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.

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 132 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 194kcal
  • 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: 194kcal


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  1. 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.

  2. 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. :)

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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. :)

  10. Can’t wait to make this, thanks for sharing. Always looking for a new side for myself, or for impressing my guests! I love your blog! Keep up the good work!5 stars

  11. Sam

    Wow, really love this salad! (w 1T sugar, and a jalapeno!).  Found this by accident when I was looking at your ancho chile powder technique (from poblano peppers, we have a bunch growing), and made it to surprise my wife.  I bookmarked this site to find some more treasures!  Thanks.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Sam! Wow thank you so much! :) Sounds like you made a pretty fantastic version of the Cowboy Caviar. So excited you have poblano peppers growing. That’s definitely my favorite pepper! Thank you so much and have a great day. :)

  12. Nadine

    I have made your cowboy caviar (with less sugar) several times now. Everyone loves it! This is great for parties and potlucks because it won’t go bad (or taste bad) if you can’t keep it chilled the whole time. Thank you so much for giving me a delicious way to eat my veggies! 5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Nadine, that is so great to hear! And you are right, it’s nice to have something that won’t spoil because of mayo or whatever. It is definitely the best way to eat vegetables and beans! :) Thanks so much for trying the recipe and I’m glad you like it.

  13. Karen

    I tried this at a birthday party yesterday and it was amazing! And I don’t usually like beans! The version I had also had chick peas in it and they used Garlic Expressions dressing and marinade. I think there are a lot of variations you could do with this recipe.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hey Karen! I will definitely have to seek out that dressing, it sounds fabulous. So glad someone made Cowboy Caviar! It’s so good and like you said, the sky is the limit! Have a great week!

  14. bb

    Just made this Cowboy Caviar and it’s delicious. The sweetness reminds me of Three Bean Salad. Thank you!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi BB! Three Bean Salad is on my list to post next, it’s really good. :) Thanks so much for trying my recipe and I’m glad you enjoyed it! Take care.

  15. Cindy

    I make this all the time, love it! Side note: try substituting apple cider vinegar for white wine vinegar, gives it a nice tangy bite! I usually add the juice of 1 lime as well, it brightens up all of the flavors. Also makes an awesome topping for scrambled eggs or omelettes. This has been a family favorite for years!!!!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Cindy! Your tweaks sound awesome, especially the part about eating the Cowboy Caviar with eggs omelettes, Hellloooo high-protein breakfast! In the best possible way! Thank you so much, have a lovely day. :)

  16. Pam Pew

    Love this!  But, here in New Mexico we add green chillis to everything.  So, I added some chopped roasted mild green chillis and made a double batch hoping for leftovers (there are 4 of us). No such luck!  Finished it in one day.  The kids asked me to make more tomorrow….5 stars

    1. meggan

      Green chiles are great in this recipe! I’ve tried it myself. They are good in everything, like you said. :) I cannot believe the four of you ate A DOUBLE BATCH in one day. Wait – I can believe it. So happy to hear that, thank you Pam!

  17. Cassandra Mangiafico

    Can I substitute cannelini beans for black eyed peas?

    1. meggan

      Hi Cassandra, yes absolutely! Sometimes canned black eyed peas are hard to find, so just substitute whatever you have on hand or can locate. Cannelinis are great. Thank you so much!

  18. Joanne

    Hi Meggan I have yet to make this and looking forward to it. My question is,,if I were to use dry beans and soak them would you know the quantity? I have a big bin of 7 beans and would like to soak them and use them for your recipe but I am uncertain how much I should use. Any idea??? Would I have to cook them after I soaked them? Clearly I have not done this before…lol.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Joanne! First, you will definitely need to cook the beans after you soak them. The package should tell you how to cook them (it’s probably something like, boil them for an hour, or faster if you use a pressure cooker although I’ve never used one myself). I looked up the conversion of dried beans to canned beans. You’re replacing 2 cans of beans (the black-eyed peas and the black beans), and it looks like 1/2 to 3/4 cup dried beans = 1 can of beans. So, it’s up to you if you want to use 1 cup total or 1 1/2 cups total. Depends on how many you’re feeding, I think! There will be MORE than enough dressing/sauce if you want to go with 1 1/2 cups of dried beans and cook those up. Good for you for putting your giant bag of beans to work! Good luck and thanks for your questions. I love to feel useful. :) Take care!

  19. LaShelle

    I have been making Cowboy Caviar a lot this summer. The recipe I use is very similar to yours. Each time I make it, I add something a little different. It depends what is in the fridge. In fact, I just made a batch to take to my cousin’s for tomorrow. We are going to be making several batches of pear strudels. We are going to need to snack on something to keep our strength up. Lol. For the dressing though, I have been using a roasted garlic olive oil with balsamic vinegar that I purchased at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. That stuff is AMAZING! I use it in everything.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Roasted Garlic Olive Oil with Balsamic Vinegar….?!?! That sounds AMAZING!!! Pretty sure I could drink that straight. And yes, I’m so happy you throw “whatever” in your Cowboy Caviar, not everyone is comfortable doing that but it’s such a good way to be! It’s different every time, you can use stuff up, and you don’t get bored. Pear strudels? Sounds exhausting. :) Good luck to you! Thank you so much for sharing!

  20. Carol

    I have an intolerance to corn what would be a good sub?

    1. meggan

      Hey Carol! You could just leave the corn out entirely and not worry about it, or you could add another bean (or bell pepper) in its place. Another commenter added pineapple instead of sugar, that sounds pretty good to me too! I feel like diced up cucumber would also work. Good luck!

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