Cowboy Caviar Dip, a no cook appetizer recipe, is perfect for any get together. You just chop everything up, toss it together and marinate. It is always a big hit.
What's In This Article
Texas Caviar or Cowboy Caviar
This party dip was made famous by chef Helen Corbitt and now has many names and variations. I’ve always called it Texas Caviar, but apparently Cowboy Caviar is more acceptable nationwide due to the fact that CostCo now sells it in bulk.
Legend goes that a Texas woman developed this recipe back in the 1940s to try and incorporate a more flavorful and colorful dish for black eyed peas using fresh veggies, which are eaten as a sign for prosperity and luck.
You know how Texans love their state (I used to live there, I get it) so she named is Texas Caviar.
Well she certainly hit a winner. Whenever I attend a party, no matter the season, it is requested because it is such a great recipe. I usually serve it as a dip for an appetizer, but it can certainly be a side dish for tacos, burritos or quesadillas.
You’ll also see this hearty dip as a bean dip, black eyed pea dip, Mexican caviar and even Carolina Caviar.
Cowboy Caviar Ingredients
There really isn’t much of a how to make this simple dip since it is really all in the chopping. My only word of advice is to chop small, bite sized pieces to make it easier for dipping. The only exception is with the tomatoes, which are actually best left a little larger.
The prep time is long… because it takes a long time to chop all these up! You can also use a food processor and pulse a few times, but it won’t be nearly as pretty as finely diced by hand. Place it all in a large bowl with the dressing and stir it up.
- Bell Pepper- I tend to use two colors, but you can also use all three: red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, orange bell peppers and/or green bell peppers.
- Tomatoes– I used to use plum tomatoes, but now I prefer grape tomatoes. Instead of having to seed and de-pulp, I can just slice and add. Large beefsteak are also acceptable, just try to get as much seed/pulp out as your can before adding.
- Red Onion– Red is prefered more for color than flavor. Sweet, white or yellow is totally acceptable. Strong onion flavors will be muted after it sit in the viewer.
- Jalapeno Pepper- If you are going for a mild version, omit these, or add up to two for a hot, make-you-sweat version.
- Garlic- I prefer fresh for nearly everything except this dip. The jarred minced garlic is slightly sweet without a huge garlic punch. Perfect!
- Beans– My favorites are black beans and black-eyed peas (which are actually beans, not peas). Use both or one or the other.
- Corn– Canned corn is the easiest because you just need to drain, but you can also use fresh corn (cooked) or frozen corn (thawed).
- Cilantro– totally optional. If making for a large party, I usually omit since so many folks have a genetic opposition to cilantro making it taste like soap or dirt.
- Hot sauce– since it it so watered down, this will only give a slight heat.
- Vinegar– I prefer red wine vinegar, but apple cider or white wine vinegar can also be used.
- Olive oil– For straight eating, I almost always use olive oil or avocado oil. Really, any neutral oil or flavored infused oil will work.
- Fresh Lime juice– fresh is best!
- Kosher salt– or any coarse salt. Salt helps to brighten and amplify flavors, but can be omitted if you are aiming for lower sodium. Feel free to add a few grinds of black pepper too.
- Sugar– also optional but really does a lot for balancing acidic flavors.
- Tortilla chips – since this is a chunky dip, using crudites is kind of hard. Corn chips and crackers work best!
I really can’t stress this enough- this colorful cowboy caviar is the most verstile recipe ever. Don’t stress over exact ingredients or amounts. It will still taste good.
It is important to note is that the oils in jalapenos can burn your skin. In order to prevent this, wear plastic/latex gloves, use small sandwich bags or cover hands in cooking oil. Wash hands immediately after handling. If you do experience an oil burn, place affected area in a bowl of milk.
There are many variations on this regional dish. They vary in flavor, ingredients and marinade. The main ingredients always include beans and vegetables.
Some other items that are common to add to the veggies are avocados, cucumber, green onions and even sweet potatoes.
If you are looking for a super spicy variation, double the jalapenos or even use habanero peppers. Chili powder or aleppo pepper can also be added to the marinade. Chipotle peppers (canned or dried) will add a smoky heat.
