Despite being crazy about cheese as a kid, I avoided pimento cheese because of mayonnaise.
Gasp—I am self-confessed mayonnaise hater.
I still refuse to even let a jar of mayo enter my home and have no desire to go to the effort of making it from scratch since it’s a condiment I just don’t like.
But I wanted to enjoy pimento cheese so much that I set out to make a mayo-free version—and one that mayo-lovers would enjoy, too. I was convinced there had to be another binding ingredient. Much to my excitement, Greek yogurt works well—seriously.
Despite the healthier benefits to this Spicy Tangy Pimento Cheese dip, I am cautious to admit to people that there is no mayonnaise in it. I am all too familiar with the “I love mayo” camp. However, not only are they shocked to learn there is no mayonnaise, they are equally taken aback to discover that the not-so-secret ingredient is Greek yogurt, since some have an aversion to it. They love pimento cheese made with it though!
Curious, I wanted to know if mayonnaise was always a prime ingredient in pimento cheese and discovered cooks only started adding it around the 1950s. According to Robert Moss on Serious Eats, it started with cream cheese. “From Scientific Cuisine to Southern Icon: The Real Story of Pimento Cheese.”
So, don’t worry. Making this pimento cheese does not technically go against a time-honored tradition, but instead, you’ll be returning the dip to its roots, free of mayonnaise.
Hints for the best pimento cheese
Never buy pre-shredded cheese! It has added ingredients resulting in different flavors and textures. And don’t ever be caught with mild cheddar cheese in your shopping cart! Use only extra-sharp and sharp cheddar.
For another Greek yogurt variation, try this boozy pimento cheese with garlic and walnuts, Bourbon Pimento Cheese.