a documentary about pimento cheese featuring some special guests, and the premiere was a blast (with lots of pimento cheese to eat!) Around here, we say “pimenna” cheese, and we put it on and in everything. And we use yellow cheddar that’s been hand grated with jarred pimentos and Duke’s mayonnaise. Best served on Ritz or on a sandwich made with cheap white bread. Wheat bread and pimento is blasphemy. Don’t ever do that.

    1. Just watched the film – thanks for sharing the link, Kristel! It confirms some of my memories & ideas of ‘what’s-in-it?’, or confusion thereof! I saw close versions of the little glass jars I remember, & saw & heard lots of familiar sights, twangs & recollections! Thanks, that was fun.

    2. Kristel, Thank you SO MUCH for posting a link to that absolutely charming little documentary. Someone on there even mentions boiled peanuts as extreme Southern food eating (which it is).

      Out here in Southern California this displaced New Orleanian makes Pimmena’ Cheese. Though the Pimentos are hard to find, and I have more than once been reduced to considering picking them out of a jar full of olives; though it hasn’t come to that yet thanks to the interwebs. This delicacy is usually initially greeted with blank uncomprehending stares. Mayonnaise and cheese, what? Though this is soon followed by ooows and ahhhs and sighs of contentment.

      The only other thing absolutely guaranteed to produce the same reaction (maybe even deeper incomprehension followed by bigger mouth reaction) is to produce a New Orleans debutant party Pickapeppa block. Extra points for those who know what that is!

      1. AnnaZed, you are on!!! I have the Pickapeppa in my pantry and just did the block for New Years Day LSU watching! And I was in NOLA this morning for a meeting and lunch. How about Jezebel sauce????

        1. Oh Karen, where ya’ at dawlin’; give this girl a pony!

          My Mom used to have a method for making the Pickapeppa block that involved having the cream cheese very cold and already in the dish then pouring some Pickapeppa over it, refrigerating it, then pouring some more, refrigerating again – 4 cycles maybe – so it would have a nice thick Pickapeppa coat. That stuff is to die for.

          I think Pickapeppa sauce needs to have a huge foodie love explosion and be loved and blogged about with praise and abandon by the food glitterati (like David for example!). The label with the parrot and the gold leaf is reason enough really. Basically it’s just a Tamarind catchup but amazingly complex. My parents lived in India before I was born and my mother claimed that in India they sell a similar sauce in a jar though I have never seen it. I am not sure that she is right though because the peppa’ component (if you will) has a distinctive Caribbean or even African vibe to me. Anyway, I could eat it spread on an old shoe.

          On the other hand maybe not; probably you are not old enough to remember this, but in the 1970s there was said to have been a fire in the legendary Pickapeppa plant in Shooters Hill, Jamaica; causing an alarming worldwide (or at least Garden District-wide) shortage, hoarding, skyrocketing prices and some say lady fisticuffs. We wouldn’t want that to happen again.

          A Jezebel sauce to me is an accompaniment to roast pork but my grandmother from Texas loved it on a Melba toast with cream cheese.

          What is the deal with Melba toast? I kind of hate it (it’s too hard!) by my mother’s generation (born in the 1920s) thought it so sophisticated.

          1. I, too, didn’t care for Melba toast. Always saw it when I was still living at home in CA, but haven’t seen it in YEARS. Maybe it was considered diet food back then. Did it go away? I had not heard of the Pickapeppa sauce, or the Jezebel sauce. The only stuff I’ve seen on blocks of cream cheese were the pepper jelly (in Amish country), and one aunt always put cocktail sauce (with maybe some lemon juice) that she’d added shrimp or crabmeat to, and poured it on a block, and served Ritz crackers with it. I’d make that now, except for I’d eat the whole thing, myself, within 2 days!!

          2. My Grandmother (the Texan) used to make that Shrimp Cocktail Spread thing; very 1950s as well wouldn’t you say? It’s petty great in my opinion, except on Melba Toast–which yes has fortunately fallen out of fashion.

          3. Anna, I didn’t realize the cocktail sauce on cream cheese had been around that long. I didn’t see it till about the ’70’s. The aunt who first made it was a Navy wife, though, so she may have picked it up in a different geographical area than our little Monterey Peninsula. Of course, we may have just lived sheltered lives there…among those who were more worldly. Before that it was always the celery stuffed with cream cheese, and sprinkled with paprika.

    3. Loved the documentary! Several faces I recognized as well as the packaging of the commercial pimento cheese (Stan’s) that’s in my fridge as I type. I’m a North Carolina native who doesn’t recall a day without pimento cheese. It was probably given to me by my dad on a saltine cracker once I started cutting teeth! I grew up using it as a condiment on hamburgers & hot dogs. My favorite summertime sandwich is whole grain bread with a couple of large slices of a ripe German Johnson tomato slathered with pimento cheese—I’m salivating now!

      By the way, I’m a first time visitor by way of someone who commented on the Brown Eyed Baker blog. Loved reading all the pimento cheese comments–lots of people have definite opinions! Enjoyed reading them all!

  5. OK, this comment is waaay off course with all the previous comments & threads, and hopefully I won’t be condamned (spelled that way intentionally) for asking, but here goes. Any comments or experiences on subbing the mayo with greek yogurt? Say, if you’re out of mayo, or you have a darling child who can’t stand the thought or possibility of consuming mayo; or just wanting to reduce the fat of mayo or not consume uncooked eggs, and so on … Born & raised (mostly) in Virginia here, my mom always had pimento cheese around, but sadly she’s not around anymore for me to ask her if she made it or bought it already-made (but I do vaguely remember some store-bought small glass-shaped glass containers with metal pry-off lids of the stuff that she’d bring home from the grocery – is that a mirage?) Haven’t made it myself in my adulthood yet, but I’ve got some major hankerin’ goin’ on now.

