Dips + Sauces Other Recipes

Cowboy Candy – Candied Pickled Peppers

A glass jar filled with pickled jalapeños and pickling liquid. A brass spoon and blue towel sit beside the jar on a wood table.
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I love a little heat on just about everything I eat. I’m one of those people that put hot sauce or sliced jalapeños on everything from tacos to bagels. But I don’t want the heat to overwhelm the flavor of what I’m eating; I just want to the spice to compliment it. That’s why this Cowboy Candy recipe is so up my alley.

Cowboy Candy is basically spicy peppers that are boiled in a sugary vinaigrette. A thick sauce forms and the sweetness of the vinaigrette balances out the heat of the peppers perfectly. Season the Cowboy Candy with a little pickling spice and salt and you are going to start to wonder why you ever ate spicy peppers plain.

This recipe for Cowboy Candy can be used in so many ways. Use it as a condiment on salads or sandwiches or as a dip on a charcuterie board. How about adding it to your taco toppings bar or putting it in a cocktail? The possibilities for cowboy candy are nearly endless. Be sure to check out the section below titled Ways to Eat Cowboy Candy for endless ideas to put your Cowboy Candy on everything.

A plate of green and yellow peppers sliced into rings.

About the Ingredients

Peppers – any spicy peppers will be great. I’ve made Cowboy Candy jalapeños where I’ve only used jalapeños and I’ve used a combination of other peppers too. In this recipe I use a variety of jalapeños, golden Italian peppers (shockingly hot despite their name) and shishito peppers.

Apple Cider Vinegar – this is the base of the brine. Combined with the sugar, it will make a thick sweet sauce.

Sugar – I love organic cane sugar instead of white sugar.

Pickling Spice and Salt – the seasonings are minimal but they add just the right amount of flavor. Pickling spice might not be something you keep in the pantry but it’s worth buying it. Not to mention, after making Cowboy Candy once you’ll be making it all the time so it will definitely get used up quickly.

How to Make Cowboy Candy

Slice the Peppers

Using a sharp knife, remove the pepper stems and slice the peppers into rings. For bigger peppers like the golden Italians, I cut the rings in half. No need to remove the seeds; seeds can stay. Be careful of what you touch (whatever you do, don’t rub your eyes while doing this) with those spicy fingers!

Boil the Vinaigrette and Peppers

In a small pot on the stove over medium low heat, whisk the sugar and spices into the apple cider vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it bubble for a few minutes. Then add in the peppers and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes. The vibrant color of the peppers should start to darken as the peppers cook and soften.

Green and yellow sliced peppers simmering in a pot of liquid.

Cool and Store

After about 5 minutes, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool slightly. As the sauce cools, it will begin to thicken. Transfer the peppers and liquid to a jar and let it cool all the way to room temperature. Then cover it and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Ways to Eat Cowboy Candy

These sweet and spicy pickles can be paired with so many foods. I’ve put them on salads, sandwiches, fajitas, grilled chicken, soft cheese spreads, and so many other things. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • On a salad – make a green salad and spoon some of the peppers in. Then drizzle on a little of the Cowboy Candy liquid, give the salad a good toss and skip adding any other dressing.
  • On a sandwich – assemble a turkey sandwich with a little cheese, fresh lettuce and a slice of tomato and then spread a good spoonful of Cowboy Candy on one side of the bread before closing up your sandwich and slicing.
  • Mexican food – serve the peppers as a topping for tacos, fajitas or any other Mexican dish (Turkey Taco Bake and Chicken Fajita Rice Casserole are great dishes to use it as a topping on!)
  • In place of sweet jams or honey – I love putting sweet little dips on cheese boards. The sweet paired with the salty cheese is a perfect combination. Put out a little dish of the Cowboy Candy for dipping next time to take your charcuterie to the next level.
  • As a glaze – grill lightly seasoned chicken or a piece of salmon and spoon the peppers and sauce over the protein as you serve it.

FAQ’s and Recipe Tips

What is Cowboy Candy made of?

Spicy peppers, apple cider vinegar, sugar and seasonings.

Is Cowboy Candy the same as pepper jelly?

Similar, but it brings a little more heat. The texture is a little lighter too so it pairs better with a larger variety of foods.

A wood spoon takes a scoop of candied jalapeños from a white pot. Liquid drips from the spoon.

The Recipe for Cowboy Candy

The recipe is attached below for easy downloading and printing.  If you test it out be sure to leave a note in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you served it with and what variety of peppers you used.  Enjoy!

Looking top down into a jar of pickled jalapeños. Sliced jalapeños and pickling seasoning float on top.

Cowboy Candy

Spicy peppers boiled in vinegar and sugar. This sweet and spicy combination is a great condiment to add to your favorite salad, top off a simply grilled protein or even as a relish for cheeses.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 13 minutes
Course Sauces & Dressings
Cuisine American
Servings 12 servings
Calories 102 kcal


  • 1 lb jalapeños, or other spicy peppers
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • cup sugar
  • 1 tsp pickling spice
  • 1 tsp salt


  • In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup apple cider vinegar to a boil.
  • While the vinegar heats up, slice 1 lb jalapeños, or other spicy peppers into rings.
  • Whisk 1½ cup sugar into the vinegar once it's boiling. Continue whisking until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Add the sliced peppers, 1 tsp pickling spice and 1 tsp salt to the pot. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the heat. Transfer peppers and liquid to a storage jar and let cool to room temperature before covering and storing.
Keyword spicy

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