Cowboy Caviar Dressing
The dressing is nearly as important as the chopped vegetables, but since this recipe is totally forgiving and verstile, make up your own special version.
I’ve used literally nothing but red wine vinegar and had good results, but like it better when blended with oil, lime juice, hot sauce and a tiny bit of sugar. The sugar is optional and helps to balance out acidic flavors.
This marinade will give your cowboy caviar a pickled taste, which I love, but if pickled and and vinegar flavors aren’t your jam, then opt for the other most popular variation.
Italian dressing! Bottled Italian salad dressing can be substituted for the whole dressing. Use about 1 cup. It will give a zesty flavor without an overwhelming vinegar base.
Either way, the natural flavors and oil from the vegetables, especially jalapeno, will shine through and complement instead of distract or become muted.
Make Ahead & Storage
Make Ahead/Leftovers: I highly recommend making a double batch, it goes fast and you want to have leftovers, believe me! Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Drain excess liquid and give it a good stir before using again.
Leftovers are also great to have on hand. Serve over tacos, nachos, salad or make Southwestern Shrimp and Grits!
You can make this ahead of time but remember that the vinegar is going to pickle, so the longer it sits, the more like pickled vegetables it will get. This can be good or bad depending on your end goal.
Freezing: I do not recommend freezing cowboy caviar.
More Easy Appetizer Ideas
- Creamy Jalapeno Stuffed Mushrooms
- Spinach Artichoke Won Ton Cups
- Chicken Quesadilla
- Feta Cheddar Naan Bites
- Wood cutting board – wood won’t dull your knives like plastic and if treated properly, has natural antimicrobial properties.
- Good knife – Global is my favorite! They are worth the price, I promise. I am kind of obsessed with them and store them tucked away so no one else can use them. Including hubby. Hands off my good stuff!
- Mixing Bowls– make sure to check out my article on Using the Right Mixing Bowl, you’d be surprised how many people aren’t!
Cowboy Caviar Recipe
- 1 green bell pepper , chopped
- 1 red bell pepper , chopped
- 2 pints cherry/grape tomatoes , quartered
- 1/2 large red onion , minced
- 1-2 jalapenos , seeded and minced
- 1 tablespoons garlic , minced
- 14 ounces black beans , canned, rinsed with cold water and drained
- 14 ounces black eyed peas , canned rinsed and drained
- 14 ounces sweet whole kernel corn , canned and drained
- 1/2 cup cilantro , chopped
- 2 tablespoons hot sauce , optional
- 2 cups red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar , optional
- Tortilla chips , for serving
- Combine bell peppers, tomato, onion, jalapenos, garlic, black beans, black eyed peas, corn and cilantro in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, lime juice, Kosher salt, hot sauce and sugar. Pour over chopped vegetables, tossing to coat.
- Cover and chill for 1-2 hours, or up to overnight.
- Before serving, drain out most of the marinade by tipping the bowl with the lid securely in place. You don't want to lose it all or pour it through a colander. I use the lid of the bowl to help me strain.
- Serve with tortilla chips.
- If you've tried this recipe, please come back and give it a rating or leave a comment.
Hi. Are you sure you meant to say 2 Cups of red wine vinegar? I fixed this and it was completely swimming in the dressing. Ended up draining it all off. Is it really intended to have that much liquid? Thanks!
Hi Michelle, sorry! It is supposed to be 1 cup, thanks for catching that! I like using a lot so it can pickle and then I do drain any excess off. The other veggies will leach some moisture as well. I’ll make this more clear. Hope you enjoyed it.
I brought this to Thanksgiving and it was a big hit. It’s now being requested for Christmas Eve, that’s how good it was. This time, I’ll take my contacts out before cutting the jalapeño. My only mistake last time!
Oh, Casey. I’ve been there and done that! I keep non-powdered latex gloves in the kitchen for chopping any peppers. It helps~
YEY!!! So glad you posted this recipe on your website! It was one of our favorite dishes at the Cinco De Mayo parties in Baltimore. Huge congrats on your success with this site and your amazing cooking abilities! Hope everything else is going well.
Thanks you two!
I LOVE THIS RECIPE!!!! Now I don’t have to ask you to make it, I can make it myself!
There ya go! Problem solved!