Pimento cheese is the duct tape of party foods. Seriously: You can nuke it, spread it, mix it with something else, slap it on a tray surrounded by crackers, turn it into a fast dinner, even use it for a hangover-nursing breakfast.
There just aren’t many things a tub of pimento cheese can’t handle.
And while homemade is certainly the best, there are also some very good brands out there, from the old familiars to the newly invented. Which one will take care of you like a loyal friend?
I’ve done several taste tests over the years. My top 5:
1: Palmetto Cheese. Hands down, the winner of both tests. Made in South Carolina from a recipe that started on Pawley’s Island, it’s coarser than other brands, so it has more body and works great in recipes. It also tastes the closest to homemade. If you scrab it into a bowl and pass it off as your own, no one will know.
2. Stan’s. Based in Burlington’s and widely available, it’s a smoother style. Traditionalists always go for Stan’s.
3. Queen Charlotte’s Pimento Cheese Royale. Locally made, it is a bit pricier, but it has good ingredients and that coarse texture. For the win: You can pick up a tub in the 1897 Market at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, if you need to arrive with party food in hand.
4. Augusta’s and Penny’s. We give these two the tie, for local ties and good cheese flavor.
Need a few ideas for what pimento cheese can do? Try these:
Pimento cheese phyllo cups: Use pimento cheese to fill a package of those mini phyllo cups on a baking sheet. Bake them at 350 for about 8 minutes, until the cheese melts and the cups brown a little. Take them out and top each one with a little red pepper jelly.
Pimento cheese deviled eggs: Whisk a little pimento cheese into the cooked yolks before you stuff deviled eggs.
Pimento cheese soup: Whisk pimento cheese into a saucepan of heated chicken broth. Add whatever else strikes your fancy. There’s your morning-after cure if you sleep late enough to need brunch.
Pimento cheese dip: Put it in a heatproof bowl. Zap it in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds or so. Serve with scoopable tortilla chips. Stir in some chopped cooked chicken and hot sauce and call it Buffalo cheese dip.