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Best Cowboy Candy Recipe

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This homemade cowboy candy recipe, also known as candied jalapeños, is incredibly easy to make and perfect for snacking or adding a sweet and spicy twist to your favorite dishes. These jalapeño slices, preserved in a seasoned simple syrup, offer a delightful blend of sweetness and heat. They make a fantastic garnish for cocktails, a tasty topping for cornbread or cupcakes, and a zesty addition to guacamole.

Homemade cowboy candy in a glass jar, ready for canning and storagePin

Making cowboy candy is not only about crafting a delicious treat but also an excellent method for preserving fresh jalapeños from your garden. Our candied jalapeños recipe is ideal for canning and long-term storage, or you can keep them in the refrigerator to enjoy for months. With our jalapeño plants thriving this summer, we’ve made several batches to share with family and friends! A jar of cowboy candy also makes a perfect DIY holiday gift.

What is cowboy candy?

Cowboy candy, a playful name for candied jalapeños, is also known as sweet pickled jalapeños. Fresh jalapeños are sliced into rings and preserved in a tangy syrup made of vinegar, sugar, and spices. Our cowboy candy recipe uses apple cider vinegar and a blend of brown sugar, adding depth and complexity to the flavors compared to using white vinegar and sugar alone. We especially enjoy recipes that let us use our homegrown turmeric and garlic powder! The result is a mildly spicy and sweet pepper creation, reminiscent of pepper jelly.

Sweet and spicy jalapeño preserves in a rustic kitchen settingPin

Is cowboy candy spicy hot?

Yes, cowboy candy can be moderately spicy. Despite being “pickled” in a sweet syrup, the heat from the jalapeños still comes through! However, I don’t find cowboy candy to be unpleasantly or uncomfortably hot at all. Especially when paired with other foods (like cream cheese!), candied jalapeños offer the perfect little kick of heat. Truth be told, I’m not usually a fan of spicy things, but I absolutely love this cowboy candy recipe.

You can make cowboy candy less spicy by coring the peppers to remove the inner membrane and seeds. The majority of the heat resides in the inner white membrane or ribs of jalapeño peppers, not the seeds. I usually core at least some of our peppers when we make candied jalapeños. Simply cut off the top stem, run a small knife around the upper inside portion of the pepper, and pop or tap the innards out.

Another way to tone down the heat is to add some mild or sweeter peppers to your cowboy candy, such as banana peppers or small bell peppers.

Garnish of candied peppers, enhancing the flavor of cheesy dishesPin

Can I use other peppers to make cowboy candy?

Jalapeños are truly the best peppers for this cowboy candy recipe. They provide the perfect combination of thick flesh and medium-warm heat. You can even use both green and red jalapeños to create extra colorful and flavorful cowboy candy! For those who prefer it extra spicy, you can mix in a few hotter varieties of peppers.

However, you can also make cowboy candy with other types of peppers, such as banana peppers, Hungarian wax peppers, Anaheim peppers, or serrano peppers, which are equally thick-walled. To achieve a similar flavor to candied jalapeños when using milder varieties, consider adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of chili powder and/or a few spicy peppers.

Ingredients for Candied Jalapeños

This cowboy candy recipe yields approximately 2 pint jars or 4 half-pint jars.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of fresh jalapeños (about 20-25 large jalapeño peppers, or 30+ smaller ones)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups apple cider vinegar (5% acidity, especially if canning)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (or 2 tsp granulated garlic)
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt or pickling salt (not iodized table salt)
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger powder
  • Optional: up to 1 tsp red chili flakes (or up to 1/2 tsp of chili powder) if you like your cowboy candy extra spicy! I don’t usually add any, but feel free to customize to your taste.
Handcrafted candied jalapeños, great for homemade gourmet giftsPin

Instructions

IMPORTANT: Use caution when working with jalapeños! I recommend wearing gloves during prep and being very careful not to touch your face or eyes.

