Texas Candy-Making Traditions: Sweet Secrets Revealed

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When it comes to food, Texas can do no wrong. Home to the most legendary barbecue in the world, it’s known for its succulent smoked meats. Then you’ve got chicken fried steak, a culinary creation that could only come from Texas. And, of course, we can’t forget the official state dish, chili con carne. 

While you might be more familiar with the Lone Star State’s savory foods, there are many phenomenal sweet ones, too. Whether you’re in the mood for traditional Texan desserts or some sugary snacks, you’ve got options, including Texas candy. But what is Texas candy? Let’s take a look. 

Green Sliced Organic Pickled Jalapenos - Texas View

What Is Texas Candy?

Texas candy, or cowboy candy, is the stuff of legend in the great state of Texas. Although there are now many different types, the classic cowboy candy is essentially sliced jalapeños preserved in a sweet and sour blend of sugar, spices, vinegar, and sometimes, syrup. 

As a sweet that dates back around a hundred years, the recipe has been tweaked and adjusted so you can find several variations. It’s not the most popular candy in the state, but you can find it virtually everywhere, especially in smaller towns with home-cooking-style restaurants. 

As you can imagine, Texas candy has a unique taste, but it’s damn good. It’s a perfect blend of sweet, sour, tangy, and spicy. Some people love snacking on them, but for the most part, the candy is used as a garnish for cocktails or as a crumbly topping for bread or guacamole. 

Once a homemade snack that was passed down through generations, cowboy candy is now widely available in stores. It’s usually packaged in a jar, like pickled jalapeños or onions. However, we highly recommend trying to make it yourself. It’s pretty straightforward. But more on that a little later. 

Texas Candy Origin 

In Texas, it’s very common for the word “cowboy” to be tagged onto different types of food, restaurants, cafes, or general products. It pays homage to the old days when cowboys roamed the southern lands, and ultimately, the term works quite well as a marketing ploy. 

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Although it’s difficult to pinpoint its origins exactly, the story goes that Texas candy was created in 1922 by a woman named Mindie Heironimus. Mindie was the grandmother of the owners of WWH Ranch, which is the oldest canning company in Texas. 

According to the ranch owners, Mindie had an extraordinary garden on the site of her family home, which was located in St. Augustine, Texas. Among the many plants, trees, fruits, and vegetables, it’s said that Mindie had enormous jalapeño trees that grew to be over six feet tall. 

Freshly Pickled Jalapeno Peppers - Texas View

Naturally, with jalapeño trees of that stature, she had a surplus of peppers but didn’t want them to go to waste. So, she came up with an off-the-cuff idea to use the same process as she did to make bread and butter pickles. The mix of spicy peppers with spices and sugar made for a far more interesting snack than pickles.

Apparently, Mindie would give these candies to local ranch hands to snack on. These men grew extremely fond of them. Soon after, the word was out about cowboy candy. Now, although this is a nice tale, there’s no telling how true it actually is. 

Texas Candy Recipe

If you’re already sold on this delightful snack, you’ll be looking for a Texas cowboy candy recipe. The great thing about preparing your own is that you can preserve them for months. However, if you’re like us, your cowboy candy won’t last much longer than a few days. 

So, with that, here’s our recipe:

Ingredients

Firstly, you’ll need to stock up on your ingredients. You can find most of these items in your local supermarket. Although the spices and sugar will change the flavor drastically, the type of chili peppers you use can impact the overall taste. So, if you’re a jalapeño lover, be sure to pick up some good ones. 

Aside from jalapeños (around 3 lbs.), you’ll need: 

  • Sugar (4 cups)
  • Apple cider vinegar (1 cup)
  • Red wine vinegar (1 cup)
  • Ground turmeric (½ teaspoon)
  • Cayenne pepper (1 teaspoon)
  • Garlic powder (1 tablespoon)
  • Celery seed (½ teaspoon)
  • Ginger (½ teaspoon)

Feel free to add your own twist by throwing in other spices or seasonings that you like. There’s plenty of room to experiment with cowboy candy. Now, with your ingredients in hand, here are the next step to brewing up a delicious batch of candied jalapeños. 

