Food & Drink

The Legend Behind the Best Cheese Pimento Sandwich

The once secret ingredients are now revealed.
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There are few foods as Southern as pimento cheese. It can be found right next to the fried chicken and sweet tea on brunch tables and appetizer spreads anywhere from Alabama to North Carolina. While everyone’s grandma probably makes “the best” pimento cheese they’ve ever tasted, there’s no doubt that the most famous version is the $1.50 pimento cheese sandwich served every April at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

While the spread is a fairly simple mixture of cheese, mayonnaise and pimentos (a variety of sweet red pepper), Augusta National Golf Club’s famed pimento cheese is shrouded in mystery since the recipe has been a closely guarded secret for years.

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For over 40 years, Nick Rangos, a local caterer from Aiken, South Carolina, was the man responsible for making the pimento cheese that the patrons at the Masters devoured year after year. But after the tournament switched contracts in 1998, a local Augusta chain restaurant called Wife Saver took over the pimento cheese making.

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Rangos was so upset about losing the business that he refused to give over his recipe, which he claimed contained a secret ingredient. Wife Saver’s franchise owner Ted Godfrey attempted to recreate Rangos’ pimento cheese but came up short. He needed that mystery ingredient.

Godfrey eventually cracked the formula after tasting a batch that a tournament employee had frozen from the previous year. (He also contacted Rangos’ supplier to find out which specific ingredients he had ordered, but that's not quite as dramatic a detail.) The sandwich was restored to its original glory.


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Pimento sandwiches for sale at the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

Over the next 15 years, Godfrey’s pimento cheese continued to be a crowd favorite but then in 2013, the Masters switched vendors yet again when the tournament moved their concessions in-house.

And just like Rangos—who took the original recipe to the grave when he died in 2015—Godfrey refused to give up his methods. "I cannot tell you what the secret is," Godfrey told ESPN. "But there's a secret there."

This time around, people noticed the difference. The new sandwich just wasn't as good.

Wright Thompson of ESPN investigated “PimentoGate”—as he called it—and found that the new recipe was made with more spice and mayo, ruining the classic that people enjoyed everywhere from the concession stands on the course all the way to the members-only clubhouse and the invite-only Mercedes-sponsored cabin behind the course.

“The consistency has changed, sometimes leaving soggy bread gummed up around a big blob of the spread,” he wrote. “From the outside, it seems like a combination of legal liability issues and stubborn pride has left the Masters concessions staff trying—and failing, in a rare moment of fallibility—to re-create the same recipe that generations of golf fans have enjoyed.”

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However, it seems like Augusta National Golf Club has finally found a combination of ingredients that works, since the pimento cheese sandwich I ate this weekend at the 81st Masters Tournament wasn’t soggy or gummy.

So what’s the secret ingredient? While people over the years have tried to crack the recipe—Southern Living says that the Junior League of Augusta’s recipe in Par 3 Tea-Time at the Masters is about as close as you can get to the original recipe—here’s what’s actually in the legendary sandwich.


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According to the wrapper, the sandwich is made with extra sharp cheddar cheese, Monterey jack cheese, mayonnaise, cream cheese, pimentos, onions, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper (plus a scant amount of potassium sorbate as a preservative).

While I wouldn't dare argue that the Masters’ pimento cheese is better than your grandmother’s recipe, I can say that this was best pimento cheese I’ve ever tasted and it has a lot to do with where I ate it because there's nothing better than tearing open that green plastic wrapper and biting into soft white bread stuffed full of cheese and peppers while looking out over the immaculate greens and pine trees at Amen Corner on the back nine of Augusta National Golf Club.

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Lyndsey Matthews
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