Appetizer Condiments Tex-Mex

Cool off with hot jalapeno pickles

Pickled jalapenos (escabeche) | Homesick Texan

If you’re of a certain age, you may remember a time when along with chips and salsa, you also got free corn tortillas, pats of butter and hot pickle relish served to you at your local Tex-Mex restaurant.

You’d see this in classic Dallas places such as El Fenix or El Chico, and in Houston establishments such as Molina’s. The hot pickle relish, also known as escabeche, was made up of jalapenos, carrots and cauliflower and it was tart, fiery, crunchy and yes, very refreshing.

There’s been a lot of bad news about jalapenos lately, namely those from Mexico. And while I’m glad they pinpointed the source of the salmonella, it didn’t give me much confidence in buying jalapenos at the grocery store, especially when their origin was unknown.

Pickled jalapenos (escabeche) | Homesick Texan
Earlier in the summer I bought a jalapeno plant and it produced two tiny peppers, until it started shedding all of its leaves working its way toward a slow death. I have since nursed it back to health and it now has a few blossoms, which if all goes well could mean more jalapenos. Very local and very fresh! But my one plant isn’t enough to keep me satisfied.

I eat a lot of jalapenos so I am pleased they are now in season and I can find them in abundance at my local farmer’s market. Last weekend, one of the Union Square farmers had a gorgeous display of jalapenos and serranos and I went nuts, buying over a pound. I also picked up some cauliflower, carrots, onions and garlic and because my refrigerator can only hold so much, decided that I should make some pickles.

I made my first batch of pickles last summer and for these pickled jalapenos I pretty much followed the same technique, except I briefly cooked my vegetables before placing them in the jars and adding the brine. They also didn’t take a week to marinate—by the next day they were already tangy and juicy—ready to be added to nachos, placed on a cheeseburger or just nibbled on their own.

It’s a shame you don’t see hot pickled jalapeno relish in Tex-Mex restaurants more often, especially since its piquancy really wakes up your appetite. But thanks to the bounty of the season, I now have enough pints to last me—for at least a couple of weeks.

Pickled jalapenos (escabeche) | Homesick Texan
5 from 1 vote

Pickled jalapenos (escabeche)

Servings 6 pints
Author Lisa Fain


  • 1 pound jalapeños, cut into rings
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into rings
  • 1 small onion, cut into rings or slivers
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 6 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 6 teaspoons peppercorns
  • 6 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 6 sprigs cilantro
  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • Water
  • Six sterilized pint jars


  1. In a skillet, cook the peppers, carrots, cauliflower, and onion in the oil on medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until onion is clear and vegetables are softened.

  2. In each jar, place the equivalent of 1 teaspoon minced clove, 1 sprig of cilantro, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon cumin seeds.

  3. Divide pepper mix between the jars. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar to each jar and then fill the rest of the jar with water, leaving 1/2 inch at the top. Add a dash of salt. Seal and then give jar a good shake.

  4. Refrigerate overnight and they should be ready within 24 hours. Will keep in the refrigerator for a month.

  1. brenda in tx

    Hi Lisa, I found your website last summer while I was looking for a biscuit recipe like
    my mom’s. She died in ’03. But she couldnt have told me how to make them, she never measured anything. But they always turned out so good. I was really glad to find your recipe. We are burning up right now down here,
    cooler weather is on the way later in the week maybe. Thanks again, I really enjoy all
    your recipes.

  2. TacoLady

    How do you sterilize your jars, boiling or dishwasher. I’ve never done it before. Also did you see the article on fried pies in Cuisine magazine for August, they have blueberry peach, coconut cream and cherry. Trying to stay cool in South Carolina.

  3. I too just planted one jalepeno plant, sort of as an experiment. I’ve got about 7 good sized ones and a few more growing. I wish I had planted more now.
    I’ve heard to plant them when you are mad at the world to make them extry hot 😉

  4. Looks fantastic! For the record, Taqueria La Tapatia on Richmond in Houston still serves the pickle relish — and theirs has full heads of garlic in it! So yummy.

