The Creamy Cheese You Need On Hand For Kid-Friendly Cookouts

Cookouts are wonderful occasions for large groups of people to connect. From family gatherings to company picnics, there's nothing like a day of eating grilled meats and outdoor activities to bring people together.

Naturally, people tend to bring their children to cookouts, and if you are hosting one, you might want to consider setting aside a few children-friendly menu items. Some, like hot dogs, cookies, and fruit, are already part of a typical cookout menu, but there are alternatives.

For example, pimento cheese is a creamy cheese spread that is part spread, dip, and condiment. It is good on its own as a kid-friendly sandwich filling but also fantastic when placed on top of a hamburger or hot dog. Spicy, sharp, and cheesy, pimento cheese is a Southern delicacy and a surefire hit with every picnic. In fact, it is so beloved that a change in recipe served at the Masters Golf Tournament caused protests from attendees. 

Modern pimento cheese is a southern tradition

For those who are not initiated, the name "pimento cheese" might conjure an image of a block of cheese dusted with paprika. But despite its name, pimento cheese was originally invented as a product that mixes cream cheese with minced roasted pimento peppers, sold in grocery stores as early as 1910. What we know today as pimento cheese was a homemade derivative from the original, itself stemming from Great-Depression era recipes designed to economically replace the original cream cheese-based product. Long a staple in Southern cuisine, it became popular thanks to renewed interest in Southern cuisine in the last 20 years.

While widely available in grocery stores, you can easily make the beloved cheese spread at home. The fundamental ingredients are grated cheddar cheese, chopped pimento peppers, and mayonnaise (Duke's is preferred but not necessary). Mix everything together alongside ground black pepper into a thick spread, and you have made the most basic version of pimento cheese.

One cheese spread with many uses

Although initially used as a dip and as a sandwich filling, pimento cheese has proved itself to be a versatile and crowd-pleasing condiment, which is why it is perfect for cookouts. You can use the spread to make kid-friendly sandwiches between slices of white bread, to top burgers and grilled meats of all types for sandwiches, serve it as a dip for chips and vegetables, and as a condiment for hot dogs.

As is typical with many recipes originating from home cooking, there is an endless list of ways to season and enhance the flavor of the final product. You can try this recipe that adds cream cheese, cayenne pepper, and pimento juice to the mix or this one that adds chopped jalapeño peppers, cumin, and garlic for a piquant kick. Endlessly customizable, you can also add Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, horseradish, lemon juice and other seasonings to suit your taste.