Cowboy Caviar Recipe

This easy recipe for Cowboy Caviar is fun, fresh, colorful, and endlessly adaptable. It makes a great dip, salad, side dish, or even a topping for grilled meats. Always a potluck favorite!

Cowboy caviar in a bowl on a white plate with tortilla chips.

Recipe ingredients:

Cowboy caviar ingredients in various bowls.

Ingredient notes:

  • Sugar: The recipe reflects how we make it in my family. But YES, it has a lot of sugar. Please feel free to reduce it or omit it entirely. If you want to reduce it, mix the dressing with just a tablespoon of sugar to start, taste it, and go from there.
  • Extra sweet “shoepeg” corn: 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.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, white wine vinegar, chili powder, and salt in a large bowl (large enough to hold the whole salad, a serving bowl if you want to).
  2. 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.

Recipe tips:

  • 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.
  • Storage: 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.

Recipe variations and substitutions:

  • Dried beans: Dried beans are extremely economical and much lower in sodium. Cook each bean variety 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.
  • Vinegar: Use apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar if that’s what you have. A splash of fresh lime juice is good too!
  • Onions: 1 white, yellow, or sweet onion, or a bunch of green onions may be substituted for the red onion.
  • Avocado: Avocado is good with everything. The avocados may darken over time, so the salad may not last as long in the refrigerator.
  • Spicy: Add a few chopped seeded jalapeños or serranos to the salad for a little kick.
  • Italian dressing: If you want to use Italian dressing (many readers have) 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.
  • Mix with leftover cold cooked rice for a Cowboy Rice Salad.

Cowboy caviar in a bowl on a white plate with tortilla chips.

More delicious salsas and dips:

Did you enjoy this recipe? Please leave a rating and a comment below!

Cowboy caviar in a bowl on a white plate with tortilla chips.

Cowboy Caviar Recipe

This easy recipe for Cowboy Caviar is fun, fresh, colorful, and endlessly adaptable. It makes a great dip, salad, side dish, or even a topping for grilled meats. Always a potluck favorite!
5 from 112 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: 111kcal
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
  • 15 ounces black beans drained and rinsed
  • 11 ounces sweet corn
  • 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. Sugar:  Please feel free to reduce the amount of sugar or omit it entirely. If you want to reduce it, mix the dressing with just a tablespoon of sugar to start, taste it, and go from there.
  2. Extra sweet corn: 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.
  3. Dried beans: Cook each bean variety separately, as cooking times may vary depending on size and age of the dried bean. You need to cook 1/2 to 3/4 cup of dried beans for every 15-ounce can of beans the recipe calls for.
  4. Vinegar: Use apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar if that's what you have.
  5. Onions: 1 white, yellow, or sweet onion, or a bunch of green onions may be substituted for the red onion.
  6. Avocado: Avocado is good with everything. The avocados may darken over time, so the salad may not last as long in the refrigerator.
  7. Spicy: Add a few chopped seeded jalapeños or serranos to the salad for a little kick.
  8. Italian dressing: If you want to use Italian dressing (many readers have) 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 111kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 201mg | Potassium: 137mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 672IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 1mg
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  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. Bec

    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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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. :)

  7. 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

  8. 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. :)

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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. :)

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

  18. We up in Michigan don’t use the sugar at all. nor does it have the red or green peppers. Instead, we have avocado, tobasco sauce, white not sweet corn, green not red onion, and only the black beans. I’m excited to try this version!5 stars

    1. meggan

      LOVING your variation Kelli! Especially the avocado. :) Thank you so much for sharing!

  19. Melissa

    I normally don’t comment on many recipes but I have to say- this is great! I’ve had it before but never made it and it turned out great. I don’t think it was too sweet at all! I only added half the sugar to the dressing at first, but after tasting it decided it was still too bitter with the vinegar and oil so added the rest of the sugar and it is perfect. Doesn’t taste at all sugary which I was worried about after reading some of the reviews. (I am also in the Midwest- MN here!) it’s just like all of the other recipes o have tasted before- actually I think it’s better! Thanks!!5 stars

    1. meggan

      So great to hear Melissa! Makes me so happy. :) I love MN and was in Minneapolis/Hanover at the beginning of July. It’s one of my favorite places! Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed it and it worked for you. And yes – all the sugar for me, please. :) Thanks for leaving your thoughts!

  20. Carol Van Loon

    Wowwweee!! Oh my goodness! Had this at a birthday party and my hubby and I LOVED this!!Now I have to make it all the time! My hubby requires it to be in the fridge at all times! Have given batches to a lot of people and they ask for the recipe and, of course, I give them your site! I do want to say that my hubby doesn’t like me using sugar, so I only put in half the sugar and may try honey the next time. Keep the fantastic recipes coming and THANK YOU to Aunt Tammy! 5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thank you so much Carol! That’s all just so fantastic. :) I appreciate you spreading the word about my little ol’ blog! I think other readers have used honey in the recipe with great results, and I’m planning to try that myself at some point. Just so I can write in the variation! Thank you again for your kind words and support. :) Take care!

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