If you intend to can your cowboy candy, prepare all your canning supplies in advance, including heating up your hot bath canning pot. While there is no need to sterilize the canning jars beforehand since they’ll be processed for over 10 minutes, it’s still best to heat the jars before adding the hot contents.

  • Start by washing the fresh jalapeños and trimming off the stem ends.
  • Optional: To make cowboy candy less spicy, you can core or partially core the peppers to remove some of the inner membrane and seeds.
  • Cut the jalapeños into 1/4” round slices. I find this easiest to do with a small serrated knife, though you could also use a mandoline slicer if available.
  • On the stovetop, combine the apple cider vinegar, sugars, and seasonings in a large non-reactive pot. Simmer the syrup ingredients on medium-high heat until all the ingredients combine, about 5 minutes. Keep a watchful eye and stir regularly, as the syrup tends to bubble up and rise.
  • Add the sliced jalapeños to the syrup mixture, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Freshly made cowboy candy, adding a sweet and spicy kick to dishesPin

Instructions continued

  • Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the cooked jalapeño rings into clean jars, leaving the syrup behind in the pot. Fill the jars almost to the top, leaving at least 1/2” of headspace, and pack them lightly. A canning funnel makes this job much easier!
  • Return the syrup to a boil and simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes to thicken, sweeten, and condense it.
  • Ladle the hot cowboy candy syrup into the jars over the jalapeño rings, leaving 1/2 inch to 1/4 inch of headspace in the jar. You may have some leftover syrup – check out ideas at the end of this post for how to use it!
  • Follow the instructions below for canning, or continue without canning.
  • For the most flavorful results, wait at least one week before consuming your homemade cowboy candy if using the refrigerator method, or at least 3 to 4 weeks after canning. This resting time allows the jalapeños to soak up the delicious syrup and spices! If the seasonings settle at the bottom of the jar, shake the jar lightly before use.

Instructions for Canning Cowboy Candy

To can cowboy candy, follow these steps:

  1. After filling the jars with candied jalapeños and syrup (leaving 1/2 inch to 1/4 inch of headspace), remove air bubbles from the packed jars using a canning bubble tool, chopstick, or clean butter knife.
  2. Wipe the rim of the jars with a damp paper towel or clean cloth to ensure a clean seal.
  3. Place fresh canning lids centered on the jars, and then add jar rings. Lightly tighten the jar rings until fingertip-tight.
  4. Using a jar lifter or canning tongs, carefully lower the jars of candied jalapeños into a large pot of boiling water (hot bath canner). The water should cover the jars by at least 1 to 2 inches and they should rest on a canning rack, not directly on the bottom of the pot.
  5. Bring the water back to a boil and process the cowboy candy for 10 minutes for half-pints or 15 minutes for pints. Adjust processing time according to your elevation (see elevation chart).
  6. Remove the jars from the canning pot using the jar lifter onto a cooling rack. Allow them to sit undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours to cool and seal properly. Do not press down on the lids or tighten the rings after removing from the water bath.
  7. Store the canned cowboy candy at room temperature in a cool, dark place such as a pantry, cupboard, basement, or root cellar. Once opened, refrigerate and use within 3 months. Refer to the notes below for additional shelf life information.
Colorful candied jalapeños, ideal for topping nachos and burgers.Pin

How to make cowboy candy without canning

To make candied jalapeños without canning, follow these steps:

After preparing the cowboy candy as described in the recipe above, instead of canning, refrigerate the jars. Once you’ve added the hot syrup to the jars of peppers, allow them to cool slightly. Then, place the lids on the jars and transfer them to the refrigerator for storage. For best flavor, let the cowboy candy sit for at least a week to absorb the syrup and seasonings before tasting (although it’s tempting to try right away!). Always keep refrigerated to maintain freshness.

How long does cowboy candy last? 

