Spicy Red Pepper Jelly (Without Added Pectin)

Sweet, tangy and delicious, Spicy Red Pepper Jelly (No Added Pectin) is the perfect condiment to serve with cream cheese and crackers. With free printable labels!

I love making pickles, chutney and relishes. As soon as the weather warms up and the summer fruit and veg hits the stalls, I am already plotting what tasty treats I am going to cook up next. 

Out of all my recipes, none is more popular than my Spicy Red Pepper Jelly. It’s not an exaggeration to say I have made hundreds of jars of this deliciously spicy and sweet jelly and it is as beautiful to look at as it is to eat.

Spicy Red Pepper Jelly in jars.

Why this recipe works

You don’t need to buy pectin to set red pepper jelly. The solution is to add some natural pectin in the form of pectin rich granny smith apples to the jelly to help it to set the natural way.

This gives the jelly a lovely loose set – ideal for using as a dip or a sauce. This is such an easy, natural way of cooking, without any special ingredients.

Peppers for Red Pepper Jelly on a chopping board with a chef's knife.

Ingredients

To make my Red Pepper Jelly recipe, you’ll need the following main ingredients:

  • Red Bell Peppers (Capsicums): I like to use red bell peppers for their deep, rich colour, but you can switch things up and use red and yellow for a bright orange jelly, or green for a green jelly! Green peppers don’t have as much natural sweetness as red, so you may need to add a touch more sugar.
  • Chilli Peppers: This one is up to you, and how spicy you like your pepper jelly. Want it extra spicy? Throw in those habaneros or scotch bonnets. Prefer a more mild taste? Jalapeños give a lovely spice without being too hot.
  • Granny Smith Apples: You need a good, tart apple with plenty of natural pectin, so go for Granny Smith in this recipe, they are guaranteed to work and taste great.
  • Sugar: White sugar will give the best colour and flavour result in this recipe.
  • Vinegar: I like to use plain white vinegar for this recipe, as above it means the red of the peppers will show up most beautifully.
Peppers and Chillies for Red Pepper Jelly in a food processor.

Method

This is a simple and very forgiving recipe, though you’ll need to stick around the kitchen while it boils to give it a stir every now and then and ensure it doesn’t catch.

  1. First, dice the peppers and chillies. I thoroughly recommend using a food processor to do this as you’ll get nice little pieces, extract some lovely juice and avoid getting chilli on your fingers! You’l also need to grate the granny smith apple.
  2. Next, add everything to a heavy based saucepan, along with the sugar and vinegar, stir until the sugar has dissolved over a medium heat, then simmer for around 20 minutes.
  3. While the jelly is simmering, you can sterilise some glass jars in a hot oven and pour boiling water over the lids.
  4. Last, all you need to do is pour the hot jelly into your sterilised jars! The jelly will still be quite liquid while it is hot, so you’ll need to let it cool to set and gel overnight.
Apple and Peppers for Red Pepper Jelly in a saucepan.

The detailed ingredients and method can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

About this recipe

A bit of background. When I was living in Cyprus I spent a very happy couple of summers running a stall at the local markets selling jams, chutneys, pickles and relishes. Every week I would buy up loads of the incredible local produce and then set to work like a mad scientist, with a kitchen full of bubbling pots. 

Boiling up hundreds of jars of preserves every week was an enormous amount of effort, especially as the temperature outside crept over 40°C (that’s 104°F!), but it was an absolute joy and gave me a lot of practice in preserving.

This was one of my most popular recipes and guaranteed to sell out every week. I had to get creative however, as Pepper Jelly in the U.S.A is commonly made with commercial pectin to set it, however, in Cyprus pectin is nowhere to be found.

Red Pepper Jelly in jars.

Is this red pepper jelly very spicy?

I like to add a couple of mild chillies to my Spicy Red Pepper Jelly – after all, that’s what makes it spicy! You can adjust the heat to your taste. For a more mild heat, use jalapeños, for some serious spice throw in a couple of birds eye or habanero chillies. Experiment and see what you like.

