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The traditional Texas Caviar recipe (sometimes called Texas Cowboy Caviar) was created by Helen Corbit in 1940 and is made from black eyed peas, cilantro, garlic, red bell pepper, and red onion and topped with olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing. Our recipe is an update on this classic recipe and also includes black beans, corn, mini-peppers, diced tomatoes, avocado, and a zesty lime vinaigrette. Served cold it is a great summertime salad. It is light and refreshing and the perfect side to burgers, grilled pork, chicken, or steaks. It also makes a great appetizer served with your favorite chips for dipping.
And if you are from the south it is a tradition on New Year’s Day to eat black-eyed peas. The black-eyed peas symbolize luck and prosperity in the new year and this recipe is a delicious way to enjoy these lucky beans.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
Made from fresh ingredients this easy Texas Caviar recipe is the perfect easy-to-make cold side. Black-eyed peas are the backbone of this salad but you can easily substitute the other ingredients. Since cooked black-eyed peas are softer in texture you will want something with a little crunch like corn, peppers, and onions. Fat and acid are also essential ingredients. We chose olive oil and avocado for our fat and lime and tomatoes for acid. These are our favorite ingredients but you can easily adjust any ingredients so get creative.
The complete ingredient list and measurements are listed in the printable recipe below.
- Black-eyed peas are a must-have legume for this recipe. Dried beans are great but you can make this recipe with canned black-eyed peas.
- Black beans are some of our favorite legumes but you can easily substitute them with another bean such as pinto or red beans. Again you can use canned to save some time.
- Corn can be fresh, canned, or frozen and adds a hint of sweetness.
- Avocado is not only heart-healthy but adds a delicious creaminess.
- Red onion has a milder flavor than other onions and adds color and crunch. You can substitute fresh red onion with pickled red onions for a milder flavor and a little extra hit of acid.
- Cilantro is a bit spicy with citrus hints. It’s the perfect garnish but parsley can be substituted.
- Scallions add another layer of onion flavor as well as a pop of freshness.
- Tomatoes are a classic summer flavor and will add a little sweet, sour, and savory bitterness to the dish. We prefer to use locally-grown grape or cherry tomatoes since they tend to be a little sweeter.
- Peppers add color, sweetness, and crunch. Green bell peppers are the go-to for most recipes; if you want a little heat you can use jalapeno or poblano. We chose mini-peppers which are a sweeter option.
Texas Caviar Dressing
Traditional Texas Caviar is made with Italian dressing. We make our own dressing for this salad which includes lime juice for a little acid along with olive oil, sugar, garlic powder, and salt. The dressing can also be made from apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar), sugar, salt, lime juice, and a combination of spices like chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, or cumin.
How to Make Texas Caviar
Here are the quick step-by-step instructions with visuals; you can find the full instructions with the exact ingredients in the recipe card below.
Pro-tip: Use canned beans and corn to save some time but without sacrificing taste.
1. Make the dressing: Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt, sugar, garlic powder, and lime zest. Set aside.
2. Prep the ingredients: Drain and rinse the black-eyed peas, black beans, and corn. Dice the red onions and the dulce Mediterraneo peppers. Chop the avocado, scallions, and cilantro. Slice the tomatoes.
3. Assemble: In a large bowl combine all the ingredients then drizzle the ingredients with the dressing and mix gently.
There are a variety of options for serving Texas Caviar but our favorite is with tortilla chips as an easy appetizer. Here are a few other ways to serve it.
- Use it as a topping: Top it on your favorite baked or grilled fish, as a condiment on your favorite burger, or instead of salsa or pico on tacos or nachos.
- Serve it as a side dish: Alongside a nice steak, pork chop, or chicken breast this is a protein-packed side dish.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Let it chill. This is delicious when served immediately but letting it chill helps the flavors marry.
- Give it a toss. Some of the veggies will release some water as they sit so give the salad a toss before serving.
- Save the avocado for last. As they sit avocados will begin to brown so add them right before serving. Our dressing does include lime juice which will slow down the browning process of avocados but not completely eliminated it.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: Both the salad (minus the avocado) and dressing can be made in advance and then refrigerated. When ready to serve, add cut-up avocado to the salad then add the dressing and toss well to combine.
How to Store: Leftovers can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. We do not recommend freezing leftovers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Texas Caviar is a cold black-eyed pea “salad” that was first introduced in 1940 by Helen Corbitt at the Driskill Hotel in Austin, where it was named Texas Caviar as a humorous nod to true caviar.
Yes. Cowboy Caviar is a nickname for Texas Caviar. The original version was called Texas Caviar. It is also sometimes called Cowboy Salsa, Cowboy Bean Dip, Hillbilly Caviar, Southwestern Bean Dip, and a variation of all of these.
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Other Recipes to Try
If you enjoy this recipe for Texas Caviar (aka Cowboy Caviar), we recommend checking out some of these:
- 1 tablespoon lime zest, see note
- 4 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed (approximately 2 limes)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 15 ounces black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
- 15 ounces black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup corn, see notes
- ¼ cup red onion, diced
- ½ cup avocado, cut into ½ inch cubes
- ¼ cup mini peppers, diced
- ½ cup grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 2 scallions, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt, sugar, garlic powder, and lime zest. Set aside.
- Drain and rinse black-eyed peas, black beans, and corn.
- In a large bowl combine black-eyed peas, black beans, corn, red onion, avocado, peppers, tomatoes, scallions, and cilantro.
- Pour dressing over salad and mix gently.
- Serve with your favorite main dish or as an appetizer with chips.