Candied jalapeños, also known as cowboy candy, are easy to make with three simple ingredients
At the peak of pepper season in the late summer months, there’s no better way to use up an abundance of the little spice bombs than by making a big batch of cowboy candy.
The candied jalapeños with a cheeky name have been making the rounds on social media and dozens of recipes are being shared across Facebook and TikTok.
Here’s everything you need to know in order to make your own version of the spicy-sweet treat.
What is cowboy candy?
Cowboy candy is another name for candied jalapeños.
They're similar to pickled jalapeños but with a lot more sugar in the recipe, resulting in crunchy, crystalline jalapeños that have extra sweetness to cut through all the spice.
Plus, the added sugar and exclusion of water in the pickling liquid, creates a thicker, syrupy brine that packs a bright, acidic punch.
How do you make cowboy candy?
You need three basic ingredients to make cowboy candy at home: peppers, sugar and vinegar.
Most recipes call for a pound or two of jalapeños with the stems removed, then sliced into thin 1/4-inch coins. For those who don’t want as much heat, you can either swap out some of the jalapeños for a less spicy option, like a banana pepper, or you can just remove the core and seeds from the jalapeño – a lot of the spice from the fruit comes from the pithy white interior and the seeds.
As for vinegar, some call for apple cider vinegar for its natural sweetness in addition to the lip-puckering tang it provides. In terms of sugar, many recipes keep it simple with plain white sugar. Others employ a mix of brown sugar or honey for an added dimension of sweetness, so feel free to use what you have in the pantry.
The ratio of sugar to vinegar is also important. There is always far and away much more sugar in the brine than vinegar. A lot of recipes call for a two to one ratio, while some push as far as three to one.
The inclusion of salt and spices is completely optional when it comes to candied jalapeños, though celery seed and garlic powder are popular additions. Other options include turmeric, chile powder and ginger, but don’t be afraid to get creative.
To make the cowboy candy, bring the vinegar and sugar to a simmer in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the jalapeños and let the mixture boil for about 5 minutes until the peppers have absorbed the syrup and look glossy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the peppers, and then let the brine simmer and reduce into a thick syrupy liquid. Pour the liquid over the peppers, allowing the mixture to come to room temperature before storing in the fridge.
How do you serve cowboy candy?
Cowboy candy makes for a tasty addition to any meal.
The sweet and spicy treat can complete a charcuterie board to pair with any creamy cheese, like goat. You can also throw the peppers on top of a burger, liven up a slice of cornbread, or chop them up and add them to tuna or chicken salad for a crunchy spicy surprise. Some people like to use the syrup as a base to make barbecue sauce, but the options are truly endless.
How long does cowboy candy last?
Stored properly in the refrigerator, the candied jalapeños should last about a month in the fridge. By following proper canning practices, you can extend the life of these peppers and make them shelf stable.
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