Fabulous Pimento Cheese Recipes

Why buy the suddenly trendy Southern staple, when you can make your own?

Everyone has his or her own recipe for pimento cheese, and everyone knows that his or her recipe is the best one ever. Nonetheless, we thought we'd share these tried and true recipes with you. Homemade mayonnaise really is the way to go with the first recipe, but Duke's will work fine for the others. Food historian and pimento cheese enthusiast Robert F. Moss swears by finely, not coarsely, grating the cheese. In any case, never use store-bought grated cheese—it contains an anti-caking agent, and your pimento cheese won't clump properly.

Blue Ribbon Pimento Cheese

In 2003, the Southern Foodways Alliance held a Pimento Cheese Invitational, and this is the recipe that topped the other 300 entrants, courtesy of Oxford's Nan Davis' Aunt Lella. Davis says that her aunt told her if she didn't make it with homemade mayo, she "might as well not bother." This recipe is similar (if not the same) to my favorite pimento cheese, the kind served upstairs in the bar at City Grocery in Oxford, Miss., where it's served with a garnish of pickled okra.

Makes about 3 cups

20 oz. Cheddar cheese, grated (5 cups)
1 4 oz. jar whole pimentos, drained
1/2 to 1 c. Lella's mayonnaise (recipe follows)
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of sugar

Place the cheese and pimentos in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse to finely chop the pimentos. Add 1/2 cup of the mayonnaise and pulse to combine. Add the onion powder, cayenne, Worcestershire, and sugar and pulse to mix until smooth. The pimento cheese should be a solid color; the pimentos don't show. It should be the consistency of thick paste, but if it is too dry, add more mayonnaise and pulse to combine.

Lella's Mayonnaise

Makes 1 cup

1 large egg
1 c. vegetable oil, divided
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. onion powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs. fresh lemon juice

Place the egg, 1/4 cup of the oil, mustard, onion powder, cayenne, salt, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and process to blend. With the machine running, add the remaining 3/4-cup of oil in a very slow, steady stream until the mayonnaise is thick.

Recipe from The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook (University of Georgia Press, 2010). Reprinted with permission from the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Katie Burnett's Bacon Pimento Cheese

My friend Katie, a graduate student in UT's English department, made this for a baby shower a few months ago, and it was the hit of the party. I don't eat meat, but even I couldn't stop eating it. "Really, I think the key is to use good cheese … and cream cheese instead of mayo," Burnett says, stating her preference for Sweetwater Farm cheeses. Clip and save this recipe for next fall—it's perfect for tailgating and pairs extremely well with Bloody Marys.

6 tbs. cream cheese
2 c. grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1 c. grated Colby cheese
1/8 c. mayonnaise
1 tsp.* onion powder (*more or less, to taste)
1 tsp.* garlic powder (*more or less, to taste)
1 4 oz. jar chopped pimentos, drained
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

In food processor, pulse together the cheeses with the onion and garlic powders. Add pimentos and pulse until blended but still chunky. Stir in bacon, and transfer to a bowl. Cover and chill at least 1 hour to allow flavors to develop. Serve with crostini.

The "Now Famous" Cheese Ring

Why is it famous? Is it the cheese ring the Carters made in the White House? Is it served at parties during the Masters Tournament? I have no idea, but I can tell you that my mother Patti has served this on occasions too numerous to count, and it never lasts the night.

1 lb. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1 c. pecans, chopped
3/4 c. mayonnaise
1 medium onion, grated
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp. Tabasco
1 c. strawberry preserves

Combine all ingredients except preserves and mix well. Chill. Mold into a ring. Shortly before serving, unmold onto a serving tray. Fill the center of the ring with the preserves, and serve with crackers.

Recipe from Tea-Time at the Masters (Junior League of Augusta, Ga., 1977).