Candied Jalapeños (a.k.a Cowboy Candy)

By Ann Fulton

Candied Jalapeños (a.k.a. Cowboy Candy)-Sweet, spicy and oddly addictive, these pickled jalapeño rounds are a fun addition to your condiment collection and can be enjoyed in so many ways.
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Spicy-sweet pickled jalapeños add flavor to burgers, sandwiches, tacos, rice, and more. Bake them into cornbread or use whenever you don’t have fresh jalapeños on hand. I’ve included lots of delicious ways to make use of these zippy bites, and over time you’ll discover countless more ways to enjoy them!


This is one of those whisper-down-the-lane recipes. I first heard about it two summers ago from Mary-who got the recipe from Diane, who was inspired by Rebecca.

Between the catchy name and the promise of spicy sweetness, I had to try.

When pickled this way, the spicy jalapeños maintain a good dose of heat but are tempered with a hint of sweetness, making them the perfect pick-me-up for burgers, tacos and so much more.

The recipe came with firm instructions to wait a month before eating: the heat would mellow in that time and the true flavor would develop.

Of course, we had to taste some right away for the sake of comparison. Initially, they were quite spicy, but Mary said to be patient (ideally for the full month but at least two weeks).


Candied Jalapeños (a.k.a. Cowboy Candy)-Sweet, spicy and oddly addictive, these pickled jalapeño rounds are a fun addition to your condiment collection and can be enjoyed in so many ways.


After the initial sampling, we heeded her advice. Sure enough, the peppers did mellow over time. They still popped a good zing, but the sweet syrup and the spicy peppers melded into a spicy-sweet treat that offers a delightful addition to the usual collection of condiments.

Beyond the aforementioned burgers, tacos, and sandwiches, we’ve enjoyed them strewn over Sheet Pan Sweet & Sour Chicken, mixed into Sweetgreen’s Guacamole Greens Salad and as a topping for Popeye’s Baked Eggs.

When pondering additional ways to use these peppy bites, consider all sorts of egg preparations, Tex-Mex fare and cold salads from macaroni to basic green. They provide counterbalance to anything with a sweet note, like Lime Honey Chicken, Summer Breeze Chicken Salad or Honey Lime Shrimp with Avocado & Corn and are a natural in bowl-type meals (or this one).

For a simple hors d’oeurve, serve the candied jalapeños on crackers that have been spread with cream cheese-or do this with bagels for a savory breakfast or lunch. Similar to honey, cheese acts as a cooling force against spicy ingredients.

Accordingly, bake them into cornbread with some cheddar cheese. And don’t forget Super Bowl Nachos!

Don’t have the fresh jalapeño called for in a recipe? Reach for these. For a subtle touch, simply mince the rounds before using.

My aunt popped over for a visit one day as I was starting a fresh batch and gamely took over slicing the peppers. I sent her home with a jar, and my Uncle Steve reported that hot dogs taste especially fabulous when topped with a few of the peppers.


Candied Jalapeños (a.k.a. Cowboy Candy)-Sweet, spicy and oddly addictive, these pickled jalapeño rounds are a fun addition to your condiment collection and can be enjoyed in so many ways.


Mary, who initially inspired me to try “Cowboy Candy” (apparently tough cowboys can pop these like candy!), doubles the recipe. I prefer the less cumbersome project of the following batch size (there are a lot of little peppers to slice), which still yields a generous amount. But as my Aunt Peggy demonstrated, a helping hand in the kitchen will make the job go twice as fast-and definitely makes the work lots more fun!

Funny note: Though we plant jalapeños in our garden every summer, my yield was rather low last year. I ended up purchasing most of what I needed at Lancaster’s Central Market, where they cost a mere dollar per pint. Such a bargain!


Sweet, spicy and oddly addictive, pickled jalapeños are a fun addition to your condiment collection and can be enjoyed in so many ways. 


The process below is straightforward, even for those who are new to canning. If you’d like to read more about canning, however, my posts for Small Batch Canned Peaches and Dilly Beans offer some extra details and helpful links. And as always, if you have questions, please ask!