  5. CraftyCanadian

    Interestingly enough, one of our favorite local haunts serves delicious escabeche with the free appetizers (usually a mini tostada and something stuffed and fried – it varies every day). Theirs is a touch too spicy for me but I do love pickled ANYTHING so I might just give this a go.

    The place is Taco Rosa in Newport Beach, CA. The food is delicious but definitely not Tex Mex. They describe it as “pre-Columbian cooking, fused with Spanish, French, and Southwest culinary influences”.

  6. Culinarywannabe

    I have never heard of jalapeno pickles before – which I just confessed to one of my friends in Dallas, who proceeded to give me an earful about how I was obviously not a decent southerner. 🙂 Does it come out knock-you-socks-off spicy?

  7. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    How have I made it through life without eating a pickled jalapeno? I love the pickling process, so I’m definitely going to have to try these. Elise of Simply Recipes recently taught me how to tell a mild jalapeno from a hot one, so I’ll start with mild and work my way up.

  8. Thanks for including the ideas about how to eat them! We made similar mixed pickles from our garden on Saturday, but I never knew where to use them except in quesadillas. 🙂

  9. Are you going to bring any to share?
    They are my favorite!

  10. Lisa Fain

    Brenda in TX–I’ve heard it’s pretty hot down there–stay cool and I’m glad you like the biscuits.

    TacoLady–I boil them in a big pot. I didn’t see the recipe–I’ll have to check that out!

    Tammy–I’ll have to remember to plant them when I’m angry next spring, though my two peppers were pretty spicy. I left them on the plant until they were red.

    CB–Good to know–I should swing by there next time I’m in town.

    CraftyCanadian–If you eat the carrots and the cauliflower with the jalapenos, it tends to tone down the heat.

    Culinarywannabe–What? I can’t believe you’ve never heard of pickled jalapenos. You must try them!

    Lydia–How do you tell a mild one from a spicy one besides eating them? I’m very curious!

    Sarah–I’d put them on just about everything, if I could!

    Mom–I’ll have to mail you some since you can’t bring liquids on a plane. These are extra spicy!

    • Margo Haynes

      I can remember when I was a DP Texan Living in the suburb of Hoffman Estates about 35 miles northwest of Chicago. My mother sent me a “care package” containing pickled spicy
      Escabechce & Pickled Jalapenos by themselves also. There were 3 quarts of each, one jar cracked but did not break, however, it released the powerful fumes of the pickled jalapenos. It was in the middle of winter & our mailman drove a little enclosed mailcart on the sidewalks in the winter. He rang my doorbell & said, “Margo, I have no idea what your family has shipped you but it is potent!
      I’m so glad to get rid of this, I’ve been weeping from the fumes for the past hour!” I told him that it was a “care pacjage from home with 3 qts of Escabeche & 3 qts of pickled jalapenos” he looked stunned and said “you eat this stuff and survive?!!!”

      • Lisa Fain

        Margo–Thank you for sharing such a hilarious story! I am still chuckling at your mailman’s reaction. Here’s to spicy pickled escabeche!

  11. Amy C Evans

    mmm, i make these all the time. i love having it hanging out in the fridge for an anytime nibble. i make pickled carrots, though, with a few jalapenos, a LOT of garlic and no cauliflower at all. my favorite taqueria in houston, taqueria la tapatia, used to bring this stuff to your table as soon as you sat down, but now you have to ask for it–at least i did the last time i was there. this stuff is just so dang good i could eat buckets full. careful if you’re a contact lens wearer and you eat it with your fingers, though. i learned that lesson the hard way!

  12. texichan

    I love this stuff. I still find restaurants all over that serve it – particularly in Houston (though I can’t list off the top of my head). I love how they are always just slightly spicy and full of flavor… I always get some queso and dip my chip in it, then sprinkle some of this on top. I could easily eat it on just about anything, though. Yum yum yum.

