It’s vegan pimento cheese, y’all! I’m completely enamored with this cheese spread and hope you love it, too. Made with the usual vegan cheese ingredients PLUS a surprise secret ingredient standing in for shredded cheddar. This vegan pimento cheese is so delicious, easy to prepare, and perfect for snacking, dipping, spreading and taking to parties. Bonus! It’s also oil-free and gluten-free.
Updated 3/3/20 with a nut-free option.
I seriously can’t wait for you to try this vegan pimento cheese! I. Am. Hooked. I’ve eaten it daily for over a week and can’t wait to make another batch. I’m tempted to call it an “instant” cheese except that I think it tastes best after a minimum of 3 to 4 hours in the fridge. And overnight it gets even better. But you certainly can eat it immediately if you want.
In addition to being easy, it’s surprisingly innocent nutrition-wise. Considering what’s in traditional pimento cheese, this might as well be a bowl full of kale.
The Secret Ingredient in this Vegan Pimento Cheese
I won’t keep you waiting…. it’s rice! Cooked white rice, to be exact. I specifically tested this recipe with Calrose rice. It’s a medium-grain, sticky and starchy white rice. Depending on where you live you may also see it labelled as Japonica rice. If you can’t find Calrose you can substitute jasmine, arborio, basmati, or even sushi rice.
Unfortunately, for the best results I don’t recommend using brown rice. The rice is actually our replacement for shredded cheddar cheese, so we want it to be the perfect balance of soft yet chewy. We also want it to absorb some of the blended cheese mixture. The outer hull of brown rice would prevent that, whereas the sticky white rices absorb flavors really well. Also, brown rice would be much chewier, and it won’t thicken the pimento cheese in the same way the sticky rices do.
A local vegan restaurant inspired this idea to use soft, starchy rice as a replacement for the cheddar typically found in pimento cheese. Bean Vegan Cuisine has two locations here in North Carolina, the original in Charlotte and one in Asheville. They’re known for their epic pimento cheese, and I once heard a friend say that she suspected they use rice in their recipe. But beyond that brief mention I really don’t know anything about their recipe (and believe me I’ve scoured the internet for clues).
For several years now I’ve intended to experiment with the rice idea in an attempt to replicate their pimento cheese. But you know how it goes… so many ideas, so little time. Recently while planning content for the blog I started pondering Super Bowl recipes, and that’s when I knew it was time!
Round one of recipe testing was pretty good but needed more flavor. After round two I knew we had a winner. But since this pimento cheese is easy to make, easy to eat, yet surprisingly difficult to photograph, I still ended up making it two or three more times over the course of a few days. Mark and I weren’t sad at all about having a bounty of pimento cheese in the fridge, believe me.
This is a summary to show you what’s in this pimento cheese and how easy it is to prepare! Be sure to scroll all the way down for the full recipe.
Just ten ingredients plus water and salt are all you need to make this creamy and rich vegan pimento cheese.
- cooked white rice
- raw cashews (for nut-free, sub raw sunflower seeds)
- pimentos (usually found near the olives; sub roasted red peppers only if you can’t get pimentos – they’re firmer/tougher)
- nutritional yeast
- lemon juice
- rice vinegar
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- sea salt
- hot sauce (I like Crystal brand)
How to Make the Best Vegan Pimento Cheese
A high-speed blender makes prep really easy, but if you don’t have one you can still create smooth and creamy cheese. It will just take a bit of planning ahead.
*If NOT using a high-speed blender, soak the raw cashews in hot water for about 2 hours (or raw sunflower seeds for 30 min). Then drain and pat dry before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. Use a food processor if you have one, and if not, use a standard blender.
- Combine everything except the pimentos and cooked rice in a blender. Gradually increase to high speed, and blend for about 30 seconds or until mostly smooth.
- Add half of the pimentos to the blender. Blend until completely smooth.
- Pour the cheese mixture into a bowl, using a silicone spatula to scrape as much as possible from the blender. Stir the rice and remaining pimentos into the cheese.
- Press a piece of plastic wrap down onto the cheese. Cover and refrigerate for several hours to allow the rice to absorb the cheese flavors and for all of the flavors to mingle.
Straight out of the blender the cheese mixture might seem too thin, but don’t worry! Two important things will happen once you add the rice and refrigerate the pimento cheese:
- Starch from the rice will thicken the pimento cheese and add to the overall creaminess.
- Refrigeration will help it firm up.
Voila! Perfectly spreadable vegan pimento cheese!
Ideas for serving
Whether spread between two slices of bread or slathered onto celery as an afternoon snack, you really can’t go wrong. Here are a few more delicious ways to enjoy vegan pimento cheese:
- scooped onto a big green salad
- as a dip for crackers and veggies
- stuffed into baked mushrooms
- piled onto baked potatoes or as a dip for potato wedges
- stirred into a warm bowl of grains
I haven’t tested this version in dishes that are baked, heated, grilled, etc, but know this…. it’s coming soon! I have SO many fun pimento cheese ideas floating around in my noggin. Examples: a meltable version for hot dishes like mac and cheese, stuffed peppers and mushrooms, plus a sturdier version for cheese balls.
I hope you fall as madly in love with this Vegan Pimento Cheese as we have! If you try it it would make my day to hear from you. Comment below and give it a star rating to let everyone know how it turned out. And feel free to tag me in a pic on instagram anytime with @myquietkitchen!
More cheesy vegan recipes:
Vegan Pimento Cheese
- 1 cup cooked white rice such as Calrose, jasmine, basmati or Arborio When measuring the rice, spoon it into a measuring cup, don't pack it completely full. You can always add more rice later, but you can't take it away. More rice = drier/firmer pimento cheese.
- 1 cup raw cashews (for nut-free sub 2/3 cup raw sunflower seeds) If not using a high-speed blender see instructions below.
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp hot sauce (I like Crystal brand; sub other red hot sauce if desired)
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/8 tsp cayenne, optional
- 1/3 cup chopped pimentos (4 oz. jar), drained and gently squeezed to remove some of the liquid If your pimentos are in strips be sure to chop them.
OPTIONAL smoky version:
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/8 tsp liquid smoke
- NOTES:It's important to measure accurately, especially with acidic ingredients. Small variations can throw off the salt/acid balance.Don't have a high-speed blender? Place raw cashews in a bowl, and cover with hot water. Let soak for about two hours (or soak seeds for 30 minutes). Then, drain very well, and proceed with steps below using a food processor if you have one, and if not, a standard blender.
- Combine the cashews, water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, rice vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, hot sauce, salt, and cayenne in a blender (this is everything except the rice and pimentos). Gradually increase to high speed, and blend for about 30 seconds or until mostly smooth. Add half of the pimentos, and blend until completely smooth.
- Pour the cheese mixture into a bowl. Use a spoon or silicone spatula to remove as much of the cheese as possible from the blender. Stir in the rice and remaining pimentos. Lightly press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the cheese to protect from air. For the best flavor, refrigerate for several hours before serving. This allows the rice to absorb the cheese sauce and for all of the flavors to mingle. It tastes even better the next day.
- The pimento cheese will firm up as it chills. Serve cool.