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Instructions

  1. Chop your jalapeños into round slices, approximately ¼-inches in width. We highly recommend wearing gloves for this part of the process. Once finished slicing, put the peppers to one side and move on to the next step. 
  2. Mix together your sugar, both types of vinegar, and spices in a pot. Bring the mixture to a boil then immediately lower the heat, reducing the mix to a gentle simmer until the sugar fully dissolves and you’re left with a sticky syrup.
  3. Place your sliced jalapeños into the mixture and ensure they’re fully covered. 
  4. Allow the peppers to rest in the simmering syrup for 4 to 5 minutes. The jalapeños will likely darken as they soak in the spices. 
  5. Using a ladle, transfer the peppers into sterilized jars (if you plan to store them). 
  6. Fill the jars with the leftover syrup and seal them when they’re full. 
  7. If you want to seal the jars airtight, look up how to do this using boiling water. 

Your Texas candy is now ready to eat. However, we recommend cooling it in the refrigerator first. After a week, the peppers will have fully absorbed the dense flavors. Cowboy candy typically lasts for around three months if kept in the fridge. 

image 7 - Texas View

Cowgirl Candy Vs Cowboy Candy 

Of course, we can’t forget about the cowgirls. Cowgirl candy, like its cowboy counterpart, comes in several varieties. However, the primary difference is that instead of using hot jalapeño peppers, you use sweet peppers, like bell peppers, pimento, or banana peppers. 

The idea behind the recipe is that cowgirl peppers are sweet and smooth, which contrasts with cowboy candy, which is a little rougher and rustic. If you want to try it out, use the same recipe as above but substitute the jalapeños for sweeter pepper varieties. 

Cowgirl candy is a great alternative for anyone who’s sensitive to spice. Although jalapeños aren’t the hottest peppers in the world, they can pack a punch.

Candy Invented In Texas

So, cowboy candy is most definitely an unusual recipe that’s unique to Texas. But, it’s not the only candy to come from the Lone Star State. In fact, it’s not even the most famous Texan candy. One of the most popular candy bars in the world was created in Texas. Can you guess what it is?

The Snickers bar was originally created in Waco, Texas. Franklin Clarence Mars, the man behind the Mars Wrigley confectionary group made the first ever Snickers in 1930. It fast became one of the fastest-selling chocolate bars in the country and they started to mass produce it in their Waco plant in 1976. 

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Today, approximately 65% of all Snickers sold in North America are made in the Waco plant. If you didn’t already know, Snickers is not only the best-selling candy bar in the U.S., but it’s the best-selling candy bar in the world. 

Famous Texas Candy 

There are several types of candy that people associate with Texas. And although many of them have been around for hundreds of years, some of these snacks, like pralines and brittle, were not created in Texas. They were brought here by immigrants and early settlers from Europe and beyond. 

Here are three famous Texas candies that you might not know originated from outside of the state. 

Steel pot with boiling caramel for making pralines - Texas View

Pralines

Pralines are synonymous with the South but originate from France and Belgium. They’re made with pecans and sugar. Texas pralines are sweet and creamy and often have a crispy fudge-like texture. They’re a favorite in traditional Texas restaurants and coffee shops. 

Caramel

Caramel is a very popular confectionery all over Texas, and there are several world-class caramel makers in the state. It’s mainly made from melting sugar, but in Texas, you’ll find caramel treats containing cream, butter, and different flavored syrups. 

Brittle

Brittle is another candy associated with Texas, but it was first made by the Celts. It’s made by combining sugar, peanuts, and butter, then flattening the mixture out before baking it. The texture is quite brittle (hence the name), and it’s generally served in broken pieces.

References

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Christian Linden Texas View Headshot 3 - Texas View
Author at Texas View | Texas View

Christian Linden is a seasoned writer and contributor at Texas View, specializing in topics that resonate with the Texan community. With over a decade of experience in journalism, Christian brings a wealth of knowledge in local politics, culture, and lifestyle. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Texas. When he's not writing, Christian enjoys spending weekends traveling across Texas with his family, exploring everything from bustling cities to serene landscapes.

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