When properly canned and stored in a cool, dark location, cowboy candy can remain good for a year or longer at room temperature. While technically it can last a couple of years, its quality may begin to decline over time. For the best flavor and texture, consume within one year of canning. Once opened, store canned cowboy candy in the refrigerator and use within 2 to 3 months.

If you opt not to can your cowboy candy, store the unprocessed jars of candied jalapeños in the refrigerator at all times. Thanks to the acidity of the vinegar and sugar, cowboy candy should stay good for 2 to 3 months in the fridge without canning, possibly longer. Alternatively, you can freeze candied jalapeños for up to 6 months in freezer-safe containers.

Always discard cowboy candy if you notice mold or detect any off odors developing.

Best Ways to Eat Cowboy Candy (Candied Jalapeños) 

One of the most delicious flavor pairings is cowboy candy with cream cheese. Together, they create a mouthwatering balance of spicy, sweet, creamy, and cool—think jalapeño poppers. But there are numerous delightful ways to enjoy your homemade cowboy candy. Here are some of the best ways to use candied jalapeños:

  • Spread over cream cheese on crackers
  • Layered on a slice of sourdough toast or bagel with cream cheese
  • Added to salads, sandwiches, burgers, or veggie burgers—try them tucked inside a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of homemade roasted tomato soup. Delicious!
  • Used as a condiment for Mexican dishes such as tacos, nachos, tostados, burritos, or enchiladas
  • Sprinkled as a pizza topping or on top of sourdough focaccia, especially when paired with cheese
  • Chopped and mixed into egg salad, tuna salad, potato salad, or pasta salad
  • Garnished over a twice-baked potato, seven-layer dip, or bowl of chili
  • Folded into scrambled eggs, frittata, quiche, or deviled eggs
  • Incorporated into cornbread batter, including our popular sourdough cornbread recipe
  • Spooned over brie or other soft cheeses, similar to enjoying pepper jelly
Jar of spicy-sweet cowboy candy, perfect for snacks and appetizersPin

What to do with the leftover syrup from candied jalapeños?

If you have leftover cowboy candy syrup, don’t discard it! Store the extra syrup in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two months (including the time the peppers were in the jar). Similar to candied jalapeños, the syrup is versatile and pairs well with a wide range of delicious treats:

  • Drizzle over bloody marys, margaritas, cocktails, mocktails, or other beverages. For a refreshing twist, add a splash to lime sparkling water!
  • Mix leftover cowboy candy syrup with olive oil and optional herbs to create a sweet and spicy homemade salad dressing.
  • Use as a dipping sauce for egg rolls or spring rolls, replacing sweet and sour sauce or plum sauce.
  • Add a splash to egg salad, coleslaw, deviled eggs, potato salad, pasta salad, or any dish that benefits from a tangy kick.
  • Use as a brine to quick-pickle other vegetables like sliced carrots or fresh green beans.
  • Blend a bit of leftover syrup into mayonnaise for sandwiches, or mix it into ketchup for burgers, french fries, or potatoes. You can even incorporate it into barbecue sauce!
  • Include in marinades for meat, fish, or vegetables for added depth of flavor.

And that’s how to make cowboy candy

I truly hope you enjoy this candied jalapeños recipe as much as we do. I’ve been enjoying them daily and am excited to whip up another batch this week! Please consider leaving a review or rating below and help spread the love for this spicy-sweet treat by sharing this post. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments. Otherwise, have a great time making these delicious sweet pickled jalapeños! Thank you for joining us today.

Close-up of homemade candied jalapeños on a wooden cutting boardPin

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does Homemade Cowboy Candy Last?

Candied jalapeños will stay fresh for about 3 months in the refrigerator without canning. If you opt to process them in a water bath and store them in canning jars, they can last up to a year in your pantry until you’re ready to enjoy them.

Can I Make This Recipe With Other Peppers?

Certainly! You can “candy” any variety of chili pepper. Simply slice them into rings and follow the recipe. For larger peppers, chop them into smaller pieces to ensure even candying.

