Preserving Chillies: Chilli Jam, Drying Chillies at Home and Chilli Top Vinegar

Our chilli plants at home are still going strong, and there's plenty available at the markets – but not for long. This week we're sharing our recipe for everyone's favourite Chilli Jam, as well as tips to adjust heat level, and how to dry excess chillies at home, so you can stock up your pantry and keep your kitchen creations warm (or piping hot!) this winter.

There are over 100 varieties of chillies, which vary widely in flavour as well as in heat intensity, from mild to punishing. Always try your chillies raw before embarking on any chilli recipe, so you know what you're in for, and adjust accordingly.

If you are a real hot-head, leave in the seeds, or throw in a couple of varieties high on the Scoville chart like birds eye, habaneros or Scotch Bonnets. If you want to keep it mild, use long red chillies and remove the seeds, or replace some of the chilli with more onion, capsicum or tomato.

If you messed up and your chilli jam has turned out hotter that you'd like it, you can always make another batch of onion, tomato or capsicum jam, and mix them together to dilute the heat. Just bring it all back up to a boil before jarring up again.

The below chilli jam recipe is easily adaptable to suit your desired level of heat, and can be doubled or halved without a fuss.

Chilli Jam

(Makes 4 x 300ml jars)


  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 500g onion, thinly sliced
  • teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1kg red chillies, thinly sliced (save the tops for chilli top vinegar!)
  • 500ml (2 cups) white wine vinegar
  • 750caster sugar



Put the oil into a shallow wide heavy bottom pan. Add the onions and sauté over a medium heat until they are soft and sweet but have no colour. This should take approximately 15 minutes.

Add the ground spices and the chillies and stir to combine. Cook for another 15 minutes to soften the chillies. The chillies and onions need to be very soft to prevent them from becoming candied once the sugar is added.

When they’re at the right consistency add the vinegar and 500ml (2 cups) of water, and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the sugar and cook for 3040 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking

Check for setting point. Turn off the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Pour into hot sterilised jars, remove air bubbles and seal. Store in a cool dark place for up to a year, or heat process to extend the shelf life to 2+ years.

Check out how to test setting point here, sterilise jars here, and heat process here.


Drying chillies at home:

Drying chillies is the best way to preserve any excess, especially if you’ve got a very prolific chilli bush! When the season is at its height, we fill the oven and dehydrator with chillies and make our own chilli flakes and chilli powder to use for the rest of the year. We also dry a few extra to decorate the Christmas tree!

If you have a dehydrator, pop whole chillies in overnight and dehydrate following the manufacturer's instructions. 

If you’re drying chillies in the oven, cut them in half lengthways, then spread out on a baking tray or a wire rack. If you have a fan-forced oven, press the chilli between two wire racks, then put the racks on a baking tray to stop the chillies moving around. A low and slow oven set to around 50°C will maintain the colour of the chilli, but it can take up to 6 hours or so to dehydrate. If you want to speed up the process, increase the heat to about 110°C and leave the oven door slightly ajar to get some air in there. Keep an eye on the chilli so it doesn’t burn and dehydrate for 1–3 hours depending on the size of the chilli. Bird’s eye chillies will take an hour, while long red chillies will take more than 2 hours.

You need the chillies to be completely dry and brittle before turning into flakes. Allow to cool completely, then either break them up with your hands (wearing gloves!) or blitz them in a coffee or spice grinder into flakes or powder. Store in airtight containers or jars for up to 12 months.

You can also mix equal parts chilli and salt to make a delicious spicy seasoning. Feel free to add extra flavours, such as crushed fennel seeds, dried orange or lemon powder or dried herbs.

If you need inspiration, check out these beautiful images and story about drying chillies in the Gobi desert here

Chilli Top Vinegar:

There's so much heat and flavour in the tops of chillies, don't throw them away!

Place chilli tops in a clean jar with a little salt and sugar, and cover with whatever vinegar you have on hand - white wine vinegar, rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar will all work well. You can also add any spices you'd like for extra flavour, like coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star anise or mustard seeds.

Let the jar sit on your bench top out of direct sunlight for a few weeks, tasting every so often until you are happy with the flavour and level of heat. Then strain and pour into a clean bottle and store in the pantry for a very long time.

Add to salad dressings for a kick, stir through soups or use as a dipping sauce for dumplings.