Need a delicious cheese spread for your next party? Football is here, fall and winter holidays are around the corner. You might be throwing a little gathering, needing a delicious and different appetizer. Try adding a little Southern flair to your party table with something a little wicked, cheesy and delightful. Try this Southern Pimento Cheese Spread, also known as the "caviar of the south," or "pate of the south," the delicious Southern classic recipe you didn't know you were missing.
My first time trying pimento cheese was in Kentucky which is now the place I call home. I never had pimento cheese or even heard of it before. Once I tried this southern favorite, I was hooked. This homemade pimento cheese spread is so easy to make. With the rising costs of grocery store spreads, you can easily pay anywhere from $6-8 for just 12 oz. of Pimento Cheese spread. You can make this spread yourself for about $3 and I guarantee it'll taste way better than store-bought!
What is Pimento Cheese?
Pimento cheese is a mix of pimento peppers, sharp cheddar cheeses with a cream cheese mayonnaise base. Pimento peppers are sweet red peppers; a type of chili pepper that is heart-shaped. They are those lovely little red things that peek out of large green olives. There are different types of pimentos, but the ones you buy in jars by themselves near the pickles section are the same ones in green olives and they are on the sweeter side. They are added to cheddar cheese and cream cheese, sometimes sour cream as well to make for a delicious, slightly tangy, semi-sweet spread with a subtle bite.
Where did Pimento Cheese Originate?
Apparently, old-fashioned pimento cheese did not originate in the South, but in New York. The South made pimento cheese their "own" later so to speak. In the late 1800's, "pimiento" peppers were imported from Spain. After a while, the second "i" was dropped from the word, turning it into what we know today as "pimento" peppers. They were enjoyed and incorporated into stuffing and baking goods because of their "milder" taste compared to red bell peppers. Here's a great article from Serious Eats, "The Real History of Pimento Cheese" if you're curious to read more about it. In the early 1900's pimento production started in Georgia, so the guess is that is why it became so popular in the South.
How do I Make Pimento Cheese Spread?
This is such an easy recipe, with simple ingredients, you can make it in 3 simple steps:
1. Shred cheese unless you're using pre-shredded and drain your little jar of pimentos.
2. Add of of your ingredients to a bowl
3. Use a fork to mash up and mix everything all together till you don't see clumps of white cream cheese anymore. It's that simple.
Many pimento cheese recipes require using a food processor or hand mixer, but this recipe does not. I personally think pimento cheese spread is better a little lumpy and not smooth. I like the chunky kind. If for some reason you're not a fan of chunky then of course go ahead and process yours to your liking.
Pimento Grilled Cheese
Try making grilled pimento cheese sandwiches for one of the yummiest grilled cheese sandwiches you've ever had. Generously spread your delicious fresh-made pimento cheese on 2 slices of bread, butter the outside of the slices and grill on a panini press, skillet or griddle just as you'd make a grilled cheese sandwich. It's a simple delicious pleasure! Pimento cheese can make one of the yummiest grilled cheese sandwiches you've ever had.
Ways to Serve Pimento Cheese
It's a spread and a dip so see below other ways to enjoy it. If you're looking for a fun way to turn it into an elegant-looking appetizer, add the pimento cheese to hallowed-out chunks of cucumber for a fun and tasty vegetarian appetizer.
Try this delicious spread on buttery, flaky crackers like ritz crackers or an equivalent alternative. Serve it for a party or enjoy if you need an extra special tasty snack. If you want to elevate the look of your spread, add a little chopped green onion or chives on top of your serving bowl.
Spread it on sandwich bread instead of mayo for a change to your usual sandwich. One of my boys loves pimento cheese so much since he first tried a store-bought version he loved at Costco. He doesn't care for sandwiches overall, but now likes it for his packed school lunch with some shredded lettuce and pickles. He is my pimento cheese connoisseur and gave me a thumbs up when I created this recipe, saying it's now the "best pimento cheese" he's ever had. It might be biased, but I'll take it.
