Cowboy Caviar, also known as Texas Caviar, is a cold salad recipe consisting of black eyed peas, a light vinaigrette dressing, and colorful vegetables! There are a lot of ingredients, both fresh and canned, and there's quite a bit of chopping, but every single bite will have a little bit of everything! This recipe makes a fantastic dish to bring to a potluck or summer BBQ and a fantastic meal prep option for weekday lunches.
❔ 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.
- Best combination of ingredients: 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.
- Consistency makes a difference: A good cowboy caviar recipe relies 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.
🥑 Ingredients needed:
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 Trader Joe's frozen roasted corn if fresh corn is 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.
How to make this recipe:
Step 1: Chop and measure the ingredients.
Combine all of the salad ingredients into one large bowl.
Step 2: Make the Cowboy Caviar dressing.
Whisk together all of the ingredients except for the oil. Then, simply pour a thin steady stream of the oil into the other ingredients while whisking constantly until the dressing has emulsified.
Step 3: Add dressing to salad.
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 salad ingredients together except for the avocado and mix 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 each serving out of the bowl.
➡️ Serving recommendations:
Since Cowboy Caviar is often considered a dip, people usually serve it with tortilla chips.
I consider this recipe more of a salad, so I prefer to serve it as a side dish. This recipe goes great with Slow Cooker Carnitas, Jalapeno Popper Chicken Flautas, or Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos.
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!
If you’ve made this or any other recipe on my site, let me know in the comment section how it turned out. I love hearing from my readers!
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Full Recipe Instructions
- 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
- Make the salad: Combine all ingredients except for those designated for the dressing in a very large bowl. Toss to combine.
- 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.
- Combine and serve: Add dressing to the salad and toss to coat. Transfer to a clean bowl for serving, if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate to serve later. Best if served same day. If you want to make ahead, omit the avocado and keep dressing separate until you're ready to serve. Enjoy!
This recipe was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated with helpful information, ingredient and process photos, as well as recipe tips. Don't worry - the recipe hasn't changed!
Love this,so delicious 😋
I haven’t made Cowboy Caviar in years. I have an old Sunset magazine recipe but your version knocks it out of the park. Bravo!
So good and easy to make!
I used Rotel Original Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies can for more zip!
This was dee-lish! Hubby and friends agree. I used canned corn, but I'm sure grilled corn off the cob takes it to the next level. Next time, I might try adding a finely diced jalapeño or cayenne for a little heat. Thanks for sharing!
This has been my go to recipe for pot lucks since you first posted it! And I was already planning to make it this weekend when I saw your email and thought I'd come drop you a line. In my book this is still literally the best Cowboy Caviar ever!
Thanks for sharing this recipe, it's a hit with my family. Cowboy caviar is a great summer side dish served with tortilla chips.
I like to mix in diced pickled jalapeno peppers as well. It gives it a little extra bite of zesty spice.
I can't wait to make this again!
This is so delicious!!! My family loves it! So many ways it can be used. Thanks so much!
I love the sound of your recipes, I live in Alicante, Spain, I am sure your recipes will be a big hit Over here too.
I will let you know how I get on.
Thanks so much.
Kattie in Spain xx
Carol A Harper-Hildreth
The prep time was a bit extensive but the end result is well worth it. Very very good.
So much chopping! You could always pulse in a food processor but for this one I prefer to hand chop. Glad you liked it!
Carol A Harper-Hildreth
The prep time was a bit extensive the the end result is well worth it. Very very good.
This was delicious.. especially after sitting fridge for a day or two! Quick question the nutritional stats… What is the serving size you are facing that from?
I based the entire recipe on it totaling 12 servings, so the nutritional info is based on a single serving.
MELE A DAVIS
This turned out beautifully!
This was delicious and easy to make
Comes together in minutes, healthy and delicious! My family devours it ever time I make this. I serve this as an appetizer or a fun lunch.
I'm tracking what I eat. I may have missed it but how much is a serving? A cup?
There are 12 servings total based on the nutritional information and I would say each serving is probably about 1/2 cup, maybe a little more.
This recipe was so yummy! I was skeptical because I'm not a fan of black beans, black eyed peas or even black olives, but I wanted to try it because it was a perfect side dish for the shrimp kabobs I was fixing on the grill. I'm so glad I tried it, because all together, it was delicious! I used lime tortilla chips to accompany the Cowboy Caviar and added extra of all the seasonings. Even my VERY picky hubby and kids liked it!
Delicious! Love it! My teenagers loved it!
Want to start out by saying I love the name of this recipe ! This sounds so delicious especially during the
warm summer months,really sounds refreshing. I def want to try this over fish and with some tortillas as a dip. Drooling!
Yum! This is one of may favorites for Summer. And though I have had several versions of this dish, I have never heard it called by that name. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing this post and reminding me of an old favorite : D
I tried these first time in Mexico and since then haven't got hold of it. I'll try making now that I know the recipe.