Candied Jalapenos are an easy to make sweet and spicy jalapeño pickle that make sandwiches, salads, tacos, and everything sing! These are a long time favourite recipe of our family and readers alike!
Find out why everyone loves Candied Jalapenos so much, and if you need independent verification, read the many happy reviews in the comment section below the post.
Once upon a time, my friend Katie casually mentioned eating a sandwich made with Candied Jalapeños. She enthusiastically sang the praises of what she described as an addictive jar of goodies.
I spent a couple of weeks working on how to recreate these. After carefully examining close to thirty recipes on Candied Jalapeños, also known as cowboy candy (who KNEW there were so many people candying jalapenos?) I called my local Cooperative Extension office to pick the brain of their home food preservation specialists.
Since jalapeños are a low-acid food, some precautions need to be taken when canning them. You have two choices for safely canning peppers of any kind; you can pressure can them or you can acidify (i.e. add vinegar, lemon juice, etc…) the liquid in which you pack the peck of pickled peppers.
I opted for acidifying the pepper liquid instead of pressure canning. I wanted to maintain some of the texture of the peppers through the process and I knew pressure canning Candied Jalapeños would turn them to flavorful mush.
The result was gobsmackingly, head-spinningly, brain-addlingly delicious. Sweet, spicy and savory, Candied Jalapeño rings are way too easy to eat on just about everything.
I’ve stashed them in sandwiches, chopped them up on baked beans, tucked them into tacos, used the syrup to brush meat on the grill. You’ll find them perched on top of a cream cheese laden cracker and all sorts of other evil things at our house.
There are even a significant number of readers in the comments section who advise putting the syrup on vanilla ice cream! Have you tried this?
For such a simple thing to can, these pack tons of flavor. You’re going to want to make as many Candied Jalapenos as you possibly can simultaneously.
Because once that first jar is cracked open you’re not going to be able to stop eating them. And I mean that.
Cowboy Candy Recipes
These are one of the things that I can annually without fail. Knowing that we have a few dozen jars of these makes my family happy at mealtime and makes holiday gift giving easier.
Do you hate canning? Or are you too afraid of canning to try?
For those of you who may be freaking out slightly or massively over the idea of canning, rest easy. You do not actually have to can these: you can refrigerate them instead.
To skip the canning portion simply do this. Follow all of the instructions up to the actual canning portion, then stash the jars of candied jalapenos in the refrigerator for up to three months.
If you can them, they’ll last for a year. That said, if an alternative is all that stands between you and making them, use your chill chest!
Candied Jalapeno Recipe
This is one case where there is no substitute for fresh peppers. Many folks have asked whether they can substitute frozen or canned jalapeños for the fresh ones in the recipe.
The bad news is that you cannot swap in an already cooked or frozen pepper in this cowboy candied jalapeño recipe. When you cook or freeze any produce, you are beginning the process of breaking down the cell walls.
If you cook them in the syrup again (which is necessary!), you’ll break down the walls even more. The extra cooking will make for mushy peppers, which we are trying to avoid.
Are Candied Jalapeños Hot?
Yes. They are.
One of the fun mysteries of jalapenos is you never quite know how hot your peppers are until you cut into them. I’ve read that the more tan veins a jalapeno has, the hotter it is, but I’ve not proven that to my satisfaction yet.
That said, how how your candied jalapenos will be is a little bit of a toss-up unless you know how hot your peppers are. Please remember that they’re going to be lava hot as soon as you’re done cooking them, but they’ll mellow a bit as they age.
On that note, wear gloves when working with the peppers. I’m not calling you a wimp.
It’s just that jalapeños have a notoriously wide range of heat on the Scoville scale. Trust me when I tell you that it’s a rude surprise when you process 3 pounds of wicked hot ones without wearing gloves!
This recipe is designed to be made with jalapeño peppers, but many readers have substituted serranos, habaneros, bell peppers, banana peppers, and all sorts of other peppers with good results. Please feel free to get creative here!
You can safely use any fresh pepper you’d like as long as you keep to the 3 pound quantity. Several readers have also reported chopping the peppers instead of slicing for candied jalapeno relish and I can confirm this is delicious!