Candied Jalapeños (a.k.a Cowboy Candy)
Yield: 4 half pints
Spicy-sweet pickled jalapeños add flavor to sandwiches, tacos, rice and more. Bake them into cornbread or use whenever you don't have fresh jalapeños on hand. Over time you'll find more and more ways to enjoy them!
  • 1½ to 1¾ pounds fresh firm, jalapeño peppers, washed (about 3 pint boxes)
  • 1 cup (227ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cups (576g) granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seed
  1. Wearing gloves, slice the stems from the jalapeños and discard.
  2. Slice the peppers into uniform ⅛-¼ inch rounds. Set aside. (I include the seeds. If you’re concerned about the level of spiciness, you could omit some of them.)
  3. In a large pot, bring the cider vinegar, white sugar, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, turmeric, and celery seed to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pepper slices, return to a simmer, and simmer for 4 minutes but no longer.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers into clean, sterile canning jars to within a ¼-inch of the upper rim of the jar. Turn up the heat under the pot with the syrup, and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes.
  5. Use a ladle or small measuring cup with a spout to pour the hot syrup into the jars over the jalapeño slices, distributing it evenly between all the jars and leaving a ¼-inch headspace. Use a knife, a chopstick, or a plastic canning tool designed to remove air bubbles, and run it around the insides of the jars, moving it up and down to remove any air bubbles. Adjust the level of the syrup if necessary.
  6. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel or cloth and top jars with lids and bands.
  7. Tip: If you have leftover syrup, you may refrigerate it for several weeks or can it along with the jalapeño slices. You may enjoy it brushed on meat on the grill, added to potato or macaroni salad, etc.
  8. Place jars in a hot water bath using a canner or a large pot with a rack, making sure the lids are covered by about 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a full rolling boil. When it reaches a full rolling boil, cover the pot, and set a timer for 10 minutes for half-pints or 15 minutes for pints. When timer goes off, use tongs to transfer the jars to a cooling rack. Let them to cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. When fully cooled, wipe them with a clean, damp washcloth then label.
  9. Allow to mellow for at least 2 weeks, but preferably a month before eating. Store in pantry up to 1 year. Refrigerate any opened jars.
A few extra tips

Pickled jalapeños will float at first but should settle as they cool. After simmering the pepper slices, they will likely appear shriveled. This is fine. They will plump back up as they rest during the waiting period. You will also likely notice that some of the spices settle to the bottom of the jars. I occasionally turn the jars upside-down and give them a (gentle) shake to redistribute what has settled.

I get my big pot of water heated while the peppers are simmering so that I can quickly proceed with the processing (hot water bath) stage. When I place the jars into the hot water (tongs are quite helpful here), I pour in additional water to cover if I didn’t start with quite enough water in the pot. This is far quicker than filling the pot and starting to heat the water AFTER the peppers slices and syrup have been transferred to the jars.

If you’d like to read more about the basics of canning, you may wish to read my posts on Small Batch Canned Peaches and Dilly Beans.



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    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Jules, You are right that the membranes contain the heat, but since the seeds tend to get coated with some of the capsaicin from the surrounding membranes, they can taste hot as well. Also, I mention the friend who shared the original recipe at the very beginning of the post and follow with how I adapted it. If you try, I hope you enjoy.

  1. Julie Thompson

    Made these and they are HOT…! Make sure you wear gloves. Don’t touch your face & eyes and I recommend that you wear a mask. The fumes of the peppers can really be strong..I was slicing and seeding the peppers and started to choke & cough. Need an entire hazmat suit! LOL! Next time, I’ll be prepared and I’ll double the recipe. Too much work to only make a small amount. 🙂

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Julie, They are hot! I did mention wearing gloves for this reason. I haven’t noticed the fumes as much (although I did when blending hot peppers in a different recipe recently!), so I appreciate the mention. The chopping can be tedious, especially for a large batch, but everyone here is always very grateful. I have made this a project with my aunt, and her company makes the job easier and far more fun!

  2. Traci

    Do you have a conversion from Water Bath to Pressure Cooker? I woukd rather pressurize them… and is there a difference in shelf life btwn the 2? Once opened how long good in fridge for?

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Traci, I have not use a pressure cooker to can these, so I can’t provide a guaranteed conversion. Once canned, I believe the shelf life will be the same no matter which method is used. Lastly, the vinegar will act as a preservative once opened, so the jalapeños can definitely be enjoyed over time. I’ve kept an open jar in the fridge for over two months with no degradation. If you’re aiming for longevity, just make sure you serve with a clean utensil, don’t put fingers in the jar, etc.

    1. Ann Post author

      Linda, I don’t but I love the sound of it. I’d be tempted to add some cubed pieces along with the jalapeños to see how it turns out!

  3. Fred

    First time canning these and I noticed that my jars have sugar settled on the bottom of my jars. Is this normal? Is it OK to eat? My mom always uses the Ball sweet pickle mix but I used the regular vinegar, sugar, and spices brought to a boil, peppers simmered, and then boiled again before ladling in the juice.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Fred, In the “a few extra tips” section directly under the recipe, I mention that you will likely notice that the spices settle to the bottom of the jars. This is absolutely fine. I occasionally turn the jars upside-down and give them a (gentle) shake to redistribute what has settled, but the flavor would likely be every bit as good if you didn’t do that. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

  4. Vicki Bishop

    I Have made this many times and love it so much.
    But I have a friend who can’t eat it because it’s to hot. What is the best way to get all the seeds out. Without cutting the pepper in half??

    1. Ann Post author

      I’m delighted these have been a hit, Vicki! Thank you for the feedback. As for removing the seeds without cutting the peppers in half, I think your best bet would be to slice off the stem end and then use a paring knife to work around the seedy core. If some of the seeds cling to the peppers, you could give them a quick rinse. Hope that helps!

    1. Ann Post author

      That’s awesome, Jane…not only that you have your Christmas gift idea months ahead, but that it will be in high demand!