Pimento Cheese (It's a Spread)

One of my brothers, who lives in Los Angeles, recently asked me for the recipe for Pimento Cheese (if you are Southern: yes, it is capitalized), which reminded me that it has been a long time since I'd tasted any. It's not available in local restaurants, here in Chicago (correct me if I'm wrong). And I imagine the same is true for this brother; if there were someplace he could pick up a tub of it, he'd do that. 

While I was writing down how I make it, I started fondly recalling all the finest Pimento Cheese Moments in my life; there are so many that I won't be able to recount them here. 

The few bad Pimento Cheese Moments of my lifetime will just take a minute, and who wouldn't have time for that?

If you're not a Southerner, you probably don't even know what P.C.  is, and I'll start by telling you that is a cheddar cheese spread with chopped pimentos. 

What is is not is a dip, and if you call it a dip, my sister will let you have it. So annoying to watch someone trying to dip crudite in a batch. You eat it on toast, as a sandwich, or saltine crackers. Watching yankees mess with the recipe, by adding onion or chives or something to give it visual interest, which is insane, is excruciating. Of course, there are Southerners who put pickle relish in it. And sugar. So it's not just the yankees. It all makes my skin crawl. 

Anyway, my worst Pimento Cheese Moment involved making it for two new friends, a father-daughter duo with whom I'm now very close. I made a big batch for them; he is a Southerner living in Chicago, too, so naturally he hankered for it.  I used a lot of black pepper. I love black pepper. And I was not used to cooking for children back then. And after eating way too much of it (removing many of the pimentos one by one) on saltines, the daughter got a stomach ache. I blamed myself. We now know, from this awful experience, that one must decide: make it spicy and eat a little, or make it normal and eat a little more. Do not eat a vat of it. And don't let children eat a vat of it. 

Because this is not health food. The first recipe is one I like very much, from my very favorite restaurant in Charleston, S.C., a place where the food is close to perfect for me. It incorporates some fanciness, but not too much. Mine is lazier. Here is their website, which features a few more Southern recipes. 

Hominy Grill Pimento Cheese

Makes 4 generous cups

6 cups cheddar cheese, grated (1 1/2 lbs)

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, crated

1/2 cup jarred pimentos, rinsed and chopped fine

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon

1 teaspoon ancho chili powder

1/3 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the pimentos, mayonnaise, bourbon and seasonings in a large mixing bowl. Work the grated cheeses into the mix until thoroughly combined.

Emily’s Pimento Cheese

Makes much more than you should consume in one sitting

1 giant (1 lb) block cheddar cheese, grated

1/2 cup mayonnaise (more if necessary; it’s just to bind)

1 jar (4 oz) pimentos, drained, juice reserved, and finely chopped

lots of black pepper (probably no more than 1/2 teaspoon)

Tabasco sauce, a few shakes

Combine the cheese, mayo, pimentos, some of their juice, pepper, and Tabasco.  Adjust seasoning to taste. I usually use about half the pimento juice from the jar. It’s not much. And I probably use more than a half cup of mayo. You don’t want it to be too wet or too dry. It helps to let this sit for a while so the flavors can blossom, before eating. Again: you can eat it on saltines or on toast with more mayo. Some people eat it on celery, but I can’t dope that out. And remember: “It’s a spread not a dip,” and tell that to  yankee lady who insists on calling it “this marvelous dip,” with wonderment, as if she’s never heard of pimento cheese. If you put to much pepper in it, it will keep you awake at night. 


  1. I don't know how I feel about bourbon in pimento cheese, but your recipe is spot on.

  2. I feel like I may be one of the few Southerners who hates Pimento Cheese based on the slew of blogs and commentary I've seen about it lately. I feel better though, knowing that I'm not the only one since my parents don't like it either. Maybe it's genetic? Either way, I had a few words to say about my misadventures with Pimento Cheese here: http://is.gd/1dkRP.

  3. I am intrigued by the bourbon and cumin in the first recipe. Cumin! Who'd have imagined it? (Frankly, I can see my fellow Southerners pouring bourbon into anything.)

  4. Perhaps it was the bourbon, not the PC, causing the malady!

  5. oh my gosh...you finally posted "Emily's P.C."... I can't WAIT to try it all by myself. You might have to fly down to ATL and make it for me. will ya please? Cousin T.

  6. Oh dear... I have never tried Pimento Cheese, but just reading through list of ingredients makes me want to try it! It has so many of the flavors that I love. Many thanks!