Perk Up a Classic: Pimento Cheese with Candied Jalapeños

A Texas home cook brightens a beloved Southern dish

Photo: Mackenzie Smith Kelley

It was one day in the kitchen, flanked by three ever-hungry children under seven, that Jen Hatmaker decided she was going to love cooking. Up till then, the Austin-based author, blogger, and TV show host had been loyal to the frozen food aisle, clinging to recipes that promised a reliable mediocrity. But when she thought about the enthusiasm and fearlessness she brought to eating her favorite foods, she realized she could apply the same qualities to creating them. “Cooking wasn’t the unmanageable beast I thought it was. It wasn’t that precious. It wasn’t that finicky. There were a million ways to dive in,” she writes in her new cookbook, Feed These People: Slam-Dunk Recipes for Your Crew. For Hatmaker, it’s simple: “We feed the people we love. That is the end of the formula.” 

Sweet pickled jalapeños are Hatmaker’s “favorite thing”—“like what bread and butter pickles are to dill pickles: same, but sweeter,” she writes. This creamy pimento cheese welcomes the bright balance and sweet heat the peppers offer in a perfect dip for hungry game-day crowds.


  • Pimento Cheese with Candied Jalapeños (Serves 6-8)

    • 8 oz. block sharp cheddar cheese

    • 8 oz. Monterey Jack (or Colby, or Fontina, or Gruyère) cheese

    • 1 (6-oz.) jar roasted red peppers, drained and diced

    • ⅓ cup sweet pickled jalapeños (Hatmaker recommends Mrs. Renfro’s), diced

    • ¼ to ½ cup mayo

    • ¼ to ½ cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt

    • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

    • 1 (4 oz.) jar chopped pimentos, drained

    • 1 tsp. salt

    • 1 tsp. black pepper

    • 2 to 3 dashes cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)


  1. Shred your cheeses and drop them in a large bowl. (Hatmaker writes, “If 16 ounces of freshly shredded cheese doesn’t set your day right, just go to bed and start over tomorrow.”) 

  2. Pile up the roasted red peppers and jalapeños and chop them all together into pieces. Add the peppers to the bowl with the shredded cheese. Mix in ¼ cup each of mayo and yogurt, and if it’s a little dry for you after mixing well, add some more of each. (Hatmaker’s note on this: “Some people like this creamier, some like it with less goop, so you get to be a grown-ass person who decides for herself.”) 

  3. Stir in the mustard, pimentos, salt, pepper, and cayenne (if using).


  4. A final note from the cook: “If it’s for noshing, set this up with crackers, crostini, chips, a veggie tray, apple slices, or charcuterie. If it’s for zhuzhing, dollop it on baked potatoes, burgers, hot dogs, eggs, grits, rice, tacos, quesadillas, or chili. If it’s for a sandwich, please for the love, treat it like a grilled cheese, with crispy thick-cut bacon and homemade pickles grilled in butter to melty perfection. Or! Make your grilled cheese sammie with smoked ham and marmalade. Bless God. Bless him for making this food on his earth.”

From Feed These People: Slam-Dunk Recipes for Your Crew by Jen Hatmaker. Copyright © 2022 by Jen Hatmaker. Reprinted by permission of Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.