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in the kitchen with: aunt sissy si’s pimento cheese sandwich

by Kristina Gill

Though I regularly deal with the abundance and luxury of food, I am very committed to hunger issues, so I thought I’d make a note that Wednesday the UN declared famine in the southern part of Somalia, affecting over 2.2 million people. To find out more about the drought and how you can help, visit the website of the UN World Food Programme or one of your national non-governmental organizations, like Action Against Hunger. Public support for the 2004 tsunami helped make that emergency response a complete success. It’s possible to do the same for the Horn of Africa!

About six weeks ago, I noticed a flurry of adoration for the Pimento Cheese Sandwich on Twitter. When I called it out as being soooo Southern Living 1978, the folks over at the Washington Post food section and Atlanta-based food blogger Broderick told me I needed to get out more. Get out more? Please! I grew up in Nashville eating Mrs. Grissom’s pimento cheese on Ritz crackers and can still hear the jingle in my head! But admittedly, I haven’t had pimento cheese since the 20th century. Apparently, the world has changed since then, so I was open to trying it again. Susan and William Brinson came to my rescue with the recipe for William’s Aunt Sissy Si’s Pimento Cheese Sandwich. I hope you love it! If you have your own version of pimento cheese spread you’d like to share, please do! This very southern recipe would make a great appetizer spread served with last week’s South Carolina specialties, Lowcountry Lemonade and Shrimp Paste Sandwiches! — Kristina

About William: William is a still life and food photographer. He was raised in a suburb of Maryland, within a few steps of the country and a few more of the city. He has always appreciated the beauty found in nature’s lushness and the modern luxuries of the city. These experiences are what helped define William’s photographic style of natural luxury. Through texture and light, he brings a mood of luxury to even the simplest things. To William, it is not just about the object; it’s about the experience of it. William lives and works out of his loft in the NoMad district in New York City with his wife, Susan, and boxer dog, Nero. For a personal peek, take a look at House of Brinson or William and Susan’s sneak peek on Design*Sponge. William’s previous recipe for Acorn Squash with Apple Chestnut Stuffing can be found here.

Full recipe after the jump . . .

Aunt Sissy Si’s Pimento Cheese Sandwich


  • 4 oz jar diced pimentos
  • 8 oz brick of medium cheddar
  • equal parts mayo and salad dressing (to taste and for good consistency)
  • dash of salt
  • secret ingredient . . . about 1/4 teaspoon of horseradish, more or less, to taste
  • fluffy white bread


Mix everything together. It is better the next day and will keep for several days in the fridge.

*Note to non-Southerners/Americans: Salad dressing is similar to mayonnaise, but more economical. If you can’t find anything in your supermarket labeled “salad dressing” (not something you put on salads), you should probably just use all mayonnaise.

A big thanks for making the food look as good as it tastes, Rebecca!!


Why William Loves This Recipe
This recipe for “Pimento Cheese Sandwich” reminds me of being a kid at our family reunion in Emerald Isle, North Carolina. Every year we would pile in the van and take the long haul from Maryland to North Carolina. “Are we there yet?” was our battle cry, and the response was always the same, “Five more minutes.” I knew every year I had a few things to look forward to: the beach, my cousins and pimento cheese sandwiches! For some reason, no one at home knew what these sandwiches were, so I knew I had to fill up at our family reunion.

I know this recipe has traveled down the family, but I attribute my memory to Aunt Shirley, a.k.a. Sissy Si. Probably because she got stuck making them for me each year. My Aunt Sissy Si is the quintessential southern lady who prides herself on her homestyle cookin’ and feeding a big crowd. She knows how to command a crowd and was given the nickname “sergeant” as a result. Aunt Sissy Si has advised me that it is really called “Pimento AND Cheese,” but I guess I always missed that part. Thank you, Aunt Sissy Si. You’re the best!

Suggested For You


  • Yum, always a flurry about Pimento cheese sandwiches around the time of The Masters each year. Thanks for this recipe.

