Habanero Jelly

photo of jars of habanero jellyI dearly love this recipe. This is one of my first “my” recipes. I would make jars of this and we would use it at home and my husband would give away jars of it to his buddies. And, while it is not a big deal, it was one of the first things that I ever created that made me feel like I was good at cooking.

Also, jelly making is sort of a lost art. I like the very idea of it. Jelly is kind of like pie in that way. When you make it, you feel like you are connecting yourself to a bygone era.

photo of ingredients for habanero jellyYou might wonder if habanero jelly is, frankly, a bad idea. After all, habanero peppers are ridiculous, really. Peppers are ranked by their heat in something called Scoville units, named after the pharmacist who first devised the measurement. While generalizing about the pungency of peppers can be misleading given that any two peppers of the same variety can have very different levels of “heat,” one can generally say that habaneros rank wildly higher than most peppers in Scoville Heat Units. For instance, jalapenos get a score of about 2,500 units. Habaneros garner a score between 100,000 and 350,000 Scoville Heat Units. Therefore, for most purposes, habaneros are practically a gimmick. No offense to people who love them, but they are brutal. I have a bottle of habanero powder that I use only for scaring squirrels away from my tomato plants. One half teaspoon of the stuff made a batch of chili inedible.

photo of how to prepare peppers for habanero jellyBut, when you add 5 cups of sugar to them, all of a sudden you have one of those delightful culinary contrasts. It is sweet and spicy. It is cool and hot. It is just delicious. And it is not painful, in any way. My husband eats it straight on Triscuits and even on peanut butter sandwiches. But it is best served on goat cheese or cream cheese on crackers. It is the easiest nibble in the world to have on the table in 10 seconds for guests, if you have a stash of the jelly in your pantry. It would also make a fantastic glaze for pork, I think.

Give this a shot. It doesn’t matter if you have never made jelly before. This is a great starting place. Basically, you chop up some habaneros…enough to make a packed ½ cup. You are welcome to use more, but don’t blame me if it makes people cry. I keep my habaneros in the freezer. They are very easy to handle frozen. Do not thaw them, just put on your rubber gloves and start cleaning out the seeds and stems. (Also, they have some magical anti-frost property that fascinates me. I hope some really smart person is studying that.) Meticulously clean all of your knives, cutting boards, and your hands as you go. Please.

photo of preparing ingredients for habanero jellyPrecap: You whiz up the peppers in the food processor with vinegar and an apple and then you heat that mixture with sugar until you have a hot syrup. Next add pectin, which is a food gelling agent. It is found naturally in many fruits, including apples. I use Certo. You will need 1-½ packets of the gel. Eyeball the half packet amount. Make sure you check the date on the package. If it is even close to expiring, do not buy it. Old pectin will not set the jelly and you will be (as I have been) very irritated. After some additional cooking, the jelly is ready to go. Simply put it in jars and seal them. Placing the jars upside down for a spell and then inverting them causes a vacuum seal that renders the jelly safe to store in the pantry. This is not the case for all preserved foods and is particular to high acid mixtures such as this. Do not use this method for any other purposes. But, boom, that is all it takes. Let’s go.

photo of boiling habanero jellySupplies:

Jars: This recipe uses 8 oz. jars with lids and screw bands. You can buy a set of 12 for about 10 dollars. Any extras are great for kids drinking glasses, piggy banks, dressing shakers, etc.

Rubber Gloves: Habaneros are ridiculously hot peppers. If you get pepper juice on your hands and rub it on your eyes (or any other sensitive parts) or, God forbid, touch a child’s owie or eyes, you will never forgive yourself or me. Habaneros are far hotter than jalapenos. This is not a good recipe for kids, by the way. The combination of nuclear hot peppers and boiling syrup are not suitable for the small set. In fact, this is a project for a day when they are no where near your kitchen.

Pots and Pans: A large stock pot for sterilizing jars and another saucepan for boiling the jelly.

Dish Towels: You will need many dish towels or paper towels for this. You will need to do a lot of tidying up after you handle the peppers. You need fresh, clean towels to dry the jars and lids. You need another one for the surface that you are using to fill and invert the jars. And you will need yet another fresh, clean towel for cleaning any sticky mess off of the finished jars.