  13. RE: Grow your own: Here in Japan, fresh jalapenos, green chile peppers, tomatillos, not available. So I bought seeds online from the US, and tried growing indoors. Like yours, each plant yielded just a few peppers, then each soon bit the big one, so to speak. At the imported foods stores, I can pay about USD5.00 green chile salsa, canned jalapenos and the like.

  14. I am so glad to have this recipe. My husband absolutely LOVES this stuff. Here in Houston, Ninfa's serves a bowl of pickled japlapenos, carrots & cauliflower – but, you have to ask for it! Yum!

  15. learnlotsbetty

    That looks a lot like giardiniera, a staple on Italian beefs in Chicago. In my house, also a staple on pizza, eggs, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

    You’ve inspired me to plant a Serrano pepper next year. Thanks!

  16. Plum Texan

    Hello, Christmas present for my mom. She used to eat this stuff all by herself when we’d go out to El Chico with my grandparents when I was little! I’m a wuss myself, but I’m never afraid to make things I won’t eat. Thanks, as always!

  17. laurie

    omg. thank you so much for this recipe! I’m from central texas, now living in Houston and had never heard of this stuff till I moved here and tried it at Molina’s and oh, man! I love it!! Especially with the queso! mmmmmm mmm mmm!

  18. Oh my gosh! I had forgotten all about the relish they used to serve at the restaurants! You are right! We used to get it at Pepe’s years and years ago. My favorite part is the cauliflower. Oh, this is a great, great post! YUM!

  19. Vicky Lynn

    Stumbled across this site a few days ago – have been in love ever since. I’m a native Dallasite and moved DC 7 years ago. Finding good Tex Mex has been a struggle. El Fenix is the standard by which I judge all Tex Mex. Thanks for the great recipe – will definitely give it a try. Your recipes seem wonderful and most importantly – authentic. Can’t wait to try them all. But where to start?

  20. Radman

    oh, this looks good with a cold cocktail.

  21. Moriah

    Oh god, those look good. I’m in the midst of a very strong pickled jalapeno craving but I’m miles away from the stash in my fridge. This post is alternately making it better and worse.

    I usually pickle jalapenos with a few cloves of garlic in an equal ratio of soy sauce, sugar, and white vinegar, but I’m always looking for more ways to pickle vegetables.

  22. Lisa Fain

    Amy–You’re the second one to mention Taqueria La Tapatia so it’s definitely on my must-go list next time I’m home.

    Learnlotsbetty–Yep, it’s pretty similar. And this goes great with beef, too!

    Texichan–It’s wonderful sprinkled in queso (and that might have to be my dinner tonight!).

    Mark–Is it too cold for them to grow in Japan? At least you can get canned, though it’s not the same thing.

    Kelly–Maybe that’s the trick–you have to ask for it–places don’t just give it to you.

    Plum Texan–I always thought it was too spicy when I was a kid, also, but now I gobble it. I can eat a pint in one day, though my mouth does suffer a bit from the heat!

    Laurie–Isn’t it wonderful?

    Paula–This is my favorite way to eat cauliflower–pickled with peppers.

    Vicky Lynn–Thank you and welcome! And why not start with these?

    Lori–I’m honored–thanks!

    Radman–This will spice it up a bit!

    Moriah–I’ll have to try it your way next time–it’ll be fun to see what the soy sauce does.

  23. Hi there – I’ve passed along a little blog award to you:

  24. Olivia

    Although I’ve just finished a chimichanga and it’s nearly midnight, the thought of those pickled jalapenos is making my mouth water.

    BTW, call me a philistine, but I do enjoy the Jose Ole steak and cheese chimichangas, a guilty pleasure like how I used to enjoy frito pie or steak fingers at the cafeteria in middle school 😛

    (Where are steak fingers these days, anyway?)

    Sorry to be talking about junk food here on your fine blog!

  25. D'Anna

    Thank you so much for your blog! I’m a homesick Texan living in Russia – and the thing I miss the most, after family, is all the GREAT food!
    Thanks for the recipes, culture, and good old Texas hospitality!

