A not-so-local history of pimento cheese

Pimento cheese at Jake's on Devine
Pimento cheese at Jake's on Devine | Image via @rippers_sc

Whether you call it pimento cheese, Carolina caviar, or the pâté of the south, there’s no denying the delicacy is southern to its core or is there? Sorry, Cola, but today we’re debunking everything you thought you knew about the origin of pimento cheese.

While the spread — traditionally made with shredded cheese, mayo, and pimentos — is now considered to be a southern staple, pimento cheese can actually trace its roots back to the north. Buckle up, we’re about to take you on a history trip.

Pimento cheese at Jake’s on Devine | Image via @rippers_sc

In New York in the 1870s, farmers began making a soft, unripened cheese (what we know as cream cheese) that quickly became widely produced. In the same decade, Spain began canning and shipping pimentos (a sweet, red pepper) to the US.

Pimento cheese first made an appearance in Good Housekeeping in 1908. The magazine suggested filling a sandwich with a blend of cream cheese, mustard, chives + minced pimentos. Shortly after, simplified recipes began circulating and by 1910, commercially made pimento cheese was available on grocery shelves across the country

As the Spanish pimentos became increasingly popular, US farmers began trying to grow their own red peppers — and much of this luck was found in the south. Approximately 10 million cans of pimentos were sent around the country from the south each year.

Even though Cola didn’t contribute to the creation of pimento cheese, we can thank Jacob “J. C.” Reynolds, owner of the former Dairy Bar on Main Street, for the pimento cheese burger. According to Garden & Gun, Reynolds created the sandwich — which consisted of a thin burger, chili, and pimento cheese spread across the bun — in the 1960s.

Other restaurants in town created versions of the beloved bite + the pimento cheese burger quickly became a local specialty. If you want to enjoy a “proper” pimento cheese burger, check out these locations that Garden & Gun recommends.

That’s the history, Cola. We may not be able to rightly take claim to the spread, but at least we can call the pimento cheese burger our own.

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