Pimento cheese is a favorite spread among Southerners — but that doesn’t mean Northerners, Easterners, Westerners or anyone else can’t enjoy this simple dip and the many, many ways to eat it.
At its most basic, pimento cheese is a dip or spread made with shredded cheese, mayonnaise and pimientos — also known as pimiento cherries or cherry peppers. And no, that extra “i” in there isn’t a typo — while the pepper used in the cheese is technically spelled “pimiento,” most of the recipes we found refer to the cheesy, tangy Southern dip in question as “pimento.” Pimento it is!
Pimento cheese is an easy-to-make and versatile appetizer. Southern Living even calls it “one of the first dishes Southern cooks master,” noting every host has their own special take on the simple snack. Their version calls for pecans for crunch and ground red pepper for heat, and they recommend serving it sandwich-style with sliced fresh tomatoes on the side.
Whether you plan to spread yours on a sandwich or dunk into it dip-style with veggies, crackers, chips or pretzels, there’s a pimento cheese recipe out there for every taste. You could even swirl a spoonful into a pot of macaroni and cheese or use it as the filling in your next batch of deviled eggs. Beyond the three basic ingredients — cheese, mayo, pimientos — it’s endlessly customizable.
Allrecipes’ top-rated pimento cheese recipe calls for cream cheese to make the spread “extra decadent” as well as a minced jalapeño for an optional spicy kick. Theirs also includes garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, but the seasonings are among the most customizable elements of this dip. Other recipes call for onion powder or celery seed, and some give the Southern dish a Mid-Atlantic twist with a dash of Old Bay.
And we haven’t even mentioned condiments — Southern Living uses Worcestershire sauce in their recipe while Churchill Downs’ executive chef David Danielson adds Dijon mustard to his. Danielson’s take on the dip also includes cooked, diced bacon. Needless to say, we’re looking forward to making his version for the Kentucky Derby next month!