  • My grandma’s pimento cheese is pretty similar to this except it is mostly mayo and then some sour cream instead of dressing. Also about 2/3 cheddar and 1/2 american. I haven’t had it in years.

  • I love pimento cheese. I always try and convince my mom NOT to make it when we visit home so I won’t eat the whole container. Here’s my family’s nouveau pimento cheese recipe–and believe me, I’ve tried all kinds and this is the absolute best. Everyone, even Yankees, likes it:
    -1 brick of sharp cheddar cheese (kill me, but I’m a fan of Cabot’s white cheddar for this…)
    -1 roasted red pepper, peeled and cut into dice
    -plenty of cracked black pepper
    -enough Hellman’s mayo to moisten

    Shred cheese while still cold. Gently fold in the red pepper and enough mayo just to bind the mixture together. Add generous amounts of black pepper and stir together. Serve with saltines, on wheat bread, stuffed in cherry tomatoes, with carrots and celery, etc. It really is the best.

    And please leave out the Miracle Whip, for realz. It gives pimento cheese a sickly sweet flavor that is very off-putting….

  • I thought I was the only one who thought this kind of sandwich was DIVINE!! I had them at my bridal shower as part of a tea sandwich platter. Thanks for reminding me that I need to make them again!!!

  • This has been a standard lunch all of my life! My favorite is super sharp cheddar, Hellman’s mayo, pimentos, and lots of cayenne. These days, I love it on a heavy grain bread like Ezekiel with a big layer of arugula, perfect match. Yum!

  • oh how delicious! this recipie is absolutely delicious. I as well grew up in the south (Texas) and Pimento Cheese sandwhiches are definitely a staple.

    Maybe the Washington Post needs to visit the south some more.

    Great post and I love your work, you are such an inspiration!

  • Pimento cheese sandwiches are total comfort food for me. Every family reunion, every wedding reception, every funeral…there they are, generally made with pillowy-soft Wonder Bread. I have a very bittersweet memory of sharing a pimento cheese sandwich with my cousin at my grandfather’s funeral a few years ago. It was a horribly sad occasion, yet there we all were, together as a family, sharing a meal. Pimento cheese sandwiches are good for this Southerner lady’s soul, I tell ya what.

  • I can’t believe this! My nephew calls me “Aunt Sissy” and I’ve never heard that used before! I feel like a have some sort of soul sister, though her first name is more legitimate for the use of “Sissy.”

  • I was going too say, miracle whip is just a brand of salad dressing, and you can pretty much buy it anywhere.

  • I love this recipe…Its so sweet too that it reminds you of such happy times and a very special aunt…thats so nice.

  • I just came home from the grocery store with a tub of my favorite brand: Palmetto Cheese. Its my perfect zero-effort summer lunch cold from the fridge, on crackers, with a huge glass of iced tea and a sliced up tomato!

  • I heart the Lee Bros. recipe, which uses cream cheese and homemade mayo. But when I don’t have time . . . I ALWAYS use SC’s “pimento cheese with soul,” otherwise known as PALMETTO CHEESE. It is a must at any tailgate. And whenever.

  • Creamy salad-dressings here in New Zealand are super-sweet so I’m glad someone above suggested mayo and sour cream instead. And I think this is the only time I’ve regretted that orange cheddar like that occurs nowhere outside of North America – my effort might taste the same but without that orange it just won’t look the same, though it would be very festive-looking at Xmas!

  • @Jacqui – If you can’t find any imported English cheddar that is orange in color there in New Zealand (after all, it’s not an American cheese at its origin), there are other orange European cheeses to choose from, like the French Mimolette or the Dutch Edam which ranges to orange. You could find one that pleases your palate, and make your own variation on the American Pimento Cheese sandwich!

  • What a grand coincidence…I was preparing to make a mess of my favorite pimento cheese today! I use all sharp cheddar, and sometimes mix in some white cheddar. I also add a dash of cayenne pepper and toasted pecans…It’s my aunt’s from Mobile, Alabama’s famous recipe. DELICIOUS.

