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Homemade Pimento Cheese

Homemade Pimento Cheese is classic and simple with just grated Cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos, and cayenne pepper. It’s easy to make and great as either a dip or for sandwiches!

Jar of pimento cheese ready to serve with a serving knife in background.

Masters Pimento Cheese

When April comes around, many lucky attendees of the Master’s tournament get to experience their first taste of homemade pimento cheese. The legendary sandwiches are served at Augusta National for only $1.50. Since I’ve never tasted these, I can’t vouch for them but apparently they are one of the tournament’s most popular items.

Update 2015: We did attend the Masters Tournament this year and I did have a pimento cheese sandwich. And it was just ho-hum. But still fun!

A homemade pimento cheese sandwich like the Masters pimento cheese sandwich.

Homemade Pimento Cheese

Homemade pimento cheese is one of those classic Southern dishes that many of us remember from childhood as something we never gave much thought to. If you were hungry, you were likely to get a pimento cheese sandwich.

If you were going to a church dinner, your mama probably took pimento cheese sandwiches.

If you were attending a bridal shower, there was probably a tray of “fancier” pimento cheese sandwiches, cut into dainty squares with the crusts cut off.

And if it was the middle of the night and a glowing light was shining from the kitchen, you might have caught your dad with the refrigerator door open, snacking on pimento cheese on Ritz crackers.

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Southern Pimento Cheese or Not?

I did a little research on the history of pimento cheese, and it turns out that this is not a Southern food in origin. According to author and food historian Robert Moss, the term and subsequent recipe variations of pimento cheese actually began with Northern cheese manufacturers seeking to expand the usage of their new popular product, cream cheese.

The state of Georgia does lay claim to pimentos, however, as it became the leading grower and producer of pimentos in the nation in the early 1900s.

Regardless of how it came to be, pimento cheese is now identified as a Southern food—but there is little agreement on the actual pimento cheese recipe.

Pimento Cheese in a jar with a spreader and a couple of crackers.

Pimento Cheese Recipe

While my pimento cheese recipe calls for only extra sharp white and extra sharp yellow Cheddar, there are plenty of Southern cooks who use Velveeta, cream cheese, or even Monterey Jack.

Some people add grated onions or olives or jalapeno peppers, along with various seasonings like Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, or garlic.

I like to keep it simple and only use Duke’s mayonnaise, cheese, and pimentos with a little cayenne and black pepper mixed in. There are also debates about grating—should you use the smaller holes or the larger holes—or grate it in the food processor?

I used to swear by only using the small side of the box grater, however, I’ve learned how to grate with the small blade in my food processor, which makes everything so much easier.

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But here’s my new secret trick for this pimento cheese recipe:  you can mix it up using a stand mixer just like this one. If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid or any kind of stand mixer, I just want you to know that you can use it for so much more than just baking recipes!

So now, by using the food processor to grate the cheese and the mixer to stir it all together, I can have pimento cheese ready in about 6 minutes. It takes longer to clean the blades of the machines than to actually make the pimento cheese!

Ingredients for the Pimento Cheese Recipe

  • Two 8 oz. blocks extra sharp Cheddar cheese — I like Cracker Barrel brand
  • One 4 oz. jar diced pimentos, drained
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup mayonnaise — Duke’s – amount depends on how creamy you like it
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper — my default is 1 teaspoon, but that’s a little spicy for some people
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

How to Make Pimento Cheese

Step 1.  To start, take cold Cheddar and grate in the food processor. Alternatively, you can grate some on the small side of the handheld grater and some on the large side until you have a bowl full.

Step 2. Place mayonnaise, pimentos, cayenne pepper, and a little freshly ground black pepper in large bowl of a stand mixer. No salt as the cheese is usually salty enough by itself.

Step 3.  Starting on low, mix for a minute just to blend and then turn mixer to medium-high to mix well and incorporate all the ingredients. Should take 2-3 minutes.

Alternatively, just put everything in a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon. This method takes a lot of elbow grease!

