Red Pepper Jelly

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Dive into the world of homemade red pepper jelly! Discover a recipe that’s flavorful, versatile, and perfect for every gathering. Elevate your appetizers and entrees with this delightful condiment.

block of cream cheese covered in pepper jelly

In this post, you’re going to learn how to make red pepper jelly. It’s delicious in a variety of ways including this easy this easy appetizer served over cream cheese with crackers. No matter how you serve it, this homemade red pepper jelly is a hit every single time.

If you’re a long-time follower of Inspired by Charm, you may remember pre-Bayberry house when I was running my B&B and Gift Shop. I used to make jams and jellies (including this red pepper jelly) to sell in the shop and include in my gift baskets.

It’s been a while now, so I’ve forgotten the exact number, but I probably made a couple of thousand jars of jam and jelly during those years. It’s crazy to think about. I made everything from blackberry to strawberry and even unique concoctions like champagne and ginger peach.

ritz crackers on a plate with cream cheese and pepper jelly on top

But of all the jams, one of my favorites was red pepper jelly. I know it sounds different, but I love it. Trust me on this. You need to try it.

Even better, this makes the most perfect appetizer. Just place a block of cream cheese on a plate, spoon over your homemade jelly, add a spreader, and serve with crackers. Done. If you have last-minute visitors, this is a lifesaver.

And if you like that idea, I think you’ll also love my Cream Cheese Caramel Apple Spread. It’s just as easy and delicious!

Want more serving ideas? You’ve got it! I’ve shared several towards the end of this post. They are many delicious ways to enjoy this jelly.

knife slicing into cream cheese cracker appetizer

The recipe I’m giving you takes you through the steps for preserving and sealing your jars. You can skip this part if you plan on storing the jelly in your fridge and eating it pretty quickly (in about a week or two).

I do like to seal the jars because this jelly makes a great handmade holiday gift, and any extra jars can be stored in the pantry for up to a year.

No matter how you serve it or store it, there are so many reasons to love this recipe.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Those red and green bell peppers? Not just for color, my friend. They pack a delightful sweetness that harmonizes perfectly with the kick from the jalapenos. Every bite is a journey from sweet to spicy.
  • Whether you’re spreading it over some cream cheese, jazzing up a sandwich, or using it as a glaze for grilled meats, this jelly’s got you. The serving options are endless!
  • Making jelly is an art and, like all arts, takes a bit of practice. But when you get it right? Oh, the satisfaction is unparalleled! And hey, even the ‘not-so-perfect’ batches are delicious learning experiences.
red and green bell peppers chopped finely


There are only a handful of simple ingredients in this iconic red pepper jelly. Here’s what you need to have when you make it.

  • Bell Peppers – Use both red and green bell peppers. Remember to use red bell peppers if you want the jelly to have that classic red color.
  • Jalapeno Peppers – This is what gives the jelly some spice!
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – You’ll need the vinegar because it creates a chemical reaction with the pectin. Apple Cider Vinegar has the best flavor for the jelly, but you can also use white vinegar instead.
  • Powder Pectin – This gels everything together effortlessly.
  • Sugar – You’ll definitely want to use plenty of sugar to sweeten the jelly.

With your ingredients ready, I think it’s time to start making this red pepper jelly. Let’s get to it!

red pepper jelly pinterest image

How to Make

If you’re new to jam and jelly making, I highly recommend reading the section below this. It’s all about understanding and troubleshooting your jelly set. There are some helpful tips and tricks if you’re new to this process.

With that being said, I’ll walk you through the steps of making red pepper jelly below.  For your convenience, I’ve also provided a full ingredient list and detailed instructions in the printable recipe card at the end of this post.

