This old fashioned pimento cheese recipe will take you back in time! Quick and easy to make, it's ready in 5 minutes and you only need 5 ingredients! Serve it as a dip or a spread, it's a homemade classic!
Pimento cheese dip takes me back to my childhood. It's a recipe steeped in old-fashioned nostalgia, a homemade treat that was ever-present at barbecues, family gatherings and all manner of parties and get-togethers.
How does this simple combination of cheddar cheese and pimento create such a magical flavor? Someone please explain it to me. Maybe it's the mayonnaise...yes, probably the mayonnaise.
I wanted to make a southern pimento cheese dip recipe that is what I would consider traditional, authentic, old-fashioned, whatever you want to call it. Make it the way I grew up eating it. And that means it's made without cream cheese! Shocking, I know.
- Old fashioned pimento cheese recipe ingredients
- How to make pimento cheese
- Expert tips
- How to serve old-fashioned pimento cheese dip
- Ways to use old-fashioned pimento cheese
- Recipe variations
- Storage and freezing
- More southern food recipes
- This old fashioned pimento cheese recipe only has 5 ingredients and takes 5 minutes to make!
Old fashioned pimento cheese recipe ingredients
You only need 5 ingredients to make homemade pimento cheese dip. You'll notice that I have not listed salt here at all, because you probably won't need it. See tips below.
- Sharp cheddar cheese: I like SHARP cheddar for pimento cheese dip and I suggest you invest in a really good one, too. I use Tillamook because the flavor is outstanding and it has the perfect texture. It holds up in the food processor without disintegrating, giving you nice pops of pure cheddar in every bite.
- Pimentos: Of course. You will usually find jarred pimentos near the olives and/or pickles in the grocery store.
- Mayonnaise: Any true Southerner is probably going to tell you to use Duke's Mayonnaise. It has no sugar, and contains more egg yolks than most other brands, giving it a smoother, richer flavor. Because we're making our pimento cheese recipe the old fashioned way without cream cheese, this particular brand of mayonnaise will add that creaminess that you're looking for without making it too heavy.
- Garlic: Just one clove, grated to give savory flavor throughout. Use more if you like!
- Hot sauce: I used Louisiana hot sauce, but use what you like, Cholula, Tabasco, etc.
How to make pimento cheese
Step 1: Grate the cheese
Fit the food processor with the grater attachment and grate the cheese, or use the large holes on a box grater.
Use a microplane grater to grate the garlic.
PREP TIP I prefer to grate the garlic before it goes into the processor (or bowl if not using one) because it distributes the garlic more evenly. You'll get a milder flavor and don't have to worry about biting down on a big chunk of garlic. Don't get me wrong, there's a place for biting down on a chunk of garlic, but that place is not in this dip.
Step 2: Mix in pimentos and other remaining ingredients
Remove the cheese from the food processor and insert the blade attachment. Add the cheese and all remaining ingredients back into it. Pulse a few times until the mixture is incorporated and until the cheese has broken down into smaller pieces, but is still crumbly, we still want big boulders of cheese.
PREP TIP If you're making this with a box grater, you can just give the cheese a rough chop with a knife to break it down a bit before adding it to a bowl and stirring in the other ingredients.
- DO NOT use pre-grated cheese to make pimento cheese! Pre-grated cheese is coated with anti-caking agents and it will affect the final texture of the dip and prevent it from holding together.
- There's no salt in this old-fashioned pimento cheese recipe because the extra sharp cheddar cheese and the mayo both have a decent amount of salt in them. I suggest making the recipe as instructed, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. You can always add more salt, but you can't take it back out! (You can add freshly ground black pepper, too if that's your jam.)
- There are two easy methods you can use to make pimento cheese. The easiest is with a food processor and microplane grater: You can grate the cheese, add the pimentos and other ingredients, and mix the spread together all in the food processor! We'll use the microplane to grate the garlic for better texture in the finished product. Or, use the old fashioned method that your grandma did, involving a box grater, large mixing bowl, silicone spatula, and chef's knife: If you do not have a food processor you can use a box grater to grate the cheese, give it a rough chop and mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Still fast and easy!
- Omitting the cream cheese from the recipe takes it back to the old fashioned pimento cheese I remember from childhood. It creates a much better texture, and really lets the flavor of the cheddar shine through. And it must be sharp cheddar, trust me on this (you know I would never lie to you.)
How to serve old-fashioned pimento cheese dip
You can serve pimento cheese dip with just about any dipper, but here are some favorites.
- Butter crackers: This is probably the most classic Southern way to serve it.
- Try it with old-fashioned ridged potato chips.
