The BEST Cowboy Caviar

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Cowboy Caviar (AKA Texas Caviar) is a tasty side dish or dip made with black beans, black-eyed peas, lots of veggies, and a chili-lime vinaigrette-style dressing. This dip makes a great side salad, appetizer, or potluck addition!

Try some of our other bean salads next — this garbanzo bean salad, quinoa black bean salad, or chickpea salad.

Close-up view of a chip being dipped in Cowboy Caviar.

Cowboy Caviar

Cowboy Caviar, also known as Texas Caviar or Mexican Caviar is a mash-up between a salad and a dip and is made with a variety of fresh veggies, black-eyed peas, black beans, and then tossed in a light and tangy vinaigrette.

It’s one of my all-time favorite snacks and today I’m sharing a twist on that original cowboy caviar with a few unconventional (but delicious) additions and a punched-up dressing!

Why is it called Cowboy Caviar?

This salad was created in the US around 1940 by Helen Corbitt. She served the dish at a Hotel in Austin Texas and it was given the name “Texas Caviar” as a funny comparison to true caviar (which is an expensive salt-cured fish roe). It’s since also earned the name “Cowboy Caviar.” Texans (and cowboys) are known for eating a lot of beans, and the black-eyed peas resemble caviar a little (just a little, though!).

And if you’re in a pinch and unable to make it from scratch, many stores even sell pre-made cowboy caviar. It’s not the same as this fresh dip–it’s more like a bean and corn salad or salsa.

View of the dressing ingredients before and after mixing.

How to make Cowboy Caviar

There’s nothing tricky about making this dip or salad, but it does take a good amount of prep time. There are quite a few veggies to chop and a dressing to assemble.

  • Start by prepping the veggies and draining the beans. Add everything into a large serving bowl.
  • Next prepare the dressing by adding the ingredients to a Mason jar and shaking to combine.
  • Drizzle the dressing over the salad and gently toss to combine.
  • Serve it as is or (how we like it best) with some good corn tortilla chips!

Process shots: combine salad ingredients; drizzle on dressing; toss to combine; serve.

Cowboy Caviar tips

  • One of the “secrets” to really good Cowboy Caviar is making sure all of the ingredients are roughly the same size. Cut the veggies small so they integrate better with the beans–and so they fit better on a dipping chip!
  • The longer the red onions sit with the salad, the stronger they become. If you’re sensitive to the flavor, stir them in the dip right before serving, or only add them to a portion of the dip if you plan to have leftovers.
  • I recommend dicing the avocado last (and right before enjoying) to keep it as fresh as possible. Since avocados brown quickly, you don’t want to chop them too far in advance. You’ll also want to make sure you don’t dress or add avocado to any of the cowboy caviar that you plan to save for leftovers.
  • Control the heat: Leave in some of the seeds and/or ribs in the jalapeño for extra spice.  You can also add a pinch of cayenne pepper to the dressing for more heat. For less heat, use McCormick® chili powder in the dressing (it’s very mild) and be sure to thoroughly remove the ribs and seeds before dicing the jalapeño.

How long can you keep Cowboy Caviar?

Without the avocado and dressing added, this dip sits fairly well and will last 2-3 days refrigerated in an airtight container.

Add dressing only to the portions that will be enjoyed immediately; for leftovers, store dip, avocado, and dressing separately. Or simply omit the avocado.

Overhead view of Cowboy Caviar in a serving bowl, with wooden serving spoons.

What’s in Cowboy Caviar?

Here are the main ingredients, as well as some tips and substitution ideas.

The veggies:

  • Corn. We love fresh corn cut off the cob. (No need to cook it first; the raw kernels add a nice crunch!) Frozen corn that has been thawed or drained canned corn also works great.
  • Cherry tomatoes. We love the sweetness of cherry tomatoes in this dip, but any tomatoes diced into small pieces will work. See the “quick tip” below for a fast way to chop cherry tomatoes!
  • Bell peppers. We love the combination of sweet red pepper and green pepper. If you’d rather just use one, instead of both, just use one red bell pepper.
  • Red onion. If you’re concerned about the “bite” of the red onion, soak the diced onions in salted ice water for 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly before using in this Cowboy Caviar.
  • Jalapeño peppers. Here’s where you can play around with the heat of this dip. Add less for a milder dip and more for a spicier dip. As written, with only 2 tablespoons minced jalapeño, I’d say it’s very mild (as long as the ribs and seeds of the jalapeño are removed before chopping).
  • Cilantro. The cilantro adds loads of flavor and freshness, but if you aren’t a fan, try flat-leaf Italian parsley or green onions instead.

The stars:

  • Black beans. To keep things quick, we use canned beans– just be sure to thoroughly rinse and drain them. 
  • Black-eyed peas. If you aren’t familiar with black-eyed peas, you’re in for a treat! They can be found with other canned beans in the grocery store. Like most beans, they have a familiar starchy bean flavor. They’re savory, earthy, even a bit nutty– they’re delightful in this dish. Although they’re called peas, they are actually a bean and not sweet like peas. (Go figure!)
  • Avocados. These are typically not in Cowboy Caviar (since cowboys don’t usually have access to fresh avocados).  This addition is optional, but we can’t make this dip without them! Good, ripe avocados add an immense creaminess to the dip and great texture when paired with all the raw crunchy veggies.

Lastly, this dressing is light and simple, but packs a punch! We’ve kicked it up a notch with some delicious seasonings — chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder. Not only do these seasonings accent the beans and veggies, but they heighten all the ingredients in this Cowboy Caviar. 

