If you ever had any doubt that I live in the South, now is the time to shed them, for today I bring you that treasure of the Southern states: Pimento Cheese. Seriously, while somewhat obscure above the Mason-Dixon line, down here pimento cheese is used in increasingly inventive ways. The most common use is as a dip or spread for crackers, chips or crudité. However, you’ll see pimento cheese in restaurants as fancy grilled cheese sandwiches, burger toppings, stuffing for jalapeño poppers or chicken…the possibilities are endless.
I’ll admit, I was a little wary about this when growing up. We were living in New Jersey and it’s not like any of my friends were eating pimento cheese. It took until this past summer for me to decide that I actually liked the stuff, and that was because I finally ate some really excellent pimento cheese when we were in Memphis, TN. Sadly, I don’t recall the name of the place with the really excellent pimento cheese.
So what is pimento cheese? In its most basic form it’s shredded cheddar cheese in mayonnaise with pimento peppers. Easy enough, but kind of one note. But fear not, we southerners have had time to refine the delicacy and tend to gussy it up a bit. Most recipes now include onion and paprika or a little cayenne pepper. I’ve spiced mine up with some garlic, sriracha and jalapeño. It’s pretty darn tasty.
You can buy pimento cheese in pretty much any grocery stores down here, but I prefer making my own or buying it from a smaller store that makes their own, because it’s just not as good once you start adding stabilizers and preservatives and other junk.
So I hope you give this a try. If you want to feel super extra southern when indulging in your pimento cheese, try accompanying it with sweet tea. Or, if you don’t feel like dying from a sugar coma, plain old iced tea.
- 6 - 8 Tbsp Mayonnaise
- ½ small Onion, chopped
- 1 clove Garlic
- 1 tsp Sriracha
- 4 oz jar Pimento Peppers, drained
- 1 small Jalapeno, seeded and diced
- ½ tsp Salt
- black pepper
- Pinch paprika
- 1 lb Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded or grated
- Combine 6 Tbsp of Mayonnaise, the onion and the garlic in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Scrape the mayonnaise into a medium mixing bowl and stir in the pimento peppers, jalapeno, salt, pepper and paprika.
- Stir in the cheese. If you prefer a looser pimento cheese, add up to the two remaining tablespoons of mayonnaise a little at a time until you get a consistency you enjoy.
- Taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper and paprika, if desired.
- Cover the mixture and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before consuming to let the flavors mingle.