    And, I live in Nashville…so I know exxxactly what you’re talking about :)

  • Greetings from a southern cook from Chapel Hill, NC. Pimento cheese has been a staple in this area for decades! It is served as an appetizer plate at the James Beard Award Winning restaurant, Crook’s Corner. My recipe is adapted from Reynolds Price’s Mother.
    1 lb of extra sharp cheddar
    1 4 oz jar of pimentoes, coarsely chopped
    2 cloves of garlic, minced
    1/2 t of freshly ground black pepper
    2 shakes each of cayenne and cumin
    shot of lemon juice or Tabasco
    Mix above ingredients with a fork then add about 3 T of Duke’s Mayonnaise to make a stiff chunky paste. You want to see and taste the cheese, not the mayonnaise!
    Bring on the saltines and celery sticks. Delicious grilled on rye with lettuce and tomato!

  • Yum! One of the things I love about living in the south is the availability of pimento cheese (usually freshly made) at just about any local sandwich shop.

    And I love your note for non-southerners/Americans about salad dressing. I lived in Kentucky for nine years before I figured out that salad dressing is basically less expensive mayo–it took an angry customer in the drive-thru where I was working and a coworker from a little further south than here to explain it to me. I thought the customer wanted a packet of actual salad dressing and I kept asking what kind. Everyone was laughing when it was over.

  • The forgotten other comfort food! I loved pimento on crackers when i was younger. Thanks for refreshing our memories :)

  • I would recommend adding walnuts to the mix (or at least serving on walnut bread). Adds good texture and really rounds out the flavors.

  • I absolutely love that butterfly dome! It’s so beautiful. It reminds me of the butterfly garden I visited a few years ago. I could totally use one of those in my office.

  • This looks great. I remember moving to NYC in 1989 from Tennessee trying to find the pimento cheese while grocery shopping. It only took twenty years to get here.

  • I was wondering just a few days ago if the Varsity in Atlanta still has its grilled pimento cheese sandwich.

  • I make Pimento Cheese sandwiches using Stilton and very thin sliced whole grain bread. And for those who don’t know about the previously mentioned Duke’s mayonnaise, I can recommend it for those times when the lemony hint is welcome.

  • “Mrs. Grissoms, Mrs. Grissoms, makes her salad taste so fine!” haha… and might I note that Mrs. Grissom is also named Grace. So you really have EXTRA permission to love pimento cheese (as if one needs any extra reason).

  • Great Post. Right in the zeitgeist too. 2011 is the year of Pimento Cheese according to Time Magazine. When I did a Pimento Cheese post for LarkCrafts.com I found out lots of fascinating facts and history of our Southern Treasure that’s not really Southern at all! BTW.


    I’m in the camp who use half cream cheese and half mayo as the binder. Comes out smooth as velvet and cheesier, and not as oily.

  • This was a great post and it sure made me crave pimento cheese! I love the photos and the comments too. Being a native New Yorker, I’d never had pimento cheese until moving south. What a happy discovery!!! At Weaver Street Market, in Carrboro, NC, they make it with chipotle peppers – it’s really yummy that way!

  • as a displaced southerner living in the midwest, pimento cheese tastes like home to me. i use half extra sharp cheddar and half pepper jack cheese, and instead of salad dressing, i use cream cheese. i also add a little grated onion. everyone’s got their own recipe that’s THE official recipe. :)

  • Just returned from a month long visit to Asheville, N.C. Where pimento cheese is king. My favorite version, Mey fels appetizers where it is served as a thick topping on homemade cornbread.

  • Southerners have always been the best cooks – and pimento cheese is of course something that was a staple in every “icebox” my grandmothers ever owned. After church on Sundays, the dinner table always included my grandmother Hutchie’s three-tier pickle dish with the bottom layer of celery sticks stuffed with pimento cheese. My father makes it best in the family, but I love to stock up store-bought at Main Street Grocery pimento when I’m in Danville VA. Better than homemade, with a close second being Southern Season in Chapel Hill NC. And to the post earlier, a grilled pimento cheese sandwich is heavenly and it’s just as good on a hamburger.

