Pimento Cheese Recipe (2024)

Recipe from Matt Lee and Ted Lee

Adapted by The New York Times

Updated Nov. 13, 2023

Pimento Cheese Recipe (1)

Total Time
5 minutes
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A decidedly Southern spread with Northern roots, pimento cheese is a simple mix of Cheddar, red bell pepper and mayonnaise that can be found on sandwiches or served as a spread for crackers from work sites to garden parties across the 16 states below the Mason-Dixon line. This recipe came to The Times from the Charleston, S.C.-bred cookbook authors Matt Lee and Ted Lee. —The New York Times

Featured in: A Field Guide to the American Sandwich

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Yield:About 1½ cups, enough for 4 sandwiches

  • 8ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated with a food processor or hand grater (not pre-grated)
  • ¼cup softened cream cheese (2 ounces), pulled into several pieces
  • Scant ½ cup jarred pimento or other roasted red peppers (from a 7-ounce jar), finely diced
  • 3tablespoons Duke’s, Hellmann’s or other high-quality store-bought mayonnaise
  • ½teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (6 servings)

239 calories; 21 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 6 grams monounsaturated fat; 4 grams polyunsaturated fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 0 grams dietary fiber; 1 gram sugars; 9 grams protein; 318 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Pimento Cheese Recipe (2)


Make the recipe with us

  1. In a large mixing bowl, place the Cheddar in an even layer. Scatter the cream cheese, pimentos, mayonnaise, red-pepper flakes and salt and pepper over the Cheddar. Using a spatula, mix the pimento cheese until it is smooth and spreadable.

  2. Step


    Transfer the pimento cheese to a bowl or container, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

    Pimento Cheese Recipe (3)



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Cooking Notes


Replace the cream cheese with good mayo as mayo adds flavor and the cream cheese just dilutes it. Grated onion adds a nice bite, but if serving onion averse crown, add a dash of onion powder and garlic powder. Then add Sriracha sauce and/or Worcester Sauce. Make a day ahead for flavors to meld.

Karin Byars

Why not throw it all in the food processor and pulse it a few times. The food processor bowl is already greasy from grating the cheese (at least at my house).


My suggestion is to be sure that you are assiduously draining your pimiento/roasted pepper. Blot thoroughly with a clean tea towel or paper towel. I hope this works for you.


I'm no purist where recipes are concerned, but when I was growing up in North Carolina, making pimento cheese was a simple process: 8 ounces of sharp cheddar coarsely grated, one 4-oz. jar of diced pimentos with the liquid, 1/3 to 1/2 cups of mayonnaise, preferably Duke's but definitely unsweetened (forget Hellman's and other northern grocery store brands). One teaspoon of white vinegar. Salt, if desired. Cream cheese? No way. Onion? Garlic? Why not chocolate chips?


By itself, commercial mayonnaise will not support the growth of pathogens. In fact, bacteria die when inoculated into mayonnaise. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10945595 ). The acids in commercial mayo (acetic, lactic, citric) lower the pH to the point where bacteria don't grow. So it keeps well. Once the mayo is mixed with other ingredients, however, the mixture loses the bacteria-killing properties of the pure mayo (as well as the long-keeping properties of a hunk of cheddar).

Lisa Renee

Point of order... The Pimento Pepper, also known as the Cherry Pepper, is not actually the same as the common Red Bell Pepper. Granted, the Portuguese word "pimentão" does mean "bell pepper", but the Pimento Pepper has a sweeter flavor, is more aromatic, and contains less Capsaicin than the common bell pepper.


I'd never even heard of pimento cheese until I moved South, but sure do love it now. Don't like orange cheddar (I know, it's just annatto) so I make this recipe with sharp white, and use pickled jalapeños instead of pimento. I usually add a splash of pickled jalapeño brine too. Recently bought a jar of Hot&Sweet Jalapeños at Trader Joe's and used some of those. Just had that pimento cheese on a slice of sourdough toast topped with a thick slice of fresh tomato. Wow!


Why is it that you can keep ALL of these ingredients in the fridge for weeks and weeks, but having mixed them together it only holds for a week?


There are as many different variations on pimento cheese as there are Jr League cookbooks in the south.


When I was a boy growing up in South Carolina, we had hamburgers with pimento cheese and chopped onions. It is out of this world.