**Cook’s Tip: I highly recommend using the stand mixer!

Step 4.  Mix everything together until the pimento cheese is smooth and creamy. And taste. This is the most important part.

When I use the stand mixer, I add 3/4 cup of mayonnaise and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and it makes the perfect recipe for us. But it’s important for you to taste the first time you make it so you can determine for yourself how creamy and how spicy you want your pimento cheese.

**Cook’s Tip: Start with a smaller amount of mayo than the recipe calls for, as well as a smaller amount of cayenne pepper, then taste as you go.

Homemade pimento cheese is all about personal preference.

This recipe makes enough pimento cheese for a party and to have leftovers for sandwiches. You can keep it in the fridge for several days, although it probably won’t stick around that long.

Tips for Making the Best Pimento Cheese:

Can you freeze pimento cheese?

I have never frozen pimento cheese and I don’t think it would be good to do so.

How do you store pimento cheese?

Pimento Cheese is a great make ahead recipe and keeps well in the refrigerator for several days. Just store it in an airtight container and serve at room temperature.

What’s a good pre-made brand of pimento cheese to buy?

There are plenty of times when I just grab something from the store in a hurry and if that’s the case, I always choose Palmetto Pimento Cheese.

If you’ve tried this recipe, please rate the recipe and leave a comment below!

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Bowl of ready Southern pimento cheese with a spreader.

Homemade Pimento Cheese

Yield: 24 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Homemade Pimento Cheese—classic and simple with just Cheddar cheese, mayo, pimentos and cayenne pepper. Easy and delicious!

Ingredients

  • 2 8 oz. blocks extra sharp Cheddar cheese, (I prefer Cracker Barrel and usually use one white and one yellow)
  • 1 4 oz. jar diced pimentos, drained
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup mayonnaise, (Duke's - amount depends on how creamy you like it)
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Grate cheese into large bowl using small side of grater or food processor.
  2. Drain pimentos and add to cheese.
  3. Sprinkle the cayenne (start with 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon and taste after mixing) and black pepper over the cheese.
  4. Stir in 1/2 cup of mayonnaise. You may decide to add an additional 1/4-1/2 cup depending on how creamy you like it. Mix well and taste.
  5. Add more mayo, cayenne, and a little salt if needed--usually don't need salt as cheese is salty.

Notes

Tips for Making the Best Pimento Cheese:

  • Choose high quality cheese like Cracker Barrel brand.
  • I only use Duke's Mayonnaise.
  • Use a food processor to grate the cheese and a stand mixer to stir together.
  • Start with a smaller amount of mayo and cayenne pepper and taste as you go. 
  • You can make this pimento cheese recipe several days in advance and store in the refrigerator. 
  • Do not freeze.
  • Serve at room temperature.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 24 servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 123Saturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 22mgSodium: 161mgProtein: 4g

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Update Notes: This post was originally published April 4, 2011, and on October 26, 2018, was updated with one or more of the following: step-by-step photos, video, updated recipe, new tips.

This post is part of my favorite Southern Foods at Home collection.

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ND

Monday 18th of May 2020

Not having made pimento cheese for a long while, I was sure I must have made a recipe card, but evidently I always just made it and never wrote it down. At 70, I seldom cook unless it's something I can't get made properly anywhere else, and if you look for them there are some pretty decent pimento cheese places around. I couldn't remember my pimento-to-cheese ratio and was so shocked when I went online and couldn't find the delicious, basic, unadulterated pimento cheese recipe. I've already been disgusted while eating out at the addition of onion, but now I know the addition of cream cheese is what has been wrong with those thick, tasteless ones, I kept being served. Not for me. Thank-you again for helping me with my recipe. (By the way, though it wouldn't work well in large batches, I like it better when the cheese, Duke's, pimento, and pepper(s) are tossed together with a fork rather than thickened in a blender.) Yum!

Lucy Brewer

Monday 25th of May 2020

I agree with you about the fork! I've made it that way for many years. However, I usually make a pretty large batch so tossing it in my mixer is so much easier. So glad you enjoyed the recipe.