Add an instant Southern twist to any dish with some old-fashioned pimento cheese! A creamy cheddar cheese spread with ample seasonings and just a little kick, pimento cheese is a Southern classic that’s great with everything from crackers or burgers to crab cakes or grits! This easy homemade spread comes together in about 15 minutes!
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Living in Charleston, South Carolina, pimento cheese is as popular on restaurant menus as Charleston red rice or shrimp and grits! I enjoy trying different variations of the classic spread, either as a standalone appetizer served with crostini or pickled vegetables, incorporated into pimento cheese grits, or as a topping on a juicy Southern-style hamburger.
Whenever it’s available, I find it hard to resist the creamy, pimento-studded spread, so it’s great to have an easy homemade version I can make whenever I want!
Reviewers have said it’s “delicious and popular at every gathering!” and “lots of flavor, zesty taste and just darn good.”
One reader even said “I love this recipe and everyone I serve it to loves it as well. It’s the best one I’ve found. Please forgive me, I tell people this is an old family secret recipe. 😁 . It’s that good.”
So don’t take my word for it! Try this recipe for yourself and see if you’re hooked too!
What is pimento cheese?
Pimento cheese is a Southern cheese spread made from shredded cheddar cheese, cream cheese and mayo, and of course diced pimentos. It often includes some lemon juice and some spices, like pepper and onion or garlic powders.
At its most basic, pimento cheese is used as a spread or cold dip for crackers, but it can be used for almost anything to add a Southern twist! You can use it in place of shredded or sliced cheese on sandwiches, mixed into grits, in macaroni and cheese, or as a topping for crab cakes or fried green tomatoes.
This homemade pimento cheese recipe is an easy and delicious way to get a little taste of the South, even if you don’t live here (but it might make you wish you did!).
Did you know?
Today, pimento cheese is strongly associated with the Southeastern United States, but it actually originated in New York in the late 1800s. It was developed at the beginning of the industrial food manufacturing boom with the production of American cream cheese and the import of Spanish pimiento peppers to the U.S.
Pimento cheese didn’t become associated with the South until after World War II. Read more about the history of pimento cheese here!
What are pimentos?
Pimentos (or pimientos) are a type of pepper, also known as cherry peppers, that are very sweet with very little heat. They are some of the mildest peppers on the Scoville scale. They were originally imported to the United States from Spain in the late 1800s but began being domestically grown, roasted, and canned in Georgia by the 1920s.
Even if you haven’t had pimento cheese before, you’ve probably had them stuffed into green olives. Pimentos are also dried and ground to create paprika.
Prepared, jarred pimentos have been roasted, peeled and sliced, or sometimes pureed and reformed into tiny strips.
Ingredients in pimento cheese
The basic ingredients in pimento cheese are semi-hard shredded cheese, something to bind it into a deliciously creamy spread, and pimentos. A few spices complete the spread!
How to make homemade pimento cheese
It’s so easy to make homemade pimento cheese! Just shred your cheese, drain the pimentos, and mix all the ingredients together. Make sure the cream cheese is softened before you start so it combines easier.
Store in the fridge for up to a week, but soften for 15 minutes before using for a more spreadable consistency.
Variations and substitutions
Smoked Gouda Pimento Cheese: Use 1 cup freshly shredded sharp cheddar and 1 cup of gouda cheese (smoked or not!).
Pepper Jack Pimento Cheese: Use 1 cup of freshly shredded sharp cheddar and 1 cup of shredded pepper jack cheese.
Jalapeño Pimento Cheese: For a hot and spicy pimento cheese, add 2-4 tablespoons of canned or pickled jalapeños. Pimento cheese should not be crunchy, so I wouldn’t use fresh unless you roast them yourself!
Substitutions: You may use finely diced roasted piquillo peppers or roasted red pepper (skin removed) instead of pimentos, although as a Charlestonian I’d recommend jarred pimentos if you can find them.
Expert tips & tricks
- For the creamiest pimento cheese, shred your own cheese from a larger block. Pre-shredded cheese contains anti-caking agents that add a bit of a powdery texture.
- Set your pimento cheese out for 15 minutes to soften before serving for the most spreadable consistency.
- Use pimento cheese anywhere you’d use shredded or sliced cheese to add a Southern twist: grits, burgers, sandwiches — the sky’s the limit!
What to serve with pimento cheese
If you’re serving pimento cheese as the star feature, you can serve it with:
- Ritz crackers
- Soft pita wedges
- Slices of French bread
- Pickled vegetables
- Pickled okra
- Raw vegetable slices like zucchini or bell peppers
Serve it in a bowl, or for a fancier presentation, make it into a pimento cheese ball. To do that, refrigerate the pimento cheese so it firms up a bit. Form it into a ball (you can wrap it in plastic wrap to do so fairly easily) and then roll the ball in crushed Ritz crackers, crushed crispy bacon, additional shredded cheddar cheese, or Jane’s Krazy Mixed-up Pepper blend.
Pimento cheese can also take so many foods to the next level! Use pimento cheese:
- Instead of sliced cheese on burgers
- As a topping on fried green tomatoes
- Piled on crab cakes
- To make grilled pimento cheese sandwiches
- As a filling for pimento cheese tea sandwiches (try these ham and pimento cheese tea sandwiches!)
- Stirred into creamy grits
- To make pimento mac and cheese
- On a BLT, or better yet, a BLFGT (Bacon, Lettuce, and Fried Green Tomato sandwich!)
Old-Fashioned Southern Pimento Cheese
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 4 oz jar of pimentos drained
- 4 oz cream cheese softened
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp pepper blend (I use Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Pepper) can substitute 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.