Combine Southern pimento cheese with a creamy mac and cheese recipe and you get an easy side dish that you can prep in 15 minutes. It’s baked in the oven for an ultra cheesy casserole with just a touch of hot sauce for a zesty kick. Chopped pimentos add that classic pimento cheese flavor to a creamy sauce made with a touch of cream cheese.
Give Mac and Cheese a Southern Twist
Great homemade mac and cheese doesn’t have to be complicated. From-scratch cheese sauce is pretty simple to make, but the seasonings are what make it special (read: they take your sauce from bland to wow!). I use a little cream cheese to make it super creamy and then to pull in my Southern roots, pimentos!
Pimento mac tastes a lot like pimento cheese, a Southern classic appetizer that will instantly become a favorite for parties, especially game day. We put pimento cheese in everything down here in the South, not just pimento cheese sandwiches, like breakfast potatoes, sausage balls, and even biscuits (yum!).
However for pimento mac and cheese, you don’t want to just dump your favorite pimento cheese into a mac and cheese recipe. The mayonnaise in the pimento cheese will separate and you will get a gloopy mess. Instead make the mac and cheese super creamy and cheesy and add pimentos. That way you get the great taste of pimentos in a casserole form that won’t separate.
If you don’t want to mess with a sauce but still want a cheesy pasta dish, try making a spaghetti pie casserole, it’s a dump and go recipe. Or when you want a hearty meal try cheesy mac and cheese with chili.
What is Pimento cheese?
It’s a classic Southern dish typically made of a blend of cheese, mayonnaise, and chopped pimentos. The result is a creamy and flavorful spread or dip, commonly used as a spread in sandwiches at the Masters and on crackers, or as a hot dip or topping for chili. It has a rich and savory taste with a mild sweetness from the pimentos, making it one of the most popular comfort foods in my neck of the woods.
Why You’ll Love Southern Style Pimento Mac and Cheese
- Flavors are to die for – If you haven’t tried pimento cheese, this is a great recipe to try to get a hint of the flavor. More than just ‘cheesy,’ this recipe packs a flavorful punch.
- Perfect for parties and potlucks – This recipe is still a familiar classic that everyone will enjoy but with some extra flavor that will have your friends and family asking you for the recipe.
- Easy, from-scratch recipe – You can easily make a from-scratch cheese sauce that’s creamy and flavorful!
Pimento Cheese Mac and Cheese Recipe Ingredients
- Elbow macaroni – Classic elbow pasta is perfect for mac and cheese. The curved shape hugs and traps all the creamy sauce, and the bite-sized shape makes it easy to scoop. You can use other shapes like cavatappi.
- Dry mustard – Dry mustard is really delicious in a mac and cheese sauce. It adds a zestiness to the flavor of the cheese. Don’t worry, your dish won’t taste like mustard, but I wouldn’t skip it! Find it in the spice aisle of your grocery store.
- Whole milk and cream – The combination is perfect. You can replace it with half and half if needed.
- Sharp cheddar cheese – Sharp cheddar will really make this dish stand out. You’ll need 4 cups of shredded cheese or 16 ounces. If you use pre shredded cheese from the grocery, it will not melt as well.
- Cream cheese – Use full-fat. The low fat version doesn’t melt very well in this recipe.
- Hot sauce – You can omit this, but it does give your sauce a bit of a kick. It won’t make the dish spicy, it just brings out the flavors of the cheese.
- Pimento peppers – These are sometimes called pimientos, and a jar of them works best. Drain well and chop them up into small pieces.
- Pantry staples– Salt & black pepper, flour, butter, Worcestershire sauce.
What can I use instead of pimentos?
The pimentos really offer a special flavor, and aren’t spicy at all. But if you need an alternative, try roasted red pepper. You can find them in a jar, usually near the pickles and olives at your grocery store.
Easy Steps for Making Baked Pimento Macaroni and Cheese
Step 1: Prepare the pasta.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water so your pasta has extra flavor. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and return it to the pot. Set aside for now.