  26. Kate / Kajal

    My hubby is such an jalapeno addict. Just yesterday he was whining that i havent bought him another bottle after he finished it like the day before !!! I”m going to start making these for him at home now. Thanks !

  27. Anonymous

    Thanks for posting recipe! I have had this at a few restaurants in San Antonio and Houston and wasn’t sure what it was.

  28. Little Warrior's Mom

    Mmmm … I was living in Austin when I was pregnant with my first, and The Husband and I would go over to the Ninfa’s on 183 and I would down BOWLS of their pickled carrots. They finally took pity on me and sent me home with a pint container of ’em.

    Ahh. Good times.

  29. Awesome. I’ve got a bin full of giardiniera going right now, which is basically the same thing sans peppers. Next time, I’m peppering it up fo sho.

  30. Texas Jen

    Oh my! I started to salivate the moment I saw the picture. I will be making these tomorrow. My only regret is that my father, who died in April, won’t be around to eat some. He loved it.

  31. Oh man, those sound good! I just did some serious pickling myself. Looks like I’ll be doing some peppers next. You’ve inspired me!

  32. Here in Toronto, we don’t get the hot pepper selection you guys in the USA are used to. Habaneros, jalapenos, serranos. That’s usually it.

    So.. this year I planted several types, some from seed, some from seedlings.

    What a rewarding experience.It was really quite easy and the harvest now just about ready, is bountiful. I was fortunate to speak to a knowlegable garden center person who was a chilihead as well. She said to use Miracle Grow and was she ever right on.

    I lost track of the all the names, I just know all the usual suspects, but the Marzitti pepper might be the standout amongst all my varieties.

    Pickling is an excellent option for me at this point. Thanks for the great article and recipe.

  33. Yum yum yum! I love anything pickled yet for some reason have never made my own which makes no sense at all. I love jalapenos too. They are so juicy aren’t they?! And mild enough to throw on everything.

  34. used-songs

    I love jalapeno pickles. I actually live in San Antonio, so they are very easy to get here.

  35. Channing

    I finally got out for some good Mexican last night… Jacala in San Antonio. Asked for a plate of pickled jalapenos and a big bowl of queso… mmmmmmm. It was SO good. I think I will always be asking from this point forward at any Mexican restaurant I go to.

  36. Guinnevere

    Next time you’re in Dallas, hit up Cuquita’s on Knox- they still serve piping hot, freshly made corn tortillas, butter, two types of salsa, and the jalapenos are right on the table. It’s not Tex Mex, but just about the best damn Mexican food in Dallas. Mole, carnitas, barbacoa to make you weep… shoot maybe I should get dressed and head down thataway.

  37. Guinnevere

    @Olivia: the steak fingers are at the Dairy Queen of course! in a basket. with gravy, fries and delicious oily toast! sometimes on sale for $2.99 if you can believe it. come on down to dallas and i’ll take you out for a steak finger basket.

  38. Wow; how funny! I just made refrigerator pickles right before I read this post. Small world! OT; do you know how to make Red Eye Gravy?

  39. Margaret

    Red eye gravy is made by pouring coffee into a skillet where you’ve fried ham slices.

  40. Martha Hall Foose has a recipe for Red-Eye Gravy in her new cookbook: SCREEN DOORS AND SWEET TEA.

    1 tsp unsalted butter
    8 biscuit size slices of country ham
    1 cup strong black coffee with 1/4 tsp sugar OR
    1 cup cola soda pop

    In a heavy stainless steel or enameled skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Fry the ham slices for 2 minutes on each side, or until browned and slightly crip. Set aside in a warm place. Increase the heat under the skillet and add the coffee. Scrape up the browned bits and then reduce the heat. Simmer for 2 minutes.

  41. Manger La Ville

    I love pickled jalapenos. My boyfriend adores these things. I am going to make a jar of them for his birthday. Thanks for the recipe and the idea.

  42. Darlene

    awwwww that makes a tear come to my eye …My PawPaw when he was alive would go to a lil mexican place called Lupe’s and the waitress would bring him a big bowl of the pickled jalepeno’s like that as he was coming in the door ….lol Yessss he ate there at least once a week!!! thanx for the walk down memory lane!!

