Cowboy Caviar Recipe

This easy recipe for Cowboy Caviar fun, colorful, and endlessly adaptable. Healthy black-eyed peas, vegetables, and beans bring good luck no matter when you eat them, so be sure to make a big bowl for your next barbecue or potluck.

For more dip ideas, try my black bean salsa or Chipotle Copycat guacamole. These are all excellent with my Chipotle chicken, grilled tri-tip, and grilled pork chops!

Bowl of Cowboy Caviar with fresh chopped vegetables and black beans. Pictured in a glass bowl with a dark background.
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This recipe is the classic version which is just as sweet as it is tangy. I’ve made some delicious low-sugar suggestions in case you prefer to keep things a little more savory.

Everyone is different when it comes to sugar, but I just want you to have a dish that you’ll make again and again, because you love it so much. (You'll see in the comments that some readers find the original recipe way too sweet, while others think it's just perfect!)

Need to feed a bunch of hungry guests? Click and slide the number next to ‘servings’ on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.

What is cowboy caviar?

Cowboy caviar, also known as Texas caviar, can be a dip, salad topping, relish, side dish, you name it! It’s standard fare at any Texas barbecue and a fabulous way to eat more beans and vegetables.

Can you make Cowboy Caviar with less sugar?

I’ll be the first to admit that this dressing is on the sweet side, but that’s the way it’s made in the Midwest, and many people love it exactly how it is.

However, there’s no reason to avoid making cowboy caviar if you’re trying to cut back on sugar. In fact, here’s a few different ways to make it less sweet without sacrificing flavor:

  • Add 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time, blending well between additions and tasting, until desired sweetness is achieved.
  • Add a tablespoon of sugar and a quarter cup of lime juice to the salad.
  • Add 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon maple syrup to the salad.
  • Add 1 tablespoon honey and a dash of tequila to the salad.

8 bowls of ingredients for Cowboy Caviar. Clockwise from top: bowl of black beans, chopped red onions, chopped tomatoes, olive oil, sweet corn kernels, white wine vinegar, black eyed peas, red bell pepper.

Is Cowboy Caviar vegan?

Yes, it is, as long as you don’t make it with honey.

Is Cowboy Caviar gluten free?

Because it’s all beans and veggies, cowboy caviar is gluten free. Just pick corn tortilla chips for serving!

Can you make Cowboy Caviar ahead of time?

If you’re cooking ahead of time, a few of the fresh veggies might soften a bit in the dressing if you make more than a day in advance, but the beans can be dressed ahead of time without a problem.

I would certainly feel okay about letting it sit overnight, and there is no risk of anything spoiling if you let it sit in your refrigerator for 3 or 4 days.

Can you make Cowboy Caviar without cilantro?

If cilantro tastes like soap and you can’t stand it, feel free to omit the cilantro and add parsley, chopped scallion, or minced chives in its place.

What kind of vinegar works best with Cowboy Caviar?

This recipe calls for red wine vinegar, but you can use apple cider vinegar or even plain white vinegar if that’s all you have. It’s always a hit no matter which kind of vinegar you use.

Bowl of Cowboy Caviar served with crispy tortilla chips. The Cowboy Caviar is pictured in a white bowl. There is a dark blue background.

Can you use Italian dressing in Cowboy Caviar?

If you want to use Italian dressing, and many people do, just omit the olive oil, sugar, white wine vinegar, chili powder, and salt. Start with using about 1 cup of dressing, taste it, and see if you think you need more.

How long can you keep Cowboy Caviar?

This recipe keeps about 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

Can you freeze Cowboy Caviar?

Although I wouldn’t recommend freezing this dish, I would recommend eating the leftovers on as many things as possible until it’s gone. Throw it on top of some scrambled eggs, toss it in a green salad, or spoon it over a steak.

Do you use canned or dried beans in Cowboy Caviar?

When it comes to the black-eyed peas and beans, seek out the canned varieties if you can, if only for the convenience. You may also find fresh, cooked black-eyed peas in the produce section.

If you’re trying to limit your sodium or you’re making Cowboy Caviar for an army, you certainly can use dried beans for this recipe.

Can you make Cowboy Caviar that’s low in sodium?

If you’re eating a diet that’s low in sodium, look for low sodium labeled canned beans, or cook dried beans at home.

