A quick and easy dip or spread that comes together in 10 minutes, this Pimento Cheese recipe is a traditional staple of the South. It’s a must-make for your casual get-togethers, game day, game nights, and holidays and is likewise delicious in its versatility as a filling or topping for a variety of dishes for your family dinners!
Shopping at Costco often gives you a pretty good idea of where you are geographically. Like the time we walked into a Costco on the outskirts of London and saw large wheels of Stilton blue cheese for sale (yes, we stocked up and brought it in a large cooler bag right onto the airplane), and saw that the food court served shepherd’s pie (now why can’t they serve that in the Costco’s here in the U.S?). Or the time we were visiting South Carolina and saw something we had never seen in any Costco out West: Pimento cheese. And it was that Costco that gave me my very first introduction to a traditional and beloved cheese spread of the South that I have since come to love.
What is Pimento Cheese?
Pimento cheese is a popular spread or dip in Southern cuisine. It is typically made from a mixture of shredded cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and pimentos, and often cream cheese is also added along with cayenne pepper for some added heat. The combination of these ingredients creates a creamy, tangy, and slightly sweet and spicy flavor profile. It’s commonly used as a spread for sandwiches and wraps, a dip for crackers or vegetables, or as a filling for things like celery sticks, cucumber cups, or mini puff pastry shells.
Where Did Pimento Cheese Originate?
Pimento cheese is a traditional Southern dish that originated in the Southern region of the United States in the early 20th century and is especially associated with the Lowcountry area of South Carolina. Its exact origins aren’t uncertain, but with its inclusion of pimento peppers is believed to have been influenced by the culinary traditions of Spain from early Spanish immigrants.
Pimento cheese gained popularity in the South during the periods of the Great Depression and World War II because it featured staple ingredients that were available during a periods of economic hardship. Its popularity has since spread across the U.S. and has even gained some international recognition.
What Are Pimentos?
Pimentos, also called pimientos, are closely related to bell peppers and chili peppers but have a distinct flavor and appearance. Pimentos are small, red, heart-shaped peppers that are generally mild in flavor, though some varieties have a little spicy kick to them. They have a sweet and slightly tangy taste and are known for their vibrant red color. They are especially popular in Mediterranean, particular Spanish, cuisine. Those red things you often find stuffed inside of green olives? Yep, those are pimentos. They add a burst of flavor and a lovely contrasting color to the green olives. For this pimento cheese recipe we’re using jarred diced pimentos.
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How to Serve Pimento Cheese
This versatile recipe works as a dip, spread, or filling.
Serve it as tea sandwiches between two slices of white bread. Put it in a bowl beside crackers, vegetable chips, or crostini for easy dipping and spreading. Or get fancy, and add it to sandwiches, salads, or even pasta.
Here are some popular ways to serve pimento cheese:
- Sandwiches: Spread it on bread, bruschetta, rolls, or wraps. It’s delicious on its own and also pairs with a variety of toppings like bacon, ham, turkey, grilled veggies, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. It also makes a crazy good grilled cheese sandwich!
- Crackers or Crostini: Serve it as a dip or spread with crackers, pita chips, or crostini. It’s also delicious as a filling for mini puff pastry cups.
- Vegetable Platter: Serve it alongside fresh vegetables like celery and carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, cucumber slices or cups, and cherry tomatoes.
- Stuffed Peppers: Use it as a filling for stuffed bell peppers, mini sweet peppers, or jalapeno peppers. You can serve them as appetizers or grill/bake them until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Burgers or Sliders: Add a dollop of pimento cheese to your burgers or sliders for a flavorful twist.
- Baked Potatoes: Use it as a topping for your baked potatoes instead of the usual butter and sour cream.
- Warm Pimento Cheese Dip: Warm up pimento cheese in the microwave until it is melted and bubbly and serve it as a warm dip with tortilla chips, pita chips, pretzels, or crusty bread.
- Deviled Eggs: Mix this in with the yolks for a delicious twist on the traditional deviled eggs filling.
These are just a few ideas – enjoy experimenting with different combinations!
Pimento Cheese Recipe
To make your homemade pimento cheese simply place everything in a large mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly combined and then add salt and pepper to taste. If you like it spicier, add some more cayenne or a splash of hot sauce.
Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and, for best flavor, chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. While you can serve it immediately after making it, it tastes much better after the flavors have had time to meld.
Pimento hardens as it cools so be sure to let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature to soften before serving. This will keep for up to a week in the fridge.
This pimento cheese recipe makes about 3 cups or twelve 1/4 cup servings. See blog post above for serving ideas for the delicious and versatile dip/spread.
For more delicious snacks and hors d’oeuvres be sure to try our:
- Baba Ganoush
- Neiman Marcus Dip
- Fried Okra
- Spanish Deviled Eggs
- Bacon, Blue Cheese, and Cranberry Cheese Ball with Pecans
- Candied Bacon
- Pistachio Lemon Cheese Balls
- Chicken Liver Pate
- Smoked Salmon Spread
- Pork Rillettes
- Boiled Peanuts
- 8 ounces (2 cups) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (don't use pre-grated as it's coated with cellulose and doesn't blend or melt as well)
- 8 ounces full fat cream cheese , cubed and softened at room temperature
- 4 ounce jar diced pimentos , thoroughly drained and finely diced (if not already)
- 1/2 cup good mayonnaise (Duke's is traditional here in the South)
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika powder (for a touch of smokiness can substitute smoked paprika)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt , plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more or less as desired)
- Place everything in a large mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and, for best flavor, chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld. See blog post for serving ideas. Note: Pimento hardens as it cools; let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature to soften before serving. This will keep for up to a week in the fridge. Makes about 3 cups.