Cowboy Caviar Recipe

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.

Recipe ingredients:

Cowboy caviar ingredients in various bowls.

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.
  • 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 3/4 cup, but feel free to use the whole 15-ounce can of corn.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, white wine vinegar, chili powder, and salt in a large bowl (large enough to hold the whole salad, a serving bowl if you want to).
  2. 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.

Recipe tips:

  • 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.
  • Storage: 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.

Recipe variations and substitutions:

  • Dried beans: 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 1/2 to 3/4 cup of dried beans for every 15-ounce can of beans the recipe calls for.
  • Vinegar: Use apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar if that’s what you have. A splash of fresh lime juice is good too!
  • Onions: 1 white, yellow, or sweet onion, or a bunch of green onions may be substituted for the red onion.
  • Avocado: Avocado is good with everything. The avocados may darken over time, so the salad may not last as long in the refrigerator.
  • Spicy: Add a few chopped seeded jalapeños or serranos to the salad for a little kick.
  • Italian dressing: If you want to use Italian dressing (many readers have) 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.
  • Mix with leftover cold cooked rice for a Cowboy Rice Salad.

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

More delicious salsas and dips:

Did you enjoy this recipe? Please leave a rating and a comment below!

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

Cowboy Caviar Recipe

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!
5 from 112 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: 111kcal
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
  • 15 ounces black beans drained and rinsed
  • 11 ounces sweet corn
  • 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. Sugar:  Please feel free to reduce the amount of sugar 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. Extra sweet corn: 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.
  3. Dried beans: Cook each bean variety separately, as cooking times may vary depending on size and age of the dried bean. You need to cook 1/2 to 3/4 cup of dried beans for every 15-ounce can of beans the recipe calls for.
  4. Vinegar: Use apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar if that's what you have.
  5. Onions: 1 white, yellow, or sweet onion, or a bunch of green onions may be substituted for the red onion.
  6. Avocado: Avocado is good with everything. The avocados may darken over time, so the salad may not last as long in the refrigerator.
  7. Spicy: Add a few chopped seeded jalapeños or serranos to the salad for a little kick.
  8. Italian dressing: If you want to use Italian dressing (many readers have) 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 111kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 201mg | Potassium: 137mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 672IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 1mg
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  1. Catherine

    Hi! the recipe I have for this doesn’t have any sugar in it at all so you could probably leave it out entirely. And mine is made with zesty Italian dressing. Definitely a favorite in my book!5 stars

  2. Tammy

    Amen, John! I made this according to the recipe and I ended up draining off all the liquid I could and remaking it with a tablespoon of sugar and a quarter cup of lime juice instead. It was still overly sweet from the residual sugary dressing, but much more palatable to my tastes. Next time I make this, and I will, I’ll do only the 1 tablespoon sugar and add the quarter cup lime juice. The lesson I learned: listen to your intuition as you cook! Meggan, other than the sugar I love this recipe and thank you for it.5 stars

  3. meggan

    Glad you were able to make it at least edible, Tammy! All I can say is, I have posted a warning about the sugar. :) It really comes down to personal taste. I’m glad you’ll make it again, it really is great! And it’s true it doesn’t need the sugar to be delicious. I’m just sharing the classic recipe which happens to be quite sweet. Take care!

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