- I love pimento cheese dip with corn chips.
- What kid doesn't love it on celery sticks?
- Put it on a cheese board or crudité platter.
Ways to use old-fashioned pimento cheese
- Aside from a dip, one of the most classic ways to use pimento cheese is to make pimento cheese sandwiches. Make them into little finger sandwiches as a fun idea for wedding and baby showers, or afternoon tea. Go even further and make grilled pimento cheese!
- You can also add it to omelets and grits for breakfast or brunch, incorporate into deviled eggs, spread on crostini, put it on burgers, and melt it on top of french fries.
I am a purist, and I like my pimento cheese recipe the old fashioned way: very simple with just 5 ingredients. But you can add a variety of ingredients to suit your tastes. Try these ideas!
- Chopped green onion
- Diced jalapeño
- Grated onion
- Onion powder
- A dash of worcestershire sauce
- Smoked paprika
- Garlic powder (instead of grated garlic if you want a milder flavor)
Storage and freezing
Contrary to popular belief, no, you CANNOT leave pimento cheese dip out on the counter forever. It's got mayonnaise and cheese in it, for crying out loud. If you left it out overnight and then ate it as a kid without getting sick, well, you got lucky.
- To serve: Mayo can last 8 hours, but cheese shouldn't sit out more than 4. So when serving pimento cheese dip over the course of a long day or evening, its best to serve smaller amounts and refill as needed. Don't put all of it out at once.
- To store: Homemade pimento cheese dip will keep in the refrigerator for quite some time if stored it in an airtight container, about 7 - 10 days.
- To freeze: While you can freeze it, the texture will change quite a bit when thawed, so it's not recommended.
Pimento cheese is a dip or spread recipe made with cheddar cheese, pimento peppers, mayonnaise, sometimes cream cheese, and other seasonings including garlic and spices. It's a Southern food staple, served at holidays and parties as a dip or on sandwiches.
Pimentos are a small, round red pepper, often referred to as a cherry pepper. They are sweet and mild, with almost no heat. These are the little red peppers that you find in the center of olives, but they can be used for so much more!
Try jarred or homemade roasted red peppers, which are delicious in other dips, too. They will add a smokiness and a nice punch of sweetness. You can also try jarred piquillo peppers, which are a small Spanish red pepper, with a similar flavor to red bell peppers.
More southern food recipes
- Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is an overnight situation that I promise will be worth the wait.
- Jalapeño Spoonbread makes a great gluten free substitute for stuffing at Thanksgiving.
- Succotash is a super-simple side dish that I zhuzhed up with some homemade taco seasoning.
- We always make a Low Country Boil when we visit our family in South Carolina.
This old fashioned pimento cheese recipe only has 5 ingredients and takes 5 minutes to make!
- Uses the pimentos and the liquid from the jar, for full-blown pimento flavor!
- If you grate the cheese in a food processor, you can literally make this in about 5 minutes.
- Dip almost any kind of chip or veggie into it!
- Smooth and creamy, yet there's NO cream cheese in it.
- You only need 5 ingredients in this recipe for that old fashioned pimento cheese flavor.
- Gluten free and vegetarian!
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Old Fashioned Pimento Cheese Recipe
- food processor or a box grater, mixing bowl, and spatula.
- 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese
- 4 ounces chopped pimentos and their liquid from one small jar
- ¾ cup mayonnaise preferably Duke's
- 1 clove garlic grated
- dash hot sauce
- Fit the food processor with the grater attachment and grate the cheese, or use the large holes on a box grater. Use a microplane grater to grate the garlic.
- Remove the cheese from the food processor and insert the blade attachment. Add the cheese, pimentos and their liquid, and all remaining ingredients back into it.
- Pulse a few times until the mixture is incorporated and until the cheese has broken down into smaller pieces, but is still crumbly, we still want big boulders of cheese.
- If you're making this with a box grater, you can just give the cheese a rough chop with a knife (or not) to break it down a bit before adding it to a bowl and stirring in the other ingredients. It's really up to you.
- I prefer to grate the garlic before it goes into the processor (or bowl if not using one) because it distributes the garlic more evenly. You'll get a milder flavor and don't have to worry about biting down on a big chunk of garlic.
- Any true Southerner is probably going to tell you to use Duke's Mayonnaise. It has no sugar, and contains more egg yolks than most other brands, giving it a smoother, richer flavor. Because we're making our pimento cheese dip without cream cheese, this particular brand of mayonnaise will add that creaminess that you're looking for without making it too heavy. But you can absolutely use other brands if that's what you have.
- Adapted from chef Edward Lee's recipe from his cookbook, Smoke & Pickles.