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In this article, I share with you a really easy cowboy candy recipe.

Perhaps you have an abundance of jalapenos, or you simply want to make a sweet and spicy treat. Then cowboy candy is a great option. If you’re wondering what cowboy candy is, it’s another name for candied jalapenos.  If you’re looking for an easy candied jalapenos recipe, you’re definitely in the right place.

Make Cowboy Candy to Use Up Extra Jalapenos

I grew jalapenos in my AeroGarden. I had dehydrated some, and also wanted to make stuffed jalapenos. Unfortunately, I kept putting off making the stuffed jalapenos. They sounded like a lot of work, and I also didn’t have all the right ingredients.

A lot of the jalapenos were ripening, and since I hadn’t found the time to make the stuffed jalapenos, I wanted to do something easy with them before they went bad. Cowboy candy to the rescue! I knew that candied jalapenos would be easy to make and would only require ingredients I already had on hand.

harvesting jalapenos from my AeroGarden to make cowboy candy.

I decided to harvest all of the jalapenos that had turned red, along with some green ones.

Preparing to Make Candied Jalapenos

There are two ways to process cowboy candy. You can either water bath can it, or you can simply put it in the fridge.

Generally speaking, when you can, you don’t need to sterilize jars. However, since I was only going to make a very small batch of cowboy candy, I decided not to can them. After preparing them, I’d put them directly in the fridge. Because of that, I wanted to sterilize the jars.

Note: If you DO want to can your candied jalapenos so they’re shelf stable, I provide canning instructions at the end of this article.

Sterilizing Canning Jars

To sterilize my jars, I boiled them for 11 minutes. Note that I put a rack on the bottom of my pot so the jars weren’t directly on the bottom of the pot. While this is optional, if you put the jars directly on the bottom of the pot, they may be more apt to break.

To sterilize your canning jars, boil them for 10 minutes, if you’re at an elevation of 1,000 feet or less. Add a minute for every thousand feet of elevation.

As an example, my elevation is approximately 1650 feet, so when I sterilize jars, I boil them for 11 minutes. When I lived in Colorado and was at a 6,000 foot elevation, to sterilize jars, I boiled them for 16 minutes.

Pro Tip: To better understand how altitude impacts canning, read this article: How Altitude Impacts Canning | How to Adapt Canning Recipes Based on Your Altitude.

Preparing the Jalapenos for Making Cowboy Candy

While I was sterilizing my jars, I decided to use that time to prepare the jalapenos and syrup.

Here's the batch of jalapenos I harvested to use in the candied jalapenos. There are 13 total jalapenos in a bowl, with someof them being very small. They are a mixture of red and green jalapenos.

The obvious first step in making cowboy candy is to either harvest or buy jalapenos. I harvested just 13 jalapenos, with some of them being very small.

Slicing jalapenos about 1/4" thick in preparation of making cowboy candy.

Once you’ve harvested the jalapenos, cut off the ends and slice them about 1/4″ thick.

sliced jalapenos for making candied jalapenos
I love the way that some of the jalapenos were half red and half green – so pretty!

Warning: You’ll noticed that I used my bare hands when slicing the jalapenos. If you want to be careful, you can use gloves, because if you rub your eyes or nose or about anything when you’ve been handling cut jalapenos, it can really burn.

But I decided to live dangerously and just made sure to wash my hands really well after preparing the jalapenos.

Candied Jalapenos Syrup Recipe

cowboy candy syrup
The syrup for candied jalapenos is a simple mix of 1 part vinegar to 2 parts sugar. You can also add in spices such as mustard seeds if desired, but I think a simple syrup is the best!

I decided to make a very simple syrup for my cowboy candy. It has just two ingredients:

  • 1 part vinegar of your choice
  • 2 parts sugar

Since I was making such a small batch of cowboy candy, I made a very small batch of syrup. I used 1/2 cup of white vinegar, with one cup of sugar. If you are making a larger batch of cowboy candy, simply adjust the amounts to increase the amount of syrup. The important thing is to keep the ratio as one part vinegar to two parts sugar. For instance, you may use 1 cup of vinegar and 2 cups of sugar, or 2 cups of vinegar and 4 cups of sugar, etc.

Optional: you can also add spices such as mustard seeds and turmeric to the syrup. I opted for a very simple syrup, because I really wanted the flavor of the jalapenos to come through.

Choosing the Type of Vinegar for Your Candied Jalapeno Syrup

A lot of people like to use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar. But the apple cider vinegar impacts the color of the candied jalapenos a bit. Also, I generally prefer white vinegar, and it’s cheaper, so I decided to make my cowboy candy with white vinegar. Use whatever vinegar you prefer, or what you have on hand, as long as the vinegar has 5% acidity.

The Process of Making Cowboy Candy Syrup

Pouring sugar into the vinegar for the cowboy candy syrup.

Pour your vinegar into a saucepan and add the sugar. Turn the heat on medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Once the syrup comes to a full boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves completely.

dump the prepared jalapenos into the syrup.

Once the sugar has dissolved completely, dump in the jalapenos, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally.

simmering jalapenos in syrup to make cowboy candy.
Simmer the jalapenos in the syrup, stirring occasionally.

Keep simmering the jalapenos in the syrup until the jalapenos begin to change to a more vibrant color. The goal here isn’t cooking the jalapenos as much as it is making sure that the syrup completely penetrates the jalapenos. Simmering the jalapenos in the syrup is what turns plain old jalapenos into candied jalapenos!

Once the color on the jalapenos has changed, turn off the heat, and allow the candied jalapenos to cool a bit before putting them into jars.

Pro Tip: since this was such a small batch of cowboy candy, I only needed one jar. I prepared three jars, even though I was sure I would need two at the most. It’s always a good idea to prepare more jars than you think you need.

using a funnel to put cowboy candy into jars
A funnel makes it much easier to spoon the cowboy candy into jars.

I put a funnel on a pint-sized jar and spooned in the candied jalapenos. Once all the jalapenos were in the jar, I topped them with the remaining syrup.

Use a paper towel that you’ve dipped in vinegar to wipe the rims.

Even though I wasn’t canning these, I decided to wipe the rims, just in case any of the sticky syrup got on the rims. Wiping the rims isn’t necessary when you’re not actually canning your cowboy candy but be sure to wipe the rims with a paper towel dipped in vinegar if you are going to can them.

How to Water Bath Can Cowboy Candy

The good news is, that to can cowboy candy, you do the exact same thing that I described up to this point. The only difference is that if you want to can your candied jalapenos, so they are shelf stable, do the following:

  • Wipe the rims of the jars to make sure there is no sticky residue on them. Making sure the rim is completely clean helps to ensure a good seal.
  • Put lids on the jars, screwing them on finger-tip tight
  • Place the jars of your delicious cowboy candy on a rack in a canner or large stock pot.
  • Cover the jars with at least 1″ of water above them
  • Bring the water to a boil and boil for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude.

That’s all there is to it!

Is Cowboy Candy Spicy?

When I made my video showing the process of making candied jalapenos, a lot of people wanted to know if they are spicy. Yes, yes they are! The sweetness of the syrup does cut the heat some, but they are still spicy. If you’re not a fan of heat, feel free to remove some or all of the seeds before making your cowboy candy.

How to Use Candied Jalapenos

My favorite way to eat cowboy candy is to spread cream cheese on toast or crackers, and top with candied jalapenos. They are also good on burgers, sandwiches, chopped and put on hot dogs, in egg or tuna salad, or on nachos. You can also eat cowboy candy my favorite way – straight out of the jar! Just be prepared for a bit of heat if you left the seeds in.