Lately an old friend of mine has been experimenting with spicier food, and I’ve been trying to join in with him… just at a much slower pace. I know I’ll get there eventually, but in the meantime, I’ve been testing out recipes that are much hotter than those I’ve made in the past. Plus, I also have plenty of friends who love a little heat in their food and this seems like the perfect time to learn some of their favorites.
So without further ado, I bring you a recipe I’ve seen as an appetizer countless times but only recently made for myself:
Or, if we’re being technical, the ultimate sweet and spicy treat is known as candied jalapenos.
Whether you’re looking for a snack with a kick or a new snazzy new topping for your salad, these jalapenos are as versatile as they are flavorful.
What is cowboy candy?
“Cowboy candy” is a fun nickname for candied jalapenos.
As for why it’s called this, I’m not entirely sure. I’m guessing it’s because “true” cowboys are so hardcore that a spicy jalapeno is like candy to them.
And having been raised in the south and now living in the southwest, I can attest that there are some tough-as-nails cowboys out there that would pop these slices of sweet heat like M&M’s and not bat an eye.
Or tangle their lasso.
Or lose a spur.
You get the idea.
How to eat cowboy candy
While these candied jalapenos might be fun to pop on their own, I think they’re even better when paired with other foods.
Some of my favorites:
- On Ritz crackers with a tab of whipped cream cheese
- Chopped up in dips (such as Bagel Dip, 7 Layer Dip, or Mango Salsa)
- Soups (such as taco soup)
- Sandwiches (in place of pickles)
Do you have to can cowboy candy?
For those out there who have not ventured into the world of canning, I have great news for you:
Canning this recipe is not required. You can skip this part and store the candied jalapenos in your fridge for up to three months.
More details for both canning (and not canning) are included in the recipe details below.
“I want to can this recipe, but I don’t know how!”
Canning is pretty easy once you get the hang of it, and there are plenty of great resources out there to get you on the right path.
My absolute favorite guide to canning is this one: Home Canning Basics. It will tell you everything you need to know to make your first canning experience a success.
Will cowboy candy be spicy?
In short, the answer is yes. Even candied, these jalapenos will still have plenty of fire and kick.
The sugar and apple cider vinegar go a long way in giving more depth to the flavor of the jalapenos, but the trademark heat doesn’t really go away. It changes a little, sure, but it’s still very much there. So you will feel it if you eat one of these.
You can reduce the heat by removing the seeds of the jalapenos before cooking. This should make them more “medium” than “hot ++.”
Also, you can help curb the heat by pairing the candied jalapenos with “cooling” foods (cream cheese, dips, etc).
Can you use a sugar substitute?
Any candied recipe is bound to have a sweetener, and this one uses classic white granulated sugar.
I’ve had a few readers ask whether they can use a sugar substitute, and unfortunately, I haven’t found a good alternative for the sugar yet. I’ll be sure to update this post as soon as I find one!
Notes & tips for this mango salsa recipe
- If you’ve never cut jalapenos before, be sure you are wearing gloves while handling them and avoid any contact with your eyes while you work. Also, you have a crucial choice to make: to include the jalapeno seeds or remove them. The seeds are where this pepper gets its trademark fire, so only include them if you want the extra kick. For a full tutorial on cutting jalapeno peppers, check this out: How to Cut a Jalapeno Pepper the Right Way.
More great spicy recipes
How to make cowboy candy
This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.
Step 1 – In a large, deep pot (like a dutch oven) add sugar, apple cider vinegar, granulated garlic, turmeric, celery seed, and cayenne pepper. Bring it to a steady boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Let it cook for about five minutes.
Step 2 – Add the sliced jalapenos to the pot, then give it a quick stir to coat the jalapenos. Bring to another rapid boil, then reduce heat. Let the peppers simmer for another five minutes, stirring occasionally. Don’t worry if the jalapenos don’t all “look” cooked; this is normal.
Step 3 – Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the jalapenos, leaving as much as the juice in the pot as possible. Transfer the peppers to a clean bowl for now.
Step 4 – Once the jalapenos are removed, bring the sauce back up to a rapid boil. Let it boil hard for about 4-5 minutes.
Step 5 – Depending on what you’d like to do, you’ll either can the cowboy candy or store it in the fridge. See the Recipe Details for full instructions for both.
Step 6 – Once the jalapenos have chilled and rested, serve and enjoy as desired!
Whether you call them candied jalapenos or cowboy candy, these little slices of sweet heat make for a great gift or a fun new topping for your favorite crackers, dips, or salads.
In a Dutch oven, add sugar, apple cider vinegar, granulated garlic, turmeric, celery seed, and cayenne pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add sliced jalapeno to pot, stirring to thoroughly coat the peppers. Bring mixture to a boil again, then reduce heat. Let jalapeno simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. It's okay if not all the peppers are not all cooked evenly.
Use a slotted spoon to remove jalapeno to a clean bowl, taking care to shake off any excess juice into the pot. Once peppers are removed, turn up heat and allow remaining sauce to hard boil for 5 additional minutes. Remove saucepan from heat.
If canning cowboy candy
- Note: these instructions assume you're familiar with the canning process. If this is your first time, read this tutorial for a thorough guide: Home Canning Basics.
This recipe makes about 2 pints of cowboy candy, so prepare whatever combination of canning jars you prefer for this amount.
Scoop cooked jalapeno into your chosen canning jars, filling to near the top. Pour in cooked liquid from saucepan, leaving at least 1/4 inch head space in each jar. Secure jars with air-tight lids.
Place a large, deep pot on an oven burner. Arrange jars inside the pot, then fill with hot water, covering the lids of the jars by at least two inches.
Setting burner heat to high, bring water to a boil. Allow canning jars to sit in the bath for about 10 minutes.
Carefully remove canning jars from water. Set jars on the counter to cool to room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill completely. Let chill overnight.
For best results, allow canned cowboy candy to "rest" for 4 weeks after canning. However, you can enjoy them immediately if you'd like. Once canned, cowboy candy should stay fresh for up to one year.
If not canning cowboy candy
Allow cooked sauce to cool for 20 minutes, then transfer cooked jalapeno and the cooked liquid from saucepan to a sealable container (you can still use canning jars if you'd like).
Store in the refrigerator for up to three months. For best results, allow cowboy candy to chill overnight before eating.