Recipe: Classic Pimiento Cheese

You can’t go wrong with classic Southern pimiento cheese and toasts.

Hector Manuel Sanchez

Our preference for spelling one of the South’s favorite comfort foods.

Few dishes are more iconic or beloved than pimiento cheese. A food deeply engrained in Southern culture, this staple can be made simply with mayonnaise, grated sharp Cheddar cheese, and diced pimientos. Smear a glob of creamy pimiento cheese on soft slices of crustless white bread, swipe the spread on buttery crackers and crisp sticks of celery, or eat it straight from the container. For generations, it’s been a fixture in lunch boxes, a go-to for luncheons, and a perpetually crowd-pleasing appetizer. (Have you tried the fabled $1.50 pimiento cheese sandwiches at the Masters?) We’ve even incorporated it into other Southern favorites like macaroni and cheese and deviled eggs.

You’ll see this classic food spelled two different ways: pimiento or pimento. The Food Lover’s Companion, a dictionary devoted to food, offers both spelling variations of the word. Spanish for pepper, pimientos are sweet, fragrant, heart-shaped red peppers about 3 inches long and wide. Buy them fresh at the market from late summer through early fall, or buy them year-round in cans or bottles at the grocery store. You’ll find pimientos stuffed in green olives, and the pepper is also used in paprika. The dictionary gives another definition for the “pimento” variation: the tree from which allspice is made.

To decide which spelling to use, Southern Living copy editors turn to Merriam-Webster. The dictionary lists “pimiento” as the first reference for spelling the pepper’s name and lists “pimento” as a variant. Per Southern Living style, we choose to use the first-reference spelling listed in Merriam-Webster, so “pimiento” it is. This spelling also avoids any confusion with the allspice definition of “pimento.”

WATCH: Southern Pimiento Mac and Cheese

Craving pimiento cheese yet? Watch our video for step-by-step instructions for mastering our favorite recipe, and check out these 13 delicious new ways with pimiento cheese that will have everyone asking for more. We do like our pimiento, and our recieps. And while we choose to use “pimiento,” it’s not wrong to use “pimento.” It’s just a matter of preference.