How many jalapeño peppers are in 3 pounds? There isn’t perfect answer to this because the peppers vary so much in size naturally.
Three pounds of jalapeños is approximately 60 peppers. You’re much better of going by weight, though, because of the wide range of sizes in peppers.
Cowboy Candy Recipe
Let’s address slicing the peppers, because we’re going to be going through 3 pounds, folks. The quickest, easiest way to do so is with a slicing blade on a food processor, standing the peppers on their ends in the feed chute.
No food processor? Use a mandolin! No mandolin? Just take your time and slice by hand with a very sharp knife and gloved hands.
I’ve been asked many times whether you should discard the seeds. We like them so I don’t bother with removing them.
Contrary to the old wives’ tales, seeds do not contain the heat of a pepper. It is the membrane inside the pepper packs the most punch.
Since you’re not removing that, don’t sweat the seeds. Come for the cowboy candy recipe, stay for the bad jokes.
Please do not reduce the sugar in our cowboy candy recipe. It is there both to improve the texture of the pepper and syrup as well as to help preserve the peppers.
I originally added turmeric to the recipe to help improve the colour of the finished peppers. But I ended up loving the very subtle warm hint of mustard it adds to the party, so it stayed.
I’m keen on using Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, but any undiluted cider vinegar will work in our cowboy candy recipe. In a pinch, you could substitute white distilled vinegar, but it will have a slightly sharper taste to the syrup.
While I positively love granulated garlic in this recipe because it doesn’t clump like garlic powder does, you can substitute garlic powder if needed. It’s important to realize that granulated garlic is a much coarser product than powder so please remember to reduce it by half.
In other words, instead of using 3 teaspoons of granulated garlic, you’d use 1 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder. Alternatively, if you have dried garlic flakes, you can use those. In this case, you’ll use 2 tablespoons of flakes in place of 3 teaspoons of the granulated garlic.
And finally, a word about the celery seed and cayenne pepper. The celery seed adds a little special umami to our cowboy candy that can’t be added any other way.
Don’t worry if you’re not a celery fan, these don’t eat like celery pickles. They’re a subtle addition that brings a little extra savouriness and they’re relatively easy to find in even moderately stocked grocery stores.
The cayenne pepper, unlike many other ingredients, is optional. It’s true that cayenne pepper packs a real punch heat-wise, but it’s a different heat and a different flavour than the super fruity fresh jalapeno brings.
Cayenne is earthy and a little smoky, and I really enjoy that in our candied jalapenos. If you’re looking to mitigate some of the heat, feel free to omit this.
Candied Jalapenos Recipe
Quite a few folks have asked WHEN exactly to start timing the boiling of the peppers. You begin timing them once the liquid has returned to a full rolling boil. That means that the liquid does not stop boiling when you stir it.
As soon as it reaches a full rolling boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let it simmer gently for 4 minutes. To clarify further, you will not be boiling them hard for 4 minutes, you will bring them to a boil then drop the heat and simmer.
Many, many people have asked me whether they messed up the recipe because their peppers look all shriveled after simmering them in the syrup, packing them in jars, and canning them. The short answer is no.
But truly they WILL look shriveled when you jar them up if you’ve simmered them properly. They will re-plump as they spend their 4 weeks of rest time in the jar between processing and opening.
Yes, I said 4 weeks. My husband has been known to crack a jar at the two week mark out of desperation for candied jalapenos, but he will absolutely agree with me that they improve immensely in flavour and texture when left to mellow for at least 4 weeks after processing.
Try to be patient. You’ll be rewarded.
How to serve cowboy candy:
We love candied jalapenos a.k.a. cowboy candy on cream cheese and crackers, obviously… But we also love them in sandwiches, on Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs, salads, taco soup, tortilla soup, tacos, and pizza. or chopped up in dips!
The sky is the limit. I kind of suspect my husband would eat them on breakfast cereal if he didn’t know I’d wonder about his sanity.
You will need this equipment to make Candied Jalapenos
And this equipment is helpful but not strictly necessary
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Are you worried it will be too difficult? I promise it isn’t!
