Puerto Rican–Style Pimento Cheese

Puerto Rican–Style Pimento Cheese
Lauren Volo © 2020

In the fall of 2000, I was invited to my first queer potluck. I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, in a moderately conservative household, and the consistent message I received from the world around me was that being queer was dangerous. So the invitation made me uneasy. I’d heard stories about people being followed and attacked after leaving gay clubs, and I was worried that might happen to me. But I knew my way around a potluck, as these sorts of gatherings were a part of my childhood. I walked in with a bowl of popcorn, and was immediately overcome with unprecedented freedom. The people were of every shape, color, size, and gender presentation. Until that moment, I’d had no idea such a community existed—and after that, LGBTQ+ gatherings became my safe space. The more comfortable I became, the more I wanted to share the food of my culture with my new friends, so I started making some of the Puerto Rican dishes my mom had prepared when I was growing up. This pimento cheese recipe is my homage to queer spaces and a literal fusion of my Southern home and my Boricua roots.

Note: The dip will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in thefreezer for up to 2 months


  • 8 ounces extra-sharp yellow cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)
  • 8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)
  • ½ cup diced roasted red pepper
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1½ teaspoons Sazón seasoning, homemade (recipe follows) or store-bought
  • Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Crackers or celery sticks


  1. In a large bowl, add the cheeses, pepper, mayonnaise, and Sazón seasoning. Using a rubber spatula, stir everything together, folding from the outside in and mashing the cheese a bit to smooth. The dip should be homogenous in color, with flecks of pepper.
  2. Scoop the dip into an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Garnish with cilantro, and serve with crackers or celery.
 Sazón Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground achiote or sweet paprika
  1. Combine the garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, turmeric, pepper, salt, and achiote in an airtight container. Cover and shake well to incorporate. The spice mixture will keep indefinitely in an airtight container at room temperature.

Reprinted with permission from Tasty Pride: 75 Recipes and Stories from the Queer Food Community by Jesse Szewczyk and BuzzFeed's Tasty, copyright © 2020. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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