Often referred to as “Carolina Caviar” or “Southern pâté” in the southern United States, pimento cheese is a classic at tailgates, parties, and in lunchboxes around the country—and these are some of the best pimento cheese recipe ideas around.
This unique cheese mixture is traditionally made with shredded cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and sweet cherry peppers called pimentos. You can add hot sauce, horseradish, jalapenos, garlic, pickles, or any condiment to season the spread. Blend it smooth or leave it chunky. Serve it as a dip with veggies and crackers, spread it on sandwiches, add it to collard greens, or top it over a pizza. The possibilities to personalize pimento cheese are endless.
Columbia, South Carolina is home to the oldest published pimento cheese recipe—back from 1912, and many of these recipes are passed down families. Over 100 years later, the greatest chefs in Columbia are still incorporating this delectable blend on way more than bread and crackers. When visiting Columbia, pick up a pimento cheese passport and collect 10 stamps from 10 different restaurants that serve up pimento cheese in a unique way.
In the meantime, here are some pimento inspired recipes from chefs around the South:
Pimento Cheeseburger Pizza
Chef Mike Davis at Terra restaurant in Columbia, uses high quality imported Spanish pimento roasted in-house, and New York cheddar, to make fresh pimento cheese that he uses to top his Pimento Cheeseburger Pizza. Check out our homemade pizza crust recipe to make the whole thing from scratch at home.
“The one bit of advice we’d give is make your pimento fresh,” says Davis. “Oil and roast your peppers in the oven beforehand, then remove the heart, seeds and as much rib as possible before cutting your peppers to size. This simple step will put your pimento cheese over the top!”
Smashed Pimento Cheese Yukon Potatoes
Fried potatoes topped with warm pimento cheese and scallions were already a crowd-pleaser at South Carolina’s The War Mouth restaurant. But since COVID-19, the restaurant started packaging and selling their pimento cheese by the pint.
“Pimento cheese is a perfect to-go item because so many people use it at home in a variety of ways, incorporating it in dips, sandwiches, scrambled eggs, etc. A pint of pimento cheese is easy to travel with if you’re going to the beach, lake, or for a picnic. And if you’re heading over to sip wine on a friend’s porch, it’s the perfect take along!” says General Manager, Courtney Phillips.
Grilled Peach Toast with Pimento Cheese
Want to know how to serve pimento for breakfast? For celebrity chef and owner of Richard’s Southern Fried Hot Chicken in Atlanta, Georgia, pimento has no boundaries. Paying homage to the Peach State, Todd Richards creates a sweet and savory recipe using fresh peaches, avocado, radish, watercress, bacon, and adobo pimento cheese. The full recipe can be found in his cookbook, “Soul: A Chef’s Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes.”
Pulled Brisket Pimento Cheese Sandwich
Don’t limit your cheese selections when making homemade pimento. Chef Jessica Shillato from Spotted Salamander Café and Catering in the South, uses smoked gouda instead of cheddar to make her pimento cheese:
Smoked Gouda Pimento Cheese
- 16 ounces shredded smoked gouda
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 3 ounces of roasted red bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Place mayonnaise and cream cheese in mixing bowl, use paddle attachment on low until blended together, about 1 – 2 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients and blend until everything is incorporated.
Smoky Pimento-less Cheese Wrap
If high-fat dairy doesn’t fit into your diet, Good Life Café in downtown Columbia has you covered with a vegan version of the Southern staple that’s made from cashews. Specializing in raw, vegan, and organic food, the menu features a pimento-less wrap with smoky pimento-less cheese, cashew mayo, a flax wrap, and lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. Try making your own vegan cashew pimento cheese recipe at home.
Pimento Cheese Biscuit
Why settle for bread when you can have soft buttermilk biscuits with heaps of cheese? When it comes to making biscuits, Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit is a legend. Founder Carrie Morey buttery, hand-made biscuits, pimento cheese, and other artisan goods. Morey sells her signature and fiery pimento cheese in 12 ounce containers. Callie’s has locations in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Charleston and an online store so you can get hot biscuits shipped to your door. You can also order them through Goldbelly.
Callie's Charleston Celebration Box, $77.80 from Goldbelly
Get one dozen each of Callie's country ham biscuits and buttermilk biscuits, plus 12 ounces each of her regular and fiery pimento cheese.
Or try these easy drop biscuits with a secret ingredient and slather on the homemade pimento cheese while they’re still warm.
Related Reading: 5 Pro Tips for Perfect Biscuits
Fried Green Tomatoes with Pimento
It’s hard to find a more iconic Southern dish than cornmeal crusted deep fried green tomatoes. At Solstice Kitchen in Northeast Columbia, the juicy, tart and crisp tomatoes are topped with a rich and smoky cheddar pimento sheep and candied Applewood bacon. Try recreating it at home with our Fried Green Tomatoes recipe and our Pimento Cheese recipe.
Baked Pimento Cheese
As nights turn chilly, cozy up by the fire with baked pimento cheese and slices of toasted baguette, served in a fondue bowl or cast iron skillet. Add Conecuh sausage, bacon bits, or diced grilled chicken to the melting cheese to make it a meal. Woolworth on 5th in Nashville serves their bacon and jalapeno baked pimento cheese with crispy pork rinds and tortilla chips. Try this Hot Pimento Cheese Dip recipe at home.
Fried Pimento Cheese
You may not be able to go see a game in person right now, but you can bring stadium food to your stay at home tailgate party. Fried pimento cheese balls are great for snacking, and so addictive that Chef Daniel Doyle of Poogan’s Porch and Poogan’s Smokehouse in Charleston, South Carolina was invited to cook them at the James Beard House in New York. His Pimento Cheese Fritters recipe calls for a mix of white and yellow cheddar, cream cheese, sour cream, fresh chives, and panko bread crumbs. Serve these delightful cheese balls with tomato jam and bread and butter pickles.
Related Reading: A Beginner’s Guide to Deep-Frying without Fear
Barbecue Pimento Cheese
Inspired by her hometown of Memphis, author Perre Coleman Magness uses smoked cheddar and a healthy dose of her house barbecue spice rub to make BBQ pimento cheese. She also pushes her limits with Cheddar Cheese Gnudi with Pimento Romesco and Pimento Cheese Risotto. “My biggest advice in making pimento cheese is to use good quality cheese,” says Magness. She adds that pre-shredded cheese is often coated in cornstarch or other anti-caking agents which get gummy when mixed with mayonnaise, so it is always better to grate a block of real cheese by hand. (Advice echoed on a classic Chowhound thread on homemade pimento cheese.)
If you are hungry for more pimento cheese recipes, check out Magness’ book, “Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook: 50 Recipes from Snacks to Main Dishes Inspired by the Classic Southern Favorite.”
“Hey, in writing the book I even experimented with a pimento-cheese inspired crust for apple pie (it didn’t make the cut)!” says Magness.
Header image courtesy of Jennifer Davick