Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

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Get ready for an explosion of flavor with this Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad! This dish is a playful twist on the classic Cowboy Caviar, a Tex-Mex appetizer made with black-eyed peas, corn, and peppers. This pasta version is a perfect blend of flavors and textures, featuring orzo pasta, bell peppers, red onion, cilantro, black beans, and corn, all tossed in a zesty lime and olive oil dressing. 

Overhead view of Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

Be The Dinnertime Hero With Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

Are you looking for a new and exciting pasta salad recipe to add to your dinner rotation? Look no further than this delicious Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad! This dish is not only packed with bold flavors and fresh ingredients, but it’s also easy to make and perfect for any occasion.

Imagine perfectly cooked orzo pasta mixed with the crunch of bell peppers, the sweetness of corn, the creaminess of black beans, and the freshness of cilantro– all tossed in a tangy and zesty lime and olive oil dressing. Each bite will have your taste buds dancing.

Plus, you can make this salad in advance, making it perfect for busy weeknight dinners, potlucks, or summer BBQs. So, if you’re looking for a pasta salad recipe that will have everyone asking for seconds, give this one a try.

Ingredient shot: the ingredients used for Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

Let’s Talk Pasta

  • Orzo pasta is a type of short-cut pasta shaped like a grain of rice. It is made from durum wheat semolina and can be used in salads, soups, and as a side dish. (See some of our favorite recipes using orzo here!)
  • It is important to salt the pasta while it boils, because it helps flavor and maintain the texture of the pasta. Salting the pasta water allows the salt to be absorbed by the pasta, which will enhance the overall flavor of this Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad.
  • It’s important not to rinse the pasta after cooking, because the starch on the pasta will help the dressing to stick to the pasta; it also helps the texture. Rinsing the pasta washes away the starch that we need for the final dish.
  • To quickly cool down the pasta, transfer to a large bowl, toss it with some of the dressing, and then pop it in the fridge. This will stop the cooking process and bring the temperature of the pasta down quickly.
  • Make sure to cool the pasta before adding the other ingredients: This will help to prevent the pasta from becoming soggy and will help the veggies to stay crisp.

Tips To Make The Best Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

  • Make the dressing in advance: This allows the flavors to meld and intensify, boosting overall flavor.
  • Use fresh ingredients: The key to this pasta salad is to use fresh ingredients and good produce. The better the ingredients, the better the flavor!
  • Use different-colored bell peppers: Using both red and green bell peppers (along with yellow ones, too) will give the salad a nice pop of color and deliver slightly different flavors.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning as needed: Taste the salad before serving and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. The flavors should sing!
  • Be mindful of how much dressing you use: The pasta salad should be moist, but not overdressed. You can always add more dressing as needed.
  • Be gentle when tossing the salad: Toss the salad with care– this will help keep the ingredients together and prevent the pasta from breaking.

Process shots: making the dressing for this pasta salad

VARIATIONS

Change Up Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

  • Add a creamy element: We love adding a ripe diced avocado into this salad!
  • Add some (more) protein: To make this pasta salad a complete meal, you can add some protein such as Grilled Chicken, shrimp, or even more black beans!
  • Try different beans: Instead of using black beans, you can experiment with different types of beans such as black-eyed peas(traditional in Cowboy Caviar), navy beans, cannellini beans, or pinto beans.
  • Add some heat: For a spicy kick, you can add in some diced jalapeños or red pepper flakes.
  • Use different herbs: If you aren’t a fan of cilantro, replace with chopped parsley or green onions.
  • Try different pasta shapes: Instead of using orzo pasta, you can try using different (small) shapes like ditalini or pearl couscous.
  • Use fresh corn: If you have access to fresh corn, add it in the salad right off the cob (or grill it first!).

Process shots: boil and cool the pasta; add veggies and herbs; drizzle on dressing; toss to coat.

The Perfect Finishing Touch: Cotija!

Cotija cheese is an ideal finishing touch for this Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad. It is a hard, crumbly cheese made from cow’s milk and aged for several months. It has a distinctive, salty, and nutty flavor that adds a delicious punch to the salad. We recommend serving the Cotija cheese on the side, allowing guests to sprinkle it on their own portion according to their preference. This way, they can enjoy the dish with the perfect balance of flavor and seasoning.

