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.

Nutrition

Calories: 182kcal

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  1. Frances

    Just used this as a starter recipe, changed quantities and a couple of things and…. Wow fantastic! Really good base dressing idea and a really flexible recipe!  One to keep. Likewise, did limited sugar, because the corn gave that sweetness.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Great, Frances! I’m so happy to hear that. :) You’re right, the corn gives sweetness. Glad you could make it work for you!

  2. Julie

    How many people will this race?

    1. meggan

      Hi Julie, I have 12 servings listed in the post which is a rough guess. The recipe makes about 3 quarts of Cowboy Caviar which is 12 cups, so that’s assuming 1 cup per person. I’d say it’s a rough guess because it might depend on how big your onion is or things like that. And of course, it depends on how much your guests each. This is the size recipe I would make for a potluck where there are other dishes around and people will be grazing. I hope this is at least somewhat helpful. Good luck! If you have other questions just let me know. Thanks.

  3. Erika

    Hi! I was wondering if you can make this in advance? Like the day before an event or do the veggies get gross?

    Thanks!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Erika! I think you can make this the night before without problems. I have for sure enjoyed leftovers for a couple of days after without issue. Just in case you have a higher standard for such things, though, you could chop all the vegetables the night before and have them in separate containers, mix up the dressing, and just toss it together shortly before serving it. That would be your best option if you’re worried. Thank you!

  4. Meggan I love this! I made it for the first time today because it was obviously going to be awesome and IT WAS! I just ate some for “lunch” and it will be served alongside burgers and fries tonight! (And probably any leftovers will be paired with the BBQ’ed ribs tomorrow!)
    I loved the sugar but didn’t have any white wine vinegar-let me tell you that red wine vinegar works just fine!
    I am from Texas and living in Mississippi and I give my stamp of approval but it is probably like BBQ sauce, spaghetti, and chili-everyone has a preference and no way is every the same! 5 stars

    1. meggan

      Yay Brittany, that’s so great to hear! I am not surprised that red wine vinegar works. I feel like any kind of vinegar would work. Even the plain old white stuff my mom uses to clean glass, with all that sugar it would probably still taste good. :) So glad you and I agree on Cowboy Caviar! xoxo PS: I had 2 burgers today (one at brunch and one at dinner). I think I might have a problem. LOL

  5. Amy

    Just wondering if anyone had tried coconut sugar or pure maple syrup to replace the white sugar? I am definitely going to experiment with this to make the recipe totally raw, plant-based. Yum!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Amy, I think that is a great idea! I have been thinking the recipe needs a makeover. I mean, I love it with the sugar but I could eat it all the time, constantly, if it didn’t have all the sugar. :) I will definitely post any updates I figure out. I hope you find something that works for you too!

  6. Carol Waggoner

    Thank you Meggan. Love your recipes!5 stars

  7. Carol Waggoner

    How long can you keep cowboy caviar?

    1. meggan

      Hi Carol, general storage times for leftovers are about 3 to 4 days, and I think Cowboy Caviar would be good for that long. I hope that helps. If not, just let me know! Thanks!

  8. Nicci

    This is absolutely delicious, thank you so much for sharing. It’s going to become my staple for BBQ’s and parties for sure ?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Nicci, THANK YOU! This is so wonderful to hear and I really appreciate that you took the time to let me know. :) I personally love the stuff and can’t stop eating it, ever. Thanks again and have a wonderful week! :)

  9. Tracy

    I made this today. I had to double the recipe because a lot of people were coming over.  I should not have added extra sugar, it made it too sweet. First time to double it, won’t add the sugar next time. Or was there something I did wrong?

    1. meggan

      Hi Tracy, I think it must come down to personal taste. Another reader commented today that he thought it was too sweet, but this is exactly how we ate it growing up and still the way we eat it today. And be “we” I guess I mean everyone I know in the Milwaukee area. If you doubled the vinegar and olive oil, doubling the sugar shouldn’t have been a problem. I will make notes for people to go easy on the sugar though. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you! You definitely didn’t do anything wrong.

  10. John

    Do not put sugar in this. I followed this recipe exact and it is way to sweet. Ruined the whole bowl. Dissappointing

    1. Catherine

      Hi! the recipe I have for this doesn’t have any sugar in it at all so you could probably leave it out entirely. And mine is made with zesty Italian dressing. Definitely a favorite in my book!5 stars

    2. Vernon

      Was the problem just its sweetness alone? Reducing the amount of sugar that is put into I’m sure would help or removing it all together because you have the SWEET corn already.

    3. Tammy

      Amen, John! I made this according to the recipe and I ended up draining off all the liquid I could and remaking it with a tablespoon of sugar and a quarter cup of lime juice instead. It was still overly sweet from the residual sugary dressing, but much more palatable to my tastes. Next time I make this, and I will, I’ll do only the 1 tablespoon sugar and add the quarter cup lime juice. The lesson I learned: listen to your intuition as you cook! Meggan, other than the sugar I love this recipe and thank you for it.5 stars

    4. meggan

      Glad you were able to make it at least edible, Tammy! All I can say is, I have posted a warning about the sugar. :) It really comes down to personal taste. I’m glad you’ll make it again, it really is great! And it’s true it doesn’t need the sugar to be delicious. I’m just sharing the classic recipe which happens to be quite sweet. Take care!

    5. meggan

      I’m so sorry to hear that, John. This is exactly the way I always had it and I like the sweetness, but I understand not everyone would. I’m sorry again!

  11. Dani

    This looks delicious and would love to make it. I do have a question though, do you think I could substitute the green bell pepper with finely chopped celery hearts? Green peppers and I don’t get along to well, but the red ones do not bother me….go figure.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hey Dani! Yes, I think you should absolutely substitute whatever vegetables you want, ever. Celery hearts would be great. I love the crunch. I put those in my 3-bean salad (which is also full of beans and a sweet/sour dressing) and it’s just perfect. Possibly even better than peppers. I’m going to have to try that next time! Thank you so much. :)

  12. Roxana

    I hope I didn’t offend you with my proof reading mention. I just always miss a correction, then go nuts trying to fix it. As for your Xavier. I am sitting in bed in a hosp. With pneumonia. Hungry. Hosp. Food is gross. All I want is a bowl of this Xavier and tortilla chips. Mouth watering, and stomach growling.5 stars

  13. Roxana

    The first list confused me. It read 1 3 cup cup sugar. Luckily I read through the entire blog and saw the 1/3 cup cup sugar. Might want to proof read before sending. I have the same problem with Indy correct. Drives me nuts! I can hardly wait to make this. Sounds delicious. Thanks. ?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Oh my gosh, I would never be offended by your proof-reading comment… LOL! Guilty as charged. I appreciate you pointing that out to me so I can correct it… last thing I need is someone using the wrong number of cups of sugar!!! I hope you feel better soon and get out of the hospital!!! xoxo

  14. Leah

    This sounds amazing! I am currently preparing meals with as little sodium as possible. Do you believe cooking dry beans and then cooling them would yield the same results?5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Leah, yes absolutely. I think the beans usually aren’t quite as mushy, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. :) Thank you for your question!

  15. Sylvia

    This looks delicious! Other than as a dip, what would you recommend to eat this with?5 stars

    1. Soli

      Since a serving size is a cup, it’s already “dressed,” and it has 5 grams of protein, I would chop a bowl of romaine lettuce, throw a cup of the “caviar” into the bowl, mix it up, and enjoy my super-healthy lunch … or dinner! Yum!

    2. meggan

      Hi Sylvia, thank you! :) I personally like to eat it with grilled chicken or any kind of grilled meat. It’s also really good on tacos/burritos if you’re in to that sort of thing. I hope you enjoy it!

  16. This is a beauty and props to Aunt Tammy! I for one LOVE cilantro so that stays, this is happening this weekend. Thanks and Happy Birthday Meggan! :)5 stars

  17. Gayle strong

    Cook time of 1 hours minutes is posted with the recipe. What is cooked?5 stars

    1. meggan

      The “cook time” is actually the “chill time.” You need to have this sit in the refrigerator for an hour so the flavors blend. There isn’t really a way to call it “chill time,” it’s just “cook time.” Sorry for the confusion. Basically I wouldn’t want to say this recipe takes 5 minutes to make and then have someone be upset that I didn’t account for flavor-blending time!

  18. This looks so tasty I can hardly stand not having some to eat right now. I can see hogging the whole bowl all to myself. Thanks for a wonderful recipe.5 stars

  19. Wow, this dip is making me feel good and bad at the same time, Meggan! Good because it looks so darn colourful and healthy. Bad because I just ate loads of junk food and am now wishing I’d seen this recipe beforehand to steer me away from the junk. :-(

    Really nice party recipe staple!5 stars

    1. meggan

      You are too sweet, Helen! Don’t feel bad, tomorrow is always the best day to start a diet anyway. ;) Miss you! xoxo

  20. FINALLY! After teasing us with pictures of your adorable baby eating this, I finally get to try it myself. ;) If it’ good enough for her, it’s good enough for me!5 stars

    1. meggan

      WAIT – hold the phone. You eat something besides cake?! Yeah Charlotte and I ate most of this ourselves, we didn’t really share with the boys. Thanks for visiting, you are the sunshine in my universe!

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