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. 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

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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!

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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!

  10. Dave

    This is delicious and I don’t know anybody who does not like it. Last timber made it, it was a casserole. Not all hat great. But as a dip oh yeah!

    I’ll make mine drenched in good seasons Italian dressing because that’s what I love.   This Is a versatile mix with endless possibilities. 

    Thanks Megan and Aunt Tammy5 stars

    1. April

      I just use any kind of Italian dressing but I also add in those baby pepperoni’s you can get in a package.  Makes it taste even better!5 stars

    2. chasity

      if you use italian dressing then what do you omit? and how much dressing do you use? 

    3. meggan

      Hi Chastity! Thanks for the question. If you want to use Italian dressing, you omit the olive oil, sugar, white wine vinegar, chili powder, and salt. I would start with about 1 cup of dressing and see if you think you need more. What you should do is add the dressing and then taste the salad to see if you like it. Cowboy Caviar has a sweetness to it, so if you use Italian dressing you won’t have that (but it will still be delicious). You could try adding 1 tablespoon of sugar to the bowl and see if you like that, and add more if it tastes good to you that way. With a salad like this, it’s okay for you to change it and make it taste the way you want it to! I hope this is helpful. Take care and thanks again!

    4. meggan

      Hi Dave!!! You know, on Facebook someone else mentioned they use Italian dressing on theirs. So clearly I’m missing out and need to investigate that immediately. Thanks for visiting the ol’ blog. :D xoxo

  11. Julie McNutt

    Hi Meggan. This is delicious! I used green onion because that is what I had. It was really good  before I got it into the fridge to meld the flavors. Can’t stop picking at it. Hope there is some left to go with dinner. Another keeper. Thank you.5 stars

    1. meggan

      Thank you so much, Julie! Really, any kind of onion tastes great in this. And I really prefer chopping green onions vs. other onions, so good call there! Everything else makes me cry. :D I have been eating this for breakfast all week. Is that weird? Like you say, can’t stop picking at it. My 1-year-old is also addicted. So glad you loved it. Take care!

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