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.

Looking for some easy party snack ideas? I cracked the code to Chipotle's famous guacamole--it only took a few dozen tries, but oh, what delicious tries they were. Serve it with homemade corn tortilla chips and get out of the way! Or if you're feeling old school, how about Knorr's classic spinach dip, even better than the one you remembered.

 

Cowboy caviar in a bowl on a white plate with tortilla chips.
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This classic Tex Mex recipe has become one of my favorite ways to prepare beans. If you're a bean enthusiast, Cowboy Caviar is the ultimate recipe to serve at parties. It's naturally vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free, so everyone will be able to enjoy it. And trust me, they will.

Not only is it super quick to make, but it's very versatile. Cowboy caviar, also known as Texas caviar, Cowboy Salad, Dixie Caviar, or yes, even Redneck Caviar, can be a dip, salad topping, relish, side dish, you name it. It’s a constant at any Texas barbecue and a fabulous way to eat more beans and vegetables.

Everyone is different when it comes to sugar, I know. But at the end of the day, my goal is to have you LOVE what you make, and spread the word about Cowboy Caviar. Because it's that good.

Therefore, I've added some really delicious low-sugar suggestions for you in case you want a more savory bean salad, as well as suggestions for using different varieties of heirloom beans, in case you've got some dried beans lurking in your pantry.

Need Cowboy Caviar for 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.

How to make Cowboy Caviar:

No exact ingredient quantities are listed below, because so many people love to make big batches of Cowboy Caviar. See the recipe card below for specifics.

Once you chop up the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and peppers, all the rest is smooth sailing.
Cowboy caviar ingredients in various bowls.

  1. Get the beans ready. If you're using canned beans, be sure to drain and rinse them really well under cold water. If you're cooking your own bean medley, the beans probably don't need rinsing.
  2. To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, white wine vinegar, chili powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Then add the beans and all the vegetables to the bowl and mix everything together. Stir in the cilantro, cover, and chill in the refrigerator until it's time to party.
    Separated cowboy caviar ingredients in a clear bowl.

My tips for the ultimate Cowboy Caviar:

  • Feel free to improvise. Honestly, you can make this with any combination of beans that you personally enjoy. Mix it up and have fun! Use kidney beans, pintos, limas, cannellini, vaquero, or your best heirloom beans. Sometimes you can find the fresh black-eyed peas at the grocery store. Whatever you do, just make it! Hate cilantro? Leave it out!
  • Read this if you want to lower the 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 delicious options to make it less sweet without sacrificing one iota of flavor:

    • Add 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time to the dressing, blending well between additions and tasting, until it's sweet enough for you.
    • Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and a quarter cup of freshly-squeezed lime juice to the salad. (about 2-3 limes)
    • Add 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon maple syrup to the salad. (about 1 1/2 lemons)
    • Add 1 tablespoon honey and a dash of tequila to the salad. Bet you didn't see that coming!
  • Make ahead. If you’re cooking ahead of time, a few of the vegetables might soften a bit in the dressing, but the beans can be dressed ahead of time without a problem. One day in advance should be fine.
  • Storing. This recipe keeps about 3-4 days in the refrigerator. It doesn't freeze well.
  • Leftovers. Enjoy the leftovers inside an omelet, spooned over a grilled steak, or tossed with fresh greens for a quick lunch.
    Cowboy caviar in a bowl on a white plate with tortilla chips.

Variations and good substitutions:

  • Canned beans are perfectly fine, but you can also cook your own beans. Dried beans are extremely economical and much lower in sodium. However, it requires more work than opening cans of beans. Cook the different bean varieties separately, as cooking times may vary depending on size and age of the dried bean. How many dried beans makes a can? You need to cook 1/2 to 3/4 cup of dried beans for every 15-ounce can of beans the recipe calls for.
  • How to cook dried beans. After rinsing in cold water and picking out any debris, bring the dried beans to a boil in a big pot of water. Boil for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer until tender. If you plan on adding salt, add it halfway through cooking. As soon as the beans reach the desired tenderness, drain off the cooking water and let them cool.
  • Vinegar. Instead of white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar are both great substitutions.
  • Frozen corn. The original Cowboy Caviar recipe called for extra-sweet canned corn--sometimes called shoepeg corn or super sweet. But go ahead and use thawed frozen corn kernels or freshly cut corn off the cob, if you like.
  • Avocado. Avocado is good with everything. If you want to add chunks of avocado to Cowboy Caviar, choose just barely soft avocados, so they hold up in the salad without getting too mushy. Also, the avocados may darken over time, so the salad may not last as long in the refrigerator.
  • Spicy. Add a few chopped seeded jalapeño peppers to the salad for a little kick, or maybe a sprinkle of Tajin hot pepper.
  • Cowboy Caviar with Italian dressing. If you want to use Italian dressing-- and many people do-- just don't make the vinaigrette in this recipe. Start with using about 1 cup of dressing, taste it, and see if you think you need more. (I might add a little chili powder, too.)
Cowboy caviar in a bowl on a white plate with tortilla chips.