QUICK TIP

Cut all the tomatoes at once: Place a plate with a lip upside down on a solid surface. Place all the cherry tomatoes inside that lip and then secure them down with the bottom lip of another plate. Place your hand on top of that plate securely and using a sharp serrated knife, slice through all of the cherry tomatoes at one time!

Close-up view of Cowboy Caviar.

Serving Suggestions

  • As a side salad or appetizer
  • With tortilla chips as a dip
  • As a salad, spooned over romaine lettuce
  • Serve Cowboy Caviar into lettuce wraps
  • Layer over cilantrolime rice for a vegetarian entree, sprinkled with some crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese
  • Add in 1 to 1-1/2 cups cooked diced chicken or rock shrimp for additional protein.

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Cowboy Caviar

5 from 4 votes
Cowboy Caviar (AKA Texas Caviar) is a tasty side dish or dip made with black beans, black-eyed peas, lots of veggies, and a chili-lime vinaigrette-style dressing. This dip makes a great side salad, appetizer, or potluck addition!
Print Recipe

Cowboy Caviar

5 from 4 votes
Cowboy Caviar (AKA Texas Caviar) is a tasty side dish or dip made with black beans, black-eyed peas, lots of veggies, and a chili-lime vinaigrette-style dressing. This dip makes a great side salad, appetizer, or potluck addition!
Course Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish, Vegetarian
Cuisine American, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword cowboy caviar
Prep Time 25 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 8 -10 servings as an appetizer
Calories 165kcal
Author Chelsea
Cost $5.62

Ingredients

Salad/Dip

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (248g) sweet corn (use frozen that has been thawed, drained canned corn, or cut off the cob (2 ears))
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (285g) cherry tomatoes, quartered (1-10 oz container)
  • 1/2 cup (75g) red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup (75g) green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup (38g) red onion, diced Note 1
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) diced jalapeño Note 2
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro (measured after chopping; ~3/4 of 1 bunch)
  • 1 can (15.25 oz.; 432g) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15.5 oz.; 439g) black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 small/medium ripe avocados, diced (heaping 1 cup; 160g), optional

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons (25g) red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (I use McCormick, which is very mild)
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: ground cumin, paprika, dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup (68g) extra virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • Tortilla chips, for serving
  • Additional cilantro and lime wedges, for serving, optional

Instructions

  • VEGGIE PREP: (As you prep these veggies remember the results are best when all of the ingredients are roughly the same size, so aim to dice the veggies around the size of the beans.) Cut the corn off the cob. Quarter the cherry tomatoes, dice the red pepper, dice the green pepper, finely dice the jalapeño and cilantro.
  • COMBINE: Add all the prepped veggies to a large bowl with the drained and rinsed black beans and black-eyed peas.
  • DRESSING: Add all the dressing ingredients to a Mason jar. Seal the jar and shake until combined. Season to taste-- I add 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt and pepper.
  • AVOCADO AND DRESSING: Right before serving, dice the optional avocados and gently stir into the caviar. Drizzle dressing. (There is a lot, but we like it all; feel free to add less if desired.) Taste and season to taste; I usually add another 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (up to 1/2 teaspoon); depending on how ripe the veggies are you may need more or less. Taste a few times and add slowly.
  • STORAGE: If not serving immediately, store the dressing separately from the caviar and add the avocados right before eating. If you plan to have leftovers, only add dressing and avocado to what you will be serving and store the three components separately.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: If you're concerned about the "bite" of the red onion, soak the diced onions in salted ice water for 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly before adding
Note 2: To control the heat, completely remove the ribs and seeds from the jalapeño pepper. For more heat, leave some in.
Nutritional information does not include tortilla chips but does include avocado.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 165kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 13mg | Potassium: 314mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1061IU | Vitamin C: 53mg | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 1mg

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17 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I love all of these ingredients too, I guess I’ve seen this before but don’t remember, anyway, thank you for sharing this recipe and your avocado addition, that’s one of mine too

  2. 5 stars
    My sister and I made this for my birthday brisket dinner. It was delicious!!!! It was a perfect side and everyone ate it up. My sis worked at a restaurant in Tx that serves this as a side so she had an idea of how it’s made. Thanks so much. I think it’s another addition for family dinners. I did want to ask: Since this serves 10, how would this measure in cup size? A 1/2 cup or 1/3 cup?

    1. So happy to hear this was a hit! 🙂 Thank you for the comment! I’m not sure for cup size; maybe 1/2 cup (you can divide the whole into 10 equal parts and measure 1 part for an exact amount).

  3. Love this! I agree avocado is key. If you really want to kick it up a notch then sauté the onions, jalapeño and corn in butter before adding.

  4. I make cowboy caviar all the time. My family loves it! I also add black olives and orzo pasta. Sometimes I even add bite sized pieces of uncooked broccoli.

  5. {With Video}

    I don’t see a video. Do you put this on all your pages to get people to click? Shameful if so.

    1. Try a different browser, it must not be loading for you. There’s definitely a video on this post 🙂

  6. 5 stars
    Chelsea! This is a home run. I made it this morning and brought it to work and it’s gone. Slight changes: 3 jalapenos, seeded, is still mild. 2 tsp Dijon to dressing to emulsify. Out of this world. Thank you, Chelsea.

  7. This is probably a weird question but how do you eat this? Do you eat it as is with a spoon, or do you eat it like a dip with crackers? I only ask because of the word caviar.

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