The Lexingtonienne



I never realized how regional food really was until I moved to LA. For example, here in Southern California, no one appreciates grits — that is, if they even know what grits are. And if you mention a Hot Brown, people think you are telling a dirty joke. But if you really want to elicit blank stares, ask someone if they like pimento cheese.


Several months into dating Hubba Bubba (who is from Philadelphia), I asked him that very question. He did not even know what I was saying. “Pimento cheese!” I persisted.  “Pimento cheeeeeese!” He looked at me as if I were possessed and speaking in tongues. (He thought I was saying, “Paminachee.” I kind of was.)


Finally I had to say it really SLOW and LOUD: “PAH–MINT–TOE CHEEEESE.” He had never heard of it.


Nonsense, I thought. Who has never heard of pimento cheese? That’s when I began to realize that I had never seen pimento cheese anywhere in LA. Not at delis, not at restaurants, not even the crappy pre-made kind in the grocery store. I had never really looked for it until then, as I had always assumed it was there alongside all the other staples. Bread. Milk. Pimento cheese.


Suddenly I became desperate. I was trapped in the desert and there was no pimento cheese. I was so parched for pimento cheese that I was forced to start making it myself, while at home I could have just run to the Mouse Trap or Stanley J’s (RIP) or my Mimi’s house to quench a craving.


Then one day last fall I went out to lunch with a friend and ordered the “Dip Duo” appetizer, which the waitress told us was queso dip and guacamole served with tortilla chips. It arrived, and the “queso” was… PIMENTO CHEESE. It was kind of southwestern-y, with some spicy peppers thrown in with the sweet pimentos. It was different but really good. It would definitely do. And it was definitely pimento cheese. “Queso.” Come on.


And then it happened again. I was at Whole Foods and noticed a small container of pimento cheese. It was labeled, “Chili Con Queso Dip.” I bought it. It was most definitely pimento cheese.

pimento cheese

Inspired by this “queso,” I decided to make a southwest-style version of classic pimento cheese. Here I have used small amounts of chili powder and cumin, and mild chilies instead of hot. Feel free to increase these amounts if you want a little more… ZING. It’s excellent served as a dip with tortilla chips. I was going to suggest serving it with blue corn chips for a Halloween-y look, but then I found these:

Halloween chips

Perfect for your Halloween party.



  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 8 oz Monterey jack cheese, grated
  • 1 small (5 oz? 4 oz? I forgot to look) jar pimentos, drained, rinsed, and chopped
  • 1 (4 oz) can mild or hot diced chilies, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cumin, or more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder, or more to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Hot sauce (such as Cholula or Tabasco) to taste
  • 1 1/2 C mayonnaise

Stir all ingredients until thoroughly combined. Serve with tortilla chips.




  • Comment by Jenny Lind — October 26, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

    Pimento Cheese? Yes please! It is one of the South’s most delicious delicacies to me. I first tried it in Kentucky (not on your wedding trip). I, too, was excited when this “present” arrived at R&D, right?! Xxxxx

  • Comment by Jen — February 4, 2012 @ 6:32 am

    Must say I loved the Bandera dip-duo! For regular PC sometime try replacing half the cheddar with white cheddar or (even better) gouda! Thanks for reminding me about this recipe!

  • Comment by Elizabeth Weant McDonald — April 13, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

    I am also a native Lexington girl and my daughter and were just talking about making pimento cheese (I am always in search for the best) and came across your recipe:) I can’t wait to try it, also Trader Joe’s has one that is pretty good. You mentioned The Mouse Trapp and I got homesick 🙂

  • Comment by Hannilou — April 15, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

    Trader Joe’s DOES have a pretty good one! Unfortunately my TJ’s hasn’t had it for a few months now. I’m hoping they bring it back.

  • Comment by Lori — August 22, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

    This is not banderas recipe. It is a variation pimento cheese dip

  • Comment by Hannilou — August 22, 2013 @ 6:46 pm

    You’re right, it’s not… because I don’t even know what Banderas is! 🙂

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