Southern cooks serve it between slices of white bread for a basic pimento cheese sandwich or you can cut the edges off the bread and cut it into triangles for some fancy Southern-style tea sandwiches. If you've never tried pimento cheese on burgers, you're missing out. Anything you can spread or add cheese to, you can try this delicious spread on.
Dip into it!
This pimento cheese spread makes a delicious dip as well! Try dipping carrot or celery sticks for a dangerously delicious little guilty pleasure. Get your veggie intake with a little naughty cheesy yumminess. Try dipping corn chips or pretzel chips into a little pimento spread for a special treat. If you are serving it as a dip, it would best be served at room temperature so it's not too hard to dip into.
Delicious Food Add On
Add pimento cheese to just about anything to turn a standard dish into a next-level Southern surprise! You can use it in many different ways like try it on deviled eggs or try a little Southern thing like Spicy Southern Kitchen's pimento cheese grits. Pimento cheese is a popular thing in Southern Cuisine so it can be added to just about anything you would add cheese to.
Homemade Southern Pimento Cheese Spread Ingredients
- sharp cheddar cheese- (orange or white cheddar), shredded (Use your best cheese, but be sure to include in that mix at least part extra-sharp cheddar cheese to give this recipe a nice sharp kick). If you have pepper jack on hand you can add that as well for an extra kick. If you like a smoky flavor, you can add smoked cheddar cheese for an extra delicious bold flavor. Monterey Jack is also an option if you're short on the other cheeses.
- Regular cream cheese or Neufchatel- Don't use low fat for this, you want full fat all the way for this. You can also sub out some of it for sour cream if you prefer it a little creamier. Brick or whipped cream cheese is fine, but whipped might be a little thinner overall. If you want it thicker, use a brick.
- Mayonnaise- Just like the cheddar cheese and cream cheese, I recommend only full fat, this is not meant to be a low-fat kind of recipe)
- Jar of Pimentos- be sure to drain the pimentos and squeeze them out a bit.
- Lemon Juice- I use my bottled lemon juice for ease, but fresh squeezed is great of course, just to add a little acid.
- Worcestershire Sauce- If you need this spread to be Vegetarian, there are Vegan versions of Worcestershire options available now.
- sea salt
- ground black pepper
- onion powder
- granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
- smoked paprika
- Optional- cayenne pepper or a little bit of hot sauce (to add a little kick)
What can I Substitute for Pimentos? (Update 1/23)
Pimentos are the star of this recipe, but there are times you can not find them in the store, like right now (January 2023). If you go to the store and look in the pickle section, you might not find them at all! Apparently there is a pimento shortage right now and you can not find jars of them in many grocery stores. You can use roasted red peppers, peppadew peppers and jarred pimentos if you happen to be lucky enough to have a jar. I personally had to use sweet roasted red peppers to make this spread for our 2023 New Year's celebration just a couple weeks ago. I chopped them up really small and it still tasted great! In fact, my family didn't even notice the switch until I mentioned it. So go ahead and keep making this spread with what you can find. Happy New Year!
Optional Additions for your Own Pimento Cheese Variation:
- Chopped jalapeño peppers (If you don't like raw, you can try Roasted jalapenos or pickled jalapenos)
- Chopped Green Onions or chives
- Chopped Dill pickles
If you like this recipe, you might enjoy these as well!
Homemade Southern Pimento Cheese Recipe (Spread-Dip)
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 8 oz. cream cheese softened
- 3 tablespoon Mayonnaise
- 1-7 oz. jar pimentos drained & squeezed (about ⅔ cup after drained)
- 1 ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon granulated garlic
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper depending on spiciness tolerance
- Add all ingredients to a medium mixing bowl.
- Stir and mash with a fork till you no longer see white clumps of cream cheese.
- Enjoy immediately or chill in the refrigerator till ready to serve.