I love summer when the living is easy…gardening, grilling, and maybe even a little light canning. I’m not about putting up quarts of tomatoes (although you should see how many plants we put in, lol!) but I do tinker with small batches of something special. Cowboy Candy Sweet Hot Pickled Peppers fit the bill & bonus…they go right in the fridge and don’t have to be “processed.”
When I first made Cowboy Candy it was because I’d been to Aldi where you can’t just buy the one or two Jalapenos you need. Nope, nope, nope, ya gotta buy the whole package of a dozen or so. (Update: this may have changed since 2017 when this recipe was posted.) Since I hate waste I was going to roast, peel, deseed, and freeze them for future use when I had an “aha” moment. I decided I would pickle those jalapenos instead. Why not?
About Cowboy Candy Sweet Hot Pickled Peppers:
In my search for pickled jalapenos, I came across “Cowboy Candy” or Sweet Hot, sometimes called Candied, Jalapenos. And so yet again, my food ADD (make this, no make that, well, maybe I’ll pin it, and three hours later…I have no food for dinner but pinned like 7 gazillion recipes) came out and before you know it, I was venturing into uncharted territory with this “Cowboy Candy.”
Cowboy Candy – who knew, lol! These sweet, hot peppers are insanely good. They’re the perfect balance of sweet & heat. If you’re wondering if Cowboy Candy is worth making – take a gander at the prices on Amazon. A small batch (one jar) like this one of Cowboy Candy is so quick, so inexpensive and so good you’ll want to be making them all the time!
Now, I use jalapenos because I love them in my Cowboy Candy, and I like to add red bell pepper or red jalapenos just to make them “pretty.” Or about as pretty as army green can be! You can use just about any pepper you want in your cowboy candy.
The sugary syrup helps tame the heat of the peppers a little. Still, a hot pepper is a hot pepper! Mike over at Chili Pepper Madness has a Scoville Scale that ranks chile peppers from mildest to hottest.
Making Cowboy Candy Sweet Hot Pickled Peppers:
You may want to wear gloves and a mask if you’re sensitive to the peppers, and you might just want to double up on the gloves. Me? I’m a little cray cray and I just go for it. If you do get an excess of the oils from the peppers on your hands, the only thing I’ve ever heard works to remove is to soak in milk. I’ve had some good luck with alcohol wipes.
The recipe is super easy. Even so, I like to give some deets so first-timers know what to expect. First of all, this is a refrigerator pickle and makes one jar (about 12 ounces.) No need to can in a hot water bath but you may want to. And if you do, you might want to increase the recipe. I always advise to check a reliable canning site anytime you’re canning anything. I personally like like Ball Canning or the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
The most important part of the recipe is to reduce the liquid into a syrupy consistency after the jalapenos are cooked. Not as thick as say pancake syrup but there should be a definite shine to the liquid. If you go too far, you can always add a little water. Do this with the fan on high and wearing a mask if you lean that way! It takes a while for the fumes to dissipate.
Be aware when you’re making a small batch like this, you are very likely to have some leftover syrup. You might also have leftover syrup in the jar after the Cowboy Candy is gone (the latter will likely be super hot.) There are suggestions, below, on how to use that as well as some fun ideas on how to use your Cowboy Candy!
Here are a few more hints:
- For safety, don’t add the lid until the peppers are cool, and then lid and refrigerate.
- If the peppers shrivel a bit, that’s to be expected. It’s just the sugar working on them. After a few weeks, they will plump up, but even though the directions say to let them sit for two weeks, I can never wait that long!
- I usually remove the seeds as much as possible but that’s up to you. When slicing a lot will fall out and the larger slices have a hard center. I remove that, too, with the seeds. When the peppers are boiled, it’s likely that some of the seeds will fall to the bottom, and as for any floaters? When the peppers are scooped up with a slotted spoon, the seeds will likely fall out into the syrup. After the jalapenos are in a jar, then strain the syrup.
Varying the recipe:
Some people like to add a little garlic, turmeric, cayenne, and /or mustard seeds. Again, that’s up to you. It def gives the Cowboy Candy a more pickly taste. That’s my new word pickly. You heard it first, here, folks!
