The Classic Pimiento Cheese Sandwich

Pimiento cheese, stack apple cake, mini chocolate chess pies, apple hand pies, fried okra, BBQ (aka pulled pork), hot chicken, and sorghum and butter spread over a hot buttermilk biscuit. These are all foods I never heard of until I moved to the South.  Now I adore them.

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Most of these Southern delicacies, like the stack apple cake, don’t show up on the table often, but when they do, I’m all in. Even though I have been given recipe cards for all these foods,  I have to admit; I’m not comfortable preparing them and tend to step aside and let the Southerners in the room make them. That’s about to change now that I started regularly making food writer, Jennifer Justus’s Pimiento Cheese recipe from her cookbook, Nashville Eats. In factNashville Eats has pretty much all of my favorite Southern foods featured in it and is my new go-to hostess gift when visiting out-of-town friends.

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The very first time I opened Nashville Eats, I was drawn to the recipe for pimiento cheese. Even though almost every Southern family has their own version of this cheese spread, Jennifer’s list of ingredients appealed to me: it used a mixture of real cheddar cheeses, it wasn’t too mayonnaisey or sweet, and it had a bit of heat in it. I was also drawn to the photo of the finished product; alas, it wasn’t puréed or whipped looking either. I remember immediately turning the corner of the page down indicating a pimiento cheese sandwich was in my future.
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Pimientos, which is Spanish for peppers (the vegetable, not the spice), are small, red, heart-shaped, sweet peppers. I’ve never seen them for sale in anything but that small cute iconic jar with the golden-yellow top. That is about to change, too, because yesterday,  I happened to see two small pimiento plants at the garden nursery which I grabbed and immediately planted in my garden. Soon, I’ll be able to try roasting my own pimientos.
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Jennifer’s recipe makes about 1½ cups, but since I have doubled the ingredients each time I have made it, I went ahead and doubled the recipe for the blog. This recipe makes one full pint. It took four of us one day to polish it off — first in sandwiches for lunch, and then later, served with crackers, as an appetizer.

Do not use pre-shredded cheese as it is laden with a fine powder that keeps the cheddar pieces from sticking together. Also, I like to use Hellman’s or Duke’s “real” mayonnaise.

Ingredients
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8 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces mild yellow cheddar, shredded
1 8-ounce jar diced pimientos, drained
½ cup mayonnaise (not the sweet, whipped stuff)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Louisiana Hot Sauce to taste, about 6-12 drops
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves (set aside)

Mise en Place
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Instructions

Shred the two varieties of cheese in a food processor, using the shredder apparatus, or shred by hand with a cheese grater.
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Next, remove the shredder apparatus from the processor and install the regular cutting blade. Add the mayonnaise, pimientos, Worcestershire, hot sauce and ground pepper into the processing bowl.
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Push the pulse button five quick times until the mixture is just blended and not puréed. This should be the equivalent of simply stirring the mixture together, but without having to dirty another bowl. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving to give the flavors a chance to meld. Use the chopped parsley as a garnish.
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I like pimiento cheese spread on soft multigrain bread.
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It doubles as a terrific appetizer.
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My family loved this. Jennifer has another version of pimiento cheese in her book made with goat cheese that sounds amazing. I see a lot of possibilities for variations in this recipe by using my beloved garlic pepper instead of the plain black pepper, or adding a few of the many spring onions growing in the garden now, and maybe using arugula leaves in the sandwich, too. I’ve also heard pimiento cheese makes for a killer grilled panini sandwich.Yum!

He Said, She Said

And, now, from my side of the family — I like to make my Croation cheese spread, which uses fresh herbs and ingredients very familiar to me!

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© 2016 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. No photos or text may be used without written consent.

16 thoughts on “The Classic Pimiento Cheese Sandwich

  1. Always learning something new – didn’t know that pimiento was a pepper! I remember as a kid sucking out that red stuff from the olives at G’ma’s house during holiday dinners. If there was a plain olive I went skedaddling.

  2. Oh Judy this post makes me think of my Mama…Barbara Jean ALWAYS grated her own cheese…NEVER pre shredded… Always put that in any recipe she shared requiring cheese…Pimento Cheese,cheese, Chicken Divan, Mac and Cheese all of them…but you know the gal loved herself some Miracle Whip instead of mayo!!!!!

    1. Becky!! Barbara Jean and half the moms of the South from what I can gather from reading old southern Junior League and church cookbooks. Miracle Whip became popular in the 40s as an inexpensive and sweet substitute for real mayonnaise, sort of like margarine becoming a popular substitute for butter. I’m glad we’re shifting back to the basics and unprocessed food. Missing your Mama just thinking about her. xo

  3. The powder on shredded cheese? Never thought about how they keep it from sticking together. This recipe sounds RIGHT ON. My field research in Monteagle suggests that the simpler the number of ingredients, the better. And Colby is often mentioned as the great cheese for this, but I eat any and all pimento cheese i come across.

    1. Hi, Ann! Yes, most shredded cheeses use cellulose powder as an anti-caking agent on shredded cheese. I remember investigating that powder when we were trying to find gluten-free products for my son. The powder IS gluten-free.
      I’ll try making my next batch of pimiento cheese with Colby. You could probably clean out your fridge of many different types of cheeses and have it turn out okay using the proportions in this recipe. I was just thinking about how much I liked cheese and mayo on white bread sandwiches as a kid — a precursor to my love of pimiento cheese perhaps?

  4. True confession: I have never had pimiento cheese. Sounds like I’ve been missing something pretty darned good.

    1. Susan, did you use the smoked Gouda in addition to the cheddars? I would live to try that. I’ve been told Whole Foods has a smoked Gouda pimiento cheese. In my frittata recipe, I often use what ever cheeses are in the fridge and it always turns out well. I might start doing the same thing with pimiento cheese. Nice to hear from you! Judy

  5. When I was a kid, we always had pimiento grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato. Thanks for bringing back those memories.

  6. I could live off of Pimento cheese. Oh wait… I do!
    Lately my favorite is the Palmetto brand with jalapenos. I’m going to have to give this recipe a try!

    Thanks again for making me hungry at 7am! Deborah

    1. Good Morning, Deborah, it is my pleasure to make you hungry at 7 AM:-)

      From what people have been telling me, the Palmetto brand of commercially made Pimiento cheese is the way to go. I just bought the ingredients to make another batch yesterday!

      Thanks for writing! Judy

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