This Cowboy Caviar recipe is a vibrant bean salad with lots of beans and fresh ingredients tossed in a tangy vinaigrette, perfect for any party. This version with extra jalapeno peppers and additional spices makes it better than any I've ever had.
If you've ever had Cowboy Caviar before, you'll know that this stuff is GREAT. AKA "Texas Caviar", Cowboy Caviar is super flavorful and it's always a party hit. It's ideal for backyard barbecues, as it pairs with basically anything, and it can be served as an appetizer, a side dish, or even a topping for all of your wonderful grilled meats.
What is Cowboy Caviar?
Cowboy Caviar is a combination salsa and salad made with beans, peppers, tomato and avocado, all tossed in a tangy vinaigrette. It's either a side dish or a salsa or a dip, however you want to serve it.
Just don't forget the chips!
It is made with black beans and black eyed peas, which qualifies it as a bean salad, though the inclusion of fresh vegetables and super flavorful dressing makes it a special thing indeed.
I've happily enjoyed Cowboy Caviar at many a gathering, and I've made it a number of times, but I eventually came upon the proper ratios, ingredients and SPICES that, for me, make this truly the ULTIMATE Cowboy Caviar recipe, and also for me, the best one I've ever had!
The really awesome thing about it is that it is super easy to whip together, even at last minute or only a moment's notice. And everyone loves it.
Let's talk about how to make cowboy caviar, shall we?
Cowboy Caviar Ingredients
- FOR THE DRESSING/VINAIGRETTE
- Liquids. Use 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or use red wine vinegar) and 1 lime (just the juice).
- Seasonings. 1 teaspoon cayenne powder, 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 pinch sugar to taste, Salt and pepper to taste
- FOR THE COWBOY CAVIAR
- Beans. 1 can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained (15 ounces) and 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (15 ounces)
- Produce. 2 jalapeno peppers, 1 red bell pepper, 2 Roma tomatoes, 2 cups chopped red onion, 2 ears fresh sweet corn removed from husks (frozen corn is good, too), 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro and 1 avocado.
How to Make Cowboy Caviar - the Recipe Method
Make the Vinaigrette. Whisk the dressing/vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl until they thicken up. This is such a fantastic vinaigrette made from olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, and an outstanding collection of seasonings.
You can also use Italian dressing in place of the vinaigrette, though I like my version better.
Mix the Cowboy Caviar Ingredients. In a large bowl, mix together the black beans and black eyed peas, as well as a red bell pepper, a couple jalapeno peppers, fresh corn, chopped tomato (Roma tomatoes are good), red onion, diced avocado, and fresh chopped cilantro.
Toss. Toss it all together in the large bowl with the vinaigrette. Make sure everything gets nice and evenly coated.
Adjust. Adjust your seasonings of salt, pepper and chili flakes.
That is it! Give the mixture a good coating of your homemade dressing and serve it up with tortilla chips!
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Chop or Dice. If you prefer a cowboy caviar that is less chunky, finely dice your ingredients rather than chopping them.
- Other Ingredients. Cowboy caviar is a wonderful mixture of fresh produce and vinaigrette, and it would be very easy to slip in many of your other favorite ingredients. Try it with other beans like great northern beans or kidney beans and other fresh vegetables like green onion or garlic scapes.
Why is This Cowboy Caviar the "Ultimate"?
This is the ULTIMATE Cowboy Caviar recipe because of the spice mix as well as the inclusion of avocado, which I feel is quite necessary and very fresh sweet corn kernels.
Our spices include some of my favorites as they bring out and compliment the flavor in such a powerful way, including spicy cayenne, earthy ancho chili powder, cumin, garlic and onion powders, and some spicy chili flakes, which you can increase or decrease to your own personal preferences.
Many Cowboy Caviar recipes call for bell pepper only, and some include a jalapeno pepper, but we're going to go ahead and toss in two, OK? Or maybe three.
