Easy Cowboy Caviar (Corn-Free)

Reading Time: 6 min

Cowboy caviar, also called cowboy salad, is a hearty, zesty bean dip loaded with veggies and dressed in a vinaigrette. Here’s our favorite, easy, real food recipe.

cowboy caviar


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Whether you call it cowboy caviar or cowboy salad, I call it the highlight of my Summer.

Full of budget-friendly ingredients, fresh flavors, and real food, Cowboy Caviar is currently one of my favorite make-ahead recipes and an easy way to eat more vegetables. Serve this cowboy caviar plain with tortilla chips at a party, with a side of rice on your plate, or pour it over a bed of lettuce for simple plant-based meals.

Cowboy caviar is gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan, and today I want to show you how you can make it corn-free too. Typically, cowboy caviar is made with corn, and it’s delicious. But if you have allergies like us, or you just want to eat more veggies, try our version!

What is Cowboy Caviar?

Cowboy caviar, also called cowboy salad, is a hearty, zesty bean dip loaded with veggies and dressed in a vinaigrette. It’s typically a black bean corn avocado salsa recipe, but you can use different kinds of beans, different kinds of vegetables, and even Italian dressing if you like.

It’s a budget-friendly, crowd-pleasing appetizer you can bring to parties or serve at home for easy, weeknight meals. I love it because you can make it ahead of time and it tastes even better the next day!

What is Cowboy Caviar Made of?

One reason our cowboy caviar recipe works on a budget is that you can make endless variations. I’ve never made it the same way twice.

For example, what beans go in cowboy caviar? Beans are the base of this dip. You can make it with black beans, black-eyed peas, or a combination of both. In a pinch, I wouldn’t hesitate to use great northern, navy beans, or even pinto.

Typically, here is what cowboy caviar is made of:

Beans (black and/or black-eyed peas)

Corn or shredded carrot (for sweetness)

Red onion (or shallots or green onion)

Diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)

Jalapeños (fresh or pickled)

Garlic (fresh, jarred, or powder)

Dressing (some people use Italian dressing for an easy fix, but I’ll show you how to make a real food 2-minute dressing)

Optional ingredients for cowboy caviar:

These ingredients are more expensive, but they taste amazing in cowboy salad.

  • Sweet bell pepper
  • Avocado
  • Cilantro
cowboy caviar

How to Make Cowboy Salad

This cowboy caviar recipe is ridiculously easy to make. Essentially, here is the process:

  1. Make beans or open a few cans
  2. Wash and chop veggies
  3. Mix ingredients in a blender (or shake in a jar)
  4. Combine.
  5. Done!

Why is it Called “Cowboy Caviar?”

Apparently, the name cowboy caviar originated in Texas in the 1940s (hey, the same time our house was built!) and consisted of black-eyed peas dressed with a vinaigrette and served with tortilla chips. The name caviar was a joke because beans were a poor man’s