You Will Not Believe The History Of Pimento Cheese

Like all good foods, the South perfected pimento cheese.

Pimento Cheese Sandwich

Jennifer Davick

Serious Eats took a serious look at the history of pimento cheese, the South's favorite spread (well, favorite spread that's not mayonnaise). While it's hard to imagine anyone appreciating the heavenly combination of shredded cheese, mayo, and diced red pimentos as much as Southerners, the delicious spread actually got its start up North—in New York, specifically. That sounds like culinary heresy, but remember, cream cheese came from the North, too, yet you couldn't frost a red velvet or hummingbird cake without it, and those are definitely Southern specialties.

The Beginning of Pimento Cheese

Speaking of cream cheese, that's actually where pimento cheese got its start. According to Serious Eats, back in the 1870s, New York farmers started making soft, unripened cheese that eventually evolved into cream cheese. Around the same time, Spain began sending canned red peppers or "pimiento" over to the United States. These peppers soon caught people's attention and (minus the extra "i") became a staple of many kitchens across the country.

The First Pimento Cheese Recipe

The two ingredients were finally brought together in 1908 in a Good Housekeeping recipe for cream cheese, mustard, chives, and minced pimentos. The combination of cream cheese and pimento was such a hit it started to be mass-produced, primarily in the South. Soon, Georgia farmers were trying to grow red peppers domestically, roasting them, canning them, and sending out as many as 10 million cans of pimentos a year, spreading the gospel of pimento cheese around the country.

The Evolution of Pimento Cheese Recipes

After World War II, home cooks started making their own pimento cheese, swapping cream cheese for something called "hoop cheese" and then cheddar and using a good dollop of mayonnaise to bind it all together. From there, it has become a staple of church picnics and school potlucks and even shows up at some of the South's finest restaurants.

Pimento Cheese Recipes

Read the complete history of pimento cheese here—it's truly fascinating to read about the roots of a Southern favorite–and then try some of Southern Living's favorite pimento cheese recipes.

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Pimiento Cheese Cookies

Pimiento Cheese Cookies
Jennifer Davick; Food Styling: Marian Cooper Cairns; Prop Styling: Lydia Degaris Pursell

Recipe: Pimiento Cheese Cookies

Sweet and savory baked into one treat. Add a Southern classic like pimento cheese and combine it with pecans and strawberry preserves for a unique twist on shortbread. Try swapping strawberry for your favorite jelly flavor—perhaps even pepper jelly for an extra spicy cookie.

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Pimiento Cheese Sausage Balls

Spicy Pimiento Cheese Sausage Balls
Time Inc. Video Studio

Recipe: Pimiento Cheese Sausage Balls

It only takes four ingredients to whip up a breakfast that is great for entertaining or serving on a weekday before school. Save some for an afternoon snack, or prepare these sausage balls for your next event. The best part is these delicious snack-sized balls freeze well, which is good since the recipe makes about 50 balls.

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Fried Chicken Sliders with Pimiento Cheese

Fried Chicken Sliders with Pimiento Cheese
Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe: Fried Chicken Sliders with Pimiento Cheese

You thought a fried chicken sandwich couldn't get any better? Think again. Try topping a classic sandwich with an even more classic Southern spread—creamy pimento cheese. These sandwiches are cheese, creamy, and flavorful.

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Southern Pimiento Mac and Cheese

southern pimiento mac and cheese
Hector Sanchez

Recipe: Southern Pimiento Mac and Cheese

Kick the flavors of classic mac and cheese up a notch by using a pimento cheese mixture. When making the pasta, try undercooking it slightly because the creamy cheese sauce will finish the cooking perfectly. Try topping with toast breadcrumbs for extra texture and flavor.

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Basic Pimiento Cheese

Basic Pimiento Cheese
Jennifer Causey; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Basic Pimiento Cheese

Classic pimento cheese spread is perfect for any occasion. Make a batch to spread along celery sticks as an afternoon snack or to top on a cracker at your next tailgate. For best results, use hand-shredded cheese instead of the pre-grated mixes.

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