I recommend not using the cream cheese, use additional Dukes or homemade mayonnaise to get the right flavor If you must use Hellmans or some other mayo, add a bit of lemon juice - Dukes has a subtle lemon tang which makes it taste closer to homemade. Try subbing roasted red bell peppers for the jarred pimento (my fave). You can sub a roasted hatch chili for the dried red chili flakes. Try putting this into a small skillet and baking until melted, then serve with pita chips or veggies. Yum!


Why not just make it the way it's suppose to be made. You can change it but then its now pimento cheese. The authentic recipe does not have cream cheese, and has pimentos. Period.


I add toasted pecans, just like my Mother and grandmother did. Maybe that's a Texas thing - seems like they added pecans to about everything!


I make this just like my North Carolina Mom did...only mayo, no cream cheese...and adding a little drip of oil from the canned red peppers. I've lived in New England for 20 years now, and every time I take these sandwiches to lunch, my Yankee office colleagues go "Ewwww, what IS that?" Granted, it's a little, well, ORANGE! But once they taste it, they're hooked!

Leo Lensing

Consider a tablespoon of lemon and teaspoon of paprika instead of the red child flakes

Tibby Gold

My very southern aunt also used cream cheese. But she also added finely chopped hard boiled eggs. Mmmm…..


I’m a northerner and I like Hellman’s . I tried duke’s -unimpressed. Went back to Hellman’s-Julia child’s favorite. Just sayin’.


It always cracks me up when recipes say to make the thing then put in the refrigerator! What about the eating part?! I love pimento cheese and like to serve it with crackers or celery or smear it on a burger right when it gets off the grill or add use it as the cheese part in a ham and cheese sandwich. Lots of variations on this recipe so use this as a guide for ratios and ENJOY!


Try adding a bit of bomba sauce (like half a teaspoon) if you have it…. It will take your pimento cheese to the next level


66 yo South Carolinian here- only Dukes mayo because Hellman’s is way too sweet. Also, no cream cheese- it dulls the sharpness of the cheese and pimento. Absolutely no roasted red peppers. Use the sharpest cheddar you can find and add cayenne pepper.


Controversial take: pre-shredded cheese actually works better for this because the whole thing maintains its texture better in the fridge. As an actual southerner, I've made pimento cheese for years with finely grated sharp cheddar, roasted red peppers (well drained and patted dry with paper towels, then chopped), Duke's mayo, a dash of Tabasco, and a dollop of spicy brown mustard. No cream cheese! Add chopped pickled jalapenos if you want a spicy version. Always a hit at parties.

Deb from TN

Every time I see pimento cheese recipes in the NYT, I just laugh and laugh. I grew up on pimento cheese made with Velveeta, JFG mayo, a jar of pimentos, black pepper, and garlic powder. It was then and still is the best pimento cheese in the world. You can turn your nose up at Velveeta all you like, but nothing makes creamier pimento cheese. Because cream cheese is just all kinds of wrong.


After reading the recipe and many comments, I went with Jay's classic version, and it was fabulous. I made it for Ladies' Wine Night at my house, and it was a hit. Someone else brought Cream Cheese and Olive Spread, which I adored! Even better than Pimento Cheese. I never had it before, despite having parents from southern Louisiana. (What can I say: my mother disliked cooking.) It made me crave a co*cktail.


My recipe calls for adding grated hard boiled eggs. It is good and good for you!!


Over the years I have easily made my weight in pimiento cheese and I am not a small woman. My opinion is that cream cheese dilutes the flavor and throws off the texture. Cabot’s Seriously Sharp Cheddar (not pre grated), well drained jarred roasted red pepper, Duke’s mayonnaise ( there is no substitute), a tiny bit of sugar( it will not be sweet) and a drizzle of white vinegar. Buzz in the food processor. I have never had any complaints.

Chez Nancy

Made this without the cream cheese but added Trader Joe's sweet and hot jalapeños and it was delicious! Used Cabot's white cheddar and even converted some haters.


No cream cheese! Dukes mayo instead. My North Carolina mama taught me to never drain the pimentos, so the juice goes in the bowl. I add lots of black pepper. You know you have enough when you can see the pepper. Several dashes of Texas Pete add a nice bite!


Use a small disher to put a blob of this onto a freshly shucked oyster and then barbecue or broil it. So good.

Jilly Mac

I add a little Greek yogurt to mine and leave out the Mayo. Everyone loves it.

Jilly Mac

Greek yogurt

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Pimento Cheese Recipe (2024)
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