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It doesn’t get more Southern than an old fashioned pimento cheese recipe. What a treat! This simple spread is made with just three ingredients: sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and diced pimentos. Serve it as an easy snack or appetizer with crackers or vegetables, in sandwiches, on burgers, in grits, in quesadillas, and more. It’s creamy, sharp, and very cheesy!

Close up side shot of a spreading knife in a bowl of pimento cheese

I was raised on pimento cheese, since it’s one of my mom’s all-time favorite foods. While I’ve tried zillions of versions over the years, this particular homemade pimento cheese recipe is the best I’ve ever tasted. An added bonus? You only need 3 ingredients and about 10 minutes of prep to stir together your own batch!

Square side shot of a table with pimento cheese and crackers

What’s Pimento Cheese?

A pimento (also spelled pimiento) is a variety of large, red, heart-shaped chili pepper that’s typically 3-4 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. The flesh of the pimento is sweet and more aromatic than that of a red bell pepper. While some varieties of pimentos are spicy, the type used in pimento cheese is definitely not.

Pimento cheese is popular in the cuisine of the Southern United States, and is a spread or relish made by combining cheese, mayonnaise, and pimentos. It’s often called the “pâté of the south,” “Carolina caviar,” and “the caviar of the South,” and is typically served with crackers or vegetables, or spread between pieces of bread to make sandwiches. It has a creamy taste (from the mayo), but a chunky texture from the grated cheese and diced pimentos.

While some versions include additional ingredients such as horseradish, cream cheese, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, jalapeños, onions, garlic, or dill pickles, our family agrees that the classic combination of just sharp cheddar, mayonnaise, and pimentos is the absolute best. Pimento cheese is not spicy, but instead tastes like a rich, creamy sharp cheddar spread.

Grating a block of cheddar cheese

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for this easy pimento cheese recipe without cream cheese. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Cheddar cheese: I prefer sharp cheddar cheese, but you can substitute with mild cheddar or extra-sharp cheddar cheese — whatever you like!
  • Mayonnaise: use a high-quality full-fat mayo, since this is an important ingredient in your cheese spread. We like Duke’s brand best.
  • Diced pimentos: just a little 4-ounce jar of the pre-diced pimentos goes straight into the bowl. You don’t even have to strain off the liquid from the jar!
Pimento cheese spread in a white mixing bowl

How to Make Pimento Cheese

This three ingredient recipe couldn’t be easier! An old fashioned Southern pimento cheese recipe doesn’t require a hand mixer, stand mixer, or any other fancy equipment, and you don’t even need to wash too many dishes at the end. Just a box grater, a spoon, and some elbow grease will do the trick!

  1. Grate about 1 pound of sharp cheddar cheese by hand or with a food processor, and then transfer it to a large bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and the pimentos (with their juices).
  3. Add the mayonnaise mixture to the grated cheese and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and then refrigerate until you’re ready to serve!
Jar of easy pimento cheese spread in a jar with a red and white lid

Serving Suggestions

There are so many different ways to enjoy this Southern staple. Here are a few ways to serve the delicious spread:

  • On top of crackers
  • Spread inside celery sticks or as a dip for carrot sticks and other vegetables
  • As a filling for a grilled cheese sandwich, or spread inside other sandwiches — including the classic Southern tomato sandwich or a BLT.
  • Scooped with tortilla chips or other corn chips like Fritos
  • Mashed with yolks for deviled eggs
  • Stirred into grits
  • Rolled up in tortillas and sliced as pinwheels for appetizers
  • As a topping on hamburgers or hotdogs
  • Melted inside quesadillas
  • Or just slather it on a slice of white bread whenever the craving strikes!
Overhead shot of a white round board with pimento cheese on a wooden table

Storage

  • Make Ahead: You can prepare the pimento cheese up to 3 or 4 days in advance. Store the cheese spread in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve.
  • Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Do not freeze pimento cheese, since mayonnaise tends to separate when it’s thawed.
Side shot of southern pimento cheese served on a white tray with crackers

Recipe Variations

  • I use a jar of diced pimentos for a shortcut, but you can also use whole pimentos and dice them yourself into small pieces. Remember to reserve the liquid that the pimentos are packed in.
  • Depending on your taste preferences, you can add 1-2 tablespoons of grated Vidalia onion to the pimento cheese, stir in minced jalapeno peppers, cayenne or hot sauce for a spicy kick, or add dill pickle relish for a briny finish. Some folks like to add garlic powder, minced green olives, cherry peppers, or other spices to their pimiento cheese; however, we think that the basic recipe is best!
  • This recipe yields a large amount of pimento cheese spread (about 3 1/2 cups). If you are serving a smaller crowd, you can cut all of the ingredients in half to prepare a smaller batch.
Square side shot of pimento cheese recipe served on a wooden table

