Cowboy caviar salad–an easy no-cook mix of beans, scallions, onion, bell peppers, jalapeños, sweet corn, tomato, and avocado tossed in a lime-honey dressing. This recipe from our favorite cowgirl, Dorie Greenspan, is a winner.
Eating healthy was never so easy—or mingled so nicely with tortilla chips and beer. This party-perfect salad or dip comes together in minutes, can easily be made ahead of time, can be doubled or tripled, and tastes delicious despite being quite healthy.
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Cowboy Caviar FAQs
Can I make this salad in advance?
Definitely. In fact, this cowboy caviar salad benefits from being made a few hours in advance and stashed in a covered container in the fridge. You can prepare and combine everything except the tomatoes, cilantro, and avocado, which should be stirred in just before serving.
What is cowboy caviar?
This easy salad or dip is also known as Texas caviar, from its place of origin. The shape and size of the beans resemble very large caviar, hence the name. The flavor is like a cross between bean salad and fresh salsa.
How long will cowboy caviar salad keep?
If stored in a covered container in the refrigerator, this salad should keep for up to 5 days. Give it a good stir before serving as the juices and dressing will settle to the bottom.
Can you freeze this salad?
We don’t recommend it. The vegetables will become soggy and mushy after freezing and thawing.
Cowboy Caviar Salad
For the vinaigrette
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime (preferably organic)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin or more to taste
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (sweet or hot)
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
For the salad
- Two (14-oz) cans any variety beans or black-eyed peas rinsed, drained and patted dry (or substitute about 2 cups soaked and cooked beans)
- 3 scallions white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove germ removed and finely chopped
- 1/2 red onion finely chopped or diced, rinsed and patted dry
- 1/2 bell pepper finely chopped
- 1/2 jalapeño seeded and finely chopped
- 1/2 to 1 cup raw or cooked corn kernels (optional)
- 2 to 3 medium tomatoes finely chopped, or one (14 oz |400 g) can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 small avocado finely chopped (optional)
- Hot sauce (optional)
- Tortilla chips for serving (optional)
Make the vinaigrette
- In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the oil, lime zest and juice, cumin, salt, paprika, and honey and shake to blend. Set the vinaigrette aside until needed. (You can refrigerate the vi.)
Make the salad
- In a large bowl, toss in the beans, scallions, garlic, onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, and corn, if using, and stir thoroughly to combine. If you’re going to serve the salad now, add the tomatoes and cilantro and avocado; if you’re going to refrigerate the salad—a good move—hold off and add them just before serving.
- Toss the salad with about 3/4 of the vinaigrette. Add hot sauce, if you’d like, and, if you’ve got time, cover and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours and up to overnight.
- When you’re ready to serve, add the tomatoes and cilantro and avocado, if using, if you haven’t already, and give it a taste. If desired, adjust the amount of salt, spices, and you could even add some hot sauce if you’d like. If the salad has sopped up the vinaigrette, toss it with a little more. Taste and, if desired, add more salt.
- Serve chilled or at room temperature, with or without chips.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This cowboy caviar salad makes a perfect side dish and would be great for potlucks. I was surprised at how well the beans worked in the salad. I ended up soaking and cooking my own beans because I had them on hand; I think the homemade ones may have soaked up more of the vinaigrette than canned ones would so I did have to add more vinaigrette at the end.
My daughter tasted it before I added the tomatoes and cilantro, and she liked it even better that way, although I preferred it as written. As the recipe writer suggests, it should be endlessly adaptable.
We served it alongside the salmon and mango salsa and it was a delicious summer dinner. I didn’t serve it with tortilla chips. If I were to serve it as a “salsa” with chips, I think I would up the seasoning a bit more and perhaps use a more heavily spiced vinaigrette.
When I make this next, and I am planning to, I will add some more cumin, coriander, perhaps some Mexican oregano, and some chili powder to the vinaigrette. In fact, something like Tajin seasoning might be just the right thing to add.
This cowboy caviar salad is a really great recipe and one of those cases of the whole being greater (and tastier!) than the sum of its parts.
A key thing here is everything being chopped to a fine dice, which means each spoonful delivers lots of flavor and appealing texture. The dressing is zingy with fresh lime and nicely spiced.
I used a 50/50 combo of black-eyed peas and black beans. I didn’t add the hot sauce so my cowboy caviar was fresh and zesty but with no extra heat beyond the small amount of chopped jalapeno in the recipe. We served it with rib eye steaks and a lettuce salad. it comes highly recommended from here!
Cowboy caviar salad sounded like exactly what I was craving for lunch on a recent Tuesday. I had all the ingredients in my pantry and fridge and it’s a snap to put together.
But first, I had to tell my bean snob self that it was okay to use canned beans in this salad and that this was not the time to get out the Rancho Gordo beans. In a nod to the humble origins of this dish, I grabbed a can of trusty S & W black beans and got started.
My lazy self also determined that it was perfectly fine to start by adding the vinaigrette ingredients to my large bowl that would later contain the salad, and then just start adding my cut-up veggies and beans right into the bowl. No need to make up a separate dressing and dirty up another container. Plus, this way you can grate the lime zest right over a large bowl, all the better to capture flying zest and contain the citrus oil.
