Pimento Cheese-Style Hummus

by on June 14, 2013
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Pimento Cheese-Style Hummus

Years ago, I was making red pepper hummus at my parents’ house when my mother asked for a taste. “Hmmm,” she said. “It’s sort of like pimento cheese.” Now, I don’t know if that was a good thing to her or not; we’d never had pimento cheese in the house when I was growing up, so I assume it wasn’t one of her favorites. But I kept that comparison tucked away in the back pocket of my mind with the goal of someday working on a vegan pimento cheese recipe. It took randomly spotting a pimento cheese photo on Pinterest to remind me to do some experimenting.

For the uninitiated, pimento cheese is a common filling for sandwiches and spread for crackers in the Southern U.S. It’s made by grating various cheeses and mixing them with mayo (or cream cheese), seasonings, and pimentos–you know, those little red peppers stuffed into green olives. (Here in the South, at least, you can buy jars of pimentos in the same section of the grocery store as olives, but if they’re not available, you can substitute minced roasted red peppers, which I find actually have more flavor.) It’s the kind of old-fashioned Southern dish that always seems to show up at potlucks and picnics. I developed a fondness for it in college, where a deli container of the lumpy, orange spread and a loaf of bread were all I needed to get me through the penniless days before my work-study check came in.

Pimento Cheese-Style Hummus

Pimento cheese has the amazing ability to be two textures at the same time. The mayo or cream cheese base provides smoothness, but the cheese itself is not melted or blended so that its texture remains, well, lumpy. To give my pimento cheese-style hummus a similar texture, I decided to use silken tofu for the smoothness and blend it in two stages–once to puree the tofu and half the chickpeas and cashews and then again in just short pulses of the processor to break the remaining chickpeas and cashews into al dente bits. I added nutritional yeast and plenty of seasonings to give it that cheesy flavor, and then I refrigerated it for a while to allow the flavors to blend.

And…success! I liked it, and it was definitely reminiscent of the pimento cheese of my youth. But I was worried a little when daughter E wanted to try it. She’s never tasted pimento cheese and generally doesn’t like it when I tinker with foods she likes, like hummus. She came in at the end of my photo shoot and asked to try it on one of the pieces of French bread I’d had been using in the shot. One piece turned into two, and then she had the idea to make a little Vine video of the disappearing hummus. Somehow that 6-second video took several takes to shoot, and she wound up eating every piece of French bread. So I would say this recipe is an unqualified kid-friendly success.

Silken Tofu Tip:

A Facebook follower recently asked me what I do with the partial boxes of silken tofu left over from recipes like this. I’ve solved the problem of having leftovers by throwing them into scrambled tofu. I like the smooth texture silken tofu adds to scrambles, and I find that it can be added to any of my scrambled tofu recipes (I usually increase the seasoning a little). Also, when I have more than a half a box leftover, I often use it to make my Tofu-Cashew Mayo. So don’t let that extra tofu sit around turning pink (which is what it does in my fridge if left too long). Plan to make some scrambled tofu or mayo with the leftovers!

Susan

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{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Belle June 14, 2013 at 11:23 am

Oh it’s like you read my mind! I was just lamenting on how much I miss pimento cheese the other day! I’m also allergic to nuts, though. Any ideas of subs for the cashews in this? Perhaps pumpkin or sunflower seeds?

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2 Susan Voisin June 14, 2013 at 11:36 am

Belle, I think either would work or you could just leave out the cashews and increase the chickpeas by 1/3 cup. I hope you enjoy it!

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3 angela June 17, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Belle, what brand of pumpkin and sunflower seeds do you buy? I have not had success finding raw seeds that are not cross contaminated with peanuts and treenuts. Thanks.

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4 Carry June 14, 2013 at 11:56 am

Do you think this would freeze well? All of the ingredients are freezer-friendly. Tofu sometimes changes texture when frozen, though, so it might impact the texture of the finished dip. Any thoughts would be appreciated!

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5 Susan Voisin June 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm

I’ve had good luck with freezing silken tofu when it’s mixed with other ingredients as it is here, so I say go for it!

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6 Liz June 14, 2013 at 1:02 pm

That Vine video of the disappearing bread is adorable; what a brilliant idea on E’s part!

I credit you 100% for all my knowledge (as limited as it is) on Southern food; you’re always posting things I’ve never heard about, but, apparently, are in high demand down in the South. It’s always educational reading your posts. :)

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7 Laura @ Gluten Free Pantry June 14, 2013 at 1:13 pm

This hummus looks amazing! I am a hummus addict :) I have never tried adding pimentos to my recipes though. Can’t wait to try!

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8 Marcia June 14, 2013 at 1:41 pm

My Mother used to make pimento cheese frequently (born in Tennessee & raised in Florida – it just doesn’t get much more Southern than that!) and I enjoyed it so I’m pleased to get your recipe, thanks!

I cannot eat garbanzo beans or soy products and I read your suggestion of using almond milk but what do you suggest using instead of the garbanzo beans? Any other bean is great, just not garbanzos. Thanks!

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9 Hope June 15, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Perhaps butter beans.

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10 Marcia June 17, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Hello Hope,

Thank you for your response! I was beginning to think that there was no hope. Butter beans are delish and I will definitely try them. The next obstacle is the tofu. Can’t eat soy either. Perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be.

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11 moonwatcher June 17, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Hi Marcia,

If I were going to make this soy free, I would use cooked, peeled Japanese sweet potato instead of the tofu. I often use it as a sub for tofu or tofu mayonaise. I talk about what they are and how to do that in my post “Japanese Sweet Potato to the Rescue.”http://fatfreevegan.com/slowmiracle/2012/11/28/japanese-sweet-potato-to-the-rescue/

I hope you can find them where you live.

moonwatcher

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12 Marcia June 17, 2013 at 8:30 pm

You are brilliant! I will return to you blog and print the info out, thank you! I found them at Whole Foods the first time I read your blog and got a few but used them up and didn’t get any more. I will check to see if they are there now, thanks Moonwatcher!

Marcia

13 Susan Voisin June 17, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I’ve also had good hummus using white (great northern) beans. Good luck!

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14 Marcia June 17, 2013 at 8:34 pm

I LOVE great northerns and I’ve got some dried ones in the pantry. Also a great idea, thanks Susan! Between You, Hope and Moonwatcher, I am destine to enjoy plant-based pimento cheese again (it has been YEARS – I think the last time my Mother made it was in the late 60′s). I’ll let you know how it turns out! Yum!

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15 Cheryl June 14, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Hi Susan,
I’m anxious to try this recipe and have all the ingredients on hand. I have missed pimiento cheese a lot, especially during summertime. Question though, what is granulated onion? I tried to google it and found sites saying it was minced dehydrated onion, and one site said it was onion powder.
Which are you calling granulated?
Thanks!

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16 Carolyn June 17, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Granulated onion is a bit coarser than onion powder, and will be labeled as granulated. I have found it easily in the bulk section at several local health food stores, and it is widely available online. There’s not an enormous difference, but if you have to use onion powder instead of the granulated version (I have done so when I’ve run out of granulated before) make it a slightly lesser measure of what the recipe calls for- i.e., a teaspoon of granulated onion is subbed by 3/4 to a scant teaspoon of onion powder. Then adjust to taste.

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17 JoeyJava June 14, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Hey there, this is convenient :)
I’ve been wondering for a while now how to ask you this, and frankly this is linked just enough to have some kind of relevance.

I used to love having cottage cheese on dark rye crispbreads. In fact, it was probably the only thing I’ve ever actually enjoyed eating on a regular basis. However, I’m on a diet plan which pretty much means I can’t have it any more. Actually, they ruined the one I liked anyway so I wouldn’t have it regardless, but that’s not the point…
I still have dark rye crispbreads but I have houmous instead, which works because of its consistency. Basically, I was wondering if there was something similar to houmous out there, but possibly soya-based instead of chickpeas because chickpeas are quite carb and fat-heavy and it would be nice to keep the protein intake up.
I’d imagine the same principle applies, but just to replace the chickpeas with soya beans if making it at home. To be honest, if I had the time I’d probably give it a shot at home. Also, I suppose it might be a better idea to try a proper product beforehand anyway.

