Cowboy Caviar Recipe

This easy recipe for Cowboy Caviar is 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 103 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 182kcal
  • 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: 182kcal

Comments

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  1. Melissa

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

    1. Trawana C

      Hello,

      Two days max!

    2. 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…

  2. 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

  3. 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.

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

  5. Michael

    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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. 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

  12. Lisa McLeod

    I was a little scared to add ANY sugar so I tested it first with a small serving. WOW! Yummers! I added a scant 1/4 cups of sugar and I believe my company will really like this. That is if it lasts until tomorrow….nice recipe. Thanks!5 stars

  13. Jean DiGiorgio

    I threw a cowboy caviar concoction together tonight and THEN found your recipe.  As it was it was passed around 3x!  Next time I’m making your recipe Meggan.  Seems everyone likes it….alot!  What I love is that these ingredients are pantry/refrigerator staples, so it’s quick to put together as a side dish for home, or to bring to a potluck/party.5 stars

  14. Brooke

    Haven’t tried this yet but I am from the Midwest(Mn & WI) and have never seen it with sugar. Will be willing to try but will cut back on the sugar. I’ve always seen it made with Italian dressing either store bought or homemade. My recipe calls for a couple of chipotles in adobo sauce. And hominy in place of the corn. Though I have used corn and prefer it.5 stars

  15. Margaret N

    Love this dish in the summer because it’s so cool and crispy, but here in Michigan we eat it a lot more in the winter months, because we get sick of all that heavy potato-y cheesy stuff. As for a topping, my whole family much prefers just a wee bit of yum yum sauce. Try it.5 stars

  16. Sydney Wade

    Love,  Love, Love!  I am making it for the 4th time.   I don’t like things super sweet so I just put in 1 1/2 t. of sugar and it was perfect.  Perfect ingredients and it tastes so fresh!  I am actually making it right now as we speak!  One thing I did add was a teaspoon of chipotle chili pepper.  I love a smoky flavor. Don’t really know if it really changed the taste though, LOL.  So addicting. 5 stars

  17. Michael Hill

    This Recipe is Excellent! No need for “See Notes”! The Balance between the Sweet and and Chilly Powder With Oil is Perfect. You cannot please everyone…… Will Always be Haters out there. 5***** stars from Me!5 stars

  18. Glenda brown

    How far ahead can you make this???  5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Glenda! A few of the fresh veggies might soften a bit in the dressing if you make more than a day in advance. I would certainly feel good letting it sit overnight, and there is no risk of anything turning bad if you let it sit in your fridge for 3 or 4 days. If you want to make it that far ahead, though, and you’re worried about softened peppers, you could always prep all the ingredients and the dressing and hold them separately and toss it together an hour before you need it. Or the night before you need it. I hope this makes sense! Thank you!

  19. S.

    I made this with no sugar for a Minnesota potluck. It went over great!5 stars

    1. meggan

      #MinnesotaPotluck is my new favorite hashtag! :) Thank you so much for letting me know! Take care.

  20. Court

    I accidentally used balsamic white vinegar instead of white wine vinegar. Is this going to taste ok? :/

    Thank you!!

    1. meggan

      Hi Courtney! Sorry I was gone all day and couldn’t reply to you until now. You should be JUST FINE with white balsamic! Honestly, any kind of vinegar is good in this recipe. It doesn’t really matter. No sweat! I hope you think so too when you try it. :) Thank you! Sorry again for the delay.

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