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The Rise and Spread of Pimento Cheese

Affectionately referred to as “The Caviar of the South,” Pimiento (or Pimento) is a spicy and creamy spread that can be made with a variety of different cheeses, though it’s typically crafted with cheddar, Monterey Jack, or processed American. The cheesy spread is close to the hearts of Southerners, but until recently was nearly unheard of in the rest of the country. Wright Bryan, an NPR producer who grew up in the Deep South, had this to say in 2007, upon realizing that pimento cheese was not as popular as he thought:

Pimento cheese is so ingrained in the lives of many Southerners that we don’t realize our passion for the stuff doesn’t exist outside the region. Call me provincial, but I was shocked (shocked!) when I learned that everyday people from Boston to San Diego don’t slap pimento cheese on bread for a quick lunch, or slather it across their burgers for a decadent treat.

But now, Bryan will be happy to learn the appreciation for pimento cheese is growing across the nation, and chefs have been reinterpreting this southern staple with decadent and hip new recipes. Once considered fatty and trashy, it is now understood as American cuisine worthy of celebration. Chefs are giving pimento cheese an upgrade by “roasting their own bell peppers, enriching it with everything from artisanal mayonnaise to crème fraîche and adding international accents like chipotle and smoked paprika,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

These days, you can find pimento cheese at trendy bars and restaurants as spreads, dips, and even fritters. The best part about pimento cheese? Its versatility, argues Perre Coleman Magness:

“I love it when I go to a restaurant and they have something really unique that they’ve done with pimiento cheese. I can’t say that I like every pimiento cheese that I’ve ever had, but it’s a very personal taste. But I think it’s fascinating to see people riffing on their mothers’ recipe. 

If you’re looking to get your hands on this taste of the South, try Callie’s Charleston Biscuits Fiery Pimento Cheese. Better yet, try it as part of our autumn cheeseplate — all you need is cold beer and a tailgate!

Photo credit: Image courtesy of Cook Au Vin

Jamie Ditaranto

Jamie Ditaranto is a senior at Emerson College and an online editorial intern for culture, who enjoys writing, photography, and travel. She finds a way to sneak cheese into just about every meal and is a sucker for free samples.