How to Make Cowboy Candy (Spicy Pickled Candied Jalapeños)




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If you’re a fan of sweet (and spicy) and preserving your own food, then this recipe is for you.

Candied jalapeño is a tasty and unique treat that adds a spicy, yet sweet kick to all sorts of dishes. My favorite way to enjoy them is with some cream cheese on a cracker.

Plus, making your own candied jalapeño allows you to control the level of heat and sweetness to your liking.

In this blog, we will walk you through the simple steps for making your own batch of spicy cowboy candy from pepper to jar.

So grab your saucepan and get ready to whip up a batch of this tasty treat – you won’t be disappointed!

What is cowboy candy?

Cowboy candy, also known as candied jalapeños or candied peppers, is a sweet and spicy treat made by pickling jalapeños in a mixture of sugar, vinegar, and spices.

The resulting candied jalapeños have a delightful balance of heat and sweetness, making them a perfect add-on to a variety of foods, or simply enjoyed on their own.

Seriously, you can eat them with just about anything.


  • 10 jalapeños
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar (2 part sugar:1 part vinegar is the sweet spot ratio)
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar OR apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon non-iodized salt
  • Glass jars for canning


  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric


1. Sterilize jars and lids to reduce the chances of foodborne diseases from the canning process.

2. Thinly slice jalapeños and set aside. A food processor works just as fine.

3. Prepare the brine. Combine sugar, vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, and turmeric in a saucepan/pot and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce to low heat and simmer the syrup for 5-10 minutes.

5. Add sliced jalapeños and stir. Continue on low heat for 5 minutes.


1. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the jalapeños into the jars, leaving about 3/4 inch to 1 inch headspace from the top.

2. Add in sugar syrup until jars are filled. Press down on the jalapeños to remove any excess air.

3. Take a clean, damp rag and wipe the outer rims of the cans to remove any surface sugar or debris. This allows for a clean seal.

4. Fill a pot with water. Do not boil yet. Try not to put hot jars into cold water or cold jars into hot water to reduce chances of jars cracking.

5. Place jars into water. Make sure the water level goes above the jar by a couple inches.

6. Bring water to a rolling boil for 10-20 minutes depending on size of jars. Switch heat off and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before taking jars out.

7. Allow jars to slowly adjust back to room temperature. This is usually done within 24 hours or overnight. At this point, the lids should be vacuum sealed onto the jars.

8. Ideally, store the jars for at least 2 weeks to a month before serving.

How do you serve cowboy candy?

They can be added to sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs for a bit of sweetness and heat. Throw it on some mac and cheese or chili as a convenient topping.

They also make a great addition to charcuterie boards or are served alongside grilled meats, cheeses, and crackers.

They are often added as toppings for nachos, tacos, and other dishes. They can even be eaten straight out of the jar as a snack. I know I’m guilty of it.

Choosing the right peppers

Can you use frozen jalapeños for making cowboy candy?

Yes, you can use frozen jalapeños for making cowboy candy. However, it is important to thaw the jalapeños completely before using them.

Can you use pickled jalapeños?

It is possible to use pickled jalapeños instead of fresh jalapeños, but the end result may be slightly different in taste and texture.

If you want to make the recipe with pickled jalapeños, you can skip the step of cooking them and just pour the hot syrup over them in the jars, and then the canning process as directed above.

Can you use other types of peppers?

While jalapeños are the most traditional pepper used, this can be made with other types of peppers such as serrano peppers, habanero peppers, and ghost peppers depending on how hot you want it.

How long should you can the cowboy candy for?

The jalapeños can be canned for different amounts of time, preferably overnight before storing. I find that storing for at least 2 weeks is the sweet spot for mellowing the heat.

The specific time will depend on personal taste preference and the texture desired. But really, they will be ready to snack with in 24 hours.

Shorter canning times will have a crunchier, more raw taste of jalapeños. Longer canning times result in juicy, softer jalapeños that burst with flavor.

Is cowboy candy spicy?

The spiciness of cowboy candy can vary depending on the type of pepper used and the ratio of ingredients in the pickling mixture.

jalapeños are generally considered to be medium in terms of heat, but the pickling process can mellow out some of the heat.

The best part of making your own cowboy candy is that depending on your desired spiciness level, you can adjust the heat accordingly. You can always remove the inside membrane of the jalapeño to reduce the heat.

Can you reuse candy syrup?

Yes! Chances are you’ll have some leftover syrup after canning your jalapenos.

Baste it onto some ribs or chicken wings with a sweet and spicy kick.

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