By Vida Gustafson

Contributing Writer

Having eaten my own weight in pepper jelly in my lifetime, I’m surprised I’d never heard of Cowboy Candy until this year. If you’re a newbie to this condiment, like me, cowboy candy is a colloquial name for sliced jalapeños in a sweet and tangy syrup. They are a great addition to sandwiches, salads or nachos and really shine when paired with cheese. These make a great, sweet gift for all your spice-loving friends if you can stand to part with them. The sweet and tangy syrup tames the heat a little but be sure to core the jalapenos if you want a milder end product. Remember to leave them in the jars for at least a week before cracking into them!

This recipe makes approximately 4 x 8 oz jars. 


  • 60 jalapeños
  • 4 C sugar
  • 1 ½ C vinegar
  • 3 tbsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp gelatin * optional


Clean and disinfect 4 x 8 oz canning jars and set aside. Cut clean jalapeños into ¼ inch slices. This is also the time core them, cutting out the center membrane, if you want a less spicy jalapeno candy. Wear gloves and be really careful not to touch your face! Jalapenos are notoriously unpredictable in their spice level and it only takes a second to ruin your day. 

In a large bowl, mix baking soda with 4 cups of water and soak the jalapeños slices for 10 minutes. I find this keeps the jalapeños from shriveling up too much during boiling.

In the meantime, bring sugar and vinegar to a boil in a large stock pot so that the sugar dissolves. Drain the jalapeños and add to the syrup. Bring the mixture back to a boil, at which point you will turn it down to medium again and cook for 6 minutes. I find that I really like a thicker syrup, that I can spread onto meats, cheeses or crackers, so I opt for a little bit of gelatin in my syrup. I used Bakol’s Jel. If you decided to set the syrup with gelatin, dissolve the teaspoon of gelatin in ½ a cup of boiling water.

Turn the heat off and move the jalapeños to the cleaned jars using tongs. Simmer the remainder of the syrup for 10 further minutes to reduce. Remove from the heat and mix the gelatin into the syrup with a whisk. Pour the syrup into the jars filled with jalapeños. Now they are ready to can in a water bath for long term storage or keep in the refrigerator. These are best after at least one week and the flavor improves even more after two.