  1. Start by sterilizing six 8-ounce canning jars and lids according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Begin heating your water in a hot water canner for processing. I’ve included a printable recipe card below for a full rundown of the recipe ingredients and instructions.
  2. Place the red bell peppers, green bell peppers, and jalapeño peppers into a large saucepan over high heat. Mix in the apple cider vinegar and Sure-Jell pectin.
  3. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil while stirring constantly. Then, quickly stir in the sugar. Return to a rolling boil and boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam.
  4. Then, quickly ladle the jelly into your prepared jars, filling each 1/4 inch from the top. Cover with flat lids, then screw on the bands tightly.
  5. Place the jars into the canning rack and slowly lower the jars into the canner. The water should cover the jars completely and should be hot but not boiling. Bring water to a boil and process for five minutes.
  6. Remove the jars and allow them to cool completely.
red pepper jelly pouring off of a spoon into a small jar

Understanding and Troubleshooting the Jelly Set

Making the perfect red pepper jelly is as much an art as it is a science. I’ve made more batches of jelly that I can count and I still have troubles from time to time. One of the most frequent concerns among jelly-makers is achieving the right consistency. Here’s a guide on how to ensure your jelly sets properly, and what to do if it doesn’t:

Recognizing the Setting Point:

The consistency of your jelly as it cooks is a reliable indicator of whether it will set once cooled.

  • The Sheet or Spoon Test: Dip a cool metal spoon into the boiling jelly. When you lift it out and tilt it, the jelly should pour off the edge in two separate drops that merge into one sheet. If it does, it’s ready.
  • Temperature Test: Jellies typically set at 220°F (104°C). Using a candy or jelly thermometer can be a precise way to know if your jelly has reached the right temperature.

The Importance of Pectin and Acid:

The balance of sugar, pectin, and acid is essential for a good jelly set.

  • Pectin: It’s a natural substance in fruits that gels when combined with the right balance of sugar and acid. If you’re using commercial pectin, follow the package instructions closely.
  • Acid: It helps to extract pectin from fruits. Ensure your red peppers are fresh, as older ones might have a lower acid content. If necessary, you can slightly increase the amount of acid (like lemon juice) in your recipe.

Don’t Skimp on Boiling Time:

Undercooking is a common reason jellies don’t set. Ensure you’re boiling the mixture long enough but be cautious not to overcook, which can cause other issues.

Tips for Fixing Watery Jelly:

If you find that your jelly hasn’t set after 24 hours, don’t despair. Here’s how you can remedy the situation:


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  • Reboiling: Pour the jelly back into the pot and bring it to a boil. For every 4 cups of jelly, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and boil for another 5 minutes. Test for setting again. If using added pectin, consider adding another quarter of the packet.
  • Adjust Sugar: Sometimes, more sugar can help with the setting. However, remember that adding too much can make your jelly overly sweet.
  • Use as a Sauce: If you don’t want to go through the reboiling process or if the jelly still doesn’t set, consider relabeling it! Watery jellies can make fantastic sauces or glazes for meats, especially chicken or pork.

Remember, jelly-making can take a few tries to master. Each batch is a learning experience. The most important tip is to keep experimenting and not to get disheartened. The best jelly-makers have their share of watery or over-set jellies behind them. With practice and patience, you’ll get there!

open jars of pepper jelly for canning

Storing Red Pepper Jelly

First off, kudos on crafting your own red pepper jelly! Trust me, the effort is so worth it. But how do you make sure that vibrant flavor lasts? Let me break down the storage game for you:

  • Freshly Made? Cool it Down: Once you’ve finished making your jelly, let it cool to room temperature. This helps in setting and also reduces condensation which can spoil the jelly.
  • Seal in Sterilized Jars: Sterilizing your jars is a must if you’re aiming for longer shelf life. Pour the hot jelly into these sterilized jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims clean, place the sterilized lids on, and screw on the bands until they’re fingertip-tight.
  • Refrigerate for Short-Term: If you’re not into the whole canning process, no worries. Just pop your sealed jelly jars into the fridge. They should be good for about 1-2 months. Once opened, use within 3 weeks for the best flavor.
  • Canning for Long-Term Storage: Want to enjoy your jelly months down the line? Process the filled jars in a boiling water canner for about 10 minutes. Allow them to cool, check the seals, then store in a cool, dark place. Properly canned, they can last up to a year.
  • Avoid Double Dipping: This might sound basic, but always use a clean spoon or knife when diving into your jelly jar. Introducing foreign particles or bacteria can reduce its shelf life.
  • Freezing’s an Option: Yup, you can freeze red pepper jelly! Just make sure to leave some headspace in the jar to allow for expansion. When you’re ready to enjoy, thaw it in the fridge.
holiday appetizer with cheese and crackers

