Photo: Churchill Downs Racetrack

Bet on this classic Derby Day spread.

Soon 20 thoroughbred horses will gallop for the roses, where tens of thousands will watch from the infield and safely hedge their bets to secure a win. But for those of you who can’t be at Churchill Downs this year, the Kentucky Derby is the perfect excuse to party at home while celebrating the “greatest two minutes in sports.” As with any sporting event, you’re going to need some delicious recipes for your guests to feast on and sip to their hearts’ content. So if you’ve got the sips part covered with mint julep cocktails, we’re here to help you with the bites portion, specifically with a Southern staple that’s a must-have for any Bluegrass-inspired buffet: pimiento cheese.  

It would truly be a disservice to deprive you of what we commonly refer to as “the pâté of the South.” We love how versatile this creamy, dreamy sandwich filling is. It can be transformed into everything from triple crown-worthy dips to cheesy casseroles. And we have just the perfect pimiento cheese recipe that’s not only quick and easy, but it's also healthy for you, too! We consider that a win-win in our book, regardless of which horse noses past the finish line on May 6. 

Concocted by Virginia Willis—Editor-at-Large here at Southern Living and Kentucky Derby 143 guest chef at The Mansion—her lightened, better-for-you version is every bit as appetizing as the fatty original you’re used to spreading. No one will ever guess it’s made with Greek yogurt and light mayonnaise, because they’ll be too busy savoring the flavors of extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, sweet and peppery pimientos, and the dash of hot sauce. It really is reminiscent of Louisville and all things comforting on a plate.

Usually, the vehicle of choice for dipping are pork rinds, crackers, and toasted pieces of bread, but this recipe can be served with celery sticks, cucumber rounds, or sliced radishes for a guilt-free swap. We promise you’ll be met with a grandstanding ovation or, at the very least, quite a few people begging for more at the Derby-viewing party.

Ready to saddle up for this crowd-pleaser? Here’s what you need to make this Lightened-Up Pimiento Cheese recipe:  

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, freshly grated (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces light Cheddar cheese, freshly grated (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons plain 2 percent Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup chopped pimientos, drained and chopped
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • Celery sticks, sliced cucumber rounds, and sliced radish for serving
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

How to Make:

1. To make the pimiento cheese, combine the cheeses, grated onion with juices, mayonnaise, and yogurt in a bowl. Stir until well combined. Add the pimientos and hot sauce to taste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. To serve, spoon the pimiento cheese into celery sticks, or onto sliced cucumbers or radishes. Serve immediately. Makes about 4 cups.

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Adapted with permission from Lighten Up, Y’all by Virginia Willis. Copyright © 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. For more information, please visit www.virginiawillis.com.