The best Pimento Cheese recipe is so Southern and really easy to make at home! This simple cheese spread comes together with a handful of ingredients: mayonnaise, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, scallions, and diced pimentos. It has the addition of crunchy toasted pecans that makes it even more special. Serve this creamy and cheesy spread on crackers, veggies, as dip or make it a sandwich.
It comes together in just a few minutes and it is seriously so flavorful! This is truly an old fashioned Southern recipe.
Having lots of family friends that are Southern or that live in the true South (Florida can’t really be considered “the South”), I have been exposed to various pimento cheeses for quite some time.
And it secretly was always a favorite! I love cheeses, and I mean, really love them! When we are in Italy, there isn’t a cheese I will turn down. The creamier and stinkier, the better!
So you may think it’s odd that I’m exploring something so iconic to the American South. But let me tell you, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are Italians or even American expats living in Italy making this cheese.
You see, I even found REAL cheddar cheese two summers ago at the tiniest super market on the beach in Calabria.
Yes, real cheddar cheese! The pop of orange color stood out amongst the huge hunks of pecorino and Parmigiano Reggiano. Honestly, it was a little bit surprising. I have American friends that live in Rimini that find Cheddar at Aldi markets. But cheddar in Calabria? Was totally unexpected.
When my mom gave me a copy of the Magnolia Table cookbook some years ago, I explored it and was convinced to one day try out their pimento cheese recipe.
Since I’m always searching for fun and different seafood or cheese appetizer recipes for the holidays, this one of the things I made for Christmas. And I will be making it again for an upcoming birthday family party! Because it was a huge hit!
1919 Pimento Cheese Recipe
Joanna Gaines in the Magnolia Table cookbook shares an original recipe for pimento cheese from the Elite Cafe from 1919. It is located in Waco, Texas and it happens to be the current location of the Magnolia Table restaurant.
The original Elite Cafe restaurant uses Velveeta cheese. But I didn’t find it needed Velveeta. You get so much creaminess from the mayo and the cream cheese. If you want to add some grated Velvetta in your pimento cheese, go ahead! No judgement here.
What is Pimento Cheese?
A pimento (in Spanish spelled pimiento) is a type of chili pepper that is red, heart-shaped and is about 3-4 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. It has sweeter flesh than a regular red pepper. You may even find some spicy pimentos.
Pimento cheese is famous in the Southern United States. It is an extremely popular spread made with cheese, mayonnaise, and pimentos. Some people may refer to it as “Carolina caviar” or the “pâté of the south,” “Carolina caviar,” and “the caviar of the South”.
It is served with vegetables, crackers, or even served on sandwiches. Creamy from the mayo and chunky from the grated cheeses with a lovely touch of pepper flavor from the pimentos.
You may find some versions that include Worcestershire sauce, paprika, jalapeños, cayenne pepper, garlic (or onion) powder. I’ve come across some versions with grated onions, garlic, and even dill pickles.
I suppose this is a more classic version, with the crunch factor from the toasted pecans. This is not spicy, at all. But if you like a kick of spice, go ahead and add some chopped jalapeños.
What ingredients are in pimento cheese?
Here is the very short list of what you need to make this delicious cheese spread. Full printable recipe is below.
- Cheddar cheese: white and yellow is used. Sharp cheddar cheese is what I prefer, but go ahead and substitute with mild cheddar or extra-sharp cheddar cheese — whatever you prefer is fine!
- Mayonnaise: best to get a high-quality, full-fat mayo, as it’s part of the base of this cheese spread.
- Cream cheese: again, use a high-quality, full-fat cream cheese. The cheese will end up with a better and creamier flavor.
- Diced pimentos: find them next to olives and other jarred peppers. You only need the very small 4-ounce jar of the pimentos (if you can’t find pre-diced, no problem, just need to chop them up).
- Scallions: Just a handful of chopped scallions is all you need. You could also omit. I like it with the scallions. Mild flavor and love the green flecks in the cheese.
- Pecans: this is an option. It was holiday time, so I had plenty of pecans around. I like the nice crunch it adds to the cheese.
How to Make Pimento Cheese
This cheese spread recipe is truly so easy to make! It is an old fashioned Southern pimento cheese recipe and you do not need a stand mixer or a hand mixer. As long as the cream cheese is softened, you could mix it all together by hand! A box grater, a bowl, and a wooden spoon to give it all a good mix!
Gather up all your ingredients. First step is to grate the cheese. The cheese should be grated thick. So either buy thick grated cheddar or grate your own with a box grater (I grated my white cheddar and bought some cheese that was thick grated).
Second, place the mayonnaise and softened cream cheese in a large bowl. Add in the cheese, diced pimentos (and the juice from the jar), scallions, and toasted pecans.
Check the flavor and add a dash of salt, if needed, and stir to combine.
Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve!
How to serve Pimento Cheese
There are various ways to serve this delicious homemade pimento cheese recipe. Here are some ideas.
