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.
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.
- 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.
- To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, white wine vinegar, chili powder, and salt in a large bowl.
- 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.
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.
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 Recipe
- 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.
- 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.
- 1 sweet onion or a bunch of green onions may be substituted for the red onion.
- A single bell pepper may be substituted for the 1/2 cup each of chopped red and green bell peppers.
- 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.