Here in Georgia, it’s not a party or even a meal unless you make a homemade pimento cheese spread recipe. The origins of Southern pimento cheese spread are unknown, though it’s thought to have become widely available sometime in the early 1900s.
Pumpkin cheese spread is everywhere here in Georgia – at casual restaurants on hot dogs and burgers to fine dining establishments on charcuterie boards.
Traditional pimento cheese spread is served at ladies’ luncheons and at my annual pig roast, too. My husband even brought home a pimento cheese sandwich from The Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta where it’s a must have!
When I’ve checked out the ingredient labels on the pimento cheese spreads at the market, I was grossed out. The store-brought versions are filled with all kinds of processed nastiness, like high fructose corn syrup and artificial colorings.
Instead, why not make a healthier version of homemade pimento cheese spread recipe?
Making a healthier Southern pimento cheese spread recipe
Plus, a finely cut shredded cheese would quickly blend up with the rest of the ingredients and would save me time. (Who hates to grate cheese? ME!)
To health up the pimento cheese spread, I used Neufchatel (low fat) cream cheese instead of cream cheese since it contains a third less fat.
I also used an olive oil mayonnaise. I feel it's a teeny bit healthier than regular mayonnaise since it's not made with fillers and questionable ingredients like some of the “lite” mayos.
I also wanted to add a little kick to my pimento cheese, so I spiced things up with chipotle pepper sauce and ground ancho chili pepper.
Wanting to add a little color, I used brown Hawaiian sea salt, but regular white sea salt is fine.
And the pimentos? Did you know that they’re just chopped up cherry peppers? You can find jars of them in the canned vegetable section. Make sure to drain them well so your cheese spread doesn’t get runny!
Holiday entertaining with a pimento cheese pumpkin
We’ve all had cheese balls, right? Well, I took this one step farther and turned my cheese ball into a Pimento Cheese Pumpkin!
This is where four years of art school came in handy. Seriously though, making a Pimento Cheese Pumpkin was pretty easy and fun to do.
Though with all those pimentos, it looks more like one of those funky gourds than a pumpkin, but I’m cool with that.
If you’re intimidated, ask one of your artistic kids to sculpt the Pimento Cheese Pumpkin! If you give it a try and it looks like a kitchen nightmare, just put the pimento cheese spread in a pretty bowl. No one will know and trying to sculpt the cheese spread won’t ruin it.
Also, if you feel the pimento cheese isn’t orange enough, feel free to add a little orange food coloring gel from the craft store.
Finally, there are so many terrific gluten free crackers out there, why not just go gluten free this year at your party?
I love Udi's Gluten Free Ancient Grains Crisps, Simply Sea Salt and Udi's Gluten Free Ancient Grains Crisps, Aged Cheddar as shown in the pictures. So delicious you can't believe they're gluten free!
If you only have gluten free crackers out, you don’t have to worry about cross-contamination from guests sticking gluten containing crackers into the Pimento Cheese Pumpkin and accidentally poisoning your gluten sensitive guests!
Pimento Cheese Pumpkin
- 4 cups finely cut shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 16 ounces Neufchatel (low fat) cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Hawaiian sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle pepper sauce
- 2 (4 ounce) jars diced pimentos, well drained
- Stem of a bell pepper, trimmed of seeds and pith
- Gluten free crackers for serving
For the spread
- Place the shredded cheddar cheese, Neufchatel cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic powder, onion powder, ancho chili pepper, sea salt, pepper sauce, and pimentos into the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Using the paddle attachment, beat at medium speed until mixture is thoroughly combined. Scrape down walls of bowl if necessary to completely mix all ingredients together.
Making the pimento cheese pumpkin
- Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl to form the pimento cheese into a ball. Then carefully scrape the cheese ball on to middle of a large serving plate. Using the spatula, smooth the sides of the cheese until you have kind of a half dome. Place plate in the refrigerator to cool for 30 minutes.
- Remove the plate from the refrigerator. Using a small offset cake spatula, spread knife, or a flat butter knife, sculpt your pumpkin and score the sides. Don’t worry about it being perfect. Have fun! When you’re happy how it looks, take the stem from a bell pepper (remove the seeds and pith) and place it on top.
- Refrigerate until it’s time to serve. Also, add crackers just before serving so they don’t get soggy.
- Serving size: 1/24 of recipe
Originally published on November 13, 2014. Updated with new pictures and information.