Cowboy Caviar Recipe

Cowboy Caviar ~ whether you call it Texas caviar, black bean salsa, black eyed pea salad, or Southwestern bean salad, this cross between a salsa and a salad is just plain GOOD!

Cowboy Caviar ~ whether you call it Texas caviar, black bean salsa, black-eyed pea salad, or Southwestern bean dip, this all-American cross between a salsa and a salad is just plain GOOD! It’s a multi-tasker that’s always welcome at tailgates, barbecues and potlucks, and it has Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, and 4th of July written all over it.

Cowboy Caviar in a bowl with chips and lime

cowboy caviar is a healthy black bean salad that doubles as a dip, a salsa, and an 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 healthy dynamo, so the more you scoop up with your chips or pile on your plate, the better.

Ingredients for Cowboy Caviar in a bowl

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
  • cumin
  • salt and pepper
A bowl of colorful Cowboy Caviar

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!

Cowboy Caviar in a blue bowl with spoon

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!

Cowboy Caviar is a high protein, high fiber salsa or side salad that will take you right through the spring and summer season ~ everybody raves about it!

ingredient variations to use in your cowboy caviar:

  • avocado
  • green onions
  • jicama
  • zucchini
  • carrots
  • garden peas
  • cucumber
Cowboy Caviar with corn chips in a colorful bowl

Reader Rave ~

“This is one of my favorite tailgate snacks to make!! The colors are perfection!” ~ Annie

I’ve got a thing for bean salads…

Cowboy caviar in a bowl with a spoon.
3.89 from 94 votes

Cowboy Caviar

Cowboy Caviar ~ whether you call it Texas caviar, black bean salsa, black-eyed pea salad, or Southwestern bean dip, this all-American cross between a salsa and a salad is just plain GOOD! 
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Yield 30 servings
Calories 63kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • 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


  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice to 2 large limes
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 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.

Cook’s notes

  • 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!!


Serving: 3Tbsp | Calories: 63kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 38mg | Potassium: 128mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 220IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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  • Reply
    Anna Jennings
    January 18, 2018 at 11:52 am

    Question: can the corn be canned (rinsed and drained)? I did buy one ear of corn but it’s pitiful looking and I have a bag of frozen white corn. Which do you think? I love your recipes and photos. Thank you:).

    • Reply
      January 18, 2018 at 12:30 pm

      Thanks Anna <3 I prefer fresh, and next to that, frozen, but you can use canned in a pinch. I would definitely rinse well to get rid of an much of that ‘canned’ flavor as possible.

  • Reply
    January 4, 2018 at 9:53 am

    5 stars
    We have been eating this for years – the original recipe I found was Texas Caviar…but we just call it ‘crack’ now – even though our recipe makes a bunch, we always double it as much of it gets eaten literally, right out of the bowl. The dressing we use is a mix of rice wine vinegar, cumin, olive oil, garlic powder and chili powder – boiled for few minutes then cooled – to die for!! Thanks for sharing and reminding me that it’s been a while since I made this.

    • Reply
      January 4, 2018 at 10:53 am

      The chili powder sounds like a fabulous idea. I don’t think about making this so much in the colder months, but maybe I should!

  • Reply
    December 21, 2017 at 5:37 am

    Sue: Nice colors and excellent repertoire! An alternative suggestion: Black or Beluga Lentils to sub for black beans. These will have to be cooked for about 30 minutes. The effect is stunning as the lentils more closely resemble caviar in shape and size. Also they present great contrast in green leaf salads with arugula, for example. I’m seeing our local gourmet restaurants including them in their salads. Great ideas you’re showcasing. Why eat bland when, as Petula Clark sang back in the day, “You can Color my world with sunshine!”

    • Reply
      December 21, 2017 at 8:15 am

      Love that idea, those little black lentils are wonderful, and I think they’d be great in this salsa, thanks Bruce 🙂

  • Reply
    May 4, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Want to make this! In the Dressing ingredients, is it supposed to be 1 tspn. chipotle chili powder OR 1 tspn. chipotle chili pepper, as it appears? Thank you!

    • Reply
      July 3, 2017 at 11:46 am

      That’s powder, sorry Janet, I fixed it!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    April 29, 2017 at 6:31 am

    This is one of my favorite tailgate snacks to make!! The colors are perfection!

    • Reply
      April 29, 2017 at 11:59 am

      Thanks Annie, the colors make it so much more fun and delicious!

  • Reply
    April 28, 2017 at 7:42 am

    Love this amazing bowl of goodness and all the flavors, my kind of salad.

  • Reply
    April 27, 2017 at 11:00 am

    This would be hard to resist on any holiday buffet table. GREG

    • Reply
      April 28, 2017 at 7:16 am

      thanks Greg ~ and the bonus is that it keeps so well, no wilting or spoiling.

  • Reply
    Laura | Tutti Dolci
    April 27, 2017 at 11:56 am

    5 stars
    Yes please, I could easily eat my weight in this colorful salsa! (All I need is a margarita to go with! ;))

    • Reply
      April 28, 2017 at 7:16 am

      I’m glad you like this Laura, and yes, I pretty much did eat my weight in it…and I’m not sorry 🙂

  • Reply
    Chris Scheuer
    April 26, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    5 stars
    I wouldn’t even need chips for this. I’d eat it right out of the bowl like a salad! LOVE!! It’s so pretty and colorful too!

  • Reply
    April 26, 2017 at 11:47 am

    5 stars
    This must be super are the second one topost today! Must try!

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