Cowboy Candy (Candied Jalapeños)

published Jul 6, 2024
Cowboy Candy Recipe
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overhead shot of cowboy candy in a small clear bowl
Credit: Photo: Erik Bernstein; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Simply put, this is going to put the yee-haw in any dish — the boot scoot in your boogie. Cowboy candy (also known by its more technical name, candied jalapeños) is the best thing to happen to cookouts. At least for me, because I want to put it on everything. 

If you like a little heat, and you like bread and butter pickles, you’re going to love cowboy candy. It’s got a snappy texture and tangy pickle flavor mixed with the tempered heat of jalapeño peppers. It’s like adding hot honey (another topping I love), but with texture and balanced acidity.

And when I say I want them on everything, I mean it. They’re great on fried chicken sandwiches, chopped up in potato salad or slaws, and even drizzled over ice cream (trust me). You can even brush the syrupy-infused brine over protein as a glaze. Maybe it’s called candy because it’s such a treat to eat!

Why You’ll Love It

  • This is an easy recipe that has staying power. With about 25 minutes of work, you’ll have a pint of this delicious, textural condiment that will last in your fridge for three weeks. 
  • It’s surprisingly versatile! The sweet-spicy flavor of candied jalapeños enhances the flavor of burgers, cornbread, and even ice cream.
Credit: Photo: Erik Bernstein; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Key Ingredients in Cowboy Candy

  • Jalapeños: The star of the show! Their heat mellows as they cook.
  • Sugar: Granulated sugar reduces to a syrupy, saucy texture.
  • Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar adds balanced acidity.
  • Spices: Add pickling spices like mustard seeds and celery seeds for flavor, and turmeric for color.

How to Make Cowboy Candy

  1. Make the syrup. Combine sugar, apple cider vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, turmeric, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Candy the jalapenõs. Add sliced peppers to the saucepan and cook until they are shiny and a little shriveled, then use a slotted spoon to transfer to a glass jar.
  3. Reduce the syrup. Continue boiling the syrup until it reduces by about 1/3, then pour over the jalapeños in the jar and cool to room temperature before chilling.

History of Cowboy Candy

Like most things named cowboy-something, cowboy candy traces its origins to Texas. The story goes, in 1922 on WHH Ranch, a 7-year-old named Mindie Heironimus decided to pickle her family’s extra jalapeños like she did with cucumbers, layering them with sugar and spices. How the family came to call them cowboy candy is unclear, but the name has stuck.

Helpful Swaps

  • Use the syrup as a spicy-sweet glaze for tender cornbread (or muffins).
  • Add a pinch of chili powder for a touch of smoky flavor.

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips 

Once you make cowboy candy (it only takes 25 minutes!), you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

What to Serve with Cowboy Candy

Cowboy Candy Recipe

It puts the yee-haw in every dish.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes

Makes about 2 cups

Serves 10 to 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces

    jalapeño peppers (8 to 12 medium)

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    apple cider vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon

    yellow or brown mustard seeds

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    celery seeds

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground turmeric

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Trim and thinly slice 8 ounces medium jalapeños crosswise.

  2. Place 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon yellow or brown mustard seeds, 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds, 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes.

  3. Add the jalapeños and boil, stirring frequently, until they are shiny and slightly shriveled, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the jalapeños to a glass pint jar.

  4. Continue boiling the vinegar mixture until syrupy and reduced by about 1/3, 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the syrup over the jalapeños and press down on them to make sure they are fully submerged. Let cool to room temperature. Serve or seal the jar and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.