Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette (& Salad)

pepper jelly dressings-9 squareOnce upon a time, I used to go to Costco and get the giant flats of strawberries and make freezers full of strawberry freezer jam. In the pectin box, there were recipes for other jams and jellies and I remember seeing pepper jelly. Being the Utah girl that I am (was? Do I still count as a Utah girl?), I had never heard of pepper jelly and it sounded horrific. I could not imagine a world in which eating pepper jelly would be okay, or how you’d eat it, or why you would ever want to eat it. Peanut butter and pepper jelly sandwiches? Pepper jelly on toast or waffles? No. Just no.

And then I moved to Louisiana and overcame my fear of spiders (there are bigger, badder critters that need to die…spiders are pretty low on my list), learned that “bless your heart” is almost never nice, and that pepper jelly is amazing.

Just to be clear, pepper jelly isn’t really for toast. Or peanut butter. I dunno, maybe it is for some people (bless their hearts), but the only times I’ve ever used or been served pepper jelly, it’s been in conjunction with something savory; the pepper jelly is sweet and spicy, so I’ve seen it in sauces and stir fries and served with cheeses (like this baked brie).

I recently went to dinner here with some friends and there was a salad with pepper jelly vinaigrette. The salad itself sounded good, but the resounding recommendation from everyone was no matter what I got, the pepper jelly vinaigrette would make it all worth it. And they were right–it was tangy and sweet and spicy, but not so spicy I couldn’t enjoy it–the perfect complement for the chicken and the salty feta crumbles and the sweet oranges.

I tweaked the salad a little at home–I added avocados and onions because the whole time, I kept thinking that onions were the one thing missing. I also added fresh oranges instead of Mandarin oranges because, you know, I’m so fancy.

For the dressing, the main thing  you’re going to need is pepper jelly. Now…I know pepper jelly may be hard to find if you don’t live in the land of pepper jelly. I used Tabasco pepper jelly here because it’s a national brand and you’re probably most likely to find this in your regular grocery store.

tabasco pepper jelly That said, it wasn’t my favorite. I’ve tried other brands (from the grocery store) as well as homemade jellies (or jellies from farmer’s markets) that I like better. But. If all else fails, there’s Tabasco.

If you have a World Market, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc., you’re very likely to find good brands there.

My favorites have probably come from local farmer’s markets, so if farmer’s markets are your thing, you might get lucky and find pepper jelly there (I had apple pepper jelly once that was pretty much one of the most delicious things I’d ever eaten.)

The other option is to make your own. Be a pepper jelly-making pioneer. Share the good news of pepper jelly with those who may not yet understand.


You’ll need pepper jelly. And apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s, if you can find it), a little Creole mustard (Walmart makes a great house brand called Great Value Coarse Grain Mustard), salt, pepper, garlic, a little onion, and some extra-virgin olive oil.

pepper jelly vinaigrette ingredients

Place all the ingredients except the oil in the jar of a blender. Blend until smooth. While the blender is running, add the oil in a steady stream. Allow to stand for at least 1 hour before serving.

Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette from Our Best Bites

Now…to re-create the salad I had, you’ll need a plate of this…

plate of spinach

And then top it with some of these:

red onions and spinach

and then some of these…

oranges, spinach, and onions

and these:

pepper jelly dressings-20 copy

and some of these.

pepper jelly dressings-21 copy

Sprinkle it with some feta…

pepper jelly vinaigrette spinach salad from Our Best Bites

Drizzle it with dressing and eat up right away!

Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette Spinach Salad from Our Best Bites


It’s Ice Cream Weekend for your Boise-Area peeps!  Swing by one of the following locations to say hi to Sara and have a taste of her yummy new Ice Cream flavor, sold in Kroger family stores!

Private Selection Tastings


  1. Pepper jelly with cream cheese on crackers has been one of my pregnancy cravings, which is weird because I never bought pepper jelly before I was pregnant but one day I realized that was what I just had to have. 🙂 anyway, this salad sounds great!

  2. I visited a new restaurant near me last night and one of the specials was a salad with pepper jelly vinagrette! so good. this is perfect!

  3. Yummmmm why have I never thought of this! Eating salad EVERY night in this heat so thank you. My mom has always made jalapeño jelly, and as a kid I loved having stoned wheat crackers and cream cheese with a dab of it. Now I’m more into Brie and other strong cheeses with it. Yum!!!! You’re right that the farmers market is the best place to find it! That’s where my mom sells hers!

  4. I can eat a whole jar of pepper jelly by myself with cream cheese and crackers. I was actually introduced in a little tiny Utah town called Holden. One of my little young women made sure I knew it does NOT go well with PB. She tried it. Yuck! Anyway, my neighbor always makes her own and its crazy easy! Probably the cheapest jelly I’ve made to since you don’t need many peppers. I liked all the seeds out, chunks left in and green food coloring. Honestly, the weird yellow green natural color is a little off putting. But this is SOO good. My little family of 4 (read 2 since my babies don’t eat it) consumed 12 pints in one year. Try it! Your life will never be the same…

  5. Pepper jelly is crazy easy to make (I use my little food processor instead of chopping all the peppers),tastes so much better than store versions, and you can control the heat level (we are wimps and like it very, very mild). Seriously, anybody can make this! This is paula deen’s recipe, which is very close to the one I use. (I use the Certo liquid pectin that actually has a picture of pepper jelly on it.) You also don’t have to can them, you could just pop them in the fridge.

  6. I love pepper jelly on a turkey or roast beef sandwich. I’ve been able to buy it at the Costco in West Bountiful, Utah. Good stuff, though homemade is my favorite. 🙂

  7. We had the same reaction to pepper jelly when my family moved to New Orleans — sounded crazy at first but turned out to be delicious. Actually we had that reaction to a lot of new foods when we moved there! I’ve been needing a new salad and this one sounds A.Maz.Ing. I’m totally making it tonight, and maybe tomorrow, and definitely on Sunday when we’re having company. Thanks for a post that makes me want to eat more salad!

  8. It’s amazing how life plans can change your opinion about food. I’ve always lived in Buffalo but when I visit my uncle in Texas he knows how to throw a feast! We don’t have a Cosco but when the strawberries are ripe we pick a lot! This pepper jelly is stretching my comfort zone but you’ve never let me down before. So here we go.

    1. Tom, as a Syracuse girl, I had never heard of pepper jelly until a coworker served some up at a holiday party the same way that Sue W describes above…OMG, so good. Soooo…now I use all of the leftover hot peppers from my garden to make a big batch of hot pepper jelly every year. The first year, I served it at a family party and got the WEIRDEST looks….now I give jars of it out as Christmas gifts because they can’t get enough! I’m not a sweets with my meats kind of girl, so I haven’t tried this…but a coworker said it was really good as a glaze on pork chops as well.

  9. Pepper jelly on top of cream cheese and served with your favorite crackers is amazing. Or, better yet. Take a log of goat cheese and roll it in curry powder, then put in a bowl and top with pepper jelly. Here’s the hard part. Let it come to room temperature and serve with your favorite crackers. People will think you are a Goat Cheese Miracle Worker!

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