Pimento Cheese, Please

If you’re not from the South, pimento cheese may be a mystery to you. Is it a cheese that you buy in a block? Is it a cheese that comes in a jar? What the heck is a pimento anyway?

Pimento cheese is a cheese spread that you can put on crackers or Alex’s homemade baguettes, that is creamy and, for me, a bit spicy. And honestly, it’s so much better homemade that you’ll never buy one of those scary orange tubs again.

The Ingredients

Mayo, sharp cheddar, hot sauce, dried pepper, onion, fresh pepper, garlic.

The most important trick to making your own pimento cheese is that you MUST GRATE THE CHEESE. Do not skip this step by using pre-grated cheese, which has a floury coating on each strip to keep it from sticking to the other cheese pieces. If you use pre-grated cheese, your dip will have a grainy, unpleasant texture that you’re definitely not looking for.

You’ll also need mayo (which works as the binder), onion of some sort (I usually use 2 green onions, but whatever is handy), a fresh pepper (choose your spiciness), garlic, a hot sauce, and some dried hot pepper (cayenne is easiest).

The Process

Chopped veg.

Finely chop your onion and peppers and mince your garlic in a garlic press. I went with two fresh cayenne peppers for this version, but you can use jalapeños, poblanos, banana peppers, whatever you have around.

A traditional pimento cheese uses diced and cured pimiento peppers, which are a little sweet and not at all hot. Personally I think that the heat helps to balance the heaviness of the fat in the dish and helps to cut through it a bit. But all of this is entirely up to your taste buds and/or what’s around the house!

You MUST grate your own cheese for this dish.

Next grate your cheese (I recommend an extra sharp cheddar, but you can use whatever block of cheese you have around) on the widest setting on your box grater. This will make it appropriately chunky.

Mix your cheese together with your diced vegetables and then add about 1/2 tsp dried pepper, 1 tsp hot sauce, and a generous sprinkle of salt to start.

Then add your mayo one tablespoon at a time, stirring everything just until the mixture is holding together like a dip. If you don’t have mayo (or if you want to lighten it up), you can also use sour cream or a mixture of both.

Shoot for this consistency.

Keep tasting the dip and adding more hot sauce (if it needs more acid) or cayenne (if it needs more heat). Remember, this is up to your flavor preferences. If you hate spicy food, stop where you started.

And that’s it! You can eat it with a spoon right out of the bowl, spread it on crackers, or use it as the cheese in a nacho cheese sauce or macaroni and cheese base. Or, you can do as I did, make yourself a pimento grilled cheese on a delicious baguette.

Pimento Cheese Sandwich

Making some grilled pimento cheese.

The traditional pimento cheese sandwich is basically pimento cheese on white bread served cold; not really my style, alas. For this dish, I put the cheese between two pieces of baguette and made it grilled-cheese style on the stove top with a bit of butter. Grilled until toasty. Consumed. The cheese will get a little melty, but will will be a bit cold in the center, which is an excellent temperature combo with the crispy baguette!

About as easy as it gets! Also makes great finger food at parties, when we can have them again.

Finished product. Nom.

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