Serving Suggestions

So you’ve crafted this vibrant red pepper jelly. Now what? Well, here are some fabulous ways to serve it up:

  • The Classic Crowd-Pleaser: Place a block of cream cheese on a plate. Generously spoon over your homemade jelly, pop a spreader on the side, and surround it with an assortment of crackers. Effortless, yet oh-so-delicious. It’s a pairing that screams gourmet without the fuss.
spoonful of pepper jelly being added on top of a block of cream cheese

  • Gourmet Sandwich Spread: Elevate your everyday sandwich or wrap by spreading a thin layer of this red pepper jelly. Pair it with deli meats or even veggies – the flavor lift is instant.
  • Glazed Grilled Goods: Grilling chicken, pork, or even veggies? Brush some of this jelly as a glaze in the last few minutes of cooking. It caramelizes slightly, adding a sweet-spicy sheen that’s downright irresistible.
  • Dressing Drizzle: Whisk it in with some olive oil, a dash of vinegar, salt, and pepper for a unique salad dressing with a kick.

Remember, this jelly isn’t just about the taste – it’s about the experience. So, get creative, mix and match, and find your favorite way to savor it!

crackers and cream cheese behind an open jar of red pepper jelly

Frequently Asked Questions

Before we get to the red pepper jelly recipe, here are some questions people often ask about it. If you don’t see your question in this list, please leave it in the comments.

What is red pepper jelly used on?

There are so many ways to use red pepper jelly. My favorite way is to just spread it on top of a block of cream cheese and then add both to some crackers.

Other people like to use it as a side dipping sauce for things like jalapeno poppers or as a condiment on top of hamburgers.

How do you make red pepper jelly spicy?

To make your red pepper jelly spicy, just add about 3 teaspoons of red pepper flakes to the mixture. You can even add a few drops of hot sauce too if you still want it to be spicier.

What cheese goes with red pepper jelly?

I always use a block of Philidelphia cream cheese. Feel free to have fun using other types of cheese with your red pepper jelly. Try it with any of these ideas:

  • Brie
  • Mango Habanero
  • Gouda
  • Goat Cheese

Is red pepper jelly sweet?

Yes, and I think that’s what makes it work so well with cream cheese and crackers. The slight sweetness from the jelly is a perfect match with a salty cracker and smooth cream cheese.

Is red pepper jelly spicy?

Now, before we get into the recipe, I want to point out one thing. As I mentioned above, you can add jalapeño pepper to this jelly. It gives it just a little kick that works nicely with the cream cheese.

For the recipe below, it’s a minimal amount of heat that almost anyone can handle. Depending on your heat preference, feel free to decrease or increase the number of jalapeños.

mini jars of red pepper jelly as gifts

More Recipes You May Enjoy

Definitely give this red pepper jelly recipe a try and let me know what you think! Or, if you’ve had and love red pepper jelly as much as I do, let me know in the comments below. I’m curious.

Love this recipe? Please leave a comment and a 5-star rating below. 

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Red Pepper Jelly | #holiday #appetizer #recipe #christmas #jelly

Red Pepper Jelly

This Red Pepper Jelly makes a delicious holiday appetizer served over cream cheese with crackers. It also makes a gift idea. Learn how to make it with this simple recipe.
4.76 from 41 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: red pepper jelly, jelly, red pepper, appetizer
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 24
Calories: 248kcal


  • 3 cups finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped jalapeño pepper
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 (1.75 ounce each) packages SURE-JELL powder pectin* (This means one full package plus one half pacakge of pectin.)
  • 5 cups white sugar

Red Pepper Jelly Appetizer:


  • Begin by sterilizing six 8-ounce canning jars and lids according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Begin heating your water in a hot water canner for processing.
  • Place the red bell peppers, green bell peppers, and jalapeño peppers into a large saucepan over high heat. Mix in the apple cider vinegar and Sure-Jell pectin. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil while stirring constantly. Then, quickly stir in the sugar. Return to a rolling boil and boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam.
  • Then, quickly ladle the jelly into your prepared jars, filling each to 1/4 inch from the top. Cover with flat lids; then screw on the bands tightly.
  • Place the jars into the canning rack, and slowly lower the jars into the canner. The water should cover the jars completely, and should be hot but not boiling. Bring water to a boil and process for five minutes.
  • Remove the jars and allow them to cool completely.
  • To serve the Red Pepper Jelly Appetizer Simply, place the block of Cream Cheese on a plate. Then, spoon the red pepper jelly on top of the cream cheese. Serve with crackers.



*Often times I will add the extra 1/2 pack of  pectin to ensure my jelly gets firm.
Traditionally, this recipe only requires one package. I’ve updated the recipe to include 1 1/2 packs for more foolproof results. 
Still having issues with getting your jelly to set? Don’t fear. Please check the blog post as I have an entire section to help you understand and troubleshoot jelly setting iusses. 


Calories: 248kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 114mg | Potassium: 84mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 44g | Vitamin A: 743IU | Vitamin C: 30mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 1mg

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Recipe Rating


  1. Michael,
    You do what your blog title says – inspire by charm. I love red pepper jelly and look forward to making this recipe. What’s better than homemade jelly/jam to give someone as a gift – this would be perfect for Valetine’s night appetizers!
    Thanks for keeping ME inspired Love your blog.

  2. Made this jelly and mistaking added all ingredients including the sugar it did not set completely. Did the reboil as per instructions and still did not. Do you have any hope in having this set. Thanks

      1. I made it with only green peppers as that’s what I had and I wanted to make it and the 1/4 cup of finely diced jalapeño I would add more jalapeño next time for more of the heat otherwise came out perfectly I used two packs of pectin. Thank you for your recipe love it.

  3. Loved it! I took the tip and did two bags of pectin and I’m glad I did because it set really nice. I also like my jam quite spicy, and these peppers that I grow, so I used a mixture of Thai peppers, and did about an extra 1/8 of a cup on top of the quarter cup. I blitz my peppers in my food processor, and find that it works quite well! I will be making this again!

  4. How many 8oz jelly jars does this recipe make? I want to make sure I have enough jars prepped before I start making this. So excited for this recipe!!

  5. I know what the problem is with this jelly and why it may not set. You don’t need more than 1 package of pectin. The issue is and I’ve made this 3 times now and have had to redo 2 of them adding more pectin to get it to set. It should not need more than one box of pectin. What the recipe should state is after you stir in the sugar and get it to a rolling boil, only boil it for 1 min. The 2 – 3 minutes is what is ruining the chemistry and it won’t set. I have one more piece of advice. Because the peppers float up to the top during processing, after you have removed them from the caner and they have sealed – pinged, (about half hour later) just flip the jars quickly over and back down to get the peppers distributed throughout the jar. This way the jar looks much nicer instead of having the jelly all sitting below the peppers clinging to the top of the lid. Makes for a nicer gift to friends and family.

  6. Hi Michael. I’ve been looking for A Red Bell Pepper Jelly recipe. I stumbled upon yours by accident 🤗. Can I use liquid pectin instead of powder pectin? If so, how much. I have some on hand and don’t want it to go to waste. Can’t wait try this wonderful recipe. Looking forward to your reply. Thanks