Appetizers, Salad, Side Dishes

Crowd Pleasing Cowboy Caviar

Are you looking for an addictive appetizer that doesn’t require any complicated cooking techniques?  Trust me, this crowd-pleasing cowboy caviar is a recipe you’ll want to make this summer for your next covered dish event.  The only kitchen skills you need to know are how to chop vegetables, how to juice a lime, and how to make a vinaigrette.

beans, peppers, and onions for cowboy caviar

Why is it called cowboy caviar?  In the 1940’s, Helen Corbitt, a Neiman-Marcus chef, gets credit for making the first Texas caviar recipe on New Year’s Eve in Austin, Texas.  She add black eyed peas so her guests would have good luck in the new year.  Cowboy caviar and Texas caviar are both popular names for this dish based on the city where it was invented.

dressing ingredients for cowboy caviar

How are black eyed peas associated with luck?  One legend says, during General Sherman’s March to the Sea from Atlanta to Savannah in late 1864, he commanded the Union soldiers to leave the black eyed pea crops alone, as he thought it was food for animals.  The civilians and African American slaves took that as a sign of good fortune, since it saved many families from starvation in that part of Georgia.

Why does cowboy caviar have fresh lime juice?  This recipe isn’t complete unless it has freshly squeezed lime juice.  It is the secret ingredient, so don’t leave it out.

person squeezing lime juice onto cowboy caviar

Is cowboy caviar healthy?  One cup of black eyed peas will give you 20% of your daily requirements for magnesium, calcium and iron.  Plus, it is a good source of dietary fiber.  Cowboy caviar is also high in vitamin C from the fresh bell peppers and tomatoes.

person holding a bowl of cowboy caviar

Cowboy caviar is an appetizer that gets rave reviews, it’s easy to make, and doesn’t require any cooking, only chill time, which makes it a fantastic summer appetizer.  When it’s 85 F and hotter, lots of people don’t want to increase the temperature in their house by cooking, so why not give this tasty recipe a try?

If you liked this cowboy caviar, you’ll love these other crowd-pleasing appetizers.

person dipping a jalapeño popper into sriracha mayo person holding a spoonful of spinach dip tomato bruschetta on a wooden cutting board

Let us know how your cowboy caviar turned out!  Leave a recipe rating and review below.

person holding a spoonful of cowboy caviar

Crowd Pleasing Cowboy Caviar

  • Author: Brooke
  • Prep Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
  • Yield: 5 1/2 cups
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Chopping
  • Cuisine: Tex Mex


Crowd pleasing cowboy caviar is a healthy recipe that is easy to make ahead for a party.  Marinate this simple dip with a homemade vinegar dressing that is best served cold.  Black eyed peas, black beans, shoepeg corn, and fresh raw veggies drizzled with lime juice are a winning summer combination for kids and adults alike.


For the Salad

  • 15 ounce can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 11 ounce can white shoepeg corn, rinsed and drained
  • 8.5 ounces grape tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 rounded cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (optional)

For the Dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice (from 2 medium limes)
  • 1 tablespoon pickled jalapeno brine
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced


Making the Dressing

  1. Mince the garlic.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, jalapeno brine, freshly squeezed lime juice, sugar and spices.

Making the Salad

  1. Rinse and drain the black eyed peas, black beans and corn.  Place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Rinse the bell peppers and jalapenos, remove the seeds and membrane, and finely chop.  If you have sensitive skin, wear food-safe gloves when handling the jalapenos.
  3. Chop the red onion and tomatoes.  Add the peppers, onion, and tomato to the bowl and stir well.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir well to combine the flavors.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Some people like it with more vinegar, sugar, salt, or lime juice.
  5. Cover and chill two hours.  Serve chilled with scoop-style tortilla chips, as a side salad with grilled meat, or in a lettuce wrap.
  6. Optional: chop up the fresh cilantro.  Just before serving, stir it into the salad or sprinkle it on as a garnish.
  7. If you have any leftovers, keep them covered in the fridge for up to 48 hours.  For best taste, however, eat within 24 hours.


  • If you can’t find canned black eyed peas, cook up some dried black eyed peas.
  • You can substitute sweet yellow corn (fresh, canned, or frozen) for the white shoepeg corn.
  • This is not spicy at all; the fresh jalapenos don’t add any heat, only extra crunch.
  • If you’re in a hurry, you can skip the chilling time, but it does taste better when it has time to marinate because the flavors meld together.
  • If you want to lower the sodium, use dried black eyed peas and black beans, and frozen or fresh corn.

Keywords: cowboy caviar, texas caviar

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