The type of chilli peppers you add is up to you. For a mild heat go for jalapeños, if you like it extra hot use birds-eye or Trinidad Scorpions!

Red Pepper Jelly Recipe Ideas

While pepper jelly it is often simply served with cream cheese as a party dip, my Spicy Red Pepper Jelly makes an excellent sauce for a quick stir-fried chicken or pork too. Stir fry the meat and any vegetables and simply stir through the jelly with a squeeze of lime at the end of the cooking time. Yum!

Looking for more preserves and chutneys?

Why not try my totally addictive Autumn Fruit Chutney? Or Deirdre’s famous Beetroot and Orange Relish?


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How long will red pepper jelly last?

In sterilised jars, stored in a cool, dark place, Spicy Red Pepper Jelly will keep at least two years.

How do I fill the jars without making a mess?

If you are having trouble filling your jars without making a mess all over the counter (like me), try using a jam funnel (link in recipe card). Trust, me, life-changing!

Can I use dried chillies in red pepper jelly?

Yes, you can! Just add the dried chillies to taste while the jelly is cooking.

Can I use other coloured peppers to make pepper jelly?

Yes! Red, green or yellow peppers are all fine. Green bell peppers and green jalapeños make for an especially delicious jelly.

Do I have to use apple in red pepper jelly?

The purpose of the apple in this jelly is to add some natural pectin to help the jelly set. If you leave it out you will need to use another type of setting agent, or boil the peppers down until they are very thick – Which can affect the texture. Make sure to use a tart apple variety, granny smith apples are ideal.

Can I make a double batch of red pepper jelly?

Yes, though the larger batch you make the longer it will take to cook down, which can alter the flavour. When I am making larger batches of Red Pepper Jelly I use multiple saucepans so the cooking time remains the same.


Spicy Red Pepper Jelly on a spoon on top of bread.

What to do if jelly doesn’t set

First of all, don’t panic! It is perfectly possible to recook jelly, though it does mean washing your jars again which I’ll admit is a bit of a pain.

If you are having trouble with jelly setting it is a good idea to use a jam thermometer. Reboil the mixture until it reaches 104.5°C / 220°F (this will happen quickly as most of the water has already been cooked off!) and pour into clean jars.

Spicy Red Pepper Jelly

Spicy Red Pepper Jelly

Jay Wadams
Sweet, tangy and delicious, Spicy Red Pepper Jelly is the perfect condiment to serve with cream cheese and crackers. It’s also delicious as a sauce for chicken or pork. This recipe is made with NO added commercial pectin.
4.66 from 40 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Serves 3 x 250ml / 1 cup capacity Jars

Ingredients
 

  • 2 red bell peppers / capsicums, or 1 red, 1 yellow
  • 2-3 chilli peppers, to taste
  • 1 granny smith apple, cored and grated
  • 400 g sugar
  • 250 ml white or apple cider vinegar

Instructions
 

  • DICE THE PEPPERS: Finely dice the peppers and chilli. It is better to use a food processor, as this helps to release the juices, but you can do this by hand if you like. Grate the apple, then put the peppers and the apple into a large, heavy-based saucepan.
  • ADD SUGAR AND VINEGAR: Stir through the sugar and vinegar, then heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to a rolling simmer, then simmer for 20 minutes until the mixture has reduced and begun to thicken.
  • PREPARE YOUR JARS: Meanwhile, heat the oven to 120°C / 250°F / Gas ½ and wash your jars in warm soapy water. Place the jars in a baking dish in the oven to sterilise. Place the lids in a heatproof bowl and pour over boiling water.
  • JAR AND COOL: After the jelly has reduced, allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a heatproof jug. Pour into the hot, sterilised jars. If you find the pieces of pepper are floating to the top of the jar, invert the jars every 10 minutes until set.
  • SETTING TIME: The jelly will be still quite liquid while hot. Allow to set and gel overnight. Store in a cool dry place and don’t forget to label the jars.

