There is no “right” way to make pimiento cheese, but there is certainly a wrong way.
I love pimiento cheese. Like really, really love it. I’d eat it every day if I could and it’s what I’d request as my last meal. In my 24 years on this planet, I’ve made some good batches, some not-so-good batches, and some truly amazing batches, if I do say so myself. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Mayonnaise matters…
I’ve done a lot of questionable things in my day, but my mother has never been more disappointed in me than when I used fat-free generic mayonnaise to make pimiento cheese. If you had to judge the situation based on her level of disgust alone, you’d have thought I’d spit on the Bible or insulted Willie Nelson (if you knew my mom, you’d understand the seriousness of those offenses). Her reaction was a bit extreme, but she’s right—you can’t just use any old mayo and expect a quality final product. If you want a legit pimiento cheese experience, Duke’s is your best bet. Trust me on this.
WATCH: How to Make Super Simple Pimiento Cheese
2. ...and so does cheese.
Confession: I’ve made pimiento cheese with pre-shredded cheddar before and the world did not end. In a pinch, the bagged stuff is fine. But if you have the time, definitely consider doing your own grating. Super fine shreds are better integrated into a dippable spread in my experience.
3. Cheddar is great, but so is gouda.
And goat cheese. And Gruyère. And Asiago. All cheese is wonderful and beautiful in its own way, so don’t limit yourself. I typically start with cheddar as my base cheese and add from there, but there is no rule book. If you wanna use just gouda, great. The world (of cheese) is your oyster. Experiment and see what blend works best for you.
4. Don’t be afraid to dress it up.
Jalapeños! Bacon! Dill! These are all things that make a good pimiento cheese great. You can even swap jarred pimientos for homemade roasted red peppers, if you’re feeling crazy. Once you have your base of mayo, cheese, and pimientos, the sky’s the limit. But if you like to keep your formula simple, more power to you. The important thing is that you know you have options.
5. Think beyond crackers and white bread.
I often fall into this trap, too—it’s just so easy to slap pimiento cheese on a Wheat Thin or spread it between two slices of Wonder Bread. But there are so many amazing ways to utilize pimiento cheese. Take these sausage balls, for example. Or this mac and cheese. No matter what you do with it, there is one thing I know for certain: Everything is just better when pimiento cheese is involved.