Candied Jalapenos Recipe for Canning

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How to make and can candied jalapenos.  Chopped peppers as a sweet hot pickled condiment. Yes, you read that right. And they’re so good!  Much like sweet pickles, but spicy and a bit savory all at the same time, these also go by the name “cowboy candy”. No matter what you call it, they’re surprisingly good. Easy to adapt to mild peppers for less spice!

In this article, you’ll learn how to cut up the hot peppers, cook them in a sweet brine, pack into pint or half pint jars, and preserve in a water bath canner.

Small open jar of candied jalapenos with a fork in the jar.

how to make Candied Jalapenos

Quantity

This recipe makes about 4 pint jars. Quart jars are not an option.  But who really wants a quart jar of candied jalapenos? 😉 That is a LOT of hot peppers.

If you want to reduce and make smaller jars for a smaller batch, that is fine. You’ll still want to process for the same time as pint jars.

You’ll need about 4 pounds of jalapenos, which is quite a few peppers. I used a mix of green and red just for a bit of color thrown into the mix too.  I also mixed in some mild peppers just to keep the heat at a level my family will use.  See adaptations below for more on how this can be adjust to taste. 

Know Your Canner

Before you start this project, if you are not familiar with using a water bath canner please read How to Use a Water Bath Canner. This will familiarize you with how your canner works and what steps to take to get set up for any canning project, including this one. Steam Canning is another great option and the one I go to more and more.

Small open jar of sweet peppers on a white plate.

The process of making candied hot peppers is fairly straightforward.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups vinegar (5% acidity, apple cider vinegar or white vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 6 cloves garlic (optional – I didn’t use)
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional – I didn’t use)
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 4 pounds jalapenos, sliced into ¼” rings (other pepper varieties are fine too)
Handful of green and red jalapeno peppers sliced into rounds, piled on a wood counter.

Preparing the Peppers

Wash and slice peppers into approximately ¼ inch rounds. (keep the seeds and all). If you’re dealing with hot peppers, especially a lot of this like in this recipe, you’ll want to wear gloves while cutting. The oils in hot peppers can get on your skin and burn! I did this once by mistake and my hands burned all night. Don’t be me! 😉

Close up of chopped peppers in a food processor.

You can use a food chopper to chop your peppers you just won’t end up with the ring effect that slicing by had will give you. Just don’t chop too small. It is larger than a relish. A fairly uniform size is good too. They won’t be exact! But close is fine.

I use my french fry blade for this recipe for canning onions in a honey wine sauce as well. The blade makes nice chunky pieces. Not too thin.

I was asked about using a mandolin slicer. This would make the pepper slices too thin. It would end up mushy after processing and might be a density issue. You want just a little bit of chunk to your peppers.

Preparing the Brine

Combine the vinegar with garlic, spices, salt, and sugar.  I opted out of adding garlic. In addition, I also didn’t use cayenne pepper because I didn’t want to add any more heat, but you could include it if you love spicy foods.

As for vinegar, you can use either apple cider vinegar or white vinegar. You’ll just want to make sure that whatever vinegar you’re using is 5% acidity, which is what makes this pickle safe for water bath canning. I used the apple cider vinegar.

Bring the brine to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.

Collage of hot peppers being cooked in a brine, before and after pictures showing the change in color of the peppers.

How to Can Candied Jalapenos

Once the brine is boiling, add sliced peppers. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, until peppers have turned darker and have begun to absorb some of the brine.

De-bubbling small jar of hot peppers, white goved hand working with an orange peeler.

Ladle hot mixture – peppers, liquid, and all – into hot jars, leaving ½” headspace. The recipe is for pints but half-pints works too.

If you find it easier you can use a slotted spoon to add the peppers and then top it off with the brine.

Remove air bubbles with a bubble tool.  Just slip it down in the mixture and move things around a bit to release any trapped bubbles.   (In the picture, I’m removing extra bubbles with my orange peeler. Looks rather sophisticated while I’m wearing gloves, haha, but it’s really just what I have on hand.)

Wipe rims clean with a damp paper towel and put on canning lids. When all jars are filled and in the canner, process according to the instructions and chart in the recipe card below. Be sure to adjust for altitude as needed – read more here.

Tip- Leftover Syrup

If you have some syrup leftover save it to use with other things. Pour it over a roast in the crock pot. Or add to a chicken dish for some spicy flavors.

Adaptations for This Recipe – What Can I Change?

– Stack of red and green jalapenos some chopped into rounds sitting on a wood counter.

Can I Substitute Other Kinds of Peppers in Cowboy Candy?

You can safely adapt your type of peppers.  Use another type of hot pepper instead if you want to. Just keep your vegetable to brine proportions the same.

