Candied jalapeños (easy homemade cowboy candy)

Candied jalapeños, also called cowboy candy, are sliced jalapeño peppers that have been pickled with sugar, vinegar, and spices, resulting in a sweet and tangy condiment with just the right amount of heat. I say “just the right amount” because you can easily adjust the spiciness level to your liking.

The combination of sweet and spicy is simply addicting. Once you try your first batch of homemade candied jalapeños, you’ll understand why that spicy flavor kick is a must-have in many dishes.

candied jalapeños
Photos for this recipe are from Erin Hungsberg (IG: erin_hungsberg)

What is cowboy candy?

Think of it as pickled jalapeños’ cousin—a lot sweeter yet still spicy (as they’re supposed to be). These delicious jalapeños are pickled and candied with a mix of sugar and vinegar to make one addicting bite after another.

candied jalapeños

Those who love a little heat in their food are no strangers to the infamous jalapeño pepper. And if you think the only great way to enjoy these hot peppers is by plainly adding them to your favorite snacks and dishes, then you’re missing out!

Why you need to make candied jalapeños.

  • Homemade goodness: While you can easily find jars of candied jalapeños in stores, making them yourself is a whole different experience. You have full control over the ingredients, so you can make it as sweet or spicy as you want. Plus, homemade always tastes better!
  • Long shelf-life: These candied jalapeños can last for weeks in the fridge, making them a perfect staple to have on hand for any occasion. They can be used in various ways, from adding some spicy sweetness to your pizza to spicing up your morning omelet.
  • Great for gifting: It’s almost impossible to resist the perfect combination of sweet, tangy, and spicy, so giving out jars of cowboy candy to your friends and family is one of the most thoughtful gestures you can make. Package them in mason jars and tie a ribbon around them for a nice touch.

Ingredients you will need.

Ingredients for candied jalapeños

Jalapeño peppers

Apple cider vinegar

Water 

White sugar

Salt

Granulated garlic 

Celery seed

How to make candied jalapeños

Start by slicing your fresh peppers into thin rings (around 1/8 to 1/4 inch rounds) and removing the seeds if you prefer less heat.

I suggest wearing gloves if you’re not used to handling spicy peppers as the oils (and heat) can linger on your hands for a while (or worse, your eyes if you accidentally touch them).

Sliced jalapeños

In a medium saucepan (large pot if you’re making batches), combine all ingredients including the sliced peppers over medium heat and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Make sure not to overboil the mixture to preserve the texture of the peppers.

Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Once done, remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside to cool for a couple of minutes before transferring the mixture into a mason jar (or any jar with a lid).

Some people prefer canning their candied jalapenos to make them last longer, but the process can be too tedious for some. You would need sterile canning jars, two-piece lids, and a water bath canner, among others.

If you have the time and patience, then go for it. Otherwise, I find that storing them in an airtight container in the fridge works just as fine, and they still last up to a month (if you don’t finish the jar before then).

How to store candied jalapeños

Thanks to the sugar and vinegar in this recipe, candied jalapeños can last for 4 weeks in an airtight container when stored in the fridge.

I recommend keeping them there for a few days before digging in, as the flavor tends to develop and intensify over time. It’s definitely worth the wait!

Variations

This candied jalapenos recipe contains the most basic ingredients, and there are a few variations you can try to add to your own twist.

Aside from celery seed and granulated garlic, you can add other spices like turmeric and cayenne pepper for a more complex flavor. You can even put in some chili powder for an extra kick.

A couple of yellow sweet banana pepper slices can also be added to the mix for a nice contrast of colors and flavors. If you like more heat, the easiest way is to add anything from mild serrano peppers to more fiery habaneros.

Lastly, you can use half white sugar and half brown sugar for a rich base syrup. Some recipes also replace a small portion of sugar with honey.

Where to use cowboy candy.

Candied jalapeños, just like any other condiment, are excellent at making a tasty treat out of any dish.

They are particularly delicious when paired with savory foods like grilled meats, burgers, sandwiches, nachos, tacos, pizza, and even potato salad. A splash of the syrup can also make fresh salads, macaroni, and roasted vegetables a lot more exciting.

I love mixing these sweet-spicy jalapeno slices into sauces, dips, and spreads like guacamole, salsa, bbq sauce, queso dip, and goat cheese spread for a nice spicy treat with chips and breads.

Surprisingly, they work well in sweets like ice cream, cakes, and even cocktails (especially the leftover syrup)! Think spicy margaritas.

Try them with some of my recipes:

Smoked cream cheese with candied jalapeños.

Sharing one of my favorite things to do with it which is on top of smoked cream cheese! Score a cold block of cream cheese to make a cross-hatch pattern. Season with bbq seasoning and smoke at 225-250 degrees for 2 hours. Add cowboy candy on top of cream cheese and spread onto crackers.

Smoked cream cheese with candied jalapeños

Talk about easy and flavor packed!

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Candied jalapeños (easy homemade cowboy candy)

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Candied jalapeños, aka cowboy candy, are sliced jalapeños that have been pickled with sugar, vinegar, and spices, for a sweet and spicy bite!

  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1012 jalapeno peppers 
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 1 cup water 
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder 
  • 1 tablespoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt 

Instructions

  1. Cut jalapeños into rings, remove seeds (optional) 
  2. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. 
  3. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. 
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside for 30 minutes to cool. 
  5. Once cooled, transfer to a mason jar and refrigerate. The candied jalapeños are best after a few days but can be eaten within an hour. 
  • Author: Jordan Hanger
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Condiment

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