We Tasted 4 Popular Pimiento Cheeses, and These Are Our Favorites
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Southerners are crazy for pimiento cheese. It is without a doubt a beloved Southern staple. We put it in sandwiches, slather it on crackers, melt it in grilled cheeses, and find endlessly creative ways to reinvent this classic spread. I first tried pimiento cheese a few years ago, when I'd just moved to the South. One taste and I was hooked. Each week, I scope out the artisanal pimiento cheese stand at my local farmers' market and snag a sample. Currently, I have three different containers of the stuff in my fridge.
As an avid pimiento cheese enthusiast, I was bestowed the honor of conducting Southern Living's official pimiento cheese taste test. (Should this be deemed a national holiday? I think yes.) We tasted four popular store-bought pimiento cheeses to see which best resembled a homemade version of the South's favorite dip.
First off, let me say that pre-packaged grocery store pimiento is no match to small-batch, locally-produced, or homemade pimiento cheese. I try to make my own each week—classic pimiento spread on crackers is my go-to midday snack and favorite easy, yet impressive, potluck dish. But some days I just don't have the time. Enter store-bought pimiento to settle our never-ending craving.
How We Tested
To determine which pimiento brand is the real deal, we conducted a blind taste test of four popular pimiento cheeses that you can probably find at your local supermarket. I spooned all the cheeses into bowls ahead of time to ensure the testers didn't know which was which. Then, with trusty saltine crackers as the vehicle for the cheese spreads, Southern Living editors tasted each dip and recorded their comments.
Pimento Cheese Brands We Tried
- Price's Pimiento Cheese Spread
- Trader Joe's Pimento Cheese Dip
- Publix Cheese Spread, with Pimientos
- Ruth's Original Pimento Spread.
Publix Cheese Spread, with Pimientos
As the brightest orange of the bunch, the Publix Cheese Spread, with Pimientos has an intense cheese flavor to match its color. Similarly, the cheese spread is studded with pimiento peppers. Tasters noted they feel the high quantity of pimientos gives the cheese a strong sweetness and peppery aftertaste.
Ruth's Original Pimento Spread
Testers commented that the taste of this North Carolina-made spread is milder than the other pimiento cheeses, which can likely be explained by the ingredients. Though this recipe uses imitation salad cheese (I'm not quite sure what that means, but it probably can't rival fresh, extra sharp cheddar), it has managed to stand the test of time since its debut in 1953. At only 80 calories per serving, Ruth's Original Pimento Spread is a good choice if you're looking for a healthier option. But hey, if we're going to have pimiento cheese, we might as well indulge.
Trader Joe's Pimento Cheese Dip
As a professed Trader Joe's super-fan, I was excited that my favorite market has its very own pimiento cheese. Trader Joe's is known for its high-quality cheese selection, and unsurprisingly, the rich cheddar cheese in its Pimento Dip did not disappoint. One tester remarked, "It tastes like fancy aged cheddar!" I concur. Made with extra sharp cheddar cheese and pickled pimiento peppers, Trader Joes's Pimento Cheese Dip packs a strong, yet not overwhelming, flavor. Many pimiento rebels advocate for swapping the namesake pimientos out for roasted red peppers, but Trader Joe's may just have found a new approach. The brand's recipe uses pickled pimientos to give its cheese dip a dimensional, slightly vinegar flavor without completely abandoning tradition and ditching the pimientos.
One important difference to note is this iteration is a dip, rather than a spread, meaning its consistency is looser. The texture is slightly thicker than queso, but thinner than a classic pimiento cheese spread. It's not your traditional Southern version, but it would be great heated up with tortilla chips for dipping. Throw in some chorizo and you've got yourself some Southern pimiento queso.
But We Loved...
Price's Pimiento Cheese Spread
This Texas based brand won over the testers with its classic flavor and thick-cut shreds of cheddar. The side of the container, boasts the history of Price's Pimiento Cheese Spread—the family recipe was perfected in the 1950s by the husband-and-wife team behind the brand. Today, it has become a widespread grocery store staple.
What sets this pimiento apart? It's branded as "sweet and tangy" and certainly lives up to those expectations. Multiple testers observed that this spread looks fresh and homemade. Taste-wise, it's characterized by a sweet bite and a bright hint of tang. Price's spread includes both pimientos and red bell peppers, maintaining the classic pimiento sweetness while adding bell peppers for depth of flavor. A few testers noted hints of relish and pickle flavor, which can likely be explained by unexpected distilled vinegar salad dressing ingredient. Overall, a well respected choice.