Y’all know I’m from Oklahoma, right? I grew up eating cowboy caviar, also called Texas caviar. It’s a classic bean salad recipe popular in the South. You can serve it as a side salad or as salsa. Either way, people go crazy for cowboy caviar at potlucks.
Cowboy caviar is made with black-eyed peas and black beans, chopped tomatoes, corn, bell pepper, onion and cilantro tossed in tangy Italian dressing. I typically think of cowboy caviar as a warm weather salad, but it’s made with ingredients that are readily available year-round.
Cowboy caviar is actually perfect for New Year’s if you’re craving something fresh yet hearty, and trying to hit your black-eyed pea quota!
I have one issue with most cowboy caviar recipes—they’re often swimming in store-bought Italian salad dressing. As such, they can be way too oily and contain some unnecessary preservatives. Instead, I whisked together a simple, homemade Italian dressing from scratch. It’s easy to do and tastes fantastic.
This recipe yields a big bowl of dip, but I don’t think you’ll have any trouble polishing it off. I hope you enjoy this cheekily titled delight!
Cowboy Caviar Ingredients
You’ll find the full recipe below. The Italian dressing is made with pantry ingredients. Here’s what you need to know about the fresh ingredients:
Black-Eyed Peas and Black Beans
Beans form the backbone of this healthy salad. Canned beans are fine to use, or you can cook your own if you’d like. One can is equivalent to one and a half cups cooked beans.
Tip: Drain your beans and corn very well before adding them to the bowl. If they’re watery, they’ll dilute the flavor of the vinaigrette.
Depending on the season and availability, you might prefer to shuck fresh corn, or use frozen corn (simply soak it in cool water until fully defrosted), or open a can of corn.
Ripe red tomatoes are ideal. When tomatoes aren’t in season, I reach for Roma tomatoes (three to four of them) or cherry tomatoes (one pint would be perfect for this recipe). You could use canned tomatoes, but it will change the flavor and the vibe a bit. Fresh is best.
Bell Pepper and Jalapeño
Red, orange or yellow bell pepper will do. If you can tolerate a little heat, you’ll love the jalapeños. If you’re nervous about the jalapeño, you can reduce the spiciness by using just one of them, and being sure to remove the seeds and membranes before chopping.
Red Onion and Cilantro
I know these ingredients can be polarizing and I promise there’s not too much of either in them in this recipe. Don’t skip them!
Tip: Take care to chop your ingredients small to keep with the “caviar” textural theme.
While untraditional, ripe avocado is a welcome addition to this bean salad. Wait to add avocado just before serving so it doesn’t brown, or serve individual portions with a few strips of avocado on top.
Watch How to Make Cowboy Caviar
How to Serve Texas Caviar
Serve your cowboy caviar as a bean salad or as a dip with sturdy tortilla chips. This recipe happens to be vegan and gluten free, so it will please everyone at a party. It’s also a great healthy snack to keep in the fridge and keeps well for several days.
Cowboy caviar is lovely for lunch with a sandwich or quesadilla, or even for breakfast with scrambled or fried eggs and a warm tortilla.
You can also turn this dip into a green salad by serving it on lettuce. Add a squeeze of lime, some crumbled feta and a sprinkle of crushed corn chips or toasted pepitas (green pumpkin seeds).
More Fresh Bean Salads to Make
Love this cowboy caviar? You’ll also enjoy these vibrant bean salads.
- Favorite Chickpea Salad
- Fresh Black Bean Salad
- Greek Lentil Salad
- Lemon-Parsley Bean Salad
- Lemony Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Radish and Herbs
Please let me know how your cowboy caviar turns out in the comments! I love hearing from you.
Healthy Cowboy Caviar
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 8 cups 1x
- Category: Appetizer
- Method: By hand
- Cuisine: Southern
- Diet: Vegan
This cowboy caviar recipe (also known as Texas caviar) is made from scratch with all-natural ingredients! Serve it as a dip, salsa or salad—it’ll be a hit at your next party. Recipe yields a lot of “caviar,” about 8 cups.
- 2 cans (14 ounces each) black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained, or 3 cups cooked black-eyed peas
- 1 can (14 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked black beans
- 1 ½ cups fresh or defrosted frozen corn kernels (about 2 ears of corn), or 1 can (14 ounces) corn, drained
- 1 ½ cups chopped ripe tomatoes (about ¾ pound)
- 1 medium red, orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped
- ¾ cup chopped red onion (about ½ small red onion)
- ½ cup chopped cilantro, leaves and stems
- 1 to 2 jalapeños, ribs removed, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 avocado (optional)
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar or lime juice
- 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons salt, to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- In a large serving bowl, combine the drained black-eyed peas, black beans, corn, chopped tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, cilantro and jalapeño. If you’ll be including avocado, wait to dice it until you’re ready to serve the dip, so it doesn’t turn brown in the meantime.
- In a cup, whisk together the dressing ingredients until well blended. Drizzle the dressing over the serving bowl and toss until well mixed. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. If you’d like the salad to have more of a pickled flavor, add another tablespoon of vinegar, or for more richness, add another tablespoon or two of olive oil.
- For best flavor, let the mixture marinate for at least 20 minutes before serving. If you’re adding avocado, mix it in just before serving.
Serving suggestions: Don’t forget the chips! I also like to turn this dip into a green salad by serving it on lettuce with a squeeze of lime, some crumbled feta and a sprinkle of crushed corn chips or toasted pepitas.
Storage suggestions: This dip keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 days.
I’m sad I waited so long to try this recipe! It is DELICIOUS. So flavorful, easy, and perfect to make ahead. Followed your suggestion to serve it as a salad, and it was perfection. Looking forward to using it as a topper for some baked potatoes.
I’m so glad you finally did, Hilary! I appreciate your review.
Thanks for the recipe, was a bit of a mission finding black eyed peas here in NZ but I managed (and cooked dried beans for the first time). It was really good, I did use some fresh basil not dried as I had some.
One question – doe the nutrition info for the recipe include the avocado or not?
Hi! It includes everything that is listed in the ingredients and show in the image. I’m glad you were able to enjoy it!
Keen to know where you got the black eyed peas from, Katherine, as I too am in NZ!?
I brought this to work (I’m an ER nurse) and it was gone in less than an hour! I’m making it now to bring to work tomorrow. Fantastic with corn chips!
Btw…My Dad grew up in Georgia and it was tradition to have black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day!
Hooray! I’m glad it was a hit, Susan.
My vegetarian son and his girlfriend were visiting for the holidays and needed a dish for a pot luck New Year’s Eve party. I pulled out your recipe for Cowboy Caviar. They made it. Brought it. Loved it. One of the first dishes to disappear!
That’s great to hear, Jeanne! I appreciate you sharing.