    1. LenaB, not a mirage – the little glass jars were Kraft and they had several flavors, including pimento cheese. My parents used to buy them, even though my dad is famous for his pimento cheese. Go figure.

      1. Thank you, Abigail, for confirming what I was thinking was my crazy imagination! I don’t believe I’ve seen those little jars in the stores in forever! And they made nice little juice glasses, too! That seemed like a cream-cheese type of spread, but it’s been a long time. I just know I liked it and I’m looking forward to mixing up some home-made stuff, now that I’ve learned a little more about it here.

    2. Hi LenaB,

      While I have never made “pimenna cheese” with greek yogurt, I say give it a try and see how you like it. Even after all our variations on the theme, I think the best pimento cheese is the one YOU like best. That is what is so great about it – we all love it no matter which version we create. And around here (Louisiana) I have friends who always add some vinegar and cream cheese to the mix of cheddar, pimento, and mayo. And guess what? It’s really really good that way too. So I would suspect that using Greek yogurt would be a good place to start and then add in whatever takes it to the next level for you and your family. Who knows, maybe even some boiled peanuts (that was for YOU, FL) would give it a certain zing!

      1. Hi Karen – I hear ya on the cream cheese! I always assumed that was part of what made up the mix. And you’re right about food in general – you can make it what you like it to be! Thanks.

    3. LenaB, this is a “condamn-free” zone, so ask away. I can’t speak to your questions, as I’m a neophyte. Perhaps some of our testers and readers can jump in? Folks? And remember–“condamn-free” replies only.

      1. David, I keep coming back to read the comments on this one! Though I would never “condamn” anyone, here’s what I consider the best pimento cheese (You kindly invited me to share my recipe before, but I never got around to it!):

        1 pound medium or sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
        1 4-ounce jar pimientos, drained and diced
        1 cup mayonnaise
        2 tablespoons chopped dill pickle
        2 tablespoons dill pickle juice
        1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
        1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

        But I’m always open to people making substitutions. After all, *I* am not going to be eating it! I’d like to ask LenaB exactly what mayonnaise she (or a darling child) has had that she doesn’t like. There’s a lot of bad mayonnaise out there. If she does try it with Greek yogurt, I’d love it if she’d contact me and let me know how she liked it.

        1. Ahh, thank you, David. A little new here and was really getting a kick out of reading all this “pimenna” (or puh-menna) conversation. I was jus’ messin’ around about the ‘condamning’ – just a poke at how passionate folks can get about ‘their’ regional foods. Just like the insistence about ‘proper’ variations of different foods – BBQ, Chili, Pizza, Peanuts, etc.

          Until this conversation, I don’t think I realized that Pimento (pimiento?) cheese had mayo as a base ingredient – which makes me think my mom must have served the already-made stuff – sometimes transferred to a pretty little serving bowl for company & special occasions. Usually with those little Melba toast slices, or plain ‘ol saltines. I assumed it was a cream cheese/sour cream-mix type of base. I worked alongside her with all the regular meals she would make for the family, as I was always “in-training” for making her meals myself when she went to work outside the home. Although I remember her mixing up batches of lots of different things, I don’t recall her mixing up a batch of pimiento cheese.

          Jean, as for my non-mayo-eating child – it’s just any mayo – period. She just gets grossed out by it, as does one of my siblings – so I guess maybe it’s an occasional hereditary thing. I recently subbed greek yogurt for mayo in an artichoke-spinach dip for the non-mayo child & my other kids, and she not only appreciated it, but all of us liked it quite fine. I’ll definitely let you know how it goes with the greek yogurt – if I had any pimientos in my pantry I’d do it now, but first a trip to the grocery is in order.

          1. I have used Yogurt but usually mix it with some cream cheese-whole fat-non-flavored. Mix the two together b4 adding to make sure very creamy. Then I add Texas Pete and some cowboy jalapeno candy -stir into the extra sharp cheese = sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper.Stir gently-put on some good home made bread and sprinkle some “real cayenne pepper on top” not the stuff from the grocery store. Toasting the bread can be good so it is almost crispy or children usually prefer it soft. Make sure you let the bread cool first.Great for pic nics with little fried chicken wings. Both easy to pack and carry. Add a cheer wine soft drink 🙂 and a moon pie or or oatmeal cookie for desert. Great thing about PC is you can change it anyway you want-or use what u have-any peppers that you can(pickle) will work or you just love. For me has to be Dukes mayo if you use mayo-nothing else compares. Personal note: b4 my husband became my DH (Sicilian) he loved fishing and this is what i would make for our lunch. So easy to pop in a cooler and just tonight he ask if I had any left for a midnight snack.Have fun with the recipes-use what you have-pepper cheese for example is just as good. Just dont let it be runny and much better the day after than not. If you use yogurt let it drain a bit or use Greek style. and yes- Southern born and bred and when im gone ill be southern dead.

          2. Hi LauraJean – you read my mind on mixing the greek yogurt w/cream cheese, though I was thinking along the lines of the reduced fat/Neufachtel (sp?) variety. Just curious, when you say “real cayenne pepper–not the stuff from the grocery store”–can you please elaborate on this? Not sure what this might be. I lovelovelove spicy, but maybe not in pimiento cheese for me, but always game for variations!

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish