If you’re looking for a savory treat for Halloween, look no further than this Halloween pimento cheese spread.
Molded into a brain and decorated with pepper jelly “blood,” this is a delicious appetizer featuring two of the south’s culinary claims to fame: pimento cheese and pepper jelly.
In this post, I’ll show you how to fill the mold and, more importantly, how to release it. And I’ll also tell you why I broke one of my pimento cheese spread cardinal rules for this recipe.
If you’re looking for more savory Halloween appetizers, you may enjoy my devilish deviled eggs.
And for ease of browsing, you can find all my appetizer recipes in one place. Thanks for visiting, and don’t forget to scroll on down to see more recipes from the Halloween Treats Week bloggers.
Why I Broke My Pimento Cheese Spread Rule for This Post
In my traditional pimento cheese post, I am ADAMANT that you not use cream cheese in the recipe.
I’m kind of a purist that way.
Basic pimento cheese is shredded cheese and diced pimentos folded together with a seasoned mayonnaise dressing. No cream cheese needed, thank you very much.
For this recipe, though, I break my own rule because I needed the spread to hold together in a brain shape, so I used half softened cream cheese and half mayonnaise, knowing that when the cream cheese was refrigerated, it would help the spread hold together.
It worked like a charm, I must say, and I’m very pleased with the result. Not only does it taste like a good Southern pimento cheese should taste, with a little extra spice, it also holds its shape beautifully.
Why This Recipe Works
Savory pimento cheese and sweet-hot pepper jelly is a flavor match made in Southern heaven.
And using pimento cheese spread for a “brain” and pepper jelly for “blood” means that this appetizer recipe was always meant to be.
I used a few drops of blue food coloring in my mayonnaise mixture so that, when it mixed with the shredded orange cheese, the overall result would read as grayish. And it worked like a charm.
Know that you can leave out the food coloring and still end up with a most delicious end result that you can serve for any occasion.
The spicy elements of chopped pickled jalapenos, smoked hot paprika, and the accompanying pepper jelly enhance the traditional flavors of pimento cheese.
I also use a bit of Old Bay seasoning in it, which I have always loved as an all-purpose seasoning that has a little kick to it.
How To Make
Making pimento cheese is a pretty easy process. Once you make it enough (and I hope you do), you can forgo following a recipe.
Remember, at its most basic, it’s just shredded cheese, diced pimentos, and mayo.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this molded version:
Ingredients and Substitutions
- sharp cheddar cheese: I like extra sharp cheese here. Use your favorite type of cheddar, from mild to seriously sharp
- pepper jack cheese: I like using some pepper jack cheese because it’s slightly softer than cheddar and sort of melts into the dressing, helping the mold stay together. If you don’t like spicy, use regular Monterey jack or use 1 full pound of cheddar
- cream cheese: I use cream cheese for its ability to act as glue to hold the brain together. You can substitute Neufchatel if you’d rather
- mayonnaise: Duke’s is my preferred brand, but you can use your favorite. I wouldn’t go with something like Miracle Whip, because I think it’s too sweet, and we’re already using sweet-hot pepper jelly as a garnish
- diced pimentos: If you can’t find diced pimentos where you live, you can buy roasted red peppers and dice them instead
- diced pickled jalapenos: Another optional spicy ingredient, use your favorite, from mild to extra spicy, or substitute with a total of 6 oz diced pimento
- salt and pepper: To taste. I use Morton’s kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- hot smoked paprika: For a little heat in the dressing. You can substitute a small amount of cayenne pepper or ground chipotle
- garlic powder: Adds a nice bit of underlying garlic flavor. You can use garlic powder or granulated garlic, or substitute with onion powder if you have some on hand
- Old Bay seasoning (not pictured): I love the flavor of Old Bay. It is technically optional, but if you have some, give it a few shakes
- Blue food coloring (not pictured): Turns the whole dressing a pale blue. When mixed with the orange cheese, the whole brain looks gray-ish. Gross, but effective!
- Spray the brain mold with pan spray.
- Shred your cheese.
- Make the dressing, mixing in the pimentos, pickled jalapenos, spices and seasonings.
- Add blue food coloring if you want to.
- Fold the cheese in until it is uniformly mixed.
- Spoon the cheese mixture into the mold, packing it down as you go. Smooth the top, press plastic wrap onto the surface, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 3 days.
How to Unmold Your Brain
This is how to make sure your brain appetizer will release from the mold.
- Spray the inside of the mold well with pan spray.
- Pack the pimento cheese in tightly. The tighter you pack it, the better the chance of it coming out in one piece.
- After refrigerating for a minimum of 4 hours (overnight is better), fill a large pot with very hot water and dunk the bottom of the brain mold into the water to the level of the top of the pimento spread. Hold it in the hot water for about 30 seconds.
- Place your serving plate over the mold and carefully flip plate and mold over so the plate is on the bottom.
- To help release the suction, press in on the mold around the base of the cheese. This will help loosen up the cheese, and the rest should follow!
- Give a few firm, up-and-down shakes of the mold and plate.
- If the cheese doesn’t release, repeat steps 3-6.
For extra insurance, although I didn’t find it necessary, you can press plastic wrap down into the pan-sprayed mold. The spray will act as glue to hold the plastic in place.
Make sure you have a fair bit of plastic wrap sticking out over the edges. That way, when you pack the cheese into the mold, you can fold over all those edges to cover the spread.
Spray the plastic with pan spray, fold over said edges, and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Again, overnight is better unless you’re really pressed for time.
After dunking the bottom of the mold in hot water, unwrap the edges of the plastic wrap, and place the mold on your serving platter.
You can use the excess plastic wrap to help pull the cheese out of the mold and onto the platter.
Carefully peel off the plastic wrap, and you’re ready to go.
How to Decorate with Pepper Jelly
- Stir your jelly so it loosens up a bit
- Fit a piping bag or zip-top bag with a #5 decorating tip (or similar round tip)
- Pipe jelly around the base of the brain, along the center line, and in curlicues to accentuate the folds in the mold.
Equipment You May Need
You definitely need a brain mold. As an aside, I’d handwash this guy, because I’m not sure if it’s dishwasher-safe.
Feel free to leave out all the spicy elements to make this more kid-friendly. I’d still keep the pepper jelly, but if you don’t want to use that, some raspberry jam will work nicely.
I’d also be happy with adding bits of crispy bacon, if you want!
You can further spice up your pimento cheese by adding some prepared horseradish.
Consider using my spicy pimento cheese recipe for the filling, substituting softened cream cheese for half of the mayonnaise called for.
Tips for Success
Purchase blocks of cheese rather than pre-shredded. Pre-grated cheese has additives in it that keep the shreds from sticking together, and you want the spread to hold its shape.
Pack the spread into the mold a spoonful at a time, pressing down with each addition. This will ensure a good impression of the “brain folds,” and also prevent big air pockets.
Using pan spray is your best bet to help the pimento cheese spread release from the mold. With that, along with a dunk in hot water for 30 seconds or so, your brain should unmold perfectly.
Halloween Pimento Cheese Spread Q & A
Your spread will last for up to 7 days as long as you keep it refrigerated.
As written, this recipe is gluten-free. Check your labels for any possible cross-contamination issues.
No, it’s not. There are quite a few good vegan cheeses out there, including vegan cream cheese, so you should be able to substitute vegan versions of the cheeses I call for. And don’t forget the mayo! Just Mayo does not contain eggs and is a suitable vegan ingredient.
When it’s not Halloween and you want a good pimento cheese spread that will hold its shape, you can mold it in any mold that holds at least 4 cups.
The easiest way to mold it would be in a 4-cup bowl. Consider using a silicone mold for the easiest un-molding experience. If all you have are rigid molds, spray the insides with pan spray, press plastic wrap as smoothly as you can inside the mold making sure the edges extend over the sides of the mold, and then use the wrap as “handles” to help you unmold your pimento cheese after dunking the bottom of your bowl in hot water.
