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How to Make the Best Southern Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese is a traditional Southern favorite. It’s always on the menu at our Kentucky Derby party. Here is how to make the Best Southern Pimento Cheese you will ever taste.

It’s so good that you will want to have leftovers.

I can’t believe that the Kentucky Derby is just five weeks away. I am starting to think and plan.

We kist sent out the invitation. Next come the decorations and the menu.

To be honest, I never was a fan of southern pimento cheese until I made this recipe several years ago. Now I can’t get enough of it. There are definitely some tricks to making it tastes so good.

This is will be our first Kentucky Derby Party in four years. I bet you can guess what derailed our 2020 party.

As soon as I turn the calendar to April during Kentucky party year, we are in party mode.

I’m so excited to once again begin planning for our Kentucky Derby Party! I want to bring you along with me.

Let’s start with a few of our decorations and some beautiful hats from our last party. Then I’ll share this amazing Southern Pimento Cheese recipe.

I remember my mom making pimento cheese when I was a kid. She would spread it on celery. For some reason, it totally turned me off. I think my mom would be so proud that now I not only eat pimento cheese, but I make a great version ~

Before we get started on the pimento cheese, let me share a few ideas for your next party.


Every year my sweet brother~in~law makes an awesome tote board. It’s not hard to make and everyone loves seeing their bets on the tote board. This one is from several years ago.

Southern Pimento Cheese Leads off Derby Party. See the hats, decorations and a fabulous traditional Kentucky Derby recipe that's so good for any party.

Red roses are the must~have flower for a Kentucky Derby party and I have them everywhere. Our Kentucky Derby tablescapes are full of red roses and carnations.

Kentucky Derby party ideas

And, of course, my Derby horse had to have his blanket of roses.

black wood Kentucky horse

The ladies always show off their hats. We don’t get as wild with our hats here as those attending the actual Derby, but everyone gets in the spirit of the occasion.

Here are a few of my favorites.

This hat definitely makes a statement.

white Kentucky Derby hat with flower adn feathers

How clever is this hat with the horses added, compliments of a grandchild’s handiwork?

black hot with check band and bow

And even a few men got into the hat action. Sweet Shark’s business partner had been to the Derby in 2015 and wore this hat.

Kentucky Derby hat

Our friend J—— was declared the spiffiest dresser of the day.

man in pink sport coat and hat

As everyone arrived, sipped on a mint julep, greeted one another, and started placing bets, we offered a few nibbles before race time. As always, we started the festivities with mint juleps.


We always hope for beautiful outdoor weather. Most years the weather is perfect (which in Texas means it is not hot super hot).

At any Kentucky Derby party, food and drink are as important as watching the race.

By the time the race is over, everyone has collected their winnings or cried in their hats. The temperature has dropped and the patio is in the shade. (We are so excited to show off our new patio and backyard makeover.

I put out our buffet dinner on our large kitchen island. Everyone fills their plates and grabs a glass of wine or another mint julep. They find a place to sit, either in the dining room, breakfast room or outside on the patio. Everyone had a great time.

fruit tray

Today I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes from our party, Southern Pimento Cheese which is always a big hit. The recipe that I’ve used for years comes from The Gift of Southern Cooking by Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis.

Today Scott spends his time writing and contributing to major food publications, but when I met him in 2003 he was a restaurant chef in Atlanta and the protege of Edna Lewis, the mother of modern Southern cooking. Edna has passed away, but Scott is still cooking up a storm.


The secret to this pimento cheese is homemade mayonnaise. I love Hellman’s (I’m west of the Mississippi. If you’re east of the Mississippi, I think it’s Duke’s.), but nothing is as good as homemade. (Sorry about the photo ~ I forgot to take the picture before folks jumped in.

bet southern pimento cheeses

The keys to good mayonnaise (If you’ve never made homemade mayonnaise, give it a try; it’s mostly eggs and oil.):

  1. Your eggs should be at room temperature.
  2. Add your oil VERY slowly. Don’t get impatient.
  3. Add your oil down the side of the bowl, not smack in the middle of the egg mixture.
  4. Adding the hot water at the end of the process gives the mayo its silky smooth texture.
southern pimento cheese

Southern Pimento Cheese

Scott Peacock
Traditional homemade pimento cheese from start to finish.
5 from 1 vote
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 2 cups


  • bowls for mixing
  • stirring spoon


  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil or light olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon hot water

For the Pimento Cheese

  • 2 1/2 cups granted extra~sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 3/4 cup homemade mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped roasted red bell pepper or pimento


  • Put the vinegar, lemon juice, salt and mustard into a medium bowl and whisk or stir until the salt and mustard are dissolved.
  • Add the egg yolks and beat until smooth with the whisk.
  • Add the oil drop by drop at first. Then in a slow, stead stream, whisking constantly until all of the oil has been incorporated and you have a very thick emulsion.
  • Str in the hot water until smooth.