Closeup view of Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

STORAGE

Make Ahead

Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad can be made in advance by preparing all the ingredients and the dressing separately. Cook the pasta, add 2 tablespoons of the dressing while still hot and refrigerate to cool. Then, dice the bell peppers, red onion, and cilantro, drain and rinse the black beans and corn. Store in a separate container. Prepare the dressing and store in another container. Before serving, combine pasta, vegetables and dressing. Gently toss, adjust seasoning and serve.

Storing Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

This Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad is best the same day it is made. While it can be stored in the refrigerator, pasta salad can become soggy and lose its texture over time. If you do choose to store it, make sure to cover the pasta salad with plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container to keep it fresh. Store for up to two days. When ready to serve, gently toss the pasta salad to redistribute the dressing. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

It’s important to note that this pasta salad does not freeze or thaw well. The pasta will become mushy and the dressing can separate and lose its flavor. It’s best to make the pasta salad as close to the time you plan to serve it as possible for the best taste and texture.

Closeup view of Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

Serving Suggestions

More Pasta Salad Recipes:

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Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

5 from 1 vote
Get ready for an explosion of flavor with this Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad! This dish is a playful twist on the classic Cowboy Caviar, a Tex-Mex appetizer made with black-eyed peas, corn, and peppers. This pasta version is a perfect blend of flavors and textures, featuring orzo pasta, bell peppers, red onion, cilantro, black beans, and corn, all tossed in a zesty lime and olive oil dressing. 
Print Recipe

Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

5 from 1 vote
Get ready for an explosion of flavor with this Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad! This dish is a playful twist on the classic Cowboy Caviar, a Tex-Mex appetizer made with black-eyed peas, corn, and peppers. This pasta version is a perfect blend of flavors and textures, featuring orzo pasta, bell peppers, red onion, cilantro, black beans, and corn, all tossed in a zesty lime and olive oil dressing. 
Course Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Healthy, Mexican, Vegetarian
Keyword cowboy caviar pasta salad
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 9 minutes
Cooling Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 9 minutes
Servings 8 servings, as a side
Calories 433kcal
Author Chelsea Lords
Cost $9.90

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked orzo pasta (Note 1)
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (I use 1 red, 1 green)
  • 3/4 cup finely diced red onion (1 small)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (1 bunch)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) corn, drained
  • For serving: Cotija cheese (Note 2)

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (plus 1 tsp zest)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon each: honey and red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons good mayo (like Hellman's/Best Foods)
  • Fine sea salt and pepper

Instructions

  • DRESSING: In a wide-mouth glass jar, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Season to taste (I add 1 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp pepper). Put the lid on the jar, shake to combine, and refrigerate while preparing the salad. Shake again before adding to the salad.
  • PASTA: Prepare the pasta according to package instructions in well-salted water. (I add 1 tsp salt for every 4 cups of water.) Drain the pasta, but do not rinse under cold water. Add to a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the dressing. Cover and place in the fridge to fully cool.
  • SALAD: Dice bell peppers and onion. Coarsely chop cilantro. Drain and rinse black beans and corn. Add all these ingredients to the cooled pasta.
  • SERVE: When ready to serve, drizzle the prepared dressing on the salad to preference. (We typically add most of it and then a bit more to moisten the salad as it settles.) Gently toss the salad. Adjust any seasonings (salt and pepper) to taste until the flavors sing! Enjoy!

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Pasta:
  • Note that we're using 2 cups uncooked pasta, not an entire container!
  • It is important to salt the pasta while it boils because it helps to flavor the pasta so the whole salad isn't under-seasoned.
  • It's important not to rinse the pasta off after cooking because the starch on the pasta will help the dressing to stick to the pasta.
Note 2: Cotija cheese: Cojita is an ideal finishing touch for this salad. We recommend serving the it on the side, allowing guests to sprinkle it on their own portion according to their taste preference. This way, they can enjoy the dish with the perfect balance of flavor and seasoning.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 433kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 33mg | Potassium: 512mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1296IU | Vitamin C: 46mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 2mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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