Homemade Southern Pimiento Cheese is a true classic. With simple ingredients of sharp cheddar cheese, pimiento peppers, and mayonnaise it can be whipped up in minutes and used as a sandwich filling or a spread. Once you try my recipe, you may never want store-bought again.
Classic Pimiento Cheese. That delectable combination of cheddar, mayonnaise, and pimientos affectionately called “Paté du Sud,” or southern pâte. Everybody knows pimiento cheese. Right? Wrong.
Not long after BeeBop and I got married and were immediately exiled to the cold northeastern United States by the U. S. Navy, I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find out that there were actually people in the world who had never even heard of pimiento cheese. I found this unbelievable since pimiento cheese was a staple in every southern household within my acquaintance.
Pimiento cheese sandwiches were as common to our childhood as peanut butter and jelly is to most. It was something that our mothers could make up quickly, spread between two pieces of soft white bread, feed us lunch, and be back to the hundreds of tasks they still had to complete that day. It also made appearances as hors d’oeuvres when stuffed in a rib of celery or spread on a cracker.
It is a remarkably simple recipe that uses very common ingredients that are nearly always on hand. My basic recipe follows.
Once you’ve tried the basic recipe you can do a little embellishing (a tiny dash of garlic powder, a dash of cayenne, or maybe a few chopped green olives) but don’t stray too far. Otherwise, it’s not pimiento cheese anymore, but just some fancy cheese spread. Pimiento cheese is not meant for fanciness.
❤️ Why We Love This Recipe
- Total time, 10 minutes
- You can’t get more southern than this
- Versatile – use for sandwiches, snacks, and appetizers
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING …
“I loved the pimento cheese spread my dad would eat as a snack with crackers when I was a little girl.”
🛒 Ingredient Notes
- Pimientos (make sure they’re well drained; purchase diced pimientos to make your life easier or chop up the sliced or whole ones)
- Cheddar cheese (I use only sharp cheddar; some cooks use a mixture of cheddar with Monterey Jack and cream cheese but I think those milder cheeses just dilute the flavor and result in a bland tasting end product)
- Mayonnaise (use an excellent purchased brand or make your own homemade)
🔪 How to Make Classic Pimiento Cheese
Grate the Cheese
STEP 1. Grate the cheddar cheese.
👉 PRO TIP: You simply cannot use the pre-shredded cheese for this recipe. It contains anti-caking agents that prevent clumping together and it will not result in the correct texture. You can use your food processor to make quick work of the grating. Personally, I just grate it on a hand grater. It’s way easier to clean up than disassembling the food processor.
Add All Ingredients
STEP 2. To the grated cheese, add the diced pimientos along with the mayonnaise, salt, and black pepper to taste.
👉 PRO TIP: I always use Duke’s mayonnaise. It’s made by people who know what mayonnaise is supposed to taste like.
STEP 3. Using a fork, mix all the ingredients together. Mixing with a fork helps retain the texture of the shredded cheese. Some people use a hand mixer, but that breaks down the cheese too much for my taste.
Enjoy your pimiento cheese in a sandwich, as a spread on crackers, or stuffed in celery. I like it best on marbled rye with a few potato chips and some pickled okra on the side.
I know lots of people who enjoy it in a grilled cheese or on a burger. Frankly, I don’t like it warmed up at all. It completely changes the texture and taste in my opinion. I think it’s best enjoyed cold or at room temperature.
👉 PRO TIP: Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator. After being chilled, you may find that it has solidified a bit and needs an additional tablespoon or so of mayonnaise stirred in to bring it back to the correct consistency.
🍽️ How to Serve
There are loads of ways to serve pimiento cheese. Make a sandwich by spreading a generous amount between two slices of soft white sandwich bread, good sourdough, some fantastic whole wheat, or my favorite marbled rye. Or serve it at your next party as a spread with crackers, or stuffed into celery sticks. It’s all good.
Store your pimiento cheese in a covered container in the refrigerator. It will last for at least a week. It will not freeze well, however, so enjoy it while it’s fresh.
🔀 Substitutions and Variations
As I mentioned above, making too many changes to this recipe results in something that is no longer Pimiento Cheese and has become a fancy cheese spread. There are, however, a few things you could possibly do that wouldn’t mess up the basic recipe too much.
- For a cheesier flavor, substitute half the sharp cheddar with extra-sharp
- For a spicy version, add one-fourth to one-half teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Some people enjoy a little grated onion or a 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder mixed in (I don’t, but you might)
- If you insist on a lighter version, substitute low-fat alternatives for the cheese and mayonnaise
- If you don’t like mayonnaise, well then maybe this recipe just isn’t for you :-)
❓ Questions About Pimiento Cheese
I’m glad you asked! According to Southern Living and the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the preferred spelling is p-i-m-i-e-n-t-o. Yes, with that extra “i”. Plus my favorite brand, Lindsay, spells it that way right on their jars. That’s proof enough for me.
“Palmetto Cheese” is a commercial brand of pimiento cheese sold in grocery stores across the south. It’s fairly bland and mild tasting in comparison with homemade.
With apologies to my fellow southerners, I have to tell you that pimiento cheese was actually created in New York. Yep. It started out as a combination of cream cheese, mustard, chives, and pimientos. However, it quickly made its way south where we perfected it and claimed it as our own.
🧾 More Recipes You’ll Like
- The Real Deal Banana Pudding
- Old Fashioned Cornbread
- Favorite Summertime Potato Salad
- Southern Butter Beans
- Turnip Greens and Corn Pone
- Caramel Layer Cake
>> See more delicious southern comfort food recipes <<
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- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese grated
- 4 ounces diced pimiento well drained
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
- salt and pepper to taste
- Grate the cheddar cheese.
- Add the pimientos, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper.
- Using a fork, mix all ingredients together.
Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.
— This post was originally published on June 2, 2009. It has been updated with new photos and additional information.