I’ve tried looking up “soya spreads” but it comes up with buttery spreads e.g. Pure soya/sunflower spread. Actually, I might try “Soya dips” or something now I think about it…
I was thinking about tofu but that’s probably a bit too… Firm. Or rather, not an “ideal” consistency.

Sorry for droning on. I really love your blog :)

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18 Diane June 16, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Hmm. Try searching edamame hummus?

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19 Susan Voisin June 17, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I was also going to suggest edamame if you want more protein, but just be aware that edamame is much higher in fat than chickpeas. And it will probably taste nothing like pimento cheese.

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20 addie June 14, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Can you use another nut besides cashews?

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21 Dawn June 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm

I can’t wait to try this. I love pimiento cheese. Haven’t had it in a while and sometimes it just sounds so good. Now I can have a plant version.
A yummy sandwich idea –grilled hummus Pimiento cheese and tomato.
Summer tomatoes with this would be so great!

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22 marla June 14, 2013 at 4:24 pm

YUMMERZ!!! This sounds fantastic! E-mailing the recipe to my daughter, “the hummus freak”… lol. JoeyJava, you can make any hummus recipe with cooked edamame (soy beans). I buy frozen shelled ones and cook as directed to sub for garbanzos sometimes. Tastes awesome! ~*~

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23 moonwatcher June 14, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I love the video–it’s inspired!! E has a budding film career ahead of her. :)

And what an ingenious and delicious sounding combination of flavors to make pimento cheese! Very cool, Susan!! I love the photo of the sandwich, too. Makes me wish I could eat bread. :)

xo

moonwatcher

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24 Marcia June 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm

My Mother used to use it to stuff peppers and it was yummy! I bet it would be good if you seeded a cucumber and stuffed it or even the simple celery stick. You are so creative, I bet you could give the rest of us some ideas!

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25 Alli June 14, 2013 at 8:11 pm

As a southerner, I crave pimento cheese. It’s in my DNA. :). Looking forward to trying this. Love knowing I can have this faux kind.

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26 Molly (Sprue Story) June 14, 2013 at 9:50 pm

I don’t think I’ve ever had pimento cheese, but this hummus take on it looks great, especially in the video! Thanks for the tips on using up the extra tofu; I always wonder about that sort of thing.

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27 Emily Nolan June 14, 2013 at 10:02 pm

beautiful! beautiful! beautiful! craving it now :) thanks for sharing!

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28 Diane June 14, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Susan,
Maybe this is just weird, but since I love your cheesy cauliflower sauce and both nuts and soy are on my “can’t eat it” list, I was wondering if I could substitute cooked cauliflower for the nuts and tofu? I’m sure the texture would be less chunky, but the pimiento cheese spread we had up north when I was a child had no chunks, anyway, so…. What do you think?

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29 Susan Voisin June 14, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Diane, I think it’s worth a try. Please let me know how it comes out!

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30 Diane June 17, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Finally tried it today using 1/2 cup cooked and pureed cauliflower instead of the cashews and tofu. Delicious! No noticeable cauliflower taste in the finished product and the cauliflower did help with the creaminess. I did use an extra heaping tablespoon of roasted red pepper pieces after tasting it. Note: the local grocery store had a 12 oz jar of roasted red pepper for less than 4 oz jar of pimientos, so I used the red peppers. Even Mom liked it and she usually doesn’t like red pepper hummus! Thank you!

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31 Susan Voisin June 17, 2013 at 6:34 pm

I’m so glad to hear that cauliflower worked! It’s much lower in fat and calories, too.

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32 Diane June 19, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Yeah, the lower fat/cal. crossed my mind since I’m trying to lose a bit more weight and I’m trying to follow Esselstyn’s FF diet, too.

