The Secret to the Best Pimiento Cheese

Hot take, but hear us out.

Think about the best pimiento cheese you've ever had. Why was it so darn good? Many folks obsess over texture and talk about their grating process the same way people differentiate 300 versus 700-count sheets. Others say it's all about your ratio of spices, mustard powder, or whether you use black or white pepper. And then there are those of us who attribute it all to the brand of mayonnaise, but that's really a moot point. If you aren't using Duke's, you're doing it wrong.

In all the great pimiento cheese I've been fortunate enough to experience, from Miss Verba's (the preferred recipe of Chef Frank Stitt) to Green Truck Pub's or the one my friend makes by popular demand for our Christmas party every year, they share this: none contain their namesake pimientos.

Grandma Dena’s Pimiento Cheese

Jennifer Causey

Instead, they feature roasted (and many times marinated) red bell peppers. Listen, there's nothing necessarily wrong with pimiento peppers. It's just that not all of us can readily find the kind worth using— whole heart-shaped peppers with the perfect sweet-spicy-tangy trifecta preferably from a farmer's market in late summer. Compared to the sad little cubes floating in a jar, well, it's not even a contest, friends. And when you're making a recipe with a short ingredient list, you can't afford to waste time or, more importantly, flavor with what is closer to watery, out-of-season tomatoes.

Luckily, this is an easy fix to make. Whole, roasted red bell peppers in jars are easy to find these days in Publix, Kroger, or your local grocery. Bonus, they won't cost you hardly any more than their meeker cousins. If you're looking to really fix some 'minner cheese, you can roast the peppers yourself on the grill or blister them under the broiler for a few minutes. Then, toss them (try 6 or 8 peppers cut into strips) in a bowl with enough olive oil so they're generously covered, a few tablespoons of vinegar (we suggest sherry or balsamic), a few smashed garlic cloves, and some herbs or whole mustard seed. Don't overthink it, you're just trying to add another taste dimension. Use what you don't need for pimiento cheese on salads or in tacos.

Still trying to find the pimiento cheese that speaks to your soul? It just so happens we've got a few recipes for that.

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