Tips for the Best Pimento Cheese Recipe

  • Since you’re only using three ingredients in this recipe, it’s really important to choose the highest quality cheese and mayonnaise that you can find. Grab a really great block of sharp cheddar — that’s the flavor that you will taste the most!
  • Do not use pre-shredded cheese from a package. It’s best if you grate the cheese by hand or in a food processor just before using.
  • Allow the pimento cheese to sit on the counter for about 30 minutes before serving. This will make it softer and easier to spread.
  • If you’re preparing pimento cheese sandwiches, you’ll need approximately ⅓ – ½ cup of the cheese spread per sandwich. This recipe will make about 6-7 sandwiches. For 10 -15 sandwiches, for instance, you’ll need to double the recipe. For 50 sandwiches, you would need about 25 cups of pimento cheese spread (or about 7 batches of this recipe).
Small white bowl full of easy pimento cheese served with crackers and pickles on a white tray

More Appetizers to Try

Jar of easy pimento cheese spread in a jar with a red and white lid

Pimento Cheese Recipe

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 0 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings 3 ½ cups
Calories 228.5 kcal
Just 3 ingredients and about 10 minutes of prep for this classic Southern pimento cheese recipe!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 (4 ounce) jar diced pimentos, not drained
  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Place the cheese in a mixing bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, combine diced pimentos (with their juice) and mayonnaise. Add to the cheese, toss to combine, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve as a dip with fresh vegetables, spread on bread as a sandwich, or on top of crackers.

Notes

  • Since you’re only using three ingredients in this recipe, it’s really important to choose the highest quality cheese and mayonnaise that you can find. Grab a really great block of sharp cheddar — that’s the flavor that you will taste the most!
  • Do not use pre-shredded cheese from a package. It’s best if you grate the cheese by hand or in a food processor just before using.
  • Allow the pimento cheese to sit on the counter for about 30 minutes before serving. This will make it softer and easier to spread.
  • If you’re preparing pimento cheese sandwiches, you’ll need approximately ⅓ – ½ cup of the cheese spread per sandwich. This recipe will make about 6-7 sandwiches. For 10 -15 sandwiches, for instance, you’ll need to double the recipe. For 50 sandwiches, you would need about 25 cups of pimento cheese spread (or about 7 batches of this recipe).

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 cupCalories: 228.5kcalProtein: 8.1gFat: 21.7gSaturated Fat: 8.6gCholesterol: 32.9mgSodium: 274.2mgPotassium: 1.5mgSugar: 1.7g
Keyword: pimento cheese, pimento cheese recipe, pimento cheese without cream cheese
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in June, 2020. The photos were updated in October, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. I can’t wait to try this!!! We’ve always eaten our pimento cheese on Fritos chips, it’s wonderful!!!! I’m not sure if that’s just an Oklahoman thing or if other people eat it like that too, but you should try it!!! We also mix part shredded American cheese and cream cheese into ours in addition to shredded cheddar. It makes it taste a little creamer.

  2. 5 stars
    i must sing your praises for this recipe. i have tried several pimento and cheese recipes that i have found but none satisfied me. this one absolutely did. very quick and easy to make. only three ingredients. the recipe is great as written and i have made it a few times that way. then, i made a few changes for my own tastes. i used 8 ounces of Vermont White Extra Sharp cheese and 8 ounces of mild yellow cheddar. rather than grating the cheeses, i used the food processor and pulsed until they were small bits.. i added one tablespoon of the liquid from the diced pimentos and 2 or 3 tablespoons of tabasco for a little kick and a cup and a half of Duke’s mayo. and used a hand mixer to combine. refridgerate it for and hour and then enjoy. so, once again, thank you for this recipe.

    1. Thank you, Kevyn! I always love to hear how y’all change the recipes to make them your own. So glad that you enjoy the simple, delicious cheese. Always Duke’s mayo, too! 🙂

  3. A friend gave me this recipe for pimento cheese and it’s a great variation.
    1.) Instead of all cheddar use half cheddar and half smoked Gouda.
    2.) Instead of pimentos use chopped roasted red peppers… the ones that come in the jars… just pat them dry before chopping.

  4. 5 stars
    This recipe is so simple and absolutely delicious! I actually cut the recipe in half because it’s just me and my sweet husband. We love it as grilled pimento cheese sandwiches on my iron skillet griddle. Awesome! Thank you Blair for sharing it with us!

    1. Thank you, Brenda! I agree — grilled pimento cheese sandwiches on a cast iron griddle are THE BEST. 🙂