Homemade Pimento Cheese (without cream cheese)
Homemade pimento cheese doesn’t have to come from a plastic container at the grocery store. Demystify this southern classic and make a perfectly creamy version you’ll be proud to serve and even happier to eat.Jump to Recipe
Every good southerner knows that the best pimento cheese recipe is one that begs to be spread on white bread . It appears at every baby shower, wedding and graduation event year round and proudly stands next to the peanut butter and syrup sandwiches–ready to be devoured.
Yes peanut butter and syrup sandwiches are a thing too.
But most of us rarely venture in to the world of making their own homemade pimento cheese–after all–the stuff at the store is good.
Why mess with what’s working?
And I’ll be the first to admit I could feel the weight of every good southern grandma hanging on my shoulders as I worked with this recipe, but I think I’ve won out.
I started out testing variations of others I found online and I came up with one glaring issue: cream cheese does not belong in homemade pimento cheese.
The first version I tried (with cream cheese in it), my husband declared to be more of a dip and less of the proper pimento cheese. Good, but not for a sandwich–and I agreed. So with some more studying and trial and error, we’re there.
But before I tell you what’s in it, I know I have to answer that same question:
What IS a pimento?
A pimento is a canned type of red bell pepper. That’s all. I should know because one summer when I was 15 my mom took out a contract with a pimento pepper factory and my brother and I picked what seemed like an endless supply of those things.
Whole truckloads in fact that we broke our backs picking and then hauled them to a dump truck in some farmer’s driveway where they were transported to the factory for processing and canning.
And no, I didn’t get paid.
Mom was determined not to raise lazy bums for children. It worked, and I plan to torture my children in much the same way (while I work right alongside them because misery loves company).
What does a pimento taste like?
Get ready to be shocked: they taste like a mild bell pepper. They’re red so I think their flavor is already more mild than a green bell pepper. You’ll find them in the canned vegetable aisle of your grocery store in a small glass jar. You’ll need two 4-ounce jars for this recipe.
If there’s nothing else I’ve learned, it’s that homemade pimento cheese doesn’t need a lot of fancy ingredients.
After all, the lovely cooks who invented it were using what they had on hand–not making it complicated. We should take note.
What’s the best cheese to add to pimento cheese?
Use any type of cheddar you like but I found that extra sharp was just too tangy. It overpowered the other flavors. Sharp cheddar was enough if you ask me.
How to keep your pimento cheese from getting watery
Drain your pimentos well (press them) so your homemade pimento cheese doesn’t get too thin. Try to chop them finely before you add them so they can spread their flavor through the other ingredients well.
What mayonnaise is best for pimento cheese?
Use a good mayonnaise like Duke’s or Hellmann’s if you can get your hands on it. I also like making homemade mayonnaise for less additives and vegetable oils.
For the smoothest texture
Use your stand mixer or a hand mixer to blend everything together. It’s easier to get the texture you need that way.
How to store pimento cheese
Pimento cheese can be stored in the refrigerator in an air tight container for up to a week. The flavor is best if you can let your pimento cheese warm up just slightly before serving.
Can pimento cheese be frozen?
I’ve never tried it but I suspicion it’s going to change the texture of the grated cheddar. Anytime you freeze cheese it will become very crumbly when thawed. The flavor is still good but the texture is different.
If you are okay with a little texture change, you’re welcome to try it.
What to serve with pimento cheese
Pimento cheese shines as a sandwich or dip. Or…on a grilled cheese.
- If you want the best sandwich, make homemade amish white bread.
- Ritz or a homemade butter cracker are classics for spreading.
- Swap the ranch dip on a vegetable tray for pimento cheese
- Craving a toasty alternative? Try this pimento grilled cheese.
Homemade Pimento Cheese (without cream cheese)
- 8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese shred your own
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise like Duke’s or Hellmann’s
- 8 ounces pimentos drained and chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard optional
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- pinch of cayenne pepper optional
- Put all the ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium until the cheese softens up a bit and the pimentos mash in–about 3 minutes.
- You can also blend this mixture by hand with a mixer or stir it vigorously with a wooden spoon.
- Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.
I added 4 drops of Franks hot sauce and a few banana peppers to the mix. It is delicious!
Yes, Ma’am! Don’t be softening anything related to Philadelphia if you’re making pimento cheese! My mother would have blown a gasket. I had an old recipe card for a go-to pimento cheese & lost it. I’ve been Googling for 20 mins. to find a recipe without cream cheese. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Hahaha thanks Lori!
Honey, you got that right! Cream cheese does not belong in an authentic recipe for Pimento Cheese! I was shocked to see Paula Deen’s recipe! Goodness. This is very similar to my Mississippi grandmother’s recipe, but hers didn’t include the spices. Maybe because she was making it for us kids when we were young. I think you got the cheese to Mayo ratio just right. 4 oz pimentos to 8 oz cheese is better for me. Thank you for putting this online!!! Love your story about the pimentos.
Thanks Marius! 🙂 –Rachel
My great grandmother’s recipe from the 30s-50s era also does not use cream cheese. That was a high falutin cheese back then, and this was a lowbrow recipe. She was widowed with 10 children, and made the most with her dollars and from her own farm. Her recipe called for grating one pound longhorn cheese (mild colby), one 2 oz jar pimentos, and 1/2 cup quality mayo. Mix and add pepper. I think colby is a great choice for this spread. The non cream cheese version also melts amazingly well in a grilled cheese sandwich.
First time making, tired of the high prices at the store. I can’t wait to try it tomorrow. What I licked off the spoon was yummy.!! Thank you for sharing this recipe.
You’re welcome Christina! Enjoy!
I have been eating Pimento cheese all my life. We use only Dukes Mayo, Kraft Sharp Cheddar (you must use block cheese and shred it yourself). We add a small jar of mostly drained chopped pimentos and a spoonful of sugar. Just stir well with a fork to combine. It holds up well as a sandwich and looks much prettier too!
I like plain Jane like to cheese. The 4 stars are only because I don’t use any of the additional seasonings. It’s just cheddar, like to peppers (drained), mayo & a dash of Apple cider vinegar. Best stuff ever. I found your recipe because I needed to compare carb & serving size to what I make. Thanks
I lost my fav recipe for pimiento cheese and it did Not have cream cheese.
Thank you So Much for this one.
I believe this is it. I remember the dry mustard.
I hope you enjoy it Peggy. This is a version that’s been around a long time–my grandmother’s recipe in fact and we are anti-cream cheese. 🙂 Enjoy. –Rachel
Thank you! I was looking for a recipe for Thanksgiving, and all of them had cream cheese, which sounded wrong. I had palmetto cheese for the first time this summer, and it was SO good. But it did not have cream cheese, so it’s not going into mine!
I’ve seen a lot of versions with cream cheese too Mel. I just like it better without it. –Rachel