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Cowboy Caviar (Small Batch)

Cowboy Caviar is a fresh and colorful mixture of beans and veggies tossed in a homemade garlicky lime dressing. Serve it as a dip with tortilla chips or as a side dish salad!

This Southern classic has been around for decades but has had a huge resurgence this summer thanks to TikTok…and there’s good reason. It’s absolutely addictingly delicious (and so very pretty too)!

So I would be completely remiss as a food blogger if I didn’t share my recipe for this tasty concoction (which, by the way is also packed with healthy ingredients).

If you’ve never tried this tasty black bean salad/salsa, just make it once and see for yourself why it’s become so incredibly popular.

Why is it Called Cowboy Caviar?

As the story goes, back in the 1950s, Helen Corbitt – a food director for Neiman Marcus – created the dish for a New Year’s Eve party at a Houston country club. Needless to say, it was a big hit because we’re still making it today!

And despite its name, there are no fish eggs in sight.

It might have been called “caviar” due the beans sort of resembling caviar. More likely, it was just a funny nickname given to the dish because it was made of much less inexpensive ingredients than true caviar but was just as delicious.

Originally, it was made with black-eyed peas, but I use black beans instead (they’re my favorite…plus, they look even more like caviar!).

I decided to write the recipe for a small batch of Cowboy Caviar because most recipes make a lot, and I most often just want to have some around for snacking.

Of course, you can always scale it up if you need to…because a big batch is perfect for parties, picnics, and potlucks!

cowboy caviar in a bowl with a serving spoon on the side

Ingredients you need:

Note: Ingredient amounts are in the recipe card below.

  • Avocado oil (or regular/light-tasting olive oil)
  • Lime juice (fresh is best, but bottled is fine too)
  • Garlic
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Sugar
  • Black beans (canned or home-cooked)
  • Corn (frozen, fresh, or canned)
  • Cucumber (I like to use English cucumber because it has less seeds)
  • Tomato (I like to use plum/Roma tomatoes)
  • Bell pepper (any color; I like to use orange)
  • Red onion
  • Jalapeno pepper (optional)
  • Fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Check out my recipe for Instant Pot Black Beans if you’d like an easy way to cook black beans from scratch.

Note: This video is just a brief overview of the steps. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe with detailed instructions.

Tips & Tidbits:

  • You could go the traditional route and use black-eyed peas instead of black beans, or you could do a combination of half black beans and half black-eyed peas (or use any beans you like).
  • Dice all of the veggies small so you get a little of each one in every bite. They should be about the size of the beans or smaller (I like to dice the onions and jalapenos even more finely than everything else).
  • The jalapenos and cilantro are optional, or you can adjust the amounts to suit your own tastes.
  • Want more heat? Leave the ribs and seeds in the jalapeno.
  • If you like spicy food but your jalapenos just aren’t very hot (sometimes they can really vary, with some being super-hot and some not hot at all), add some cayenne pepper to taste.
  • I love the scoop-style tortilla chips when serving this as a dip; it makes it much easier to pick up.
  • If you want to make a bigger batch, just double or triple the recipe, etc. to make as much as you need.
  • You want this to sit in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours to let the flavors blend, and it just gets better as it sits. I actually prefer to make mine the day before (and highly recommend it)!
  • Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days (keep in mind that the veggies will start to lose their freshness and crispness the longer they sit in the dressing and the liquid that is released from the vegetables).
cowboy caviar in a bowl with a serving spoon on the side and tortilla chips in the background

This recipe is very versatile and flexible, so you can add more or less of any ingredient, or you could even add other ingredients like mango or avocado (wait to add this one until right before serving so it doesn’t get mushy and brown).

And besides being great as an appetizer, snack or side dish, you can also use it to top tacos, nachos, or a salad, fill burritos or quesadillas, or put it on top of some grilled chicken, steak or pork chops.

Heck, you could even put it on some scrambled eggs for breakfast (and you could turn that into a breakfast taco or quesadilla)!

I hope you try this Cowboy Caviar recipe and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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More Dip and Salsa Recipes You Might Like:

If you make this recipe, I’d love to know how it went! Please leave a star rating and comment below. Thanks!

hand holding up a tortilla chip filled with cowboy caviar over the bowl

Cowboy Caviar (Small Batch)

Cowboy Caviar is a fresh and colorful mixture of beans and veggies tossed in a homemade garlicky lime dressing. Serve it as a dip with tortilla chips or as a side dish salad!
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Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Chill/Marinating Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6 (about ¾ to ½ cup each; recipe makes about 3 cups total)
Estimated Calories: 190

Ingredients

For the Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil, or regular/light tasting olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, bottled is fine too
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste

For the Salad:

  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup corn, frozen (thawed), fresh, or canned (drained)
  • ½ cup diced cucumbers, partially peeled and seeds removed if needed (I like to use English cucumber)
  • ½ cup diced tomatoes, seeds removed (I like to use plum/Roma tomatoes)
  • ½ cup diced bell pepper, any color (I use orange), seeds removed
  • ¼ cup finely diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced jalapeno peppers, seeds and ribs removed, optional
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, optional
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste

Instructions

Make the Dressing:

  • Place all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until well-combined.

Make the Salad:

  • Place all of the salad ingredients in a medium to large bowl along with the dressing; toss gently until well-combined and all of the veggies are evenly coated. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  • Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend.
    Don't skip this step! The flavor gets better as it sits, and it will be pretty bland if you eat it immediately. I actually prefer to make mine the day before (and I highly recommend it)!
  • Give the salad another quick toss, taste for seasoning and adjust if needed, and enjoy!

Notes

  • You could go the traditional route and use black-eyed peas instead of black beans, or you could do a combination of half black beans and half black-eyed peas (or use any beans you like).
  • Dice all of the veggies small so you get a little of each one in every bite. They should be about the size of the beans or smaller (I like to dice the onions and jalapenos even finer than everything else).
  • If you want to make a bigger batch, just double or triple the recipe, etc. to make as much as you need.
  • Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days (keep in mind that the veggies will start to lose their freshness and crispness the longer they sit in the dressing).
  • Estimated calories shown are based on 4 servings of about ¾ cup each and are for the salad only (tortilla chips not included). For 6 servings of about ½ cup each, the estimated calories would be 126 each.
Did you try this recipe? I’d love to see it!Share it on Instagram, tag @nowcookthis and use the hashtag #nowcookthisrecipes. Thanks!
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