I was glad the author recommended corn and avocado as optional goodies, because I don’t know if I’d have made this without including them, and I recommend that you do as well. Granted, it’s not so humble anymore, but it is more delicious, in my opinion.
The one item I had to guess about was how many tomatoes to use. Two to three medium tomatoes are called for, and I was using tiny, super sweet cherry tomatoes from my garden. I ended up using about 1 heaping cup of halved cherry tomatoes, which I suspect would have been less that what was called for. I also would guess that cherry tomatoes would throw off less liquid than regular tomatoes, a better outcome I think.
It was all I could do to let this rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Time’s up! I garnished my bowl with diced avocado and set to scooping up every bite with a crispy tortilla chip.
I just had the remains of this salad 2 days later, and it’s a keeper. The flavor might have mellowed just a bit. The tomatoes and cilantro did not seem to be adversely affected, although I used cherry tomatoes, and I think that they probably throw off less water than regular tomatoes. I tossed the leftovers with a diced avocado, and a big handful of baby shrimp. Delish!
The vinaigrette and peas elevate this far beyond most notions of summer bean salads. And, in fact, I think this preparation would replace my occasional News Year’s Day preparation (after all, you can prepare black-eyed peas yearound). The smokiness with the cumin and lime work really well.
Although we prepared a fresh batch of black eye peas, it would be fine to used canned ones, but if you prepare your own, don’t cook them too creamy, or tossing will damage them (though they still taste lovely).
It was just complex and crunchy enough to be part of a two course, light summer meal. I will add fresh corn next time for extra texture and variety, especially since all the ingredients end up shopped small, and thus mix well to deliver all the flavors.
No hot sauce used or needed.
This is a good side dish to get your protein and vegetables and I like that it has the potential to be customized (different beans, vegetables like cucumbers or even squash, etc.).
I think the spice level was a little tame for me, but this is a matter of taste. My taster and I agreed that more jalapeños or maybe even a habañero would be desirable.
Neither of us care for raw onions, so we when we served this, we made the onions optional by keeping them to the side. I think having two different bean types added some nice variety. I prepared the salad a few hours in advance, leaving the tomatoes and the cilantro to add at the last minute as suggested. This gave the salad’s flavors more of a chance to meld and was a great tip.
We ate this cowboy caviar salad with some burgers and it was perfect. We had leftovers the next day and the tomatoes held up fine. The flavor was even more blended the second day. I enjoyed dipping chips into this cold salad. Adding some guacamole along with this and a cold beer would also make for an enjoyable lunch.
Cowboy caviar has been THE top-rated salad in my house for more than 20 years. I wanted to try this version for the different spices. The smoked paprika and cumin gave it a flavor that reminds me of a Texas smokehouse.
I refrigerated the salad overnight, added fresh tomatoes and cilantro, and gave it a good stir. I love that it can be made a day ahead and it’s great served with anything off the grill. We had this alongside burgers and there wasn’t a bean left!
Forked up at dinnertime alongside the grill, packed with a spoon for lunch at work, scooped salsa-style with chips alone poolside—this recipe works every which way and with almost anything. Except maybe chopsticks!
I served this fresh-tasting salad in all 3 of the above ways over the course of 5 days, squeezing a lime wedge or 2 over the top to brighten the flavors. The chopped veggies and beans marinate in a smoky dressing, keeping well in the fridge for days. The only change I’ll make next time is to hold back on the oil; I’ll add it to taste at serving if needed.
It made about 6 servings—less if served with a fork or spoon and more if with chips (or chopsticks!).
I really enjoyed this cowboy caviar salad. It’s very flavorful and easy to make! It can be a great side for a BBQ or as a kind of salsa with chips. I served it with some quinoa and a salad for a healthy vegetarian meal using black beans. I would definitely make it again and maybe try other beans.
I would have added a bit more lime juice and a little more salt to the dressing. It was very good left over. I also added hot sauce as I like things spicier.
There are no cowboys for miles around here, but this salad won the hearts of the bean lovers in my house. The dressing comes together so easily (I love the shake-in-a-jar method rather than whisking) and it would be just as good on greens as it was on these beans. I omitted the jalapeño pepper but found that the other ingredients added plenty of flavor.
I didn’t have time to allow the flavors to meld in the fridge before serving but still thought it was a perfect accompaniment to the fish I served alongside. I used canned tomatoes as the fresh ones aren’t quite good in my area. I used frozen corn right out of the bag.
The salad was beautiful as it was tasty. I used a combination of beans for added color.
On night two, I cooked up some shrimp, dressed some baby spinach with the leftover dressing, and mounded the cowboy caviar over the top. It was a winner. Next time I would only add as much tomatoes and cilantro as I need for the first time because although the salad tasted incredible, it didn’t look as pretty the next night.
This is a winner and could be multiplied easily to serve a crowd or used as a topping for fish or chicken cutlets. Chips would be great with it. I think there are endless possibilities.
Originally published October 26, 2018