To Finish the Pimento Cheese

  • Stir together all the pimento cheese ingredients in a mixing bowl until they are well mixed and creamy.
  • Taste carefully for seasoning and adjust as needed.
  • Cover and store, refrigerated, until ready to serve.


The recipe will yield about 1 3/4 cups of mayonnaise.
Refrigerated, homemade mayonnaise will keep for up to 1 week.
Can be made a day ahead.
Yields about 2 cups.
Keyword pimento cheese, southern pimento cheese
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


The key to this pimento cheese:

  1. Use homemade mayonnaise.
  2. Use homemade roasted red bell pepper, not the stuff you buy in the little jars.
  3. If possible, use a chunk of cheddar cheese and grate it yourself. You can use the pre-grated, but the block cheese has more flavor.
southern pimento cheese on tray

I wish I could share Sweet Shark’s Smoked Salmon; it’s the best ever, but even I don’t know exactly what he does, and he’s not tellin’. Believe me, friends have asked over the years. He just smiles and says, “I’d have to kill ya if I told you.”

smoked salmon with toast points

If you need ideas for Kentucky Derby tablescapes, jump over here to read, save and PIN.

Well, friends, that’s one of the best recipes of the party.

Here are two other of my favorite Kentucky Derby recipes:

I hope you have a fabulous time watching and celebrating the Kentucky Derby. Watching the most beautiful animals on earth do what they love to do is a thrilling experience.

If you can’t watch it, record it. Think of Sweet Shark and me as you sing “My Old Kentucky Home”. On Saturday, everyone is from Kentucky.

pin for later graphic in blue

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  1. Oh my goodness!!! I made the homemade mayo and it was the worst thing I have ever put into my mouth! I double and triple checked the recipe and did everything correctly. I hope the pimento cheese turns out better than the mayo.

  2. 5 stars
    We are so excited to feature your awesome Pimento-Cheese on Full Plate Thursday, 583! Hope you have a fantastic week and come back to see us real soon!
    Miz Helen

  3. Fun party Carol! I’ve never tried pimento cheese dip but always wondered what it was like. The tip for homemade mayo sounds good.

    Thanks for sharing at the Friday with Friends link party.


  4. Oh, Carol! This looks SO GOOD! You know, the photo of your Kentucky Derby winners roses that you posted last year (?) is STILL making the rounds of favorites on my Pinterest. Thought you’d be pleased! Shared this photo already and Mr. J looks awesome in pink ~ love both men’s hats!! <3

    Happy Kentucky Derby today! Watched "Secretariat" the movie with Diane Lane again a few weeks ago. Still thrills me!!! Wish I still had the front newspaper clipping I'd save from 1973 from the Honolulu Star Bulletin from when Secretariat won; think my father tossed it along with some of my saved things that were in their barn and got wet (while I was away at college) back in the early 1980's… I was absolutely horse crazy back then as an 11 year old!

    May the best horse win!
    Barb 🙂

  5. Carol the looks like so much fun. Every year I say i’m going to have a KD party, but may seems to sneak up on me! I was like you and never cared much for pimento cheese until our good friends from Biloxi<MS shared theirs. They put a little jalapeño juice in theirs along with a few other ingredients. And I don't like jalapeños. But this is so yummy. Thanks for sharing your recipe, I can't wait to try it!

    1. Tammy, I know a lot of people who would love to add jalapeños to the pimento cheese! I like to keep this recipe a little more traditional. It I do like the idea of a sprinkle or 2 of Tabasco. Have a fun day.

  6. Hi Carol, I’d love to see your cheddar chive biscuit recipe! My son loves the ones served at a local restaurant and I’d be thrilled to make them at home for him.
    Hugs, Lynn
    p.s. your party looks like it was a hit! Can only imagine how much fun you and your guests had.

  7. Mmmm! Wish I could have had the smoked salmon.
    Will have to try homemade pimento cheese too!
    Love your black stallion!

    1. Jenn, the smoked salmon is a Shark Specialty and a cherished secret. Unfortunately, it;s one recipe I can’t share. I love the black horse too. He’ll definitely be back for the next Derby party.

  8. Carol, your party looks like so much fun! I love that your friends all get into the spirit with you.

    Love pimento cheese!!