Virginia Willis Blog

Pimiento or Pimento Cheese?

Pimiento Cheese on

Pimiento or Pimento Cheese?

Southerners are known to be fairly easy to rile up. (Extra high marks for South Carolinians and Texans, as history has proven.) We love a rousing debate. This can be something as serious as the Methodists and the Baptists debating sprinkling vs. submersion to increase the chances of entering the Holy Gates — or the most talented SEC football team — both cornerstone of life issues for many of my people. Only slightly less down the line in terms of importance is the argument over the spelling of Pimiento or Pimento for the Southern classic, Pimiento Cheese. That one “i” is like the Alamo. However, in terms of debate, if you want to get Southern folks really riled up, forget the spelling issue and get them going on what’s the best recipe for Pimiento Cheese. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. It makes people feisty.

Pimiento Cheese is a classic spread made from cheese, mayonnaise, and pimiento peppers. Pimientos are a variety of mild chili pepper called “cherry peppers.”  They are even sweeter than bell peppers and very mild, with the lowest Scoville scale rating of all the chilies. Some recipes also include onions and hot sauce, some do not. Cream cheese is a real divider and chefs are doing crazy things like roasting their own peppers or using peppers that aren’t pimiento! I even heard of a recipe a few years ago that contained rye whiskey. Yes, you read that right. I, too, was in disbelief. Clearly, it was not Baptist Pimiento Cheese.

My mother would sometimes make homemade pimiento cheese salad with the bright orange Cheddar coated in red wax, which my grandfather called “rat cheese,” because it was often used to bait mousetraps. As a small child, I considered pimiento cheese a decidedly grown-up flavor and didn’t care for it in the least; it must have been those piquant jarred pimientos. At some point, around middle school, it all changed. I’m not certain if it was a change in my palate or I wanted to emulate my mother, but I grew to love pimiento cheese.

When I was growing up, “P-Cheese” was served on a cracker or on a celery stick. No one in their right mind slathered it on a hamburger or stirred it into grits. Pimiento Cheese Nachos? What? Are you crazy? Well, Perre Magness, author of the blog The Runaway Spoon has written an entire delicious book on how to get crazy with Pimiento Cheese! It’s Pimento Cheese The Cookbook: 50 recipes from Snacks to Main Dishes Inspired by the Classic Southern Favorite. It’s pretty awe-inspiring.

Pimento Cheese the Cookbook on


Since it’s Superbowl weekend, here’s a couple of “P-cheese” recipes for your noshing pleasure. Perre’s Pigs in Pimento Cheese Blankets with Honey-Mustard Dip are guaranteed to please. And, I’m sharing a sneak peak recipe from new cookbook, Lighten Up, Y’all for my lighter version of Pimiento Cheese, and I promise, if you don’t tell, no one will know the difference.

So, which is correct — Pimiento or Pimento? Sources are divided and I can’t make that call, but I’ll leave it to say my California editor liked Pimiento and Perre’s New York City editor clearly preferred Pimento! How do you  spell Pimiento Cheese?

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Pigs in Pimento Cheese Blankets on

Pigs in Pimento Cheese Blankets with Honey-Mustard Dip
Makes 32 pigs in blankets; 3⁄ 4 cup dip

For the Honey-Mustard Dip
1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
1⁄4 cup prepared yellow mustard
2 tablespoons honey

For the Pigs and Blankets
One 14-ounce package cocktail sausages (such as “Lit’l Smokies”)
One 2-ounce jar diced pimentos
8 ounces sharp orange cheddar cheese
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1⁄2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper

FIRST MAKE THE DIP: Whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to blend.

PREPARE THE PIGS IN BLANKETS: Drain the sausages and pat them dry on paper towels. Set aside to air-dry for about 30 minutes. Rinse and drain the pimentos and pat dry on paper towels as well.

Grate the cheese and the butter in a food processor fitted with the grating disk. Switch to the metal blade, and add the flour, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Process until the mixture is crumbly and begins to come together. Add the pimentos and continue processing until the dough forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Pinch about 3 teaspoons of dough off the ball and flatten it into a disk between your palms. Place a sausage in the center of the dough disk and bring it up to cover the sausage. Pinch together to enclose, then roll between your palms to completely seal in the pig. Place the package on a parchment paper–lined rimmed baking sheet and continue with the rest of the dough and sausages. I consistently make about 32 of these from this recipe, which leaves 4 or 5 extra sausages. Consider these the cook’s bonus.

When all the pigs are in their blankets, transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator for at least an hour. This will firm the dough and prevent it from spreading during baking. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake the pigs for 20 to 25 minutes until the cheese dough is puffy and nicely browned. Serve warm with the Honey-Mustard Dip.

From Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook by Perre Coleman Magness. Text copyright © 2014 by the author and photographs copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Davick and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.

Pimiento Cheese on

Lightened-Up Pimiento Cheese
Makes about 2 cups to serve 16

This recipe, like all the recipes in Lighten Up, Y’all has the nutritional information you need to calculate the “Points” per serving!

4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, freshly grated (about 1 cup)
4 ounces light Cheddar cheese, freshly grated (about 1 cup)
¼ sweet onion, grated
1 tablespoon light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon plain 2 percent Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped pimientos, drained
Hot sauce
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Japanese or English cucumbers, for accompaniment

To make the pimiento cheese, combine the cheeses, onion, mayonnaise, and yogurt in a bowl. Stir until well combined. Add the pimientos and hot sauce to taste. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Cut the cucumbers into 1-inch-thick rounds, discarding the ends, but leaving the skin on. Using a small spoon or melon baller, scoop the seeds and some of the flesh out of each round (be careful not to go all the way through) to form a small cup. To serve, fill each cup with about 1 teaspoon of the pimiento cheese. Serve immediately.

Calories 52  Fat 4g  Carbs .7 g  Fiber .1 g  Protein 4 g

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Lighten Up, Y'all on

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Copyright © 2015 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

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2 Responses to “Pimiento or Pimento Cheese?”

  1. Pimiento cheese made by my mom was a staple of family outings when I was a child, and at the top of that recollection are the trips to Churchill Downs for Derby when we had both pimiento and ham salad spread. And those were the only times I can remember my dad drinking beer (which is now my staple). Thanks for posting this, and I cannot wait for an occasion to try the recipe.


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