We really love this stuff: there are just 2 of us and I’m on the second batch already! It’s a sandwich spread, it’s a dip, it’s good for stuffing celery sticks, and it makes a wonderful toasted cheeze sandwhich to go with tomato soup! I missed those toasted cheese sandwiches all winter (plant-based almost a year now).

For this batch, I used cauliflower again, but I was a little distracted and grabbed a can of great northern beans and didn’t realize it until I opened the can – okay, maybe I was more than a little distracted! ;-) Anyway, since the can was open, I went ahead and used the beans, but because they’re more mushy than garbanzos, I pureed all of them instead of trying to leave some chunks. The flavor’s a bit different and the texture is more hummus-y, but still delicious!

33 Brenda June 18, 2013 at 9:57 am

Great idea, I am going to try this too!

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34 pickledtreats June 15, 2013 at 3:31 am

I lived on pimento cheese growing up and I recently discovered that hummus can taste like it, but I discovered it on accident while mixing hummus with some ajvar paste. Hummus is again the vegan wonder food.

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35 Cheryl June 15, 2013 at 3:37 am

I know it can be easy to overlook a comment, so I thought I’d ask again.
Which are you calling ‘granulated’ onion? I’ve not seen that term before. When I tried to google I’ve seen sites saying it is onion powder, and some saying the dehydrated chopped or minced onion bits.
I was hoping to make it for dinner last night.
Love your recipes, and am always anxious to try the new ones.
Thanks :)

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36 Susan Voisin June 15, 2013 at 7:12 am

Cheryl, the granulated onion I have is probably the same as onion powder–that’s what it most closely resembles. Sorry to have missed your comment before and hope you get to make it soon!

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37 Cheryl June 15, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Susan,
Thank you SO much! We had it for lunch today yay!
I doubled the recipe, and we had sandwiches with alfalfa sprouts and tomatoes, too. And some as a dip with toasted pita bread.
It is really good :)

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38 Susan Voisin June 15, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I’m so glad you liked it! Thanks for letting me know!

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39 Linda June 15, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Are the cashews raw? Unsalted. I have seen the tan colored cashews or ivory colored ones. Does it make a difference what is used?

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40 Susan Voisin June 15, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Yes, they need to be raw.

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41 Joy June 18, 2013 at 4:59 am

Holy excitement

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42 Lauren June 18, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Oh My Lord. I think I love you!!! This is such a genius idea!!! I’m going to make it this weekend!!! Hooray!!!

xo
Lauren

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43 Jeff @ Cheeseburger June 18, 2013 at 10:28 pm

I used minced roasted red peppers. And it turned out great!

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44 Jen Rodgers June 20, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Thank you for including the soy free option! It looks really tasty. I’ve been looking for a way to experiment with hummus.

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45 Esther J June 20, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Susan, this was so very good! I’m not sure (meaning, I don’t remember) if it tastes like pimento cheese, but certainly it is very, very tasty.

I made it with baked sweet potato, and your collards. Truly a Southern meal.

Thank you very much, m’am. :)

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46 Irina @ wandercrush June 20, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Brilliant! I remember I’d get so jealous of my friend’s pimento cheese sandwich lunches that her mom used to pack every day for school… can’t wait to try this vegan version!

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47 Dolores June 21, 2013 at 10:08 pm

This is absolutely delicious. Thank you so much! I did cut the amount of cayenne. This recipe goes on top list of my favorites. Your pumpkin pie is in that list also.

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48 Esther J June 23, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Ok, I had to return to this recipe because I just finished the last of this for lunch today, and my goodness, it is AB-SO-LUTELY delicious. The flavors had settled together even more so since a few days ago when I made it, and it was so very good.

Susan, you have such a wonderful gifting. This blog is such a treasure! Many times, I’ll try a recipe, then declare it my favorite; then I’ll try another, and then that one becomes tops.

Thank you for sharing your talent with us.

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49 jan July 1, 2013 at 8:57 am

I absolutely love pimento cheese spread. So I was very interested in your vegan version however, I am allergic to tree nuts (the cashews in the receipt). Can I leave them out and still love the end product?

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50 Susan Voisin July 1, 2013 at 9:19 am

Yes, you can leave them out or substitute sunflower seeds or any nut that you aren’t allergic to.