Some recipes I've tried call for a lot of sugar, which I find unnecessary. I have included a small pinch of sugar in this recipe, and even that is optional, because the sweet corn is so fresh and, of course, SWEET enough to bring a perfect balance of flavors.
Such a great recipe.
Serving Cowboy Caviar
Cowboy caviar is meant to be a party food, served with chips, but you can enjoy it in so many other ways. Keep it as a simple snack. Scoop some into warmed tortillas for a quick vegetarian lunch. Top your burgers, grilled sausages or sandwiches with it. It makes for a flavorful condiment.
Toss some onto a big bowl of nachos. Stir it into rice with some chopped chicken for dinner. So many ways to enjoy it. Perfect as a side dish or dip for parties, barbecues, backyard gatherings or picnics.
Adjusting the Heat and Spice Factor
Most Cowboy Caviar recipes are made with bell peppers and fewer seasonings. We're kicking it up a bit with jalapeno peppers and more seasonings, but if you'd really like to up that overall zest factor even further, move up the Scoville Heat Unit Scale and add in a serrano pepper or two.
They have a good heat level and they're easy to find in most grocery stores. A habanero pepper would be quite welcomed as well, which is even spicier. You can also add in more spicy chili flakes and spicy cayenne pepper.
If you'd like to dial back on the heat, skip the jalapeno, spicy chili flakes, and either limit or omit the cayenne powder. You can also add in a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce to liven things up even more. Hot sauce!
How Long Will My Cowboy Caviar Last?
Cowboy Caviar will last up to a week covered in the refrigerator if you are NOT using avocado, which will brown after a day or so. If you'd like it to last longer, skip the avocado.
Cowboy Caviar is better served fresh or at least within the first few hours.
Can I Make Cowboy Caviar Ahead?
Yes, you can make your Cowboy Caviar ahead of time, but if you're going to include avocado, add it in at the last moment just before serving.
In fact, a good strategy for making Cowboy Caviar ahead of time is to mix all of the ingredients together except for the avocado and the vinaigrette dressing. Add those elements in and stir them up when you are ready to serve and you should be good to go.
Freezing Cowboy Caviar. Cowboy caviar is best when enjoyed fresh, but you can freeze it for serving later. To freeze it, spoon it into freezer bags or containers and seal, airtight. Freeze for a couple of months easily. To thaw your cowboy caviar, transfer it to the refrigerator until thawed. It should take a day or two, so plan ahead.
Try Some of my Other Popular Recipes
- Fresh Mango Salsa
- Salsa Criolla - Argentinian Salsa
- Habanero Salsa
- Salsa Verde
- Rujak - Indonesian Fruit Salad
If you love this recipe, I hope you'll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don't forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I'll be sure to share! Thanks! -- Mike H.
Cowboy Caviar Recipe
FOR THE DRESSING/VINAIGRETTE
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or use red wine vinegar)
- 1 lime (just the juice)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
- 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder (or use fresh minced garlic)
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 pinch sugar to taste
- Salt, pepper, and chili flakes to taste
FOR THE COWBOY CAVIAR
- 1 can black eyed peas drained and rinsed (15 ounces)
- 1 can black beans drained and rinsed (15 ounces)
- 2 jalapeno peppers diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 2 Roma tomatoes diced
- 2 cups chopped red onion
- 2 ears fresh sweet corn removed from husks
- 1 avocado diced
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
- Whisk the dressing/vinaigrette ingredients together in a small bowl until they thicken up.
- Add all of the cowboy caviar ingredients to a large bowl and mix to combine.
- Stir in the dressing/vinaigrette. Make sure everything gets nice and evenly coated.
- Adjust for salt and pepper. Serve immediately with tortilla chips!
Cowboy Caviar is gluten free. Just be sure to serve it with gluten free chips.
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 7/23/21 to include new information, photos and video. It was originally published on 7/4/18.