This budget-minded dish is chock-full of colorful veggies and black beans that have been dressed with a tangy and spicy homemade dressing. Whether you call it Texas Caviar or Cowboy Caviar, it is perfect as a side dish or an appetizer served with tortilla chips.

cowboy caviar in a teal bowl with wooden spoon served with blue and yellow corn chips.

Are you looking for a tasty side dish to contribute to a picnic, potluck, or party? Texas Caviar hits all those notes, and is also perfect as a light lunch option.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Every time I make this recipe for Cowboy Caviar, everyone raves about it. Cowboy Caviar is similar to my black bean salad published in the Muy Bueno cookbook, but loaded with lots more veggies.

  • Inexpensive: This bean salad is super inexpensive, meaning you can make a big ol’ batch without breaking the bank.
  • Make-ahead: Whether you’re preparing for a party ahead of time or looking for easy and healthy packed lunch options, this is a wonderful recipe.
  • Meal-prep: This tasty bean salad is perfect for meal prepping. Feel free to make this dish ahead (minus the avocado). The longer this salad sits the better the flavors marinate.
  • Vegetarian, Vegan, and gluten free: I also love that this recipe for Cowboy Caviar is an excellent side to bring to any kind of potluck or cook out. Everyone can enjoy it!
  • No-cook dish: The best part is that it is truly simple to make and is practically a no-cook dish.
  • Easy & healthy: It’s a versatile and healthy dish that can be thrown together in under 20 minutes.

Ingredients & Substitutions 

The complete list of ingredients, quantities, and instructions can be found in the printable recipe card below.

canned black beans, tortilla chips, colorful bell peppers, red onion, corn on the cob, tomatoes, jalapeño and cilantro to make texas caviar .
  • Beans – I use two cans of black beans, but you can substitute other types of beans. Instead of black beans, try pinto beans or feel free to use a combo of black beans and black-eyed peas to bring good luck. 
  • Corn – If it’s in season, I like to use fresh corn that has been grilled and cut off the cob for a naturally sweet crunch and roasted flavor. Feel free to use regular canned sweet corn (not creamed) that has been drained or thawed frozen corn. 
  • Colorful veggies – Diced red onion, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes.
  • Avocados – avocados are optional, but really add a contrast texture and flavor.
  • Jalapeños – I love to add a hint of spice, feel free to omit.
  • Dressing – My recipe calls for olive oil, red wine vinegar, and fresh lime juice. Feel free to use apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or plain white vinegar if that’s all you have. The flavor of this dish is always a hit no matter which kind of vinegar you use.
  • Cilantro leaves – If you hate cilantro, feel free to omit cilantro from dressing or replace with fresh parsley.
  • Spices – I love adding a drizzle of hot sauce, such as Valentina, and season with salt and pepper.

How to Make Texas Cowboy Caviar

Pull out your best knife for this Cowboy Caviar recipe. This budget-minded salad is chock-full of colorful vegetables and black beans (canned or homemade) in a tangy and spicy dressing that really hits the spot. 

Step 1: Shuck corn on the cob. To properly roast the corn, simply shuck the ears and discard the leaves and silk. HINT: If you’re looking for ways to get little ones involved in the kitchen, this is a task that is perfect for little hands.

Step 2: Roast corn on the cob. While this step is technically optional, I highly recommend you take the little bit of extra time to do it. The charred kernels get extra sweet when exposed to heat, making their flavor intensify. It’s also super easy to do!

I usually roast corn on my stovetop on an open flame rather than firing up my grill outside. If you don’t have a gas stove, you can do this on a gas or charcoal grill outside.

Place the ear of corn over flame on either your gas range or on your gas or charcoal grill. When the kernels get a bit of char color on them, use tongs to flip the corn. Add as much or as little color as you like!

When you’re done, strip the kernels by using a chef’s knife to cut them off.

Step 3: Chop veggies. Chop all of your veggies to roughly the same size as a black bean. When all of the ingredients are nice and small, you’ll get a better shot at getting all the tasty goodness in every bite.

chopped tomatoes, jalapeño, bell peppers, avocado, onion to make cowboy texas caviar and a mason jar filled with dressing.

Step 4: Make vinaigrette dressing. Next, prepare your salad dressing. Whisk all of the ingredients together until combined. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, cilantro, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Step 5: Drain beans. Drain and rinse canned beans. (Or, if you’re being super budget conscious, make your own black beans in the Instant Pot.)

