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
Tried this Recipe? Pin it for Later!Mention @CulinaryHill or tag #CulinaryHill!

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  1. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. Doni

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

    Thank you for the recipe.5 stars

  7. 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…

  8. 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

  9. 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.

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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. 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

  20. 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

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