Cowboy Caviar

5 from 10 votes
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Get ready to lasso in some serious flavor with this delicious Cowboy Caviar recipe! Packed with protein and fresh vegetables, this Texas-inspired dish is perfect for sharing at your next party or enjoying as a hearty snack.

Tortilla chip dipping into a bowl of cowboy caviar.

This recipe for cowboy caviar will be a hit at your next party! It’s loaded with fresh vegetables and hearty beans tossed in a tangy citrus dressing. I use a handful of canned products to save you time, so you don’t need to fire up the stove to cook any of the ingredients. Just chop and mix everything together!

Add a colorful mix of peppers, corn, tomatoes, avocado, and two kinds of beans for a fiber and protein-packed dish. It’s a healthy option for a summer appetizer or snack to dip with your favorite crunchy chips or crackers. The contrast of crunchy and creamy ingredients makes for a popular starter, plus it’s easy to make ahead or customize!

Key ingredients

Ingredients needed to make this cowboy caviar recipe.
  • Beans: Use 15 ounces each of canned beans, like black beans and black-eyed peas. Other types of beans, like pinto or cannellini, also work well. If you prefer to make the black beans on the stovetop, make sure that it yields 1 ½ cups.
  • Vegetables: Use a mix of red and green bell peppers, jalapenos, canned corn (fresh or frozen can be used), red onion, tomatoes, and avocados. Cilantro adds a hint of herbaceous note.
  • Dressing: For a citrusy dressing, whisk together lime juice, red wine vinegar, honey, garlic powder, cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder, and olive oil.

Combine the veggies and beans

When making this dip, it’s important to chop vegetables similar to the size of the beans. This gives an even distribution of flavors and makes it easier to grab with tortilla chips. Chop the vegetables into 1/4-inch dice. Grab a large serving bowl to layer the ingredients for the Texas caviar.

Add the black-eyed peas, black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, bell, peppers, red onions, cilantro, and jalapenos, then mix them. Wait to stir in the diced avocado until after tossing with the dressing.

Make the dressing

Whisk and a bowl of salad dressing.

I make a citrusy dressing to complement the Tex-Mex flavors of the salad ingredients. I combine lime juice and red wine vinegar for a tangy and sour taste. Honey balances the puckery flavor, but it’s not meant to be a sweet-tasting vinaigrette.

Mix in garlic powder, cumin, salt, and pepper to add savory notes. For a hint of heat, add chili powder. For a smokier taste, use chipotle chili powder or smoked paprika if you don’t like it spicy. Slowly whisk in olive oil to create an emulsified dressing.

Make the salad

Drizzle the dressing over the bean, corn, and vegetable salad mixture. Gently toss to combine. Now add the diced avocado. This helps it hold its shape unless you prefer the creamy fruit to coat the ingredients. Don’t add the avocado until ready to serve to prevent it from browning. This is critical in making the salad a day in advance.

This Texas caviar recipe is great to meal prep a day ahead of time. It’s a sturdy side dish or appetizer to share for potlucks, barbecues, or parties. Serve with crunchy tortilla chips, potato chips, or crackers.

Flavor variations

Cowboy caviar is easy to customize with fun and exciting ingredients. Try these delicious flavor options:

  • Beans: Switch things up with red kidney beans, white beans, chickpeas, or even edamame.
  • Corn: Canned sweet kernels are the quickest options. Defrosted frozen corn or grilled corn on the cob adds a barbecue flavor.
  • Tomatoes: Any type of tomato can be used. I use vine-ripe tomatoes or diced cherry tomatoes for a burst of sweetness. Canned fire-roasted tomatoes add a smokey taste.
  • Herbs: Chop up fine herbs like green onions, chives, basil, tarragon, dill, or parsley.
  • Citrus: Instead of lime juice, try lemon, orange juice, or even pineapple juice.
  • Vinegar: Try apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, or champagne vinegar. Alternatively, try my Italian salad dressing.
  • Seasoning: Add smoked paprika for a charred flavor. Use coriander pairs nicely with cumin. Add onion and garlic powder for a roasted allium taste.
  • Sweetness: Use maple syrup or sugar instead of honey. Add fruit like pineapple, mango, strawberry, or blueberries.
  • Hot Spices: Use cajun seasoning for a kick of heat and herbs. Cayenne or chipotle powder adds an extra hot taste. Try serrano peppers or canned fire-roasted chilies.