  43. deceiverofmen

    haha i always call that dish “the carrot things” as any jalapeno in a can or jar is technically pickled jalapeno, but only the carrot things have carrots. i’ve never had it with cauliflower though, that makes me think of gardiniera, which doesn’t taste anything like escabeche.

    My favorite escabeche was always La Jaliscience on Montrose(or as several people jokingly referred to it “Jolly Science”). Its gone now, but I hear rumor it moved to the heights.

  44. Thank you kindly Margaret and Weston; and Homesick Texan for the wealth of informative commentators who love your site!

  45. Lisa Fain

    Olivia–You can talk about junk food such as steak fingers and chimichangas any day! And did you see the reply below–Dairy Queen has steak fingers.

    D’Anna–You’re very welcome! Thanks for reading!

    Kate–If your husband is a jalapeno addict, he’ll love these.

    Little Warrior’s Mom–Now that’s Texas hospitality sending y’all home with a pint container of pickled jalapenos!

    Anon–You’re welcome.

    Sean–Peppers give it a nice kick.

    Texas Jen–I’m sorry your father won’t be around to eat some, but making them sounds like a fine tribute to him.

    Ann–Awesome! Enjoy!

    Tommy–Congrats on your chile garden! I had one jalapeno plant, and it didn’t do as well as I’d hoped but I plan on trying it again next year.

    Helen–Homemade pickles are a cinch and they just taste better because you made them yourself.

    Used-Songs–There is some good eating in San Antonio.

    Channing–I love pickled jalapenos with queso!

    Guinnevere–I’ll have to check this out next time in town–sounds wonderful!

    KKryno–Can you believe I’ve never made it–looks like it’s time to try!


    Weston–This sounds amazing–thanks!

    Manger–You’re welcome–hope he enjoys them!

    Darlene–You’re welcome. What a fine memory of your Paw Paw.

    Deceiverofmen–The carrot things–I love it. And that’s a bummer about La Jaliscience closing but I hope the Heights rumor turns out to be true.

    Kkryno–Thanks for putting the question out there–I can’t wait to make it!

  46. Allen Garvin

    When I was a kid I used to love sitting down with a jar of pickled jalapenos and a box of saltines, and just eat one cracker after another with a slice of jalapeno on top. I've never tried making my own. I like the ones that are really crisp and retain the flavor of jalapenos. Mrs Renfro's is a commercial brand that's pretty good… there's another brand that I can't recall, that comes in tall narrow bottles, and are packed with carrots and garlic and cauliflower.

    If you're going to grow your own let me recommend Texas A&M Mild Jalapenos II. You can get them in nurseries around Dallas, or in seed form, from which they grow really easily. The TAM I Jalapenos are a little smaller and don't yield as many chiles, but they're also good. They have jalapeno taste, but the hotness is the approximately warm-poblano range. They're great on salads where ordinary jalapenos would be too domineering. You can pluck them off the plant and eat them raw (except, every once in a while you'll get one that's ordinary jalapeno strength and have to run grab a glass of water to cool down).

  47. The Introvert

    Oh wow. You mentioned El Fenix AND Molina’s? You really do know your Tex-Mex. I love Molina’s cheese enchiladas! I know that totally wasn’t the focus of your post, but I’m ADD like that.

  48. twentysomethingwoman

    Question, do you have any tips for making candied jalapenos? I got a jar at Buc-cee’s outside of Houston a few weeks ago and they are amazing. They taste like bread and butter pickles, but they’re jalapenos and SPICY. Any ideas? 🙂

  49. tbsamsel

    There’s a Michoacan-style restaurant in Centralia, WA (La Tarasca) that doesn’t serve chips, but serves home-made carrots en escabeche. Really fine comida, too. Sopa de albondigas, etc.

  50. kyleyoung

    I’m a Texan in NYC too. I am visiting my family for the weekend and made my traditional visit to Ninfa’s on Navigation (straight from the airport!). I LOVE those carrots so much! In an online search for the recipe I came across your site. Yum!

