This South Carolina Town Claims To Be The Home Of Pimiento Cheese

We're sharing the cheesy goodness.

pimento cheese on a hamburger

Courtesy of Forrest Clonts

Pimiento cheese is an iconic Southern spread that combines grated cheese, pimiento peppers, and mayonnaise into a creamy delight that can be put onto everything from burgers to toast points. But did you know that Columbia, S.C. claims to be home to one of the oldest published pimiento cheese recipes

The recipe was first written in a Columbia cookbook, A Friend in Need, which was published in 1912 by the Free Kindergarten Association of Columbia, S.C.

Janie DuBose wrote the recipe, which includes all of the same ingredients used in today’s delicious versions. What made DuBose’s recipe slightly different from the 21st century version was the optional addition of chopped sour pickles, which we think would add a zesty zing to the spread. 

For those wanting to make DuBose’s recipe see below, which is straight from A Friend in Need


Ten ct. can of pimentos; 1-2 cup of grated cheese.
Chop the pimentoes fine, add the cheese and put in mayonnaise to right consistency and spread on thin slices of bread. A little finely chopped sour pickle is an addition to this.

The recipe calls for canned pimientos, but if you can’t find that, we suggest roasting your own red bell peppers and tossing them in a few flavor bombs like garlic and vinegar.

For the cheese, classic Cheddar is the way to go for a truly Southern spread.

While the recipe doesn’t say how much mayo to use, we say use your best judgment. Pimiento cheese should be creamy and spreadable, but still thick like peanut butter, so just start with a little bit of mayo and go from there. You can always add in more, but it’s impossible to take it out once you’ve mixed everything together. 

Where To Eat the Best Pimiento Cheese In the Home of Pimiento Cheese

Besides having the original pimiento cheese recipe, Columbia also says it's the home of the pimiento cheeseburger, which was first made in the early 1960s by J.C. Reynolds who owned the now-closed Dairy Bar on Main Street. The creation sparked a food phenomenon in the city, and now that indulgent meal can be found at restaurants all over the city, like Pawley’s and The Whig. 

For the purists though, finding perfectly crafted pimineto cheese in Columbia is easy because almost every restaurant has its own version of the spread.

One local favorite is Spotted Salamander, a cute restaurant that’s taken up residence in the historic district of the city. Lunch is the only meal served here, and hours are short, from 11:00 a.m. to just 2:30 p.m. The house-made pimiento cheese spread is exquisite, with plenty of cheese and just the right amount of mayo to hold everything together. The spread is served with toasted baguette slices, which stand up nicely to the thick pimiento cheese. 

In the Five Points neighborhood of Columbia, you’ll find The Gourmet Shop, which is part specialty store and part cafe. Brunch and lunch are both served daily, though pimiento cheese can only be found on the lunch menu. Diners can enjoy the pimiento cheese on its own with warm pita or baguette as a shareable appetizer, or as part of a pick-three combination plate. The Gourmet Shop’s pimiento cheese uses plenty of pimientos to help cut through the overall richness of the dish. 

Those who want a bit of variety in their pimiento cheese should go to DiPrato’s Delicatessen because it features three types of pimiento cheese on its menu. Of course, they have the classic version with Cheddar cheese and pimientos, but they are also making a version with sharp white Cheddar cheese, which is equally as enticing. For a twist on the classic, the restaurant is whipping up a smoked Gouda and bacon pimiento cheese spread that takes the iconic dish to a new level of indulgence. 

Next time you find yourself in Columbia, these three restaurants are just the start of your pimiento cheese journey. In fact, the city is so obsessed with pimiento cheese that it has its own Pimento Cheese Passport program that allows locals and tourists to experience the best of the spread in the city and get some prizes. And just think, all of this happened because of a cookbook that was published over 100 years ago.

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