Serving suggestions

Frequently asked questions

Is Cowboy Caviar similar to pico de gallo?

Cowboy caviar, also called Texas caviar, is a mixture of black beans, black-eyed peas, corn, tomatoes, jalapenos, bell peppers, and cilantro tossed in a tangy vinaigrette. Pico de gallo is made with diced tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro, and lime juice. Both are delicious dips or toppings!

Can I make cowboy caviar ahead of time?

Yes! The salad can be assembled a day before serving. The dressing can be made 2 days in advance. If using avocado, wait to dice and add right before serving. It can last in the refrigerator for up to 2 days in an airtight container. However, th avocado might start to brown over time and get softer in texture.

How spicy is cowboy caviar?

It’s a mild dish that can be easily adjusted to make it spicier. Increase the amount of fresh jalapeno peppers, or incorporate the seeds. Add more chili powder or cayenne, or chipotle for a spicier taste. Whisk some larger red chili flakes into the dressing for lingering heat.

A bowl of cowboy caviar served next to a plate of tortilla chips.

Recipe Science

How to make an emulsified dressing

For a vinaigrette, always whisk together the vinegar or tangy ingredients, sweetener, and seasoning together first. This helps to dissolve and distribute the flavors. Honey is an emulsifier that helps prevent the dressing from separating too quickly. Slowly add the oil, whisking vigorously to break it into small droplets. This keeps them from regrouping back together, forming a thickened dressing. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise to keep the dressing emulsified for longer.

Cowboy Caviar

I absolutely love making cowboy caviar! This delicious appetizer is packed with fresh veggies, hearty black beans, and zesty flavors, making it a perfect dish for any summer gathering or potluck.
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Servings 14 servings
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

Salad

  • 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 ounce can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 15.25 ounce can corn, drained
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, ¼" dice
  • 1 cup diced bell pepper, ¼" dice, red and green
  • ½ cup diced red onion, ¼" dice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
  • 1 medium avocado, ¼" dice, ¾ cup, optional

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder, optional
  • cup olive oil

Instructions 

  • Combine the Beans and Vegetables – In a large bowl, add the black beans, black eyed peas, corn, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno. Gently toss to combine.
  • Make the Dressing – In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, red wine vinegar, honey, garlic powder, cumin, salt, black pepper, and chili powder (if using).
    Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, vigorously whisking until a thickened emulsified dressing is formed. Taste the dressing and season with more salt and pepper as desired.
  • Make the Salad – Drizzle the dressing on top of the salad. Toss to combine. Add the dice avocados, and gently mix. Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately. Serve with chips to dip.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: About 7 cups
  • Serving Size: ½ cup
  • Using Freshly Cooked Beans or Corn: Add 1 ½ cups of each black bean, black-eyed peas, and corn to replace the canned products.
  • Make Ahead: The salad can be made up to 1 day in advance. The dressing can be made two days in advance. Wait to add the avocado until right before serving to prevent browning.
  • Storing: Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 14 servings
Calories 263kcal (13%)Carbohydrates 45g (15%)Protein 5g (10%)Fat 8g (12%)Saturated Fat 1g (5%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 5gSodium 288mg (12%)Potassium 320mg (9%)Fiber 6g (24%)Sugar 30g (33%)Vitamin A 407IU (8%)Vitamin C 19mg (23%)Calcium 29mg (3%)Iron 2mg (11%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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2 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Joan Macgillivray says

    I loved the recipe but my children thought it would be fishy because of the name. It was a great hit on our family camping trip.