Cowboy Caviar

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This easy recipe for Cowboy Caviar is fun, fresh, colorful, and endlessly adaptable. It makes a great dip, salad, side dish, or even a topping for grilled meats. Always a potluck favorite!

Cowboy caviar in a bowl on a white plate with tortilla chips.


 

Cowboy Caviar is a popular Midwestern take on salsa. With a few cans of beans and corn, a pile of crunchy fresh veggies, and a sweet-and-spicy dressing, it might just be the perfect summer appetizer/salad/side dish.

I love it with tortilla chips, but it makes an excellent taco, burrito, or quesadilla topping. Or, serve it with grilled fish or chicken. It’s also delicious stirred into cooked rice or pasta. There are so many ways to enjoy Cowboy Caviar: just pick one and get started!

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for cowboy caviar.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Sugar: The recipe reflects how we make it in my family. But YES, it has a lot of sugar. Please feel free to reduce it or omit it entirely. If you want to reduce it, mix the dressing with just a tablespoon of sugar to start, taste it, and go from there.
  • White wine vinegar: Or substitute apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or even lime juice. It changes the flavor, but not in a bad way.
  • Extra sweet “shoepeg” corn: Regular canned sweet corn or frozen corn may be substituted for the extra sweet corn. The closest measurement for either option is ¾ cup, but feel free to use the whole 15-ounce can of corn.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. To make the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, sugar, white wine vinegar, chili powder, and salt to taste (I like 1 teaspoon). 
Cowboy Caviar salad dressing in a clear glass bowl with a whisk in the background.
  1. In a large bowl, add tomatoes, black-eyed peas, black beans, corn, red onion, bell peppers, and cilantro.
Cowboy caviar ingredients in a bowl before being mixed.
  1. Drizzle with the dressing and stir to combine. Cover and chill until serving time.
Cowboy caviar in a bowl on a white plate with tortilla chips.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes about 12 cups of Cowboy Caviar (more or less depending on the size of your bell peppers).
  • Storage: This recipe keeps about 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
  • Make ahead: You can make the dressing up to 3 days in advance. You can assemble the full recipe a day in advance too, but the bell peppers might soften a bit in the dressing.
  • Avocado: Avocado is good with everything. The avocados may darken over time, so the salad may not last as long in the refrigerator.
  • Italian dressing: Many readers like to use a store-bought or homemade Italian dressing in Cowboy Caviar. Start with about 1 cup of dressing, taste it, and see if you want more.
  • Cowboy Rice Salad: Mix some Cowboy Caviar with leftover cold cooked rice.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use dried beans in Cowboy Caviar?

Dried beans are extremely economical and much lower in sodium. Cook each bean variety 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 ½ to ¾ cup of dried beans for every 15-ounce can of beans the recipe calls for.

How do I make Cowboy Caviar spicy?

Add a few chopped seeded jalapeños or serrano chiles to the salad for a little kick.

Shrimp Ceviche

Shrimp Ceviche is a refreshing salad made with raw shrimp “cooked” in citrus juice and tossed with fresh herbs and vegetables. It’s delicious on tostadas, crackers, or tortilla chips with plenty of hot sauce!

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Perfect drink pairings

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Cowboy caviar in a bowl on a white plate with tortilla chips.

Cowboy Caviar

This easy recipe for Cowboy Caviar is fun, fresh, colorful, and endlessly adaptable. It makes a great dip, salad, side dish, or even a topping for grilled meats. Always a potluck favorite!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 12 servings (1 cup each)
Course Appetizer, Salad
Cuisine American
Calories 185
4.94 from 534 votes

Ingredients 

For the dressing:

For the vegetables:

Instructions 

  • To make the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, sugar, white wine vinegar, chili powder, and salt to taste (I like 1 teaspoon). 
  • In a large bowl, add tomatoes, black-eyed peas, black beans, corn, red onion, bell peppers, and cilantro. Drizzle with the dressing and stir to combine. Cover and chill until serving time.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Sugar: The recipe reflects how we make it in my family. But YES, it has a lot of sugar. Please feel free to reduce it or omit it entirely. If you want to reduce it, mix the dressing with just a tablespoon of sugar to start, taste it, and go from there.
  2. White wine vinegar: Or substitute apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or even lime juice. It changes the flavor, but not in a bad way.
  3. Extra sweet “shoepeg” corn: Regular canned sweet corn or frozen corn may be substituted for the extra sweet corn. The closest measurement for either option is ¾ cup, but feel free to use the whole 15-ounce can of corn.
  4. Yield: This recipe makes about 12 cups of Cowboy Caviar (more or less depending on the size of your bell peppers).
  5. Storage: This recipe keeps about 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
  6. Make ahead: You can make the dressing up to 3 days in advance. You can assemble the full recipe a day in advance too, but the bell peppers might soften a bit in the dressing.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 185kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 5gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 201mgPotassium: 336mgFiber: 5gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 872IUVitamin C: 28mgCalcium: 20mgIron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

  1. Cam this Cowboy Cavalier be canned..if so will I need to cook it 1st and the jar it and hot water both or just jar cold and hot water bath?5 stars

    1. Hi Patti, this recipe hasn’t been tested for canning. I unfortunately am not a home preserving/canning expert, and for safety reasons I think you should follow recipes that have been developed and tested for canning. Corn is a low-acid food which makes it especially ripe for harmful organisms if it’s not canned properly. The short answer is – maybe this is safe for canning, but I don’t know, so I cannot in good conscience recommend it. I’m so sorry. I hope you love this cowboy caviar and please let me know if you have anymore questions! – Meggan

  2. Made this for a company potluck 3 years ago. People are still asking me for the recipe. I send them toyour website. Very satisfied with your recipe. Thanks.

  3. Did you change the recipe? I have this saved in my favorites, but I thought you omitted the black eyed peas, no sugar, and used a red wine vinegar with a white vinegar?

    1. Hi Laura, thank you for your question! The formatting has changed some over the years, but the recipe is the same. I’ve made it with red wine, and it’s delicious. There are notes that have evolved regarding sugar, which can always be adjusted to preference. Black-eyed peas can be omitted as well. I’m sorry for any confusion, and I hope you’re able to make it to your liking! – Meggan

  4. Sublime! I also added chickpeas, and substituted small sweet peppers over bell peppers, and red beans for black. I will make this for company.5 stars

  5. Absolutely delicious. Omitted the sugar completely. Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe with us.5 stars

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