Many of my friends are surprised to learn that I make homemade pimento cheese. Maybe, like them, you’ve seen neon-orange tubs of the stuff for sale at the store. Maybe, like them, you’ve even tried it once and weren’t too impressed.
Unfortunately, I can’t have you all over to get you to try my homemade pimento cheese as I’ve done with my friends because, honestly, the homemade pimento cheese is a world apart from that goop you’ll find at the store. I know, because I’ve managed to convert a number of my friends into loving the stuff, and now I keep a copy of my recipe available whenever I make this for guests, because they invariably ask if I’ll tell them how to make homemade pimento cheese.
The thing about Homemade Pimento Cheese (besides the arguments it provides about whether it should be called “Pimiento Cheese” or “Pimento Cheese”) is that it can be used so many ways. It’s excellent on celery sticks, the healthiness of which let you feel a bit better about the fact that you’re basically eating a mixture of cheddar, cream cheese and mayonnaise. It’s awesome on crackers (and a perfect topping for my Homemade Wheat Thins). Use it as a dip for veggies, a filling for omelets, or a bagel topping, even. And as a grilled cheese sandwich? Oh, baby. Words fail.
Now, most recipes also call for a mixture of white and orange cheddar. I’ll let you in on a secret: orange and white cheddar cheese are the same thing! Orange cheddar cheese is simply white cheddar cheese to which they’ve added annatto as a coloring agent.
Also, most recipes call for pimentos out of a jar. I frankly prefer a fresher taste, so I roast my red bell peppers at home. It doesn’t take long, and it’s easy enough to do (especially if you roast the peppers ahead of time while you’re cooking something else), so I don’t see the point in shelling out for an expensive, tiny jar of pimientos. Or pimentos. Or whatever you want to call them.
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If you want to roast your own red peppers, I’m providing the directions below. The rest? Well, tinker with it as you will. That’s what makes Pimento Cheese so individual: everyone prefers a different flavor profile. But mine’s the best. Just ask me.
How To Roast Red Bell Peppers
1. Wash the peppers and remove the stickers. Dry them thoroughly.
2. Put them in a 450 F oven (or toaster oven, if there’s enough room). Turn every 15 minutes.
3. When the skin has blackened all over, remove the peppers and immediately put them in a bowl with a tight-fitting lid, or in a brown paper bag.
4. Let the peppers cool in the bowl/bag while the steam loosens the skin.
5. Slip the skin off, pull out the stem, remove the seeds and slice what’s left.
You’ll notice when slicing them that the peppers give off a lot of liquid. Don’t worry about throwing that out, just scoop it into the mixture along with the minced peppers. This is NOT true if you’re using peppers out of the jar: those you’ll want to drain, since they’re stored in a brine that doesn’t taste very good.
How to make homemade pimento cheese
- 16 ounces cheddar cheese (extra-sharp is best)
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip!)
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
- 4 ounces pimentos (from a jar or roasted at home), minced
- Finely grate the cheddar cheese. Set aside.
- Whip the cream cheese until fluffy.
- Add mayo, and whip more.
- Add the cheese and remaining ingredients to the mayo and cream cheese mixture.
- Transfer the Pimiento Cheese to a bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate for 2-4 hours to let the flavors meld.
This recipe for homemade pimento cheese will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Unfortunately, it doesn’t freeze well due to the cream cheese, but that’s okay: there’s rarely any left in our house after the first couple of days, anyway.
Equipment I Used: