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.


Calories: 182kcal


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  1. Lisa

    I made this with balsamic white vinegar instead of white wine vinegar? Do you think it will taste ok? :/ Just realized this mistake. Thank you!!

  2. Eunice

    Can’t wait to make this for our work “BBQ Challenge”. I am a Cheesehead also and totally off the sugar! Yay for me and them too! As I am sure they will enjoy this delectable dish as much as I will making it. Thanks so much for sharing!
    Go Packers!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Cheeseheads 4Ever! And yes to no sugar, I mean, I eat sugar but I strive to eat less. Or none. It’s hard! But you inspire me to keep trying! As long as you don’t swear off cheese, we can be friends. :) GO PACKERS!!!!!!!

  3. Isabella

    No, no, no. I’m from Wisconsin too and would never dream of using so much sugar!

    1. meggan

      Obviously Wisconsin has people who watch their sugar intake! :) I just happen to not be related to A-N-Y of them, I guess, ha ha!

  4. Karen

    Hi Meggan,

    This turned out deeelish!! It’s so fresh and healthy!! I changed the dressing a bit by reducing the sugar to 1 Tbs, reducing the oil to 1/4 cup, adding fresh garlic, cumin, paprika, dried jalapeno flakes, lime juice, and a dash of Tequila [hope you don’t mind….I’m a TexAZ girl]. I’m taking it to a dinner party tonight as an appetizer (served with tortilla chips).

    I think the original dressing is great, too. Just depends on what you’re hankerin’ for at the time! :-)
    I hope there’s leftovers….mmmm lunch!!5 stars

  5. Linda

    Can’t wait to try it.  Got hooked on the one Costco carries.  Theirs is sweet too.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thank you Linda, I hope you love it! I will have to look for it at Costco. :)

  6. Tricia Steiner

    This is a great recipe!  I reduced the sugar and added some fresh ginger and cubed avacado……..yummy and so healthy.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Such nice additions, Tricia! Glad you loved it. :)

  7. Donald T

    Thanks! I used about 2 tsb sugar & added Xtra chili powder, jalapenos and garlic (sorry, just us Texas essentials ) My only suggestion would be adding dressing to taste instead of first, was way too much liquid for me, saved mine with 8 sheets of Bounty. Couldn’t get the stars to work but a 4 or 5 for sure.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Yes to all of this! You’re right, the dressing should be to taste. I love Texans. :) Thanks Donald!

  8. Beth

    I made this the other night and it was literally gone in 10 minutes! I did read some of the reviews and only added 1/4 cup of sugar. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I will be making it all summer!5 stars

  9. Marcia Haynes

    Disappointed with the last “Texas Caviar” recipe I tried, I’m going to give this one a whirl because the ingredients look more in line with what I expect. Although, most recipes I have eaten or have made use Tiger Sauce for the seasoning. Have you ever tried it in this recipe as a substitute?

    1. meggan

      Hi Marcia, I have never heard of Tiger Sauce! But I looked it up and it looks AWESOME. I was curious where you are from and if that is a regional condiment. The only thing I noticed is (at the least the recipe I saw) it has no sugar. My Cowboy Caviar is quite sweet, so please tread lightly if you are worried about sugar! Anyway, I am definitely going to experiment with tiger sauce and see where it leads me. I appreciate the info and I hope you aren’t disappointed in my cowboy caviar! Take care.

  10. Jan

    I make this every week, never change one thing and it’s just the BEST!  Sometimes I mix a serving of it with chilled Quinoa for a quick lunch, I serve it with Tostito Scoops and often we just eat it as a relish with our meal.  This one is a Winner Winner Chicken Dinner for sure!!!!! Thanks so much for posting.  P.S.  I’m from Nashville, so I’m a Southern lady and the sweetness of it is just perfection!5 stars

  11. Stephanie

    Has anyone subbed honey for the sugar? I think it would blend well in the dressing 

    1. meggan

      Hi Stephanie, there are way too many comments for you to go through them all, but I feel like tons of people have subbed honey for the sugar. I have tried it myself too and loved it! I will add a recipe note to that effect. Thank you for your comment!

  12. Jason

    We tried this recipe at our housewarming party this weekend and loved it (no cilantro for us though)! One of the most popular items at our party! We loved it. We will definitely be making this again! We also shared the recipe on our blog too (with credit given here of course)!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Awwww that’s so great to hear, Jason! Yes, cilantro is the best thing to leave out if you hate it. :) Thanks for the link back and I’m so glad you liked it. It’s a favorite around here! Take care.

  13. Tina

    I can’t get enough of this stuff! I have found that sweet italian dressing works really well instead of the sugar and vinegar….It’s sweet, but not too sweet.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Tina, thank you so much! I’m so glad you love it. Which dressing are you using? Sweet Italian dressings are a personal addiction of mine. Sounds like a great substitution! Thanks for sharing. :)

  14. Lori

    OMG this stuff is delicious and addicting!  And we love the sugar in it…we use every bit of the 1/3 cup (plus a tablespoon or so more…we are from the south :)!  It is the perfect combo of salty, sweet and fresh!5 stars

    1. meggan

      High-fives for ALL THE SUGAR, Lori! Thank you so much, glad you loved it. :) I sure do! XOXO

  15. Ashley

    I just made this for the first time and absolutely loved it! I left out the cilantro because my husband hates it, and as you recommended I started with only a tablespoon of sugar and I found that to be perfect! I think if you are looking for more of a salty savory flavor, one tablespoon of sugar is perfect! Will definitely be making this again and again, thanks so much!!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thanks so much for your comment, Ashley! Glad you started off small on the sugar and loved it. :) And yes, leave out the cilantro if someone isn’t a fan! It’s the easiest thing to do and nice to have one less ingredient to buy. :) Take care and thanks a lot!

  16. Nancy Hebert

    To be true to the recipe I made it pretty much exactly like it is written. I did substitute  Poblano pepper for about 1/3 of the bell pepper. My red onion was too strong apparently because it overpowered the dish. I too found it to be too sweet with 1/3 cup of sugar unless using it strictly as a relish. I’m not crazy about black eyed peas so using this as a relish to mix with the black eyed peas we also had for new years made both dishes more palatable. I would make this recipe again but with only 1/2 the sugar, maybe less.

  17. melolexx

    Loved this recipe for new year’s potluck appetizer! Used 1/4 cup sugar and a 1/2 tsp of black pepper but otherwise made exactly as you have it. I agree the sugar it partly what makes this “cowboy caviar” vs. a more tex-mex style recipe. It also makes it kind of a special treat. Thanks !5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thank you so much Melissa! I’m making it myself, too. You must be from the Midwest if you love the sugar too. :) I think just that little tweak makes it so good and different. Happy New Year!

  18. This a great healthier option! Love it! Colors are fantastic, and flavors awesome!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thanks Bec! I’m planning to try it soon with coconut sugar for those who prefer that. :) Thanks again!

  19. Nadine

    Do you think it would be ok to freeze the leftover?

    1. meggan

      Hi Nadine, I am not sure it would hold up well. The flavors would be fine, but I suspect the texture would be quite mushy after freezing and thawing. I wouldn’t really recommend it. Thanks for your question!

  20. Staci

    Would you consider this more of an appetizer or a side dish? Looking forward to trying this. Thank you!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Staci, I consider this more of an appetizer (served with tortilla chips like salsa). However, if you wanted to be healthy, you could eat it as a side dish or a topping to grilled meats, something like that. However, traditionally it is an appetizer. I hope you love it! Thanks for your question. :)

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