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
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  1. 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!

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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!

  7. 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

  8. 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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