  51. @Twentysomething:

    I make “semi-homemade” candied jalepenos. Start with a big jar of your favorite pickled jalepenos. Pour half the juice out, reserving all BUT two cups. Mix the reserved juice with 2 cups of sugar and heat until sugar dissolves. Pour back into the jar. Stick the jar somewhere you will remember and turn it once a week for a few weeks…. Yummo!

  52. RoamingChile

    God bless you. You have the three recipes that I set out to find: corn and flour tortillas and pickled jalapeños! Tiny can of Costeña jalpeños curtidos cost me $2.25 in Jerusalem.

    Your photography is gorgeous. I, too, am a photog. I'm so glad to have found your blog. A glimpse of of my beloved Texas with the perspective of one whose been exiled for a long time.

  53. Andrea

    We had so many jalapenos last year I should have made these. My chile-head husband would love this. Going on my canning list for this fall!

  54. onemoore

    This recipe is a stone cold winner. I made the my first batch last weekend and they are already 1/2 gone. They were especially good on the venison tacos. I'm now thinking I need to plant about 4 o 5 jalapeno plants next year, instead of the one I have now.

  55. Anonymous

    You linked to this older post in the current one on fried pickles — I thought I'd give you some info on growing japs. Definitely a good activity for any expatriot Texan!

    Buy about four plants, at least. They need a LOT of sun. If you aren't going to have them out on a fire escape or window ledge, you need to put them RIGHT in the window.

    The amount of room they have is how much they grow – give the plant a decent sized pot. They tolerate poor soil, but like to be spoiled with a little fertilizer. I've been told that they get hotter if you let them wilt between a couple of waterings: it forces the capsacin to become concentrated in the fruits as the plant tries to ripen them quickly so the seeds make it. If you want hotter japs, wilt the plant a couple of times and then give it plenty of wter. They need good drainage, however: don't let their feet get wet. Put sand and gravel in the bottom of the pot.

    Like any pepper, if you let the fruit ripen like you did (get red) you get a much reduced harvest. Taking the fruit while they are green keeps the plant trying to reproduce before it dies, hence more peppers. But I am always torn, because I love the more mellow taste of the red ones. Also nothing says "I grew my own" like a fully ripe jalepeno.

    Good luck next growing season!

  56. Anonymous

    My wife and I made these last night and all I can say is DAY-AM. These are AWESOME. Looking through some of the rest of the recipes, I can see more cooking from this site.

  57. esther

    Is this recipe canning ready? It is the best one I've found on the web, but I need to make sure!

  58. Lisa Fain

    Esther–Sure, just process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

  59. Anonymous

    can you can this recipe and keep in you pantry for a few months or does it have to be refrigerated?

  60. Lisa Fain

    Anon–You could can the recipe if you like.

  61. Oh, goodness. I am officially of a certain age.

    I was visiting my mom and took her to El Fenix Camp Bowie location, the only one to me, for one of three birthday dinners.
    Seventy year olds can drag out a birthday like no one else.

    The chip were as I remembered, but did I really grow up eating that sad salsa?
    And no pico, or tortillas.
    My mom said, Honey, they haven't done that for years!

  62. Anonymous

    El Chico still serves them but you have to ask for them and I always do. Thanks for the recipe now I can make them and have them at home any time I want them.

  63. Anonymous

    How many jalapenos should I use to make up a pound?

  64. Lisa Fain

    Anon–Depending on size, anywhere from 10-16.

  65. Suzyn Siebert

    This is the second recipe of yours that I'm trying! Now I will search your recipe index for my next one I plan to try. Thank you!!

  66. Anonymous

    YOU ARE THE BOMB!!! Once I made the Onion Jam, it was all over except for the shouting…LOL

  67. Christine

    My husband and I love this recipe – you are my only go-to for tex Mex. As a homesick texan currently in LA I love cooking from your site. This is my second batch of pickles – we can't do without them now. Thank you!

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