Many kinds of cheese make great dips and toppings when melted, spiced, or marbled with different types, but hardly anything can come close to the piquant, creamy delicacy that is Pimento cheese.
Some people may find its tangy flavor a bit too intense for their tastes while it is objectively not the most versatile component for recipes requiring a bit firmer type of cheese.
If you’re wondering “what can I substitute for Pimento in a recipe”, whether it be for a salad-based dish or a vegan meal, I have a few recommendations that you may want to consider.
Pimento in a Nutshell
Traditional Pimento is a mixture of a sharp-tasting, highly spreadable kind of cheese (usually Cheddar), cherry peppers, and mayo.
With a balance of salty and spicy undertones in its flavor, finding a 1-to-1 Pimento substitute in cooking can be tricky if you’re trying to replace it with “standard” kinds of cheese.
It is mainly used as a spread for crackers and sandwiches, although it is also an ideal marbling match for nearly all types of cheese, regardless of taste and texture.
5 Pimento Cheese Alternatives
What is the best substitute for Pimento? That mainly depends on the type of dish you want to make, the general flavor you are aiming at, and the texture of the meal.
My favorite Pimento cheese replacements are Aged Cheddar Cheese, Pepper Jack, Big John’s Cajun Cheese, Cottage Cheese, and Cream Cheese.
|No||Cheese Substitutes||Taste||Texture||Fat Level||Lactose Level|
|Reference||Pimento Cheese||Sharp, spicy||Creamy||33.14%||0.4-1.7%|
|1||Aged Cheddar||Sharp, nutty, tangy with earthy undertones||Hard||35%||0-2.1%|
|2||Pepper Jack||Sharp, very spicy||Semi-soft||17.86%||<1%|
|3||Big John’s Cajun||Sharp, smoky, spicy||Semi-firm||14%||1-2%|
|4||Cottage Cheese||Mild, slightly salty and sour||Soft||4%||3.5-15%|
|5||Jalapeno Cream Cheese||Mild, somewhat sweet and spicy||Soft||33%||4.4%|
Shredded Aged Cheddar Cheese
Cheddar is the main component of Pimento cheese and as such is its closest 1-to-1 substitute.
The main reason why you’d use Shredded Aged Cheddar instead of Pimento is if you want a spicy but not overwhelming taste and a firmer texture to experiment with in different recipes.
Some of the most important characteristics of cheddar aren’t as present in Pimento (shadowed by the peppers and “drowned” in mayonnaise). By using Aged Cheddar as a substitute for Pimento, you will add a dash of nutty and buttery undertones to your meals.
Cheddar is a hard, crumbly cheese that gives you more flexibility, allowing you to slice, grate, or shred it.
Similar to Pimento, Pepper Jack is a spicy-flavored cheese with a sharp, intense taste. In terms of ingredients, Pepper Jack is even more versatile, as it includes a healthy dose of rosemary, garlic, jalapeños, habañeros, and sweet peppers.
If you’re looking for a Pimento substitute that is even hotter, I warmly recommend Pepper Jack. It is a semi-soft cheese that can, unlike Pimento, be sliced or shredded.
Big John’s Cajun Cheese
Beehive Cheese Company’s “Big John’s Cajun” is a special brand of cheddar that is an ideal Pimento replacement when you want to add a herbal punch to the plate while retaining the spicy flavor of Pimento.
It’s rubbed with garlic, cayenne, and a dash of celery seeds. Big John’s Cajun is almost equally piquant as Pimento, but its taste is distinctly different. In terms of texture, this cheese is a semi-firm cheese that can be served as an appetizer, melted into a sauce, shredded, or grated.
The hot-flavored Pimento is a bit too much for people who aren’t too fond of peppers and meals involving them. If you adore the spreadable texture and strong taste of Pimento but would rather use a less spicy cheese in your recipes, Cottage cheese is an excellent choice.
The flavor of Cottage Cheese is much milder with salty and sour undertones. With plenty of moisture in it, this cheese melts just as great as Pimento.
This might also be interesting for you: Can You Freeze Cottage Cheese?
Jalapeño Cream Cheese
Presuming that you love all about Pimento cheese, especially its ultra-soft texture and spicy flavor, I can only guess you’re looking for a substitute that is even more spreadable and better suited for sauces, salsas, and dips.
Jalapeño Cream Cheese is the answer to the question “what is the best substitute for Pimento”. As the creamiest and softest cheese of the 5 replacements I mentioned, it is an ideal topping for recipes where Pimento cheese’s mushy texture wouldn’t be too useful.
Tips to substitute Pimento Cheese
My favorite substitutes for Pimento cheese are Pepper Jack and Big John’s Cajun since they have quite a few things in common. Depending on the type of recipe you want to use Pimento substitutes in, I have a few tips that can help you pick a good replacement:
- Pimento cheese melts poorly, so consider marbling it with cheddar (Shredded or Big John’s Cajun) for sauces and salsas
- Since it is already quite spicy, using Cottage or regular Cream Cheese instead of Pimento when a milder flavor is the goal
- For avid fans of ultra-chili food, Pimento cheese may not be hot enough. Use Pepper Jack in a 2-to-1 ratio instead of Pimento.
Can Pimento Cheese be Melted?
Pimento Cheese can be marbled with ultra-soft creamy cheeses and melted, but it does not melt too great as-is.
Can Pimento Cheese Spread be Frozen?
Pimento cheese spread can be frozen, with its taste and texture remaining intact for up to approximately three months before degrading.
Can Pimento Cheese be Heated?
Yes, you can warm Pimento cheese up by placing it on a microwave-friendly plate for about 1-2 minutes, ideally in 15-second increments.
Is Pimento Cheese Unhealthy?
Although Pimento cheese has a low carbohydrate count, it is almost completely comprised of saturated fats. I advise consuming it in moderation, especially if you want to keep your cholesterol levels in check.
Spreading Pimento cheese is easier than shredding or grating Cheddar on a sandwich, not to mention that its rich taste can eliminate the need for dozens of other ingredients. On the downside, it doesn’t freeze too well, it doesn’t melt (almost) at all, and its mushy texture makes it inflexible for many recipes.
You’ll be able to replace it with Aged Cheddar, Pepper Jack, or even Cream Cheese when you wish to be more creative in the kitchen.
Did you find your favorite replacement yet? Let us know in the comments.