When I made this recipe I used a mixture of mild green peppers and hot peppers (jalapeños of various stages or ripeness), because my family doesn’t like things very spicy. I knew that full on jalapeno would have been too hot. Serrano anyone?? Caution: that would be super spicy hot.  I think Serrano peppers are even hotter than Jalapeno right??

You may also adapt the seasonings. I’ve seen people mention using celery seed or adding a bit of garlic or onion powder would work too.

Can I Make Candied Hot Peppers Without Salt or Sugar?

While it’s technically possible, I wouldn’t recommend it. The beauty of this recipe lies in the perfect balance of heat and sweet. If you would like a pickled pepper recipe without sugar, I have two options for you on this pickled peppers post. One does include a small amount of sugar, while the other is entirely sugar-free. You’re free to choose any pepper variety for both of these recipes.

If you prefer a sugar-free but still sweet alternative, honey serves as a safe substitute for sugar in canning. Since this recipe involves pickling, I recommend adjusting the recipe to use ¾ cup of honey for every 1 cup of sugar originally called for. This might slightly alter the flavor profile.

While there are numerous candied hot pepper recipes available online, the one provided here is from Ball, a trusted source for tested recipes.

Candied Jalapenos vs Pickled Jalapenos

This recipe is for candied jalapenos… which is a pickled product, but with lots of sugar to make it sweet. Thus the name ‘candied’. If you just want pickled jalapenos there are some options here that are not as sweet. Pickled Peppers

Frequently Asked Questions About Candied Hot Peppers

What do candied hot peppers taste like?

Candied hot peppers are a delightful blend of sweet, savory, and spicy. The amount of heat is directly related to the type of pepper you use.

What do you put candied jalapenos on?

Candied hot peppers are a great addition to burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, and spreads. Add a bit of sweet heat spice to potato salad. Top some tacos, nachos or one of those layered bean dip recipes. The most popular way I’ve seen it used is to mix it with a bit of cream cheese. 

Can you use frozen jalapenos for cowboy candy?

Jalapenos will get really mushy after being in the freezer. I don’t think it would work well for this recipe at all.

What color of jalapeno is the hottest?

Jalapenos start our green and then typically get hotter as they ripen into a bright or deep red color. I used a mix of ripeness in my recipe.

Recipe Card

Candied Jalapenos

Did someone say…candied jalapenos (AKA “cowboy candy”)? Yes, you read that right. And they’re so good! 
Print Recipe
Small open jar of candied jalapenos with a fork in the jar.
Prep Time:25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Vinegar 5% acidity, apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 4 cups Sugar
  • 6 cloves Garlic Optional – I didn't use
  • 2 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 4 pounds Jalapenos sliced into ¼” rings

Instructions

Candied Hot Peppers

  • Wash and slice peppers into ¼” rings.
  • Combine the vinegar with spices, salt, and sugar.
  • Bring brine to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  • Once the brine is boiling, add sliced peppers. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, until peppers have turned darker and have begun to absorb some of the brine.

Packing the Jars

  • Ladle hot mixture – peppers, brine, and all – into hot jar, leaving ½” headspace.
  • Remove air bubbles, wipe rim clean, and place on seal and ring. Place the jar in the warm canner. Proceed to fill all jars.

Processing with Water Bath Canner

  • After all jars are in the canner, lower rack into the water. Bring to a full rolling boil.
  • When the water comes to a rolling boil, start your time.

Processing Time

  • Pints are processed for 15minutes.
     Be sure and adjust your time for altitude.
    0-1,000 ft – 15 minutes
    1,001-3,000 ft – 20 minutes
    3,001-6,000 ft – 25 minutes
    6,001-8,000 ft – 30 minutes
    8,001-10,000 ft – 35minutes
    Process for the full time indicated, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a boil for the entire processing time.

Cool Down Time

  • When processing time is completed turn off the heat.
  • Remove the canner lid and wait 5 minutes.
  • Remove your jars. (optionally you can wait another 5 minutes if the contents appear to be bubbling so hard it is coming out of the jars)
  • Put the jars a few inches apart on a thick towel and allow them to cool to room temperature undisturbed. 12 hours is suggested.
  • When the jars are cooled, remove the metal bands, check the seals, wash jars, dry completely, and store in a cool dark place.
Servings: 4 Pint Jars

Before You Go…

If you have an abundance of hot peppers, you’re probably thinking about making your own salsa too! Here are some things you need to know for canning it safely. There are so many other things you can do with peppers too, including dehydrating, canning, freezing, and even freeze drying!

Sources

  • Ball Canning,
  • National Center for Home Food Preservation
  • https://extension.psu.edu/salt-in-canning

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