What Are Pimentos and What Are They Doing in Your Olives?

While many children don’t want olives anywhere near their food, I had the exact opposite reaction. I loved them. I couldn’t get enough of them—green olives, specifically, the kind that come in a glass jar in the grocery store. Black olives, even on pizzas, I still found disgusting. 

So, ever since a young age, I’ve been well acquainted with the little red things in the center of some olives, known as pimentos. But if you, unlike me, weren’t a weird freak child who ate olives by the jarful, perhaps you have wondered, what is a pimento? What are pimentos made from? If you keep seeing the word “pimento” over and over again does it start to lose its meaning? Pimento. Pimento. Pimento. Oh, and it can also be spelled “pimiento.” Oof. 

Okay, let’s get to it: Where do pimentos come from? They are a type of pepper, and if you’re asking, “Are pimentos red peppers?” well, technically, yes. They are a pepper that is often red, but if you’re plucking out the pimento from an olive don’t expect it to taste like a red bell pepper. Pimentos are actually a variety of chili pepper that is more fragrant than a typical bell. Also, in modern times, pimentos are typically pureed and combined with a thickener so they can be inserted into the olives mechanically. 

Apart from being injected into olives, pimentos are probably most famous as a key component in a popular cheese spread. You may recall that Mike Ermantrout from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul enjoyed a nice pimento cheese sandwich. If you’ve got a hankering for one, you can usually find a premade version of pimento cheese in the cheese or spreads aisle of the grocery store. If that doesn’t work or you prefer a homemade variety, you can make your own easily enough. This recipe calls for shredded cheddar, parmesan, bleu cheese, mayo, Dijon mustard, and, of course, a heaping helping of the eponymous pepper. The resulting spread is tangy and sharp, flavorful enough to be enjoyed on its own but versatile enough to eat on or as a sandwich. 

Finally, pimento is also a star ingredient in the luncheon meat pimento loaf, which consists of beef and pork combined with pimento and relish, baked in a loaf and sliced for human consumption. I personally have never tried pimento loaf, and it sounds sorta gross, but then again, as someone who’s consumed more than his fair share of pimentos, I really shouldn’t judge. 

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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