Pimento or Pimiento? How Both Can Be Correct

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When I was a kid, I wasn’t a fan of pimento cheese sandwiches. That would eventually change. But should it be pimento or pimiento?

When you’re talking about that orange concoction that we spread on crackers and sandwiches, is it pimento or pimiento cheese? This, I’m afraid, is one of many little inconsistencies you find in English. Both can be correct at the same time. Even worse, both spellings are appropriate at different points in the recipe!

When I was a kid, I never cared much for pimento cheese. (Or pimiento cheese, for that matter.)

That would change much later when Linda, the mother of one of my oldest friends, treated us to her own homemade version. Slather some of that on bread and throw it on a griddle like a grilled cheese sandwich and you have a treat. She’s the one, in fact, who I can blame for adding pimento cheese to my list of 10 “must-try” Southern dishes.

It’s relatively easy to make, though I’m afraid I don’t have her recipe to offer. You can find plenty online, of course. This is the internet, after all.

So…pimento or pimiento?

The word pimiento entered English in the 17th century from Spanish. A pimiento is also known as a cherry pepper. Merriam-Webster tells us they are “thick-fleshed sweet peppers of European origin that have a distinctive mild sweet flavor.” We use them primarily as a garnish.

But let’s be honest: the main place we typically encounter a pimiento is as a stuffing in an olive. Well, that may be where you encounter them. I despise olives. I find their taste repulsive, so I don’t encounter pimientos there.

For me, I only encounter pimientos in pimento cheese.

See what I did there?

Yes, when you’re talking about the cheese, you drop that second I. Another visit to Merriam-Webster defines pimento cheese as “a Neufchâtel, process, cream, or occasionally cheddar cheese to which ground pimientos have been added.” Its first known use, the dictionary notes, came in 1910.

So it’s much younger than its pimiento counterpart.

Some sources do spell pimento cheese as “pimiento cheese.” But in general, the pepper is a pimiento while the cheese spread is pimento cheese.

Don’t ask me why. But at least now you know!

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.