Using dried beans to make Cowboy Caviar:

The instructions on the package should tell you how to cook them, but usually you boil the beans for an hour or cook them in half the time using a pressure cooker. The ratio of dried beans to canned beans is 1/2 to 3/4 cup of dried beans= one 15 ounce can of beans.

What kind of corn do you use in Cowboy Caviar?

If you’re trying to figure out what type of corn to buy, the original recipe calls extra sweet corn (in a can) which may also be labeled as super sweet corn or even shoepeg corn. It’s a smaller can than normal, 11 ounces instead of 15 ounces.

If you can’t find it or would rather not pay the premium, use regular canned sweet corn (not creamed) or even 3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed. If it’s in season, use fresh corn cut off the cob for a nice, naturally sweet crunch.

5 from 132 votes

Cowboy Caviar Recipe

This easy recipe for Cowboy Caviar fun, colorful, and endlessly adaptable. Healthy black-eyed peas, vegetables, and beans bring good luck no matter when you eat them, so be sure to make a big bowl for your next barbecue or potluck.
Course Appetizer, Salad
Cuisine American
Keyword beans, corn, peppers
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Calories 194kcal
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar or to taste, see notes
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 pound Roma tomatoes seeded and diced
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black-eyed peas drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 (11 ounce) can super sweet corn, drained (see notes)
  • 1 red onion diced
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro or parsley, from 1 bunch
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, white wine vinegar, chili powder, and salt. 
  • Add tomatoes, black-eyed peas, beans, corn, red onion, and bell peppers. Stir to combine.
  • Stir in cilantro. Cover and chill until serving time.

Recipe Notes

  1. Regular canned sweet corn or frozen corn may be substituted for the extra sweet corn. The closest measurement for either option is 3/4 cup, but feel free to use the whole 15-ounce can of corn.
  2. 1 sweet onion or a bunch of green onions may be substituted for the red onion.
  3. A single bell pepper may be substituted for the 1/2 cup each of chopped red and green bell peppers.
  4. In the Midwest, we like the sugar in this recipe. I personally think it tastes great. BUT. If you think 1/4 cup sugar sounds like too much, feel free to use less. Perhaps add 1 tablespoon at a time. A couple of readers have suggested this is way too sweet and they were disappointed. It breaks my heart. You can always add more vinegar and salt if you want to try to save your batch. But I swear, this is how we eat it in America's Dairyland. And we love it.

Nutrition

Calories: 194kcal

Comments

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  1. Kathy Berrier

    You had a lot comments about the cowboy caviar so if some already made this observation, I apologize. Onions and bell peppers are some of the few veg that freeze well without blanching so I tried freezing part of a completed batch. And guess what! It was fantastic! I would let it marinate in the fridge for a day or 2 to boost flavor, but wouldn’t this work well as a make-ahead for a large gathering? BTW, your recipe worked well for me, even without cilantro, which I am not fond of. Thanks so much, Kathy/western Wisconsin5 stars

  2. Lynn Morella

    This is the perfect recipe ! Thank you very much for all your time and energy that goes into all that you do!5 stars

  3. Suzana

    I made this today. Since we are on a low carb diet, instead of the sugar and vinigar, i did a little olive oil and chilli powder. Also added chopped green chilis. The k8ds love it a little spicy and so do i. Thank you for the base recipe.5 stars

  4. Brian

    Everything is spot on except for the onion. Personally I love onions, but half the amount specified would be ideal for me. Or perhaps using a sweet onion instead.5 stars

  5. Debbie

    It was AMAZING!!! I made this for a BBQ party and everyone just loved it. Had only enough left for me to take to work for my lunch. Everyone wanted the recipe. It is so fresh and colorful. What a crowd pleaser. Ill be making this a lot. So healthy also. I didn’t think it was sweet. It was perfect. Thanks so much for this dish. Now im looking for something else from your kitchen. lol5 stars

    1. meggan

      I’m so happy to hear that Debbie!! I agree. Not sweet – just perfect. :D You made my day. Have a great week! -Meggan

  6. Nicole

    This cowboy caviar is amazing!!! We make it for all our neighborhood gatherings. There are never any leftovers. Use the dressing the recipe calls for (italian dressing would change/ruin the amazing flavor).5 stars

  7. Jon Richt

    Hi Meggan. This is my first time reading and posting to your site. I came here via Nagi’s Recipe Tin Eats site, where she has a rice salad recipe she claimed was inspired by this Cowboy Caviar recipe.

