Pimento cheese spread is a Southern staple. Maybe you're not from the South and you haven't tried it yet--hold on, because you're in for a real treat!
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What is pimento cheese spread?
It's not a block that you can buy from the grocery store; it's a spread. As you might have guessed, it has cheese in it, plus, a little mayo and pimentos with some spices. It is quick and easy to make at home, so don't be tempted to bring home any brand from the grocery store.
What kind of cheese do you use?
Most home cooks can agree that it tastes best with cheddar, either sharp or extra sharp. Cream cheese is also commonly used, as it adds more body, making it creamier and more spreadable. But if you don't like it, it's easy to leave it out.
Other choices would be extra sharp white cheddar and pepper jack. If you want the signature color, make sure the dominant ingredient is orange.
How do you grate the cheese for this recipe?
Old timers would put their cheddar through a meat grinder. Nowadays, a box grater is more commonly used. Some cooks prefer grating it coarsely, finely, or a combination of the two--it's up to you.
Don't use pre-grated, as it has a special coating that interferes with the texture and taste, plus it doesn't mix together as well.
What kind of peppers should I use?
The pimentos, of course, are an important ingredient. You will achieve the best flavor from fresh large pimento peppers that you have roasted yourself.
But if you want an option that you can use year round, buy the jarred whole pimentos that you dice yourself. If you're pressed for time, buy the pimentos that are chopped up. They come in a little jar. Minced red bell peppers can also be used, but the taste will be more tangy.
What kind of mayo should I use?
Use the real stuff, like Duke's or Hellman's, not salad dressing. If you have the time, make your own mayo from our Caesar salad dressing recipe; it's not hard. Just remember that commercially made dressing will last longer.
What kind of spices should I use?
The spices you use to flavor this spread are personal, so feel free to experiment. If you want it more spicy, use jalapeños, hot sauce, Dijon mustard, cayenne pepper, or horseradish. Some other common spices are paprika, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, and dry ground mustard.
What kitchen tools should I use?
It's personal. Some chefs want it to be chunky, so they mix it by hand with a wooden spoon. Others want it really smooth, so they use a food processor. A lot of home chefs use a stand mixer or a hand mixer for ease of use and to get the texture they want; in between chunky and smooth.
How do you serve this spread?
It is usually served chilled or at room temperature. Spread it on crackers, white bread, bagel chips, pretzels, celery or sweet peppers. You can also use it as a condiment on burgers. Be creative and use it in an omelet or on top of beefsteak tomatoes and fried green tomatoes.
Can you serve this warm?
- Yes, you most certainly can!
- Put the dip in a 6-inch cast iron skillet or in a small casserole dish.
- Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.
- Serve it in a bread bowl if you want to be fancy, or keep it in the cast iron skillet if you're more casual.
- Serve the hot pimento dip with pretzel buns, celery, or crackers.
How long does this spread last?
If stored in an airtight container, it should last one week in the fridge. Any leftovers after that time should be stirred into pasta, deviled eggs, or scones.
Can you freeze this recipe?
If you want to use it as a spread or a dip, it's not advisable to freeze it. The oil from the mayo will separate once it is thawed and the texture will be different - more grainy. It will become spongy and slightly watery. It's best to eat it up within one week's time or use it as an ingredient for grits, pimento biscuits, sausage balls, or tomato pie.
How much spread would I need to make 50 sandwiches?
If you are planning on ¼ cup of spread on each sandwich, you will need 12 ½ cups of spread.
How to Make
Gather all the ingredients. Measure out the mayo, spices, and liquids, and let the cream cheese warm up to room temperature.
- Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the extra sharp cheddar, then put it in the fridge to chill.
- Using a hand mixer, gently mix the cream cheese and the mayo together.
3. Add the hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and spices, then blend it in with the hand mixer.
4. Add a touch of pickle brine and mix it in with the hand mixer.
5. Gently stir in the chilled grated cheddar.
6. Stir in the diced pimentos last.
7. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. If you can, a full two hours would be better to allow the flavors to meld.
8. Serve with crackers and enjoy!
- Want it without cream cheese? It won't be as good, but you can try it with more spices, like onion powder, garlic powder, and dry mustard.
- Want extra punch? Try adding peperoncini peppers.
- Want it more peppery? Try adding peppadews.
- Want more add-ins? Try freshly squeezed lemon juice, grated onion, vinegar, pickle brine, or crunchy pecans.
- Use softened cream cheese. Let it sit on the counter for 20 minutes.
- Grate the cheese, chill it, then add it in as the second last ingredient.
- Drain the pimentos well, then press the excess moisture out with a paper towel. Add this ingredient last.
- Can't find Duke's mayo? Add 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice to compensate.
- Want a garnish? Try green onion cut on the bias.
- Hamilton Beach Hand Mixer: get smooth, perfectly blended pimento spread with this mixer.
- Cuisinart Box Grater: grating your own doesn't take long with this grater.
- Glass Prep Bowls: store and display prepped ingredients in these bowls.
- Duke's Mayo: this is our favorite mayo for Southern recipes.
Looking for more tasty appetizer recipes? These ones should satisfy your appetite.
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Southern Pimento Cheese Spread Recipe
- 4 ounces brick-style cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup mayonnaise, such as Duke's
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco
- ⅛ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon granulated sugar
- pinch of white pepper
- pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, if you aren't using Duke's mayo
- 4 teaspoons dill pickle brine
- 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar, grated and chilled
- 4 ounces canned pimentos, diced and drained
- Preheat the oven to 350 F, if planning on serving this as a warm dip.
- Put the cream cheese and mayonnaise in a large bowl. Mix together with a hand mixer until softened and thoroughly combined, then add the the spices and blend again.
- Add the pickle brine, grated chilled cheese and pimentos. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
- Place the spread in a 6-inch cast iron skillet and warm it up in a 350 F oven for 20 minutes.
- Place the spread in a serving bowl. Cover it tightly and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes; however, it's best after 2 hours of chilling time.
- To softened the cream cheese, let it sit on the counter for 20 minutes.
- Add the grated and chilled cheese as the second last ingredient.
- Add the pimentos last, after draining them well, and pressing out the excess moisture with a paper towel.
- If you can't find Duke's mayo, add 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice to compensate.
- Green onion cut on the bias makes for a pretty garnish.
This post was originally published on April 27, 2018.