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. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!!

  8. 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!!!!!!!

  9. 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!

  10. 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

  11. 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. :)

  12. 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. :)

  13. 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!

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. 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

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. 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. :)

  20. 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

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