    Keeping my post short, I live in MA, and found the amount of sugar to be too high; 2 TBS (1/8 cup) was perfect. I’m not judging – this is simply what I prefer, and definitely understand how people would enjoy more/less sweetness.

    I also like the complexity of THIS recipe. I’ve had plenty of similar salads/salsas, but this makes a good side dish (as well as a dip for chips); the addition of avocado makes sense too, though I haven’t tried this yet. During the hot weather, I’m always on the lookout for side dishes which can be prepared and eaten cold for a few days – and this fits the bill perfectly. Thanks!5 stars

  8. Charmaine Harris

    I also added kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans (all unseasoned), and taco seasoning, as I love ALL beans, and everyone said it was delicious. Also added banana peppers as I have an abundance of them in my garden and cherry tomatoes too. Love this recipe! Thanks for sharing it:-)5 stars

  9. Doni

    I like it without the sugar. I added fresh lime juice in place of the vinegar.

    Thank you for the recipe.5 stars

  10. Melissa

    How long is this good for once it’s been made? 

    1. Jon Richt

      Hey Melissa – I’m not Meggan or affiliated with her site in any way. I’d say that as soon as the beans/peas start to smell, or the cilantro starts to get a bit slimy (~3 days), it’s time to dump it. Hope that helps…

  11. Sue R

    Hi again Meggan! I’m off to outback Australia next month and remembered how much we loved this recipe. Because I can get a hold of all of the ingredients easily out there, make a batch up and keep it for a few days in the fridge for days we are too busy to cook much. I am going to my pin it to my list for the trip plus take the recipe I printed out too for when we have no power and am eating under the moonlight. Love your blog!

    I don’t understand why the person above had an issue with printing it out. I got one page with zero ads.5 stars

  12. meggan

    Hi Cheryl, I’m sorry about that. You need to use the “print recipe button” (it’s located in 2 places, immediately at the top under the recipe title and then again in the recipe card). If you just print the whole post, the whole post will print. Best of luck to you, and no, I definitely won’t share your address! I can delete it out of the comment after I reply. Sorry again.

  13. This is one of my favorite dip recipes! I love how healthy, fresh, and delicious it is! 5 stars

  14. Awesome recipe…….great flavor!
    Note to self:  added 1/4 tsp honey dijon mustard to dressing for emulsifier …..keeps it from separating.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Great idea Michael! Plus also delicious. Thank you, and glad it worked for you! Take care. :D

  15. Tyra

    I serve this as a side dish. Added chopped avocados. As for the Dressing, I used omitted the vinegar and sugar and used fresh lime juice, minced garlic, smoked paprika and cumin. So GOOOOOOD!5 stars

  16. Nancyroo

    Thank you for this recipie. I make it often for potlucks, where it’s always a hit! .It’s great just the way it’s written, but today I’m adding a chopped garlic scape cause they’re growing in the back yard.5 stars

  17. Sue R

    Loved loved loved this recipe! I made it for my mother-in-laws visit and she commented on how delicious it was too. I was worried about the sugar but didn’t need to be. Tasted great but I did use fresh corn and sauteed it quickly instead of canned super sweet corn. I’ve pinned it and it’s a keeper.5 stars

  18. Amelia

    Has anyone ever made without sugar? 

    1. Sara

      Yes. A few times. It was good!

    2. meggan

      I am pretty sure people have, you’d just waste your life digging through the comments to find out. It would basically be Black Bean Salsa without the sugar… which is amazing!!! You could use red wine vinegar and lime juice instead, if you wanted. That’s how I make my black bean salsa. Delish. Thank you!

  19. Terri Robbins

    I made this 2 times this week and it is delicious. The only changes I made was used 1 can of fire roasted drained tomatoes and 1 can of drained rotel in place of the raw tomatoes.. (not a fan of raw). I added 3 chopped jalapeno’s for some heat.. and it was delicious. Will defiantly keep this recipe. Thanks5 stars

    1. meggan

      I love your changes! The thing about canned fire-roasted tomatoes is, the fire-roasted-ness adds SO much flavor, and you don’t have to do anything extra to get it. Plus it saves you on the chopping time. Same with Rotel – more flavor with less work. And I love that you added jalapenos! Amazing, thanks for the comment Terri!

  20. Carolyn Wing

    I made this yesterday. I used chili lime seasoning. I also used a food processor for the veggies, but they turned out pretty mushy. Next time I will not use the processor. Something is missing. It was YUMMY but needs something.5 stars

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