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.
4.75 from 144 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 182kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Video

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: 182kcal
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  1. Jim

    Try balsamic vinegar instead of adding sugar. I also like soy sauce to balance the flavors and that five sense of taste–umami. Thanks for the recipe.

  2. Tammy

    I usually add jalopenos, leave out the sugar (diabetic) and add fresh lime juice instead of the vinegar. It just changes it up to a more southwest flavor. Add cooked chicken, quinoa or pasta to it the next day with more of the vinaigrette for a really good side dish or hot weather meal.5 stars

    1. Christy L Brinkley

      that’s a great idea! thanks

  3. Rosario

    This is lovely. Just lovely. My kind of sandwich. I
    never knew tomatoes and avocado go together.5 stars

  4. Janet

    This recipe was great. I used what I had in my pantry and also substituted apple cider vinegar for white vinegar. The results made an easy summer side dish for burgers!5 stars

  5. Jewls

    Love this recipe. Thanks for sharing. My family is crazy about it. I generally substitute whatever is in my kitchen and pantry. It always comes out great. For those worried about the sugar, we substitute Stevia to taste. Voila! Sugar free :)5 stars

  6. kevin p mccabe

    We leave out the oil and sugar. I add a Jalapeno pepper diced diced up. I also add a combo of red wine, white wine and a touch of balsamic. Some Cumin and chipotle chili powder. We make this weekly.5 stars

  7. Mitra S

    Best Cowboy Salad that I have made. My picky son devour on it :).5 stars

  8. Ally

    absolutely loved this recipe-such a fun summer side dish. didnt have any black eyed peas so i used a can of canneli beans and it came out just as great! also added a bunch of tajin.5 stars

  9. Jim Bob Joe

    Used a can of ro-tel tomatoes with green chiles instead of fresh and it turned out good.

  10. Tia L Justice

    I made this for the first time last night, with a coupl.e of minor tweaks. I used a bag of Baby Sweet Peppers, (Red, Yellow and Orange), and instead of Roma tomatoes, I used Sunset Wild Wonders Gourmet Medley Tomatoes (Orange, yellow, wtiahite, red, and brown) cut in quarters. Turned out so good I’m making it again today.

  11. Stephanie Taylor

    So good! Used 2 cans black beans I stead of black eyed peas (couldn’t find any). Next time I’d use a little less sugar. Yum!5 stars

  12. lisa conley

    Thank you for the recipe will make tomorrow for a birthday party 🥳

  13. Nanci

    I just made this again – reduced the sugar. It is amazing!5 stars

  14. Lisa

    Made this for the first time last Saturday for a party! I actually followed the recipe and it was spot on delicious and a huge hit!! This will be my future go to for sure!! Thanks 😊5 stars

  15. Jennie

    I just love this ! My family can’t get enough of it. We make a double batch and it’s gone in 1day. I also mix in 1 cup diced avacado and add in some crumbled up bacon.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Jennie, thank you so much for this! The avocado and bacon additions sound divine. I will definitely try that next time I make if. I’m so glad you liked it! Thanks again – Meggan

  16. Jenny Doyle

    What a fantastic recipe. My family and friends love it. I’ve made it about a dozen times and always receive compliments. It’s easy and versatile, too. Sometimes I leave out the chili powder and add balsamic vinegar, sometimes I add garlic and mustard powder to the vinaigrette, sometimes add other vegetables, always rave reviews. Thank you very much.5 stars

  17. Lynn

    I made this for thanksgiving and it made a lot!!! So much that I wondered if you can freeze it. I will probably eat a little more not sure about the rest of my family.5 stars

  18. 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

  19. 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

  20. 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

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