For one jar like this, about two cloves of garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne, and somewhere around 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seed will get you in the ballpark. Of course, add more or less according to your taste. And you might want to try other common pickle flavors, too.
How to Serve Cowboy Candy Sweet Hot Pickled Peppers:
I love my Cowboy Candy on crackers with a little cream cheese to tame the heat – or on bagels with cream cheese. I’m sure they’ll be just as good used any way you’d use plain old pickled jalapenos like my Refrigerator Pickled Jalapenos. I love using them in my Candied Pickled Jalapeno Chicken Salad, shown below, too!
I like to add them to items like my Macaroni Salad, and they’re fabulous to add a kick to your Tuna Salad or a plainer chicken salad recipe, like this Copycat Costco Chicken Salad. Or maybe add them to my Tuna Macaroni Salad! Now there’s a mix-up to be happy about! Try them in cornbread like my Jalapeno Cheddar! They’ll spice it up for sure!
You can serve these on top of burgers, hot dogs, or pizza and they are fabulous in a dip, maybe a jalapeno popper dip or guacamole. Another of my faves is to top an open-faced sandwich: Layer some cream cheese, avocado & chicken on Naan bread (or whatever bread you like) and top with a little of the liquid and a few of the jalapenos. Photo below.
Dice them up to top your deviled eggs – and maybe use a little of the leftover syrup in the deviled eggs. I glaze some of my cornbreads with a jalapeno glaze, like this Famous Dave’s Cornbread. Just use diced-up Cowboy Candy and glaze it with the syrup. Just be open to inspiration and you’ll find all kinds of ways to use your Cowboy Candy.
What to do with Leftover Liquid:
Toss the liquid in a bottle and use it like any other hot sauce. Try adding a little syrup to a cocktail. Just a hint or more if you want. Maybe a margarita, possibly a Bloody Mary. Add some to adult popsicles – especially good with pineapple.
Add a splash to your barbecue sauce, or a splash to any Asian type of a dish that already relies on sweet/spicy. Sprinkle it on pizza. Add to a ham glaze. Baste your chicken wings with it. Use it in your Candied Nuts for some heat.
Add pectic and can for a clear jalapeno jelly. Consult a reliable source like Ball Canning or the National Center for Home Food Preservation for canning instructions. If there is enough syrup, try pickling hard-boiled eggs.
Saving Money Cowboy Candy Sweet Hot Pickled Peppers:
- The best pricing for jalapenos I’ve ever found is at Aldi. Shop around if you wish, and buy when they are in season. That will be late summer to early fall. They’re cheaper then.
- The best pricing for any kind of vinegar is around Easter. Vinegar for dying eggs is on sale and usually, you’ll find both apple cider and white vinegar at a low.
So how about you guys? Have you tried Cowboy Candy? And if so, what’s your fave way to use the peppers and any leftover syrup?
cowboy candy sweet hot pickled peppers
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 20
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 1 12 ounce jar 1x
- Category: condiments
Notes: This is a “refrigerator” not a “canned” Candied Jalapeno, and hasn’t been tested for canning. The longer these sit in the refrigerator (a week is good, longer is better) the better they get.
- 2 cups white granulated sugar
- 3 cups apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 pounds fresh green jalapeños, washed and sliced into 1/4 to 3/8th inch rings
- 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into a small dice
In a small, deep saucepan, add sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
Standing back (so as not to inhale the fumes) add the peppers and bring back to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and stir now and then, cooking for about 4 minutes, or until peppers have lost their bright green color.
Remove from heat and with a slotted spoon, place the peppers in a very clean 12 ounce jar.
If desired, strain the seeds from the syrup and discard the seeds. Return the syrup to the heat and bring back to a boil for about five minutes or so until the mixture is syrupy. Pour hot liquid over the jalapenos. The jalapenos will float at first, but after a few hours will distribute throughout the jar.
Let cool to room temperature, cover, and store in the refrigerator. Any leftover syrup (and there will be some) can be saved for another use.