Pimento Cheese Dip
You can chill the pimento cheese and serve it cold as a dip. Another option is to spread it into a small casserole or pie plate and bake it at 350F for 20 minutes to make a hot dip.
What to serve pimento cheese dip with:
- spread inside celery sticks or with peppers
- pita chips
- on top of crackers
- scooped with tortilla chips
- spread on toasted baguettes
- mash with yolks for deviled eggs
- make pinwheels spread it into tortillas and serve as an appetizer
Pimento Cheese Sandwich
A true Southern classic way to enjoy pimento cheese is served right in a sandwich. Here are some types of sandwiches to make:
- Traditional pimento cheese sandwich– spread a thick layer of the cheese in between slices of white, wheat or rye bread.
- Pimento + meat sandwich- spread the pimento cheese on slices of your favorite bread and add whatever sliced meat you like (ham or turkey). Add on some tomato slices and lettuce.
- Grilled pimento cheese sandwich- spread a thick layer of pimento cheese on your favorite bread (even slices of French bread), butter the slices and grill on a hot pan until golden brown.
- BLT– spread the cheese on slices of white bread and add on some cooked bacon and tomatoes for a lovely BLT.
It tastes creamy and cheesy, slightly tangy, and peppery (not spicy ).
This cheese can be eaten either hot or cold. It’s great as a cold or hot dip.
The traditional cracker that is the the best since it’s so neutral in flavor, is a Saltine cracker. Also they are crispy and salty enough to go with the flavor of the pimento cheese.
Palmetto Cheese is a trademark for a brand of pimento cheese from Pawleys Island Specialty Foods.
Pimento Cheese Recipe Variations
- Use diced pimento or whole pimentos. If you can find already diced pimentos, that saves you a step. If you find whole, just cut them into small pieces.
- Either save or toss the liquid from the jar of pimentos. If you do add the liquid, it adds another pop of pimento flavor.
- Some recipes call for grated onion (Vidalia would be perfect). Spicy variations is chopped jalapeno peppers, a dash or two of hot sauce, or some cayenne pepper (remember, it’s super hot!).
- Some recipes call for relish or chopped pickles added into the cheese to give it a briny flavor.
- There are recipes that add in garlic or onion powder. If you like that flavor, go ahead and add a dash to your taste preference.
What does this pimento cheese recipe yield?
This recipe yields a large amount of pimento cheese spread (about 3 1/2-4 cups). I made this for a party and enjoyed the leftovers the next week. If you need a smaller amount, just cut the recipe in half.
Tips for the Best Pimento Cheese Recipe
- It’s such a basic recipe, so it’s essential to buy the best ingredients to make the cheese spread.
- A very nice sharp flavored cheddar will make the pimento cheese even more delicious.
- The cheese should be grated thick, so a simple box cutter works great to shred the cheese (or buy pre-shredded thick cheddar).
- Let the pimento cheese get softer by leaving it out for 15-20 minutes before serving.
- To make sandwiches, calculate ⅓ – ½ cup of cheese spread per sandwich. This recipe would yield about 6 sandwiches. Double the recipe to make 10-15 sandwiches.
Can you make pimento cheese spread ahead of time?
Yes, prep the spread 3-4 days in advance. Store it in an airtight container. When you spoon it in the container, pack it in tightly before closing with the lid and keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to enjoy.
How long does homemade pimento cheese stay fresh?
Keep the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Can I freeze homemade pimento cheese?
No, I do not recommend freezing it. The mayonnaise will most likely separate when it’s thawed and the cheese spread will not have a nice consistency.
Some other cheese recipes to enjoy:
- Savory Cheese and Chive Bread
- Easy Baked Brie in Puff Pastry
- Easy Mini Plum Brie Tarts
- Brie and Ham Pizza
- 3 cups white cheddar cheese shredded thick on a box grater (or get thick cut)
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese shredded thick on a box grater (or get thick cut)
- 4 oz cream cheese softened
- 2 cups Mayonaise Hellmann’s (or Duke’s if you can find it)
- ½ cup diced pimentos drained
- ¼ cup green onions minced, light and dark parts
- ¼ cup pecans toasted and chopped
- In a large bow, combine the cheddars, cream cheese, mayo, pimentos, green onions, and pecans. Stir gently until well combined. Cover and chill for 1 hour before serving. You could mix the cream cheese with the mayo using a hand mixer. Or do what I did, and mix it by hand (just make sure the cream cheese is softened).
- Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
- If you like, season with salt and pepper (I do not add any salt or pepper to the cheese).
- Serve on top of crackers, as a dip with fresh vegetables, or spread on bread as a sandwich.
- Look for the best quality mayonnaise, cream cheese, and cheddar cheese. The cheddar flavor will really stand out, so find the most flavorful brand.
- It’s ok if you use pre-shredded cheese from a package. Just look for the large cut cheddars.
- Give the cheese spread some time to chill in the refrigerator so the flavors will meld together.
- Best if you could make the night before. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to serve, take it out of the fridge and leave on the counter for about 30 minutes before serving. Makes it softer + easier to spread.