  • Didn’t actually read the post about the sammies (though I always love the food posts). Just wanted to say thank you for mentioning the famine & drought happening in Africa right now. It’s getting so little attention. I took your mention of it as a reminder to donate to such an important cause!

  • Some friends and I recently organized a pimiento cheese contest; we had judges taste our classic recipes, and had a People’s Choice award for presentation, interpretation, etc. I’m happy to say that my partner and I won the interpretation award, with a pimiento cheese bao bun recipe that we invented. Trust me, it was MUCH tastier than it sounds! Thanks for sharing such a great classic.

  • Love me some homemade pimiento cheese! My mother-in-law’s recipe is my favorite ~ but it is creamy instead of chunky. One could swap out the very Southern Velveeta for some good-quality cheddar and it would still be delish! The recipe:
    1 lb. Velveeta, room temp
    1 8 oz. block cream cheese, room temp
    1 stick butter, melted
    1 jar pimientos, drained
    Cream the cheeses and melted butter together, then stir in the pimientos. I like lots of pimientos, so I usually use two large jars, but most people would probably prefer just the one. This will keep in the fridge long enough for you to enjoy every last drop of it!

  • I use part Mild and Part Sharp Cheese. I use block cheese and then grate it with the shredded side. I add a dash of tobascco sauce. I thin use my mixer and blend all the cheese-mayo-pimento together to make it whipped. We use it for sandwiches and dips.

  • 2 8-oz blocks of cheddar cheese (one extra sharp, one medium)
    1 8-oz block of pepper jack
    1 4-oz jar of pimentos (sometimes I use one 4-oz and one 2-0z)
    pinch of sugar
    several grinds of the pepper mill
    several shakes of the garlic powder container (NOT garlic salt)
    Just enough Duke’s Mayo to moisten

    As far as the mayo/salad dressing goes – salad dressing is *much* sweeter than mayo. I like a little sweetness to the pimento cheese but not alot – hence the pinch of sugar with the mayo instead of using salad dressing.

  • strange question, but i’m looking for tshirts, stickers, totes that declare pimento cheese love. know of any?

  • It seems I never have pimentos when I get the craving for pimento cheese. I chop up pimento-stuffed green olives instead and mix with grated extra sharp cheddar and mayo. Oh, and I add a big pinch of white pepper.

  • How interesting to see a Pimento and Cheese recipe that’s different from the one we use in Texas. Ours has 3 ingredients – Grated American cheese, diced pimentos, and Miracle Whip. And yes, it has great memories attached to it.

  • From Nashville, I can totally still sing the Mrs. Grissom jingle too! And now, it will probably be in my head for the next seven weeks or so…

  • Great memories of pimento cheese sandwiches and we almost always had them toasted. Gooey, but great. My mom didn’t believe in cooking on Sundays, it being a day of rest, so if we had to take potluck to the church, it was always pimento cheese sandwiches.

  • my first Pinterest meal! I added some cream cheese, season salt, and a few dashes of hot sauce and YUM YUM! Thanks so much!

  • Mom’s Southern (Arkansas) Pimento Cheese

    1 jar pimento
    8 oz grated cheese
    Miracle Whip to moisten (today I use Hellmann’s)

    Mix it all together and eat on White Bread YUMMMMMMM

  • I was never a fan of pimento cheese until last year when I added some minced chipotle and adobe to a bowl full. Nearly ate the whole thing. Almost as good with chipotle powder; add either to taste.

  • It’s a lot of trouble but if you make your own (fresh) sweet red pepper coulis and use that instead of bottled pimento, you will probably faint dead away. A splash of vinegar and pinch of sugar are necessary if you are using bottled pimentos. I am southern as they come and I don’t hold with anything but Hellman’s Mayo.