Choose metal over glass since metal will conduct heat from the water much more quickly than glass will.
I almost always serve pimento cheese with crackers (try my homemade Ritz crackers), but don’t discount its charms spread on a breakfast sandwich–including the pepper jelly.
You can also use it to top a burger or even mix some into a meatloaf mixture for a cheesy meatloaf.
And one of my favorite ways to use it if you just want something a bit more substantial than cheese and crackers in my one-pot pimento cheese pasta.
More Cheesy Appetizer Recipes
You may also enjoy my more traditional pimento cheese recipe. It’s a little smoky and spicy too, but no cream cheese!
And for one of my all-time favorites, you cannot do better than this red sauce. This is, hands down, the best sauce to pour over a block of cream cheese, period.
If you’re feeling exceptionally retro, you will love my port wine cheese ball recipe. It’s a real winner, especially when rolled in spiced pecans!
If you have any questions about this or any other recipe or post on the site, there are a few ways to get in touch.
You can leave a comment on the post, and I’ll be back in touch within 24 hours.
If your question is more pressing, don’t hesitate to email me, and I should be back in touch within 4 hours (unless I’m asleep) or often much more quickly than that.
See More Halloween Treats Week Recipes from Bloggers
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- 12 oz sharp cheddar cheese (1 1/2 8-oz blocks), shredded on a box grater or in a food processor
- 1/4 pound pepper jack cheese (4 oz, half an 8-oz block), shredded on a box grater or in a food processor
- 1 4-oz jar diced pimentos, drained
- 1.25 oz (about 1/4 cup) pickled jalapenos, chopped
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use Duke's)
- 1/2 block (4 oz) cream cheese, softened in the microwave for about 20 seconds)
- a few drops of blue food coloring (optional for Halloween)
- 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika (substitute 1/4 teaspoon cayenne)
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I use Morton's)
- several grinds of fresh black pepper
- Spray your brain mold (if using) liberally with pan spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the shredded cheese, pimentos, and pickled jalapenos.
- In another bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and the softened cream cheese until smooth.
- Add food coloring (if using), garlic powder, spices, salt, and pepper and whisk until smooth.
- Pour the dressing over the cheese mixture and fold together well so everything is evenly incorporated.
- Spoon into the greased mold, pressing down each spoonful with the back of the spoon to make sure it gets into all the crevices and so there are no air pockets.
- Fill with all the pimento cheese--I had about 1 1/2" "head space" left after filling. That's fine.
- Smooth the mixture out so it is as level as you can get it. This will help keep it from breaking when you unmold it.
- Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cheese, again smoothing it as much as you can.
- Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
- When it's time to unmold, dip the bottom of the mold into very hot water for 30-60 seconds.
- Remove the plastic wrap.
- Break the suction as well as you can by pressing in along the sides of the mold.
- Place a serving platter on top of the mold and carefully flip the whole thing right-side-up.
- Give a few hard, vigorous shakes to the whole shebang, and your pimento cheese brain will plop out onto the plate.
- If it doesn't release after a few shakes, repeat the dipping and pressing again. I promise it will come out in one piece even if you start feeling sweaty and unsure.
- Stir about 1/2 cup pepper jelly to loosen it up, then pour it into a piping bag fitted with a #5 tip (or similar round tip). Pipe the pepper jelly "blood" in curlicues all over the brain and around the base of the pimento cheese.
- Serve with crackers, pita, or vegetables.
Do not substitute pre-shredded cheese for "block cheese" that you shred yourself. Pre-shredded contains addititives to keep it from sticking together, and we want this cheese spread to compress and hold its shape.
Nutrition InformationYield 16 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 166Total Fat 15gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 7gCholesterol 31mgSodium 310mgCarbohydrates 1gFiber 0gSugar 0gProtein 7g
The stated nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It is calculated through third party software and is intended as a guideline only.
Thanks for spending some time with me today.
Can’t wait for you to wow your Halloween party guests with the most delicious Halloween pimento cheese brain ever!
Take care, and have a lovely day.
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