Cowboy Caviar, also known as Texas Caviar, is a cold salad recipe consisting of black eyed peas, a light vinaigrette dressing, and colorful vegetables!
What is Cowboy Caviar?
If you've ever eaten Cowboy Caviar, you know what it is. Mostly because it's a surprisingly delicious recipe and if anyone is ever trying it for the first time, they ask what it is.
But if you're wondering why it's called Cowboy Caviar, I'll share what I could find.
Interestingly, there isn't even a wikipedia entry for Cowboy Caviar. It goes straight to Texas Caviar and the information given is rather scarce.
This recipe originated around the 1940s in Texas as a dip consisting of black-eyed peas in a vinaigrette. It was often served with tortilla chips. It was given it's caviar name almost as a joke because it's basically a very poor man's version of the more expensive real caviar.
Why this recipe works:
Go ahead and google Cowboy Caviar and you'll be treated to tons of recipes that look basically the same.
- Although my recipe follows the same notion of covering black-eyed peas in a light homemade vinaigrette, I add a few ingredients that not only add texture and color, but this recipe really does have the best flavor of any recipe for Cowboy Caviar that I've tried.
- I also think the overall success of a good cowboy caviar recipe rests on how good of a chopper you are. For real. I try my best to make every little piece of food no larger than a single bean. You want to be able to shove a spoonful in your mouth and get a little bit of each ingredient into each bite.
You can always vary these to match your preferences, but these are my go-to Cowboy Caviar ingredients:
- black beans - I use Trader Joe's canned Cuban black beans because they have a lot of great flavor
- black-eyed peas - of course
- tomatoes - I remove the seeds and any wet pulp and chop up the flesh
- corn - I use canned or frozen if it's not in season, but grilled corn (like you'd make for Mexican street corn) is fabulous when removed from the cob
- black olives - this is what I consider my secret ingredient. Yum!
- avocado - find one that's firm but ripe
- red bell pepper - you can use a different color if you prefer
- red onion - I dice this real small
- cilantro - if you're not a fan, you can leave out
My Cowboy Caviar vinaigrette consists of lime juice, raw honey, chili powder, cumin, salt, and olive oil.
Here's how to make it:
- To make the dressing, you'll whisk together all of the ingredients except for the oil. I like to set my bowl at an angle on a towel so that it stays put while I whisk. Then, simply pour a thin steady stream of the oil into the other ingredients while whisking constantly until the dressing has emulsified.
- Then, simply pour the dressing over all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine.
Make ahead directions:
Sometimes we all need a good make ahead recipe, especially when our long summer days are full of fun and activities.
To make my cowboy caviar recipe ahead of time, simply mix together the cowboy caviar ingredients except for the avocado and the dressing separately. When you're ready to serve, cut up the avocado and then toss everything together.
I still think Cowboy Caviar tastes best if eaten immediately, however it's still good if kept refrigerated for at least a couple of days.
The acid from the lime juice in the dressing helps keep the veggies fresh, but the tomatoes will release liquid over time. If you're eating leftovers, just be sure to use a slotted spoon to scoop them out.
Since Cowboy Caviar is often considered a dip, people usually serve it with tortilla chips.
Every time I'm invited to a potluck, I bring one of three different recipes and they're always a hit.
It's always a toss up between this Cowboy Caviar, my classic deviled eggs, or my fruit salad recipe, all of which are really good! Plus, you can blow people's minds by also making my Dessert Cowboy Caviar!
- 15 ounce can black beans (drained and rinsed)
- 15 ounce can black eyed peas (drained and rinsed)
- 2 medium tomatoes (seeds removed, diced (about 1 cup once chopped))
- 15 ounce can corn (drained, can use 1-2 cups of fresh or frozen instead if available)
- 15 ounce can olives (drained and chopped)
- 1 avocado (pit removed, peeled, chopped)
- 1 red bell pepper (seeds and stem removed, diced)
- ½ medium red onion (diced)
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro (minced)
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (more if desired)
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- To make the caviar, combine all ingredients except for those designated for the dressing. Toss to combine.
- To make the dressing, combine all of the remaining ingredients except for the olive oil. While whisking, slowly pour a thin stream of olive oil in, whisking constantly, until it all has been added. Continue to whisk until fully emulsified. Add to Cowboy Caviar contents and toss to coat.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate to serve later. Best if served same day. If you want to make ahead, omit avocado until you're ready to serve. Enjoy!