In fact, I have this video to show you just how easy the process is! Check it out!
Wearing gloves, remove the stems from all of the jalapeno peppers. The easiest way to do this is to slice a small disc off of the stem-end along with the stem.
Discard the stems. Slice the peppers into uniform 1/8-1/4 inch rounds using either a chef’s knife or a food processor fitted with a slicing blade. Set these aside.
In a large pot, bring cider vinegar, white sugar, turmeric, celery seed, granulated garlic and cayenne pepper to a full rolling boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Raise the heat to HIGH, add the pepper slices, bring the contents of the pot to a hard boil, then reduce the heat once more and simmer for exactly 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers, loading into clean, sterile canning jars to within 1/4 inch of the upper rim of the jar.
Return the pan full of syrup to the burner and once again turn heat up under the pot. Bring the syrup to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes.
Use a ladle to pour the boiling syrup into the jars over the jalapeno slices. Insert a chopstick or butter knife in down to the bottom of the jar two or three times to release any trapped pockets of air.
Adjust the level of the syrup if necessary. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel and fix on new, two-piece lids to finger-tip tightness.
Place jars in a canner carefully and cover with hot water by 2-inches. Bring the water to a full rolling boil.
When it reaches a full rolling boil, set the timer for 10 minutes for half-pints or 15 minutes for pints.
Let the jars rest in the hot water for 5 minutes, then use canning tongs to transfer the jars to a cooling rack.
*If you have leftover syrup, and it is likely that you will, you may can it in half-pint or pint jars, too. It’s wonderful brushed on meat on the grill or added to potato salad or, or, or… In short, don’t toss it out!
Leave them to cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. When fully cooled, wipe them with a clean, damp washcloth then label.
Allow to mellow for at least two weeks, but preferably a month before eating.
Candied JalapenosRate Recipe
- 3 pounds fresh firm, jalapeno peppers, washed
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 6 cups white granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
- 3 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- Wearing gloves, remove the stems from all of the jalapeno peppers. The easiest way to do this is to slice a small disc off of the stem-end along with the stem. Discard the stems.
- Slice the peppers into uniform 1/8-1/4 inch rounds. Set aside.
- In a large pot, bring cider vinegar, white sugar, turmeric, celery seed, granulated garlic and cayenne pepper to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Raise the heat to boiling again, add the pepper slices, return to a hard boil, then reduce the heat again and simmer for exactly 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers, loading into clean, sterile canning jars to within 1/4 inch of the upper rim of the jar. Turn heat up under the pot with the syrup and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes.
- Use a ladle to pour the boiling syrup into the jars over the jalapeno slices. Insert a cooking chopstick to the bottom of the jar two or three times to release any trapped pockets of air. Adjust the level of the syrup if necessary. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel and fix on new, two-piece lids to finger-tip tightness.
- *If you have leftover syrup, and it is likely that you will, you may can it in half-pint or pint jars, too. It’s wonderful brushed on meat on the grill or added to potato salad or, or, or… In short, don’t toss it out!
- Place jars in a canner, cover with water by 2-inches. Bring the water to a full rolling boil. When it reaches a full rolling boil, set the timer for 10 minutes for half-pints or 15 minutes for pints. When timer goes off, use canning tongs to transfer the jars to a cooling rack. Leave them to cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. When fully cooled, wipe them with a clean, damp washcloth then label.
- Allow to mellow for at least two weeks, but preferably a month before eating. Or don’t. I won’t tell!
Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.
Want more Food Preservation recipes like Candied Jalapenos? Try these!
- Homemade Claussen Knock-off Pickles
- Cherry Habanero Lime Jam
- Easy Fast Kimchi
- Fire Cider Health Tonic and Homeopathic Remedy
- Instant Hummus in a Jar
- Best Thing Tomatoes
- How to Freeze Rice
- Ginger Peach Preserves
- Three In One Pears
- Root Beer Syrup
- Zesty Corn Relish
- Habanero Peach Jam
Originally posted May 23, 2010, updated in 2015, 2017, and June 2022.