Notes

If you are having trouble filling your jars without making a mess all over the counter (like me), try using a jam funnel like this one. Trust, me, life-changing!

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition

Serving: 1Tbsp | Calories: 87kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Sodium: 1mg | Sugar: 21g
Tried this recipe?Leave a review or a star rating and let me know how it was! Use the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram so I can see your delicious creations.
Course | Preserves
Cuisine | American
Red Pepper Jelly Labels

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Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author, food photographer and Le Cordon Bleu Gastronomy and Nutrition graduate. Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

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34 Comments

  1. I am making this for the second time! It is the best pepper jelly I have ever tasted or made. The Apple gives it the right amount of pectin. I am using less sugar on my second batch. Thanks,

    • Hi Vanessa, that’s my pleasure, I’m so glad you found this recipe! It was just the same for me living in Cyprus, no pectin anywhere! I’d love to know how you get on! J

  2. What a great recipe! I doubled it using red and green bell peppers (2 of each) and 6 jalapeno peppers (2 with seeds and ribbing) Simply wonderful!!! Thank you so much!

    • Hi Leah! Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I am so happy you like this recipe, I love the idea of all those jalapeños and the red and green must look beautiful! Enjoy and Happy Christmas! J.

    • Hi Jane! I’m so sorry for the delayed reply, I’ve just seen your message. Yes, you can absolutely replace the chilli peppers with chilli flakes, just adjust the amount to suit how spicy you like it! xJ

  3. I made this today! I doubled the recipe and added a couple of small apples that I had in the fridge to use them up. It did, however take the better part of the afternoon to cook down but hubby says it’s yummy. We’re going to serve it with cream cheese tomorrow!

    • Hi Jessica! Thanks for dropping by. The amount depends a bit on the size of your peppers (sometimes they are huge!) and the apple, I usually get 3-4 standard jam/peanut butter jar sizes out of this recipe. That’s roughly 300ml / 10 fl. oz per jar. Have a great weekend – I’d love to know how the recipe goes for you! J.

    • Hi Kim! The amount depends a bit on the size of your peppers (sometimes they are huge!) and the apple, I usually get 3-4 standard jam/peanut butter jar sizes out of this recipe. That’s roughly 300ml / 10 fl. oz per jar. J

  4. Beautiful color and taste! I doubled the recipe , used Bell peppers and Trinidad Scorpions that I grew in my garden. Careful with those Trinidads, they are lethal! Did take a couple hours to cook down but well worth it Will definitely make it again

    • Hi Rebecca! Thank you so much for your lovely comment, those Trinidad Scorpions sound extra spicy! Delicious I bet. I’m so happy you like this recipe. If you are doing a double batch it can be quicker to use two saucepans – that way it cooks down faster :). J.

    • I have an abundance of Time Bomb peppers, would they work in place of the bell peppers? If so, do you have a guess as to how many would equal one bell pepper?

      And can this recipe be canned safely? I’ll read your blog post again, it’s hard to navigate on my phone with the ads and such so I may have missed that 😉

      • Hi Elise! Ooh lucky you with all those peppers! I have never tried that specific variety but they look good! I see that they have a bit of heat in them, so it would depend on how spicy you like your food. I do know that readers have made it using Trinidad scorpions! It might be better to make a half and half batch and see if you like the amount of heat? This recipe can be water bath canned, there is plenty of acid and sugar in it though, so I usually don’t find it necessary – it all gets eaten up quickly anyway! I’d love to know how you get on! J.

  5. 5 stars
    The colour of this jelly is so bright and lovely – put it on the side of anything for the colour pop – easy recipe – easy to adjust hotness by adding extra chille, I will be making little jars for christmas hampers this season – Love it!

    Thank you so much Trudie! I love the idea of putting it in hampers! Thank you so much for writing this review! J.