Before beginning the next step, measure the milk and cream into a large measuring cup and warm it in the microwave. Set aside.
Step 2: Make a seasoned roux.
A roux is a mixture of flour and butter that gives sauces a creamy texture and helps to thicken them. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter stir flour into the melted butter with a whisk, along with the dry mustard, salt, and pepper. Cook for about a minute.
Step 3: Incorporate the milk and cream.
Gradually add the warm milk mixture into the roux, whisking constantly until the milk is incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Allow the mixture to cook until it thickens slightly. Remove from the heat.
Pro Tip: Warming the liquid before adding it to a roux will speed things up. The sauce won’t take as long to thicken. Just place it in the microwave for a minute.
Step 4: Finish the sauce.
Add the hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and cream cheese to the thickened milk sauce. Whisk until smooth. Reserve 1 cup of the shredded sharp cheddar, and add the rest. Whisk until it’s fully melted.
Step 5: Add the pimentos.
Pour the sauce over the macaroni and stir until it’s completely coated. Add the pimentos and stir them in.
Step 6: Assemble in a baking dish.
Pour the entire mixture into a 9×13 baking dish and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese.
Step 7: Bake and serve.
Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted and turning golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!
A Few Recipe Notes for Southern Baked Mac and Cheese
- Make sure you drain the pimento peppers really well before chopping them. Excess moisture from the peppers can make the sauce watery. You can even dab them with a paper towel to remove any moisture.
- Take your time when making the roux. Whisk it constantly so it doesn’t burn. When you whisk in the milk, add it a little at a time until it incorporates so you don’t end up with lumpy sauce.
How to Store Leftover Macaroni & Cheese
Pimento mac and cheese makes really yummy leftovers! The flavors continue to meld and intensify, so your reheated dish might taste even better for lunch tomorrow.
In the fridge: Store your leftover mac and cheese in the fridge for up to 3 days. Put leftovers in a smaller airtight container or wrap well with plastic wrap.
In the freezer: You can freeze leftovers in portions or just in one larger container with a tight-fitting lid.
To reheat: Place mac and cheese in a clean casserole dish and reheat covered with foil at 350°F for 15-20 minutes. You can also reheat in the microwave.
Make Pimento Mac and Cheese Ahead of Time
This homemade pimento cheese pasta makes a really great freezer dish for meal prep. You can cook it all the way up until you bake it. Wrap the entire dish in plastic wrap, then with a few layers of foil. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight, then let it come to room temperature on the counter and bake as directed.
What goes well with pimento cheese mac and cheese?
This pimento mac and cheese recipe is perfect for a cookout or taking to a potluck. Served with burgers and hotdogs, or pulled pork, it’s a welcome addition to the usual spread. It’s a great go-to recipe when company is coming and pairs well with grilled chicken skewers or grilled pork chops.
More Mac and Cheese Recipes to Try
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Southern Style Baked Mac and Cheese with Pimentos
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon balck pepper
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups cream
- 16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese 4 cups shredded
- 2 ounces cream cheese
- 3 tablespoons hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 8 oz pimento peppers (2 x 4oz jars), drained and chopped
- Preheat oven to 375º.
- Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour, dry mustard, salt and pepper. Cook for about 1 minute.
- Warm milk and cream in the microwave and gradually add to the butter mixture, whisking constantly until the milk mixture is incorporated. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook until it slightly thickens, about 2 minutes, until it coats the back of a spoon. It will not be thick. Remove from the heat.
- Add hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Add all but 1 cup of the shredded cheese and whisk until melted.
- Pour over the cooked macaroni and stir until coated. Add the chopped pimentos and stir again. Pour into a 9×13 baking dish and sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes until it is bubbly and the cheese is melted. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- Make sure you drain the pimento peppers really well before chopping them. Excess moisture from the peppers can make it watery. You can use a paper towel to remove any moisture.
- Take your time when making the roux. Whisk it constantly so it doesn’t burn. When you whisk in the milk add it a little at a time until it incorporates so you don’t end up with lumpy sauce.