Cowboy Caviar

Cowboy Caviar

One of my PhD advisors was my inspiration for creating this recipe for Cowboy Caviar. It’s a delightful mix of colors, flavors, and textures. Also, it makes for a quick lunch or dinner, is a great accompaniment for picnics and barbeques, and leftovers have an inexplicable power to brighten any sad desk lunch (whether working from home or in the office).

One thing I really like about Cowboy Caviar is the combination of different types of beans. This recipe uses black-eyed peas and black or pinto beans, whichever you prefer. And honestly, you could use other types of beans too, and it will still turn out brilliantly.

Black-Eyed Peas in Cowboy Caviar

Black-eyed peas are so under-appreciated. Lots of people – at least in the US – just have them for good luck on New Year’s, but they are wonderful all year long! Why do I think they deserve more of a shout-out?

  • Black-eyed peas have a unique texture and it almost feels like they burst when you bite into them. Plus, they have a nice peppery flavor that works very well in salads.
  • Black-eyed peas are a type of cowpea which, technically, is a pulse and not a bean. There are LOTS of types of cowpeas, in a wide variety of colors and patterns.
  • Black-eyed pea plants often demonstrate excellent drought and heat tolerance. That’s important with changing climates and water conservation.

I know, you just came here for a recipe and are wondering why I’m babbling on about this? Well, because beans and pulses are so COOL. That’s why! But alright, let’s move along to the recipe.

Cowboy Caviar

Recipe by A Legume a DayCourse: Lunch, DinnerCuisine: SaladDifficulty: Easy







Cowboy Caviar is a delightful mix of colors, flavors, and textures. It makes for a quick lunch or dinner, is a great accompaniment for picnics and barbeques, and leftovers have an inexplicable power to brighten any sad desk lunch (whether working from home or in the office).


  • 1 and ½ cups (1 15-oz. can) cooked black or pinto beans (to preference), or a mix

  • 1 and ½ cups (1 15-oz. can) cooked black-eyed peas

  • 1 and ½ cups (1 15-oz. can) corn (canned, drained)

  • ½ cup black olives (canned or jarred)

  • 1 large bell pepper – use the color of your choosing; green has a more vegetal taste and red, orange, or yellow are sweeter

  • ½ cup diced red onion (or can use green onions if preferred)

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes

  • ¼ cup pickled jalapeños (jarred) + brine for additional kick (optional)

  • 1/2 cup cilantro

  • 1 garlic clove, or to taste

  • 1 Tbs lime juice, or to taste

  • Dressing – choose one
  • 1/2 cup Italian dressing (can use light)

  • Make your own dressing: 3 Tbs olive or neutral-flavored oil, 6 Tbs (=1/4 cup + 2 Tbs) vinegar (white wine, apple cider, etc.), 1 Tbs sugar or honey, salt & pepper to taste


  • Drain black-eyed peas and pinto or black beans. Rinse if using canned. Place in a large bowl. And I mean large, there are a lot of ingredients and it’s hard to stir later if you think you can just use a medium-sized bowl. Take my word on this – been there, done that. And it didn’t end smoothly. 😀
  • Add drained canned corn to the beans.
  • Chop black olives, dice bell pepper, and finely dice red onion, so that these ingredients can evenly distribute in the dish. Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes, depending on size. Finely dice the jalapeños and chop the cilantro. Add the vegetables and cilantro to the beans.
  • If making your own dressing, mix dressing ingredients together well in a small bowl.
  • Mince a garlic clove or use a garlic press. Add garlic, lime juice, and dressing to the bean mixture and stir well to evenly coat. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. For more kick, add some of the pickled jalapeño brine.
  • Refrigerate for a few hours if time allows to let flavors blend. Serve room temperature or slightly chilled.


  • Serving suggestion: enjoy as a side or main salad. It also goes well with tortilla chips.
  • Get wild and crazy and try switching up the types of beans you use in this. It’s fun to play around with different colors, textures, sizes, and flavors because you end up with a new appearance and flavor profile!

Cowboy Caviar is a classic. I hope you enjoy! And if you’re sharing with family or friends, why not share a fun fact about black-eyed peas while you’re at it? Refusing to stop talking about beans is a major popularity boost. Trust me.

Cowboy Caviar - close-up

Cowboy Caviar Nutrition Facts

I created these nutrition facts for this Cowboy Caviar in Nutritionist Pro, with light Italian dressing entered as the dressing option. Numbers may vary with factors such as slightly different ingredients or brands.

Cowboy Caviar - Nutrition Facts

More Bean Salads

Bean salads are simple and tasty, and it is so nice to have leftovers to enjoy throughout the week. Here are a few other bean salad ideas for you:

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