Step 6: Toss. Now simply toss all of your veggies and beans together with the homemade dressing. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. I recommend allowing the flavors to meld for at least an hour for best results, but you can also jump right in. Enjoy!

Check out this video for a detailed guide on creating Texas cowboy caviar, step by step!

chopped tomatoes, jalapeño, bell peppers, avocado, onion to make cowboy texas caviar and a mason jar filled with dressing being poured.

Expert Tips & Tricks

Canned or frozen corn shortcut: I roasted the corn for added flavor, but if you want a shortcut, feel free to use drained canned corn or pre-roasted corn kernels in the frozen section.

Roast frozen corn: Just preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, spread a bag’s worth out on a foil lined cookie sheet and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When it’s golden, you’re ready to roll.

Corn on the cob trick: Using a bundt pan is very helpful when removing kernels from fresh corn on the cob. Simply stand your cob in the center and slice. The wide bowl around the center core will easily catch all the kernels and keep your mess to a minimum.

Serving & Topping Suggestions 

No matter how you decide to enjoy Cowboy Caviar, I’m certain you’re going to love it.

As a salad: If I’m being completely honest, I love eating Texas Caviar by the spoonful. It’s great cold or at room temperature, making it a perfect picnic, lunch salad, or after school snack.

As a condiment: You can also use this bean and veggie mix as a kind of relish/salsa to serve with your favorite meats. It goes great with grilled skirt steak, fajita skewers, or baked chicken breast.

As an appetizer: If you want to serve it as a dip, tortilla chips are my go-to vehicle for shoveling it into my mouth! If you are gluten free, just be sure to choose a chip brand that is safe for you.

Storage Instructions

This makes a great meal-prep dish that can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. TIP: Do not add the avocado prior to refrigerating, or it will oxidize and turn brown.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do they call it Cowboy Caviar?

In the early 1940s, the Houston Country Club whipped up this bean salad for their New Year’s Eve bash. They jokingly called it “Texas Caviar,” probably poking fun at the fancy stuff. Fast forward to today, and we know it as Cowboy Caviar—a real hit at picnics and tailgates, especially when you’ve got a pile of tortilla chips handy!

What is Texas caviar made of?

Texas Caviar is made with a mix of colorful veggies, a choice of beans like black-eyed peas or black beans, a tangy vinaigrette dressing, and spices.

Can I make Texas caviar ahead of time?

Heck yes! This dish actually tastes better after it marinates overnight in the fridge. Just be sure to hold off on adding the avocados until you’re ready to serve to avoid browning.

Need more bean-spiration?

Check out these other easy bean side dish recipes:

Be sure to whip up a batch of this Texas Cowboy Caviar and let me know how it goes in the comments below! If you’d like more recipes delivered straight to your inbox, be sure to sign up for my email newsletter.

cowboy caviar in a teal bowl with wooden spoon served with blue and yellow corn chips

Cowboy Caviar (Texas Caviar)

5 (9 ratings)
I guarantee this dish will be the hit at your next picnic, potluck, or party! This budget-minded salad is chock-full of colorful veggies and black beans in a tangy and spicy dressing that really hits the spot. Serve it as a side salad or with tortilla chips for an awesome dip.

Ingredients

  • 2 15 ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 ear corn, roasted and kernels removed or 1 (11-ounce) can of corn
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 avocados, chopped
  • 1 to 2 jalapeños, seeded (to taste), minced
  • tortilla chips, for serving

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lime juice,
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • Handful cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce, such as Valentina
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Instructions 

  • In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, cilantro, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Toss with dressing until well combined.

Video

Notes

  • This dish calls for red wine vinegar, but you can use apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar or even plain white vinegar.
  • Feel free to use corn on the cob, canned sweet corn (not creamed), or thawed frozen corn. 
  • You can easily make this dish ahead of time, just omit the avocados until you’re ready to serve.
  • Refrigerate leftovers up to 3 days.
  • Nutrition facts do not include tortilla cups / chips
Calories: 73kcal, Carbohydrates: 7g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 103mg, Potassium: 179mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 220IU, Vitamin C: 21mg, Calcium: 9mg, Iron: 1mg

Photography: Jenna Sparks
Originally published: May 2018.