“This is one of my favorite tailgate snacks to make!! The colors are perfection!” ~ Annie
Cowboy caviar is an irresistible Tex-Mex dip or salsa made with a colorful mix of black beans, corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, jalapeño, and cilantro, and dressed with a tangy lime vinaigrette. Cowboy caviar is usually served with tortilla chips, but it can be a side salad, too!
This beautiful and yummy multi-tasker is always welcome at tailgates, barbecues and potlucks, and it has Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, and 4th of July written all over it. But frankly, this pantry friendly dip is appropriate all year long ~ and it’s usually the first thing I think of when I’m asked to bring something along to a dinner party.
cowboy caviar is a healthy all around people pleaser!
Sit me down in front of a bowl of this colorful cowboy caviar, throw in a pile of chips, and I won’t come up for air until I’ve polished it off ~ definitely my kind of food. And between the beans and all the veggies, this is substantial food, chunky enough to double as a side dish. But whether you call it a dip, salsa or salad, it’s a high fiber low fat dynamo, so the more you scoop up or pile on your plate, the better.
what you’ll need for a great cowboy caviar
This recipe is traditionally anchored by black beans and black-eyed peas. But there’s so much more!
- black beans ~ I used canned, but if you’re up for it, definitely soak and cook dried beans, they’re wonderful!
- black-eyed peas ~ when I couldn’t locate canned black-eyed peas at my store, I used dried. They don’t need to be soaked, and they cook up surprisingly quickly. I love the contrast between the two types of beans, it’s a really pretty effect in the caviar.
- fresh corn ~ don’t let the lack of fresh corn stop you from enjoying this amazing dish, thaw some frozen if necessary.
- red onion ~ adds the perfect kick; every salsa needs a bit of red onion.
- bell peppers ~ try to get some of every color.
- tomatoes ~ firm tomatoes like plum work best here. Cherry tomatoes will work, too.
- jalapeños ~ moderate the heat depending on how many you use, but don’t leave them out entirely!
- olives ~ the brine adds another layer of complexity to the flavor profile.
- fresh cilantro ~ I love it!
for the dressing
- olive oil
- fresh lime juice
- chipotle chili powder
- salt and pepper
a vegetable chopper comes in handy with this recipe
You want all the ingredients in this confetti-like salad to be evenly and finely diced. I love my Alligator Chopper. If you do a lot of recipes that require fine chopping, it’s a wonderful time saver. If you plan to use this cowboy caviar as a salad you can afford to go a little bigger with the size of the pieces and a knife will work just fine. But for a salsa, everything needs to be fine enough to fit nicely on a chip!
color is key to the charm (and health benefits!) of this rainbow bean dip
Bold bell peppers pop against the black and white beans…with bright yellow corn, vivid red tomatoes, black olives along with pimento stuffed greens, and purple onions all contributing to the rainbow effect. All those colors come from super healthy phytonutrients that help protect against heart disease and certain cancers. What a great reason to go in for another dip!
variations on cowboy caviar
- Mango Cowboy Caviar: this is a great option for those who prefer a sweeter taste, just add small chunks of juicy ripe mango.
- Greek Cowboy Caviar: swap out the lime juice for lemon juice and add feta cheese, Kalamata olives, and fresh oregano for a Greek-inspired version of cowboy caviar.
- Southwest Cowboy Caviar: add canned green chiles, chipotle peppers, and smoked paprika for a smoky, spicy version.
- Avocado Cowboy Caviar: mix in diced avocado for a creamy texture and added healthy fats. This is a great option for those who love avocados.
- Corn and Black Bean Cowboy Caviar: for a simple variation, use only corn and black beans as your base, with diced tomatoes, red onion, and cilantro.
- Mediterranean Cowboy Caviar: swap out the black beans for chickpeas, and add diced cucumber, red onion, and fresh parsley. Dress with a lemon vinaigrette.
- Beluga Cowboy Caviar: as per reader Bruce’s suggestion, use tiny black or Beluga lentils instead of black beans ~ they look just like caviar!
I’ve got a thing for bean salads…
- 15 ounce can of black beans, well rinsed and drained
- 15 ounce can of black-eyed peas, well rinsed and drained
- 1 ear of corn, kernels removed (the corn can be cooked or raw)
- 1/3 cup minced red onion
- 1/3 cup finely diced green bell pepper
- 1/3 cup finely diced yellow bell pepper
- 1/3 cup finely diced orange bell pepper
- 1/2 cup finely diced fresh tomatoes
- 1-2 jalapenos, to taste, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped green stuffed olives
- 1/4 cup chopped black or kalamata olives
- a large handful of fresh cilantro leaves, rough chopped
- Put all the salad ingredients into a large bowl.
- Whisk the dressing ingredients together and taste to adjust it to your liking.
- Add the dressing to the salad and toss gently.
- The salad is best if made a couple of hours ahead of time to allow the flavors to develop and mingle. It keeps for a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- These amounts are approximate, you will just eyeball it. A rough guide is to include an equal amount of veggies to beans ~ and lots of cilantro 🙂
- The corn can be cooked or raw, but I think it has the best flavor when it’s grilled, and it gets nice char marks that way, too. You can set it right on the grill in or out of its husk, and turn frequently with tongs until it starts to steam or soften.
- My pretty blue bowl is made by one of tvfgi’s own American Artisans!!