  6. I need ratios…i.e., I diced 3 large red bell peppers which yielded 4 cups. I’m going to use cayenne and jalapenos for the heat, but have no idea how many or how much. I’m thinking I’ll start with 1/2 cup diced hot pepper mixture, do a taste test, then if too hot, I’ll add more bell pepper. I will add a medium Granny Smith apple, but don’t recall using apple in the jelly I made 3-4 years ago. Another question: what do you mean by ‘plain white vinegar’? I have white vinegar suitable for canning, white wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar with the mother.

    • Hi Jeanette! Some great questions here! This is one of the few recipes that I cook where I am not super strict about weights and ratios as there are quite a lot of variables with how juicy bell peppers are at different times of year and in different countries which can affect the outcome. I think I will update it shortly to address some of your queries, but in the meantime, I hope I can help!
      1) Hot peppers are very much to taste! Some people fill it up with habaneros or scotch bonnets and are very happy, my mother-in-law adds no spicy pepper at all! It depends on how spicy your peppers are and how spicy you like your food, though because of the sugar and vinegar, it can tolerate quite a bit of heat.
      2) I always use a granny smith apple as this provides the natural pectin required to set the jelly. Without the apple, you’ll need to boil the mixture for a very long time which can make it dense and gummy, rather than soft and jelly-like. No need to peel, just grate and stir through.
      3) Great question! Any light coloured vinegar between 5-6% acidity. White canning vinegar, white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar are all fine. Darker vinegars will also work, however they will alter the colour of the finished jelly. Because the flavours in this are so strong, I use the plainest bulk vinegar I can find, which is usually sold in Australia and New Zealand as simply ‘white vinegar’.
      I hope this helps! J.

  7. Hello,
    Does this recipe work for water bath canning? If so, how long do I process it and how much head space is needed in the jars?
    Thank you!

  8. I am so pleased to make an attempt at your recipe as I have a surplus of hit red peppers and I want to make as Xmas gifts
    My question is how long does the jam
    last once made and does it need to be stored in the fridge thanks

    • Hi Jo! I am so happy you have found this recipe, it makes fabulous Christmas gifts! In answer to your questions, as long as your jars and lids are properly clean and sterilised, this jam lasts a very long time (years!) and doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge until opened. It’s got plenty of vinegar and sugar in it which keeps it well preserved. Happy cooking! J.

    • Hi Merri, I am so happy to hear you are making this recipe! It should be fine to freeze, but it is not necessary for this recipe, as long as your jars are nice and clean. This sort of preserve keeps for many years due to the amount of sugar and vinegar used. (I just opened a jar from 2018 and it was delicious!) Freezing may give you a slightly looser set on thawing, but it will still be perfectly tasty. Happy cooking! J.

  9. I was so excited to stumble across this recipe! I found another recipe that called for pectin, but I have literally NEVER used pectin in any of my jams before, so that was intimidating. Knowing that I could use a granny smith instead is going to make a huge difference in what I can cook from here on out! I’m planning to use your recipe with one of each red, yellow, and green bell peppers and apple cider vinegar tomorrow! As for the spice, would I be better off using fresh jalapeños or chili pepper flakes for a better flavor profile? If I don’t hear from you, I’ll try a batch with each and let you know how it goes!

    • Hi Jasmine, I am delighted you have found this recipe! It has long been one of the most popular recipes on my website and I make it a lot to give as gifts (and for myself!). Yes, granny smith apples are loaded with pectin and will help just about any jam set, so it is a great trick when you are dealing with low pectin fruit.

      Your pepper jelly idea sounds fabulous! For the best and brightest flavour I recommend jalapeños (I am also a jalapeño addict, so of course I would say that!) but chili pepper flakes have a lovely warm flavour profile too so you can’t go wrong. Happy cooking and welcome to my website, I hipe you find lots more recipes to cook. All the very best for the festive season, J.

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