7 Reasons Pimiento Cheese Is My Surprising Pantry Staple

Kitchen Diary: Anne in South Carolina

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I'm certainly not suggesting that you make pimiento cheese a staple in your diet. (Or am I? Because it sure is tasty.) This delicious blend of mayo, shredded cheese, and a not-so-secret ingredient or two is delicious on its own, but I use pimiento cheese for a lot more than snacking. It can be a great shortcut in some of my favorite dishes, or it can add just the right zing to a lackluster meal.

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It's simple to enjoy, really. All you need are some crackers, some pimiento cheese, and a beverage. I think it pairs nicely with a dry rosé, but soda, beer, lemonade, a vodka tonic, or any other cold beverage you like will work just fine.

How do I love it? Let me count the ways.

1. Tomato pie.

Spread pimiento cheese in between the layers of tomatoes and basil instead of blending grated cheese with your random white product of choice (mayo, sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese). Want to make your pie extra decadent? Slather it in pimiento cheese. Does this negate the health benefits of cooked tomatoes? Possibly! But it tastes great.

2. In a casserole.

A lesson I learned from my mother: Summer casserole is nothing more than alternating layers of thinly sliced vegetables with a mixture of cheese and something creamy, all topped by bread crumbs or crumbled potato chips or crackers. If you substitute pimiento cheese between the layers, you don't have to mix anything, and you won't need to add salt and pepper to taste.

3. On a sandwich.

Any sandwich. Like a condiment! We all know about pimiento cheese burgers, but it also works with bacon and tomato, turkey and apple, hummus and avocado, or any other combination of things you might put between two slices of bread and call lunch.

4. In cheese grits.

So, I understand that not all of you consider grits to be a pantry staple. I do. They can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or an after-school snack. And the quality of the grits is important. But even the worst grits can be delightful with the addition of some dairy. Pimiento cheese makes it easy, because you don't have to worry about adding straight up cheese and making them too gummy.

5. Stirred into risotto.

Or mashed potatoes. You thought risotto was good with simple Parmesan, or that mashed potatoes were improved with a splash of cream? Try a delightful blend of grated cheese and mayonnaise. I understand that there are purists who will object, but this is my kitchen diary, and I'm doing me.

6. As a topper for steak.

This is a pretty common dish in fine dining restaurants that also claim to be southern style. It's also pretty delicious.

7. Stirred into quiche filling, after reducing the milk.

Normally, I add shredded cheese and milk to my quiche filling, but in a pinch? Pimiento cheese it is.

For me, pimiento cheese is the dairy version of Hamburger Helper, or a packet of taco seasoning. (Well, not quite. I wouldn't consume either of those things on their own.)

Have you ever used pimiento cheese as anything more than a snack? Do you use any pre-mixed shortcuts that might be surprising to other cooks?

(Image credits: Anne Wolfe Postic)

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