I thoroughly enjoy a good pimento cheese sandwich! With tomatoes, of course! Pimento Cheese has become known as a Southern Classic, sometimes lovingly referred to as "Southern Paté", but did you know that it originally came from New York? That almost sounds like blasphemy given its popularity and longevity down South, but it's the God-honest truth.
This post may contain affiliate links which means that if you click them and purchase something, I get a little commission. Thank you for your support.
A little Pimento Cheese history
In the 1870s, farmers in New York started making a soft cheese that eventually became the cream cheese that we know today. About that same time, sweet peppers began to be imported to America and before too long, they were being canned. It was only a matter of time before cream cheese and pimentos were combined and offered as a commercially prepared "pimento cheese" available all over the US.
So how in the world did Pimento Cheese become known as a Southern Classic? Well, that's an interesting bit that has resourceful beginnings. The Spanish pimientos that were being imported were not inexpensive so the mindful Southern farmers started growing them themselves. However, they were shipping them all over the country and pimento cheese was still largely an industrial food product available nationwide. For a reason that is still unclear, many Southerners have memories of pimento cheese being iconic in their family's larder more so than elsewhere across the country. Its popularity languished for awhile after WW2, but in the late part of the last century, Pimento Cheese once again surfaced and Southern chefs started recreating the delicious memory in various ways.
Read more in depth about the history of Pimento Cheese in the article "From Scientific Cuisine to Southern Icon: The Real History of Pimento Cheese".
Cheese(s) to use for Pimento Cheese
In the beginning, Pimento Cheese was simply cream cheese and pimentos. As time went on, other mix-ins such as onion powder and even mustard began to be used. Eventually, in the South, "hoop cheese" was used rather than cream cheese because it was much less expensive, but in these later years, recipes usually call for cheddar cheese or a combination of cheddar cheese and Monterrey jack. And of course, cream cheese and mayonnaise.
A note on cheddar cheese ... I was tempted to buy yellow cheddar to make this because that is the traditional color. However, I prefer cheese with no added color so I stuck with white cheddar. Guess what I found out? That the pimentos and paprika give plenty of color!
What kind of pimentos to use
Traditionally, you would use canned pimentos! But you can also roast your own and dice them to mimic the jarred variety. I like the taste of peppadews so I use half peppadews and half pimentos.
For flavor, I use a bit of Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and salt and pepper.
You can try to be all heroic and mix it by hand if you want to, but I'm telling you that that is a difficult chore! I use my stand mixer and the paddle attachment with great success.
How to serve Pimento Cheese
Well, it's really a no-brainer, right. As a sandwich spread is the classic way to eat it and I like it with tomatoes and plenty of salt. You can also use it to make a grilled sandwich ... YUM. And a very delicious way to enjoy it is on a burger. I kid you not. You might never eat a burger without it again!
But ... there's other options for enjoying pimento cheese and that's with vegetables. I just love it this way. The crunch of the vegetables is so very satisfying with the creaminess of the cheese!
I love using the mini sweet peppers, endive leaves, cucumber rounds, and celery sticks. What vegetables would you use?
Other recipes you might like:
- 16 ounces white cheddar cheese grated
- 4 ounces cream cheese softened
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 2 ounces peppadew peppers, diced Use the spicy ones if you like!
- 2 ounces pimento peppers, diced
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- salt and pepper to season
- Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix it using the paddle attachment, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Serve as a sandwich spread, burger topping, or with crudités. Some of my favorites are mini peppers, cucumbers, endive leaves, and celery sticks.
- Keep covered in the refrigerator.