How to Make Hot Pepper Jelly – Gifts From the Kitchen

Homemade hot pepper jelly is one of my favourite gifts from the kitchen. Although, my family won’t let me give it all away, so I always have to make a double batch. It’s one of our favorite snacks too!

hot pepper jelly jars

This is not your typical breakfast jam. Hot pepper jelly is sweet and spicy and pairs better with crackers and cheese than it does peanut butter and toast. This hot pepper jelly makes a great appetizer when combined with cheese – cream cheese, brie, Camembert, smoked cheddar, chevre, and so on.

hot pepper jelly over cream
Our favourite way to enjoy hot pepper jelly, over a little bit of cream cheese with crackers.

Recipe for Hot Pepper Jelly

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5 from 1 vote

Hot Pepper Jelly – Sweet & Spicy Gift From the Kitchen

A sweet and spicy jelly perfect for gift giving or for a fast and easy appetizer. To serve, cut a block of cream cheese in half, place in center of plate, spoon hot pepper jelly on top with some drizzling down the side. Serve with crackers and enjoy.
Prep : 5 mins
Cook : 15 mins
Total Time: 20 mins
Servings: 8 quarter pint jars


  • 3/4 cup sweet peppers finely chopped blend of yellow, red and orange
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots finely diced
  • 2-4 hot peppers you decide
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 pouch liquid pectin
  • No liquid pectin? Powder Pectin Substitute


  • Peppers and apricots should be diced finely and evenly. Smaller pieces will look more decorative and will be less likely to float to surface of jar.
  • Cut hot peppers into very small pieces. Keep some seeds for added heat.
  • Combine peppers, apricots, vinegar and sugar in stainless steel (not aluminum) pot.
  • Bring to full boil. Stirring constantly, boil hard for 1 minute.
  • Add pectin and return to boil for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat. Stir and rest for 3-5 minutes to help evenly distribute peppers in jelly.
  • Pour into hot jars leaving a ¼ inch (6 mm) headspace.
  • Wipe rim with clean cloth and seal with hot sealing lid.
  • Screw band on top and tighten finger tight.
  • Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.
  • Remove jars. Cool undisturbed for 24 hours and check seal.


Adapted from Bernardin's Guide to Home Preserving.
Yield 3-4 half pint (250 mL) jars or 8-9 quarter pint or (125 mL) jars
Option: According to the National Centre for Home Food Preservation, if you sterilize jars (boil for 10 minutes) before filling, hot water bath process half pint jars for 5 minutes instead of 10 minutes..
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hot pepper jelly close up
Beautiful combination of sweet and heat.

Tips for Making Hot Pepper Jelly

I often use this recipe in canning workshops, because it is an easy, small batch recipe that comes together quite quickly. Here are a few pointers that may help:

  • Small, even chopped pieces look more decorative and will be less likely to float to surface of jar.
  • Use liquid pectin for best results, if unavailable follow directions for Liquid Pectin Substitute.
  • Use whatever type of hot pepper you have access to and adjust how many to use according to your preference. For example jalapeno peppers are milder than serrano which are milder than cayenne which are milder than habanero peppers. Any of them will work, they’ll just change the spicyness. You can even use a combination. If necessary, you could use dried peppers.
  • The more seeds and inside ribs from the hot peppers you use, the spicier the jelly will be.
  • You can use white vinegar, apple cider vinegar or champagne vinegar at 5% acetic acid, but flavour will vary.
  • Trapped air inside cells of peppers and apricots will cause them to float to the surface of the jar. This isn’t a problem, it just means your jelly won’t have pretty coloured pieces throughout – they’ll all be at the top. To get them to spread out more evenly, cut them very small and let the cooked jelly cool slightly (3-5 minutes) before pouring into jars. Stir a few times during those 3-5 minutes, but don’t allow to cool totally. The jelly should still be quite hot when you pour it into the jars.
  • I have made this hot pepper jelly using no sugar needed powdered pectin. The jelly becomes a little grainy and less clear than when using this version. While I often prefer reduced sugar jams and jellies, in this case, I recommend the full sugar version using liquid pectin. Not a big deal for this special treat.
  • A large soup pot is all you need for the hot water bath. Simply line the bottom with a kitchen cloth or silicone trivet, cover jars with 1 inch water and boil.
  • The hot water bath process will ensure a safe, tight seal, please don’t skip this step! Especially if giving this gift to others.

hot pepper jelly and cracker

Using Hot Pepper Jelly

Here are some ideas to get you started – but remember don’t limit yourself!

Use as an appetizer with cheese and crackers (use cream cheese, goat cheese, brie, etc).
Serve with chicken, turkey, pork or duck.
Use as a spread on ham, turkey or left over roast meat sandwiches.
Use as a glaze when making a roast.
Use as a glaze for roasted vegetables (see carrots).
Mix into ground meat when making hamburgers or meatballs.
Use it in dressings or marinades to add a little heat.
Use in sweet and sour sauces.

finished roasted carrots with hot pepper jelly on serving dish
Hot pepper glazed roasted carrots are a great side dish.

Another Savoury Jam

If you like sweet and savory jellies, you may also want to check out this Tomato Jam. It’s less sweet than this Hot Pepper Jelly and another great topping for goat cheese and crackers. Add as much or as little spice as you like by varying the amount of hot pepper flakes. I think you’re going to like it!

tomato jam on crackers w - watermarked

tomato jam - watermarked

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  1. I made this recipe yesterday and found that it set up very stiff. It was very difficult to spread on the goat cheese topped on a cracker. I just read online that when using ‘liquid’ pectin it should be added after the first ingredients boil for one minute. Then it said that you take the jelly with the added pectin off the heat and ‘not bring to a boil again’ which is explained to do in this recipe. I wonder if that is why the jelly is the consistency it is. I would not chose to make this recipe again because of this. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Nancy,
      It’s hard to know why your jelly set up so firmly, I have never had that happen to me and I use this recipe in many workshops. I have made the mistake of using expired pectin and having very runny jelly – totally my mistake!

      Liquid, powdered, low sugar, no sugar pectins all work slightly differently and have different cooking methods and requirements. For example, as you discovered liquid pectin is typically added toward the end of the cooking process while powdered pectin is used at the beginning. It is important to follow jam making instructions carefully and always use the type of pectin specified in a recipe in order to get the results you want.

      My family loves this recipe, I hope you’ll give it another try some time.
      All the best,


      1. Thanks for your reply. I believe I followed your recipe closely but was unsuccessful although flavour there. Only when I plan on ‘gifting’ does this happen. Go figure:)

        1. Yes, that’s exactly when things go wonky! No idea what could have caused your jelly to be extra stiff.

    1. I’ve never tried freezing this jelly before so I’m not sure how it will hold up. There are no safety reasons why you shouldn’t be able to freeze this jelly, it’s just a matter of whether or not the texture and color will stay true. I suspect it should be fine.

      Are you asking because you prefer to avoid the hot water bath? If so, let me just say the hot water bath is super easy, even if you’ve never done it before or you don’t have a canner. You do need proper canning jars though – I recommend the wee little ones so you don’t have to worry about finishing a whole jar at once. Simply line a big soup pot with a dish cloth, place sealed jars in pot, cover with 1 inch of water and boil for 10 minutes. That’s it! Then they’ll be safe on the shelf for at least a year.

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