pimento cheese spread

I blame the crinkly plastic-wrapped slices of shiny, square American cheese that starred in my sandwiches growing up for my dislike of yellow cheeses. Offer me a tray of assorted cheeses (yes, please do), and I’ll go for the white cheeses every time. The pale yellow of Parmesan and Swiss cheeses are okay, but not the vibrant orange-yellow of cheddar and its relatives.

With one exception.

Pimento cheese.

Pimento cheese sandwiches were a common lunch item when I was a kid. I had no idea what I was actually eating on those slices of bread. I couldn’t fathom what was in that creamy, lumpy orange spread that lived in the small plastic tub in our refrigerator. But I ate it, and I liked it.  Pimento cheese sandwiches were easy, and they were comforting. And now they remind me of my dad.

Pimento cheese is another classic southern comfort food item, and there are lots of variations on a simple theme. Most recipes I’ve seen include the three most important ingredients — grated cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and chopped pimientos. Some recipes contain raw onion, and many recipes contain a dash of heat – either with hot sauce or cayenne pepper or the like.

The pimento cheese that I grew up with, the one that brings back memories of childhood, is incredibly creamy, with a hint of sweetness to balance the saltiness of the cheese. You could make this recipe entirely by hand, but I like to use the food processor to get that proper, easily-spreadable texture. A generous slathering of pimento cheese between two slices of fresh white sandwich bread, and you’ve got a classic, southern sandwich.

Is it lunch time yet?

Yield: 2 cups.

Pimento Cheese Spread

I'm a believer in using plenty of mayonnaise in this pimento cheese. Skimping on the mayo makes the spread too thick for my tastes. Using light mayonnaise will alleviate the may0-guilt, and the flavor doesn't suffer.


16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup light mayonnaise
7 ounces chopped pimientos, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Freshly ground pepper


In the bowl of a food processor, add grated cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pimientos, salt, sugar, and cayenne pepper. Process until well-combined. For smoother texture, process for longer. Add freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.

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25 Responses to “pimento cheese spread”

  1. 1
    The Duo Dishes — February 17, 2011 @ 10:16 am

    Yay! Glad more people will learn about the beauty that is pimento cheese! It is a master craft. 🙂

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  3. 2
    MiraUncut — February 17, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

    I have seriously never heard of this. I feel left out now 🙁 looks very comforting. Does it melt well?

    • 2.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — February 17, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

      I’ve never had a grilled pimento cheese sandwich, but Kelly commented that it’s delicious that way. So, go for it!

  4. 3
    DessertForTwo — February 17, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

    Omg you just made me so hungry! I have to make this for tomorrow’s lunch! Thanks for sharing. Have you tried the Whole Foods pimento cheese? It has fresh jalapenos! Not traditional, but very very good.

    Have a great day 🙂

    • 3.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — February 17, 2011 @ 7:08 pm

      We don’t have a Whole Foods here in north Florida. It’s one of the downfalls of living here. Jalapenos would give it a nice kick, I bet!

  5. 4
    Aggie — February 17, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

    I swear, there is not a cheese that I’ve met that I don’t like. This looks so so simple and good!! I don’t know why I don’t ever make this! (loving the idea of the commenter above about the fresh jalapenos..YUM!!)

    • 4.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — February 17, 2011 @ 7:07 pm

      Cheese is definitely a weakness of mine, too. Do not leave me alone with a wedge of Brie and expect some to be leftover.

  6. 5
    jenn — February 17, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

    Hey MJ! I add a tablespoon or so of sweet pickle juice (usually from my homemade pickles, yum!) to “cut” the saltiness of the cheese. I also like to experiment with different kinds of cheeses. Pepper jack did not go over well with the kids…but I liked it!

    • 5.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — February 17, 2011 @ 7:06 pm

      Pickle juice! I love that idea.

  7. 6
    Kelly @ Evil Shenanigans — February 17, 2011 @ 6:07 pm

    I LOVE pimento cheese. I have never seen it smooth, like yours, before but I love it! Have you ever made a grilled pimento cheese sandwich? You should, it is like heaven on buttery, crisp bread! Also, if you can find it … Duke’s mayo is THE BEST commercial mayo out there and it makes irresistible pimento cheese. Just sayin’ … 😀

    • 6.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — February 17, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

      I grew up with very smooth pimento cheese, so that’s how I like it. 🙂 Duke’s mayo — I’ll have to look for it. Never had it grilled, but now you’re making me wish I had a sandwich.

  8. 7
    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — February 17, 2011 @ 6:48 pm

    We are pimiento cheese addicts. I will have to try your awesome version

    • 7.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — February 17, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

      It’s so easy to become addicted to this stuff. Is it the mayonnaise, I wonder?

  9. 8
    Alessio — February 17, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

    Now I know what I will be craving the whole next week!

  10. 9
    Jessica — February 18, 2011 @ 2:45 am

    Mmm Southern Classic at its best!

  11. 10
    melissa @IWasBornToCook — February 18, 2011 @ 8:39 am

    Looks great, and I love the idea of grilling it!

  12. 11
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — February 18, 2011 @ 9:29 am

    Never heard of this but will have to try! I also love the idea of grilling 🙂

  13. 12
    Megan — February 18, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

    I had never heard of it till just in the last year or so thanks to blogging! It’s been on my must try list for a few months and this could be just the swift kick that I need to get up and try it. I’m thinking my kid would love it and it would be a great sack lunch kind of sandwich! Ingredients on the shopping list!

  14. 13
    Errin — February 18, 2011 @ 6:41 pm

    Ummmm….yeah. I probably get a little too excited when I show up to a party and there is pimento cheese. Maybe from now on I should be the one bring it 🙂

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  18. 14
    Therese Smyers — November 2, 2011 @ 11:55 pm

    I have to say this was the BEST recipe every for pimento cheese spread. I have been looking all over the place for a good recipe and spent tons of money on horrid recipes. I love the fact you shred then put in food processor. I just made it the first time tonight and cannot wait till tomorrow when the flavors all marry. Oh Yum!!!

    Do not waste your money on those plastic store bought containers of perservites when you can make this one. It is so easy and absolutely delicious.

    • 14.1
      Merry-Jennifer — November 3, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

      Therese, your comment made my day! I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe!

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