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51 Kelly July 1, 2013 at 10:55 am

You read the minds of all vegan southerners with this post! I’ve always loved pimento cheese and you are a genius with this recipe! (Already knew you were anyway!) But of all the foods I miss, this has to be the number one. I am about to make a third batch. My husband and daughter and I LOVE it! (I am using the roasted red peppers as I always keep those on hand. They are really cheap at Big Lots and I love the flavor. Thanks for the substitution suggestion!)

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52 Susan Voisin July 1, 2013 at 11:39 am

I am so happy to hear this, Kelly! It’s always great to hear from other Southerners when I’m trying to recreate a Southern favorite. Thank you!

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53 Anna July 1, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Abso-freaking-lutely GENIUS!

Thanks so much for this….I have missed pimento cheese with a white hot fury. This sounds even better!

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54 Becky July 2, 2013 at 11:57 am

Just made this for lunch. I don’t remember if it tastes like pimento cheese (I’ve been vegan for six years so it’s been at least that long since I had some), but it’s so great. Pimento cheese sandwiches make me think of the hundreds of church suppers I attended growing up here in Nashville as a preacher’s kid. You’d think I’d remember how it tastes! I need to put it in the fridge so I don’t eat the whole batch!

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55 Erin July 12, 2013 at 10:54 am

I LOVED pimiento cheese as a kid! When I went vegan I made it a few times with shredded FYH cheese and Vegenaise, and while it tasted really processed, it hit the spot for the craving. I will definitely be trying this soon!

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56 Wendy July 16, 2013 at 9:26 am

You nailed it, this is wonderful. Now I have one less animal product to miss. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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57 Kamila July 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Susan, you are a miracle worker! This is absolutely amazing. I made the recipe as you describe, but subbed the 2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk for the tofu, as you suggested in the notes. It is just incredible.

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58 Lissa @ Kitchen Rebellion July 25, 2013 at 9:30 pm

I’ve never tried pimiento cheese, but this recipe sounds like an amazing sandwich filling. Now I just need to track down a jar of pimientos…

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59 Dawn July 28, 2013 at 8:22 pm

I LOVE this recipe. I just made my third batch this afternoon – and that’s as someone who only very rarely repeats dishes in close rotation. I’m amazed by how well it works in quesadillas. Thank you!

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60 Sheri A August 5, 2013 at 9:51 am

YUMMY! I just made this and I am in pimento cheese heaven!!! Susan … You truly work miracles in the kitchen!!!! I love it!!!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this delicious recipe!!!!

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61 Candice August 7, 2013 at 7:37 pm

My husband and I just LOVE the Pimento Cheese-Style Hummus! We recently made lifestyle changes that include no saturated fat and no animal product. Your site has been a godsend for us. We have made the recipe every week, double batches, because the rest of our family can’t get enough of it either. Thank you so much for all of the wonderful recipes and advice.

Candice

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62 Hillary January 29, 2014 at 10:29 pm

When using the listed brand silken tofu, which one do you use ? Soft, firm ? Thanks much ! I always seem to get confused on which kind of silken tofu to use !

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63 Susan Voisin January 29, 2014 at 10:47 pm

I always use firm or extra-firm, but in this recipe, it doesn’t matter much, so if you have soft, you can use it.

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64 Mitzi R February 13, 2014 at 9:07 am

I grew up eating pimento cheese sandwiches and I loved them. I can’t wait to try this recipe! Question: Are the cashews raw or roasted? Thank you Susan!

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65 Susan Voisin February 13, 2014 at 9:11 am

The cashews are raw. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

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66 Lauren September 6, 2014 at 1:34 pm

This was so good. Too good, in fact because my twin 17-year-old boys ate it up before I got more than just my taste-test bite while making it. Thank you because I have to send their lunch to school, and I am always looking for healthy things to pack for them.

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67 Debbie Neal October 22, 2014 at 4:36 pm

I have made several different types of hummus but this one is my all time favorite. I just love it and so does everyone else. I can’t say enough positive about it!

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