Old-Fashioned Southern Pimento Cheese

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!

Old-fashioned pimento cheese in a white bowl surrounded by Ritz crackers.

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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!

Easy homemade pimento cheese in a Weck jar surrounded by Ritz crackers.

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!

  • Shredded cheese: While sharp cheddar cheese is the classic choice, there are plenty of delicious variations you can make just by switching up the base cheese! Gouda or smoked gouda make delicious pimento cheese, or pepper jack if you’re looking for an extra kick. For best results, shred your own cheese from a larger block, since pre-shredded cheese has anti-caking agents added which might add an undesirable powdery texture to your spread.
  • Cream cheese and mayo: In my opinion, a good Southern pimento cheese should taste mostly like the cheddar. The cream cheese and mayo should be just enough to bind the cheddar together and make it creamy, but should not dominate the flavor. I use about half the amount of cream cheese that I see in many recipes.
  • Pimentos: Just like the pimentos you find stuffed in green olives. You can get the pimentos on their own in a little jar! You’ll find them near the pickles and olives at the grocery store.
  • Spices: This recipe uses garlic, onion, paprika, a pepper blend, cayenne pepper, and a little Old Bay seasoning.
Closeup of creamy Southern pimento cheese sprinkled with a pepper blend.

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!
A woman spreads homemade pimento cheese onto a Ritz cracker.

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
  • Crostini
  • 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!)

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With ample seasonings and just a little kick, creamy Southern pimento cheese is great with everything from crackers or burgers to crab cakes or grits! This cheddar cheese spread also makes a great cold party appetizer dip that doesn't require the oven.
4.82 from 11 votes

Old-Fashioned Southern Pimento Cheese

With ample seasonings and just a little kick, creamy old-fashioned pimento cheese is a Southern classic that's great with everything from crackers or burgers to crab cakes or grits! This easy homemade cheddar cheese spread comes together in about 15 minutes!
Print Recipe
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Southern
Servings: 10 1/4-cup servings
Calories: 212kcal
Prep Time:15 mins
Total Time:15 mins

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Notes

Serve with crackers, mixed into grits, on a grilled cheese sandwich, on a BLT, with fried green tomatoes, over crab cakes, or as a hamburger topping.
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.
Substitutions: You may use finely diced roasted piquillo peppers or roasted red pepper (skin removed) if you’re unable to find pimentos.
Tried this recipe?Mention @pinchmeimeating or tag #pinchmeimeating on Instagram!

Nutrition

Sodium: 257mg | Calcium: 174mg | Vitamin C: 12mg | Vitamin A: 734IU | Sugar: 1g | Fiber: 1g | Potassium: 62mg | Cholesterol: 39mg | Calories: 212kcal | Trans Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Fat: 20g | Protein: 6g | Carbohydrates: 2g | Iron: 1mg

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59 Comments

    1. I felt the same way. I added some finely chopped jalapeno, reduced the pimento a little, and mixed extra sharp white cheddar with the sharp orange cheddar. Everyone liked the additions a lot.

  1. 5 stars
    I have both tasted and made several variations of pimento cheese spread but this one is my favorite and the best in my opinion. It has lots of flavor, zesty taste and just darn good. Everyone wants the recipe which I tell them to go to this website. This is the tops.

  2. 5 stars
    Goodness gracious, this is delicious! Made it tonight and am having it with crackers and olives. Just couldn’t wait to try it!

  3. 5 stars
    I recently found you recipe on Pinterest. This is a fabulous Pimento Cheese! Just the right spice and creamy. My husband loves it so much I can’t keep it in the house!

  4. 5 stars
    How long does this dip last? I’m thinking I’d like to give this as gifts in air tight jars, but want to know how far in advance I can make it!

    1. I’m afraid I can’t speak to the canning possibilities of the pimento cheese! Usually when I see it available for purchase it’s in refrigerated tubs (rather than any shelf-stable form). I’d say it would be good for about a week though, if kept refrigerated! I’m not sure how long its life might be extended if you were using a suction food saver thing to suck all the air out of your containers.

    1. I haven’t tried this myself but I would add roasted, seeded jalapeños or maybe some from a can (pickled or regular). I’ve seen recipes that just call for finely diced, seeded jalapeños but I wouldn’t want the texture of the pimento cheese to be interrupted by a crunchy raw pepper!

  5. Is there something I can substitute for the pepper blend? Not something I have here locally and don’t want to buy a specific spice that I may not use again.

    1. Hi Anne! Pimentos are a type of mild, sweet cherry pepper and you frequently see them as stuffings for green olives. If you can’t find a jar of pimentos by themselves in Australia you can substitute roasted piquillo peppers, or if you can’t find those, regular roasted red peppers (skin removed if there is any). Pimentos are a little sweeter than either of these but they are very similar and will still make a tasty pimento cheese!

  6. Sounds wonderful, I must make this for our annual holiday wine & cheese party. Would a single recipe be enough for 15-20 people (with other appetizers) or should I double it?

    1. For that many people, I’d say double it. It just makes a couple cups’ worth, so a single batch would not be comparable to, say, the amount of dip in a casserole dish. And even if you end up with leftovers, you won’t regret it! Have fun at your party!

    1. Unlike a Mason jar, which has a screw on metal lid, a Weck jar has a rubber ring, glass lid, and two little metal clips that hold the lid and rubber ring on the top. Both Mason jars and Weck jars can both be used for canning, though, although only the Mason-style jars are USDA approved (Wecks are popular in Europe).

      Here’s a link (affiliate) to what appears to be a similar Weck jar to the one I used: http://amzn.to/2yTvKjD – but I got mine individually at World Market! They come in different sizes and shapes, but I love the “tulip” shape!

      Theresa Loe at “Living Homegrown” prefers Mason jars for canning (https://www.livinghomegrown.com/how-weck-jars-work/) and I’m sure I would too – they seem more foolproof – but the Weck jars sure are pretty for storing jams, lemon curd, or pimento cheese in the fridge!

  7. Looks great! Definitely want to try this! What kind of jar are you using for it in your pretty picture? Is it a Weck? 🙂

      1. 5 stars
        Of course you did! I would totally do the same thing. I made this last night – turned out great! I really need to get some of those jars. Seems likes I am drawn to pictures on food blogs of delicious looking concoctions in Weck jars LOL!

  8. I grew up eating pimento cheese, and my mother used to make pimento cheese toast. Spread it on white bread and stick it under the broiler and oh, my goodness! Cheesy heaven!

  9. Love pimento cheese. Was raised in the Midwest and pimento cheese is often served at get togethers! Will try your recipe. I’m sure it is yummy!

  10. Finally made this recipe tonight, and it is amazing! I love the Old Bay seasoning taste; I would have never thought to try that!

  11. Looks delightful! But pimento is missing from the list of ingredients, along with the amount. I bookmarked through Foodgawker. Will check back and look forward to making pimento cheese for my Austrian friends!

    1. 5 stars
      Oh my goodness. I’m currently enjoying this recipe. Made it last night. Just got home for lunch to try it. It is wonderful. Pimento cheese is a favorite of mine. I’ll never buy it from the store again! Made recipe exactly as is. I did dice a block of extra sharp cheddar instead of using the pre shredded. Yum! Thanks Caroline

  12. Mark and I had our first pimento cheese when we visited his brother and wife in Gainesville for Christmas almost 10 years ago! Becky’s family was from the Carolinas and her Christmas tradition always included pimento cheese. It was so good – I can see why you’d want it on everything! Thanks for the recipe, Caroline, and I wish you, Mike, and your families a wonderful Christmas season!

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