Pimento cheese is, inarguably, a Southern staple — but beyond that simple fact of the matter, there’s plenty of room for debate. Many of us grew up with family recipes we swear by, but store-bought pimento cheese is a convenience food we just can’t quit. To settle the score on which store-bought brand is the best, we purchased several options and rallied the troops for an official tasting.
A few details of the experiment: All of the brands we tested are easily accessible at large grocery chains around the South, but no ‘house’ grocery store brands were included. And while we were tempted by jalapeño, herb, and bacon-infused variations, our sampling included original flavors only. We were pleasantly surprised to find a new favorite among the bunch, though a predicted favorite was close behind in the rankings. Can you guess who took top billing?
5 Southern Pimento Cheese Brands: RANKED!
THE WINNER: Queen Charlotte’s Original Pimento Cheese Royale
As its name would suggest, Queen Charlotte’s Pimento Cheese comes to us from Charlotte, NC, and it reigns as our team’s current favorite! Made with four types of cheese — extra sharp white cheddar, sharp cheddar, pepper jack, and cream cheese — it boasts a distinctly cheesy flavor, and while it does contain mayonnaise, it was not so creamy as to overshadow the cheesy bite. Queen Charlotte’s currently offers three other varieties that we can’t wait to try: Her Royal Hotness (laced with jalapeños), Black and Bleu Blood (infused with bleu cheese and cracked pepper), and Baconham Palace (studded with plenty of bacon).
2nd PLACE: MyThreeSons Emmy’s Original
Another North Carolina original, MyThreeSons Gourmet, began in Greensboro, NC, when Dr. Cheryl Mitchell Barnett retired from her career as an orthodontist due to an injury. Faced with an unexpected opportunity to reinvent herself, she fell naturally into the cheese biz, as she was already famous for her pimento cheese recipe among family and friends. And now, it’s famous around the StyleBlueprint offices, too! Beyond Emmy’s Original, MyThreeSons also offers a jalapeño pimento cheese and a spicy white cheddar blend. MyThreeSons was a close second to Queen Charlotte’s — but also skated into second place by only a hair. Our next cheese on the list is probably familiar to you …
3rd PLACE: Palmetto Cheese Original
The “predicted favorite” mentioned above is the Southern classic, Palmetto Cheese. And while it lands in third place in the ranks, it’s still beloved by the entire staff as go-to comfort food. (Most of us are partial to their jalepeño flavor!) Originally developed by Sassy Henry, the brand’s iconic recipe first gained popularity in Pawleys Island, SC, as a weekly offering at the Henry family’s Sea View Inn. Equal parts cheesy and creamy — thanks to sharp cheddar, mayo, and cream cheese — Palmetto Cheese is seriously hard to put down.
Though the remaining two pimento cheese brands received the fewest favorable votes, both were described by one team member as having “a nostalgic appeal.” If you have an appreciation for the flavors and textures that were characteristic of homestyle recipes in the 1950s, these are definitely worth a try.
RUNNER-UP: Price’s Sweet & Tangy Pimiento Cheese Spread
Notably, the only “pimiento” cheese in our lineup, Price’s original recipe — now known as Sweet & Tangy — was developed by Texans Mildred and Weldon Price back in the 1950s. Though Price’s is now produced under the umbrella of Bel Brands USA, the original recipe remains unchanged.
RUNNER-UP: Mrs. Grissom’s Classic Cheese Spread
The origin of Mrs. Grissom’s is an inspiring story of entrepreneurship! The brand was founded in Knoxville, TN, in the 1950s by Grace Grissom, a young secretary with dreams of business ownership. She and her husband joined forces with a friend who was producing sandwich spreads for local grocery stores and eventually gained full ownership of the company — and thus, Mrs. Grissom’s Salads was born. Though other lines have since been developed, the brand’s line of classics includes pimento cheese, chicken salad, and tuna salad.
For those interested in hosting a tasting of your own — we can’t recommend this enough as a fun activity for friends. We tasted our selection of cheeses with three varieties of crackers (lightly salted, no additional seasoning) and fresh-cut celery sticks. Depending on how many folks you’re hosting, you could easily turn your tasting into a meal by adding baguette, pretzels, and additional veggies for dipping. This was one occasion where disagreeing was half the fun!
Did we miss your favorite store-bought brand? Shoot us a direct message on Instagram to let us know.
If you prefer homemade pimento cheese, THIS RECIPE is one you have to try!