Can I adjust the spiciness of cowboy candy?

Yes, you can control the heat by adjusting the amount of seeds and membranes left in the jalapeños or by adding milder peppers to the mix.

What can I do with leftover cowboy candy syrup?

Use it to spice up cocktails, drizzle over salads, mix into marinades, or as a dipping sauce for spring rolls. It’s versatile and adds a sweet-spicy kick to various dishes.

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Close-up of homemade candied jalapeños on a wooden cutting boardPin

Candied Jalapenos Recipe (Homemade Cowboy Candy)

This homemade cowboy candy recipe, also known as candied jalapeños, is simple to prepare. It's perfect for enhancing nachos, burgers, desserts, and more, offering a delightful balance of sweetness with a hint of heat.
5 from 1 vote
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4 half pint jars
Calories: 80kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh jalapeños about 20-25 large jalapeño peppers
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups apple cider vinegar 5% acidity, suitable for canning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or pickling salt not iodized table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger powder
  • Optional: up to 1 teaspoon red chili flakes or up to 1/2 teaspoon chili powder for extra spiciness (I typically omit this)

Instructions

  • Important Note: Use caution when handling jalapeños. It’s recommended to wear gloves during preparation and avoid touching your face or eyes.
  • Wash the jalapeños thoroughly and trim off the stem ends. Optionally, to reduce spiciness, core or partially core the peppers to remove some of the inner membrane and seeds.
  • Slice the jalapeños into ¼-inch round slices.
  • On the stovetop, in a large non-reactive pot, combine apple cider vinegar, sugars, and seasonings. Simmer the mixture over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until all ingredients are fully combined. Stir regularly as the syrup tends to bubble.
  • Add the sliced jalapeños to the syrup mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the cooked jalapeño slices into clean jars, leaving the syrup in the pot. Fill the jars almost to the top, leaving at least ½ inch of headspace. Pack the jalapeños lightly.
  • Return the syrup in the pot to a boil, then simmer for 8 to 10 minutes to reduce and thicken.
  • Ladle the hot cowboy candy syrup into the jars over the jalapeño slices, leaving ½ to ¼ inch of headspace.
  • Follow specific canning instructions, or if not canning, allow the jars to cool and then refrigerate. Consume within 3 months for optimal freshness.
  • For best flavor, wait at least one week if refrigerating or 3 to 4 weeks if canned before enjoying your homemade cowboy candy.

Notes

After filling the jars:
  • Remove air bubbles from the packed jars.
  • Wipe the rim of each jar with a damp paper towel or clean cloth.
  • Center fresh canning lids on the jars and then add jar rings. Lightly tighten the rings until fingertip-tight.
To process in a boiling water bath canner:
  • Carefully place the jars of candied jalapeños into a large pot of boiling water. Ensure the jars are covered by at least 1 to 2 inches of water and are resting on a canning rack (not directly on the bottom of the pot).
  • Return the water to a boil. Process the cowboy candy for 10 minutes for half-pint jars or 15 minutes for pint jars. Adjust processing time: add 5 minutes for elevations between 1000 to 6000 feet, and 10 minutes for elevations over 6000 feet.
  • After processing, remove the jars from the canner and place them on a cooling rack. Allow them to cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours.
  • Store the canned cowboy candy at room temperature in a cool, dark place such as a pantry, cupboard, basement, or root cellar. Once opened, refrigerate and use within 3 months for optimal quality.

Nutrition

Calcium: 6mg | Vitamin C: 44.8mg | Vitamin A: 455IU | Sugar: 18g | Fiber: 1g | Calories: 80kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Iron: 0.2mg

3 Comments

  1. XRumer23Ethip

    Hey people!!!!!
    Good mood and good luck to everyone!!!!!

  2. Hey people!!!!!
    Good mood and good luck to everyone!!!!!

  3. Hey people!!!!!
    Good mood and good luck to everyone!!!!!

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