A ladle: For dipping the jelly into the jars.

photo of sterilizing and filling jars of habanero jelly

Habanero Jelly
Recipe type: Jelly
This is one of my favorite recipes on the whole site. This jelly served on top of a block of cream cheese is just about the best cheese and crackers event in town.
  • ½ cup habanero pepper, seeds and stems removed
  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1½ packets liquid pectin (one pouch plus one-half pouch)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  1. In a large pot of simmering water, sterilize six 8 oz. jars. Leave the jars in the water until you are ready to use them. You will need tongs or other long grabbing device to remove them from the hot water.
  2. Place the habanero peppers and apple in a food processor. Add the vinegar and process until fine.
  3. In a heavy, non-aluminum saucepan, combine the processed peppers and apples, water and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for one minute (it takes about 15 minutes to get it to simmering and an additional minute to get it to boiling on my stove). Take abundant care at this stage. You need to be present to adjust your stove as the syrup bubbles. It can quickly boil over which is not only exceptionally dangerous, but also very messy.
  4. Meanwhile, pour boiling water over the lids and screw bands in a small bowl. Leave them in the hot water until you are ready to use them.
  5. After the syrup has boiled for one minute, remove it from heat and stir in the pectin. Then, return to heat and boil one minute longer.
  6. Remove the mixture from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. Using a wooden spatula or other tool, skim off any foam or white film that accumulates on top. Use a light hand when doing this, as a large proportion of the peppers tries to get stuck in the foam. Removing too much of the pepper bits will reduce the heat of the jelly. Stir in chopped rosemary.
  7. Ladle the jelly into sterilized jars. Wipe the rims of the jars and dry the lids and screw bands. Seal the jars. Place sealed jars upside down on a towel. Leave them inverted for approximately 20 minutes and then turn them upright. To distribute the peppers and rosemary equally, turn the jars occasionally until the jelly sets.

Beware: If the jelly sets entirely while the jars are upside down, you have a problem. I have done this. I ran to drop off my kids at camp and left the jars upside down. By the time I returned, they were setting and I was barely able to get it all back down to the bottom of the jar. Lest you think I am a moron, you should know that the jelly can take from hours to days to set up. This batch took 3 hours flat. When you notice that the bits in the jars are not floating up and down when you turn the jar over, you may just leave them upright.

photo of habanero jelly on crackers with cream cheese


  1. Libby says

    I just finished my first batch! I couldn’t find liquid pectin at the grocery store, so I bought the powdered. Good thing I checked the conversion online though. I followed your recipe, but added the pectin with all ingredients except the sugar then bringing it to a boil; after which I added the sugar. It was so thick that I added some more cider vinegar and some more water (about 1 cup total) and then brought to a boil and boiled for one minute. I added the rosemary at the end and then ladled into 5 jars; processed them for 5 minutes in a water canner. They are beautiful. The rosemary and chopped peppers/apples are suspended throughout so I’m not going to invert. I did taste this and it is delicious. Have you ever made it with the powdered pectin?

    Love your recipe!

  2. Joanne says

    This summer our habanero plant produced a huge amount of peppers. So I decided to try your recipe this weekend. We had it with our chicken tonight. It was so good. Just the right amount of heat. I still have a lot of habaneros, so I am making more this weekend. Thank you for a great recipe! We all love it!

  3. Wendy says

    Love it! We didn’t know what to do with all the peppers that didn’t go into salsa… and now we do :)

  4. Courtney says

    I made a triple batch today to give as gifts and they have set up perfectly. I can’t wait to try it!

  5. Joanne says

    Hi, your recipe is almost the same as the one I use for red pepper jelly although the ratio is a diffrent. This makes sense since it would be much too hot… I can’t wait to try it :-)

  6. Wanda says

    How many peppers would you use for this recipe. I wasn’t sure if you meant half a cup after they are ground or just chopped peppers in half a cup.


  7. Kelly says

    Hi Wanda. In the cleaning of the peppers, you will cut them in half and take out the seeds, stems and membranes. Put those halves into a half cup measure. You can press them down gently to get a good half cup. That is what I do. The next time I make it I will weigh them precisely. I should have done that already. It is hard to name a number of peppers because they tend to vary in size and bulk considerably around here. And, a lot depends on just how hot your peppers are, too. I use the same amount of pepper every time, give or take a pepper. And the heat is never exactly the same. But a half cup of halves always does the trick for me. I hope this helps.

  8. Wanda says

    Well I just finished making this recipe. it made 6 half-pint jars. I was curious as to why it
    called for more Certo. I have always used just one package in my green pepper jelly. Just
    curious. Can’t wait to try it. I couldn’t do much about the rosemary settling on the top since
    you said may not be a good idea to turn the jars upside down for very long but could always give it a mix when we take the lid off. I have so many habanero peppers coming in so will make more
    of this recipe of we like it. Reviews have been good so far.

  9. Wanda says

    I loved this recipe. The only thing I changed in my next batch was I used only one package of
    certo. I like my jelly a little more spreadable and I also used a little more sugar, but other than
    that I didn’t change anything else. My habanero plant produced so many I am going to make more. I am interested in Joanne’s idea with the chicken. How did you use it with chicken? Thanks

  10. Mary-Jane Tanner says

    Is the Habanero Jelly clear and could you add some chili seeds for texture and colour?
    Thanks I need to know soon.

  11. Kelly says

    This is a fairly spicy jelly, really. It is sweet, but there is definitely a kick. I would personally not add seeds, particularly not the habanero seeds. The jelly is transparent, but it also has flecks of pepper skin, rosemary, and little tiny bits of apple floating around so it really doesn’t need the color, either. However, if you are in the mood for a really spicy jelly, you might give it a shot with the red pepper flakes. I have no idea how it would turn out, but I’m intrigued. But be sure to come back and tell us all how it turns out if you do. Good luck!

  12. Kelly says

    Rhoni, I’m sorry I’m just gettin to this. One pouch has 3 ounces. So you would need about 4.5 ounces of liquid pectin.

  13. Donna says

    We absolutely love this jelly! This is the 3rdme we’ve made it and this time we tripled the recipe. We use it over softened cream cheese with crackers, but my families favorite is to melt the jelly with a little water then coat chicken with the jelly, roll in bread crumbs and bake. I usually pour the remaining jelly over the chicken before baking :D

  14. Sean says

    Have you ever made lemon balm jelly? I was thinking of adding that to this mix and give it a lemony, sweet heat.

  15. Brooke - in Oregon says

    Found your recipe on Pinterest and fell in love, I’ve made 4 batches!! I think it is my recipe treasure find of 2014. Thanks so much for sharing

  16. Kelly W. says

    I made this today and the flavor was amazing, but it wasn’t spicy at all. That’s weird right? I’m going to try it again tomorrow and see if by only using the first half of the Habanero( under the stem) it may spice it up a bit more. What are your thoughts on adding seeds and how long did you process yours in the water bath? Could over-processing contribute to making it less spicy? We like it hot at my house and this recipe rocks. Please help me add spice!

  17. Kelly says

    Hi Kelly, let’s see. First, this recipe doesn’t use a water bath, just inverted jars (which is not recommended generally) but that’s how I do this one. I don’t think the water bath should damage the heat of the peppers even if you did process them, though. Here’s a scary question, did you taste your habaneros before using them by any chance? Again, generally NOT recommended, but I wonder if you might have come across a batch of low heat peppers. If they are up to snuff, it will be a rather miserable and fiery experience. If they are duds, well, you might be able to have a tiny nibble without crying. I ask because I often run across jalapenos these days that are no hotter than bell peppers and it makes me crazy. Personally, I would just increase the amount of peppers that you use by half and see how that works. I would not use the seeds, but if you do, by all means let us know how it turns out. Good Luck! I like it spicy too. You might also just have an incredible tolerance for the heat…in which case…I salute you.

  18. Kelly W. says

    LOL! I had my husband try one of my left over habaneros from the garden and they were ridiculously mild. So sorry! I can’t wait to make it again this week with Farmer’s Market peppers instead. I did process them for 10 minutes and they all sealed. Do you serve them fresh?

  19. Kyle says

    So this year I have a bountiful harvest of habaneros (300+ peppers) and I was searching the interweb for something to do with these guys. I stumbled across your blog. I have never been a fan of pepper jelly even though my deep southern roots have forced it into my world throughout my life, but being a foodie I had to give this a try. I love the color and the artisan look of the jelly (the normal fake color of pepper jelly was my first turn off). I love anything that uses an ingredient (rosemary in this case) in a non traditional way that seems to elevate the product. And I love anything habanero related. I made the first batch and the resulting jelly looked beautiful. I let it sit for about a week and tried it with goat and fancy crackers. My wife and I ate an entire half pint and would have eaten more if I had more cheese! It is amazing. We have shared with friends, family, and coworkers and everyone has nothing but fabulous things to say. Our entire Christmas list is getting a jar and I can’t wait to have it at all our holiday celebrations! Thanks for sharing your recipe!!

  20. Kelly says

    You are so welcome, Kyle. I’m glad you have had such good results with the recipe. Thank you so much for the kind comment. I truly appreciate it.

  21. Manfred says

    I have a habanero plant on my balcony and it has grown a lot of chillies, so I searched the internet for a preservation method. I wondered if there was something like a habanero jam (we don’t have that here in Austria, I never heard of it), so I googled that and found your recipe! I just finished the first batch and it is still setting, but I already tasted what was left in the pot, and it is so good! That fruity tangy taste of the habaneros is perfectly preserved and it’s not followed by the usual flash of pain, but it’s sweet and tasty and moderatly hot. Thank you very much! Greetings from Austria, Manfred

  22. Brooke - in Oregon says

    This is now a ‘must have’ in our house! I made 4 batches last year and will have to shoot for 5 this year. It’s a perfect hostess gift, then of course they want more ;) thank you so much for this little treasure

  23. cathie says

    I have been making your recipe for 3 years. Everyone loves it. I use all the stems, seeds and membranes and use ten habaneros per batch. A great recipe! Thanks so much! I made two batches today.

  24. Andrew says

    I made this about a month ago, EVERYONE loved it. Absolutely amazing, my first time making jelly and growing habaneros too (which turned out nice and hot). I’ll be looking to make it again soon with some twists, open to any ideas?

  25. Kelly says

    Cathie, I’m so glad you like the recipe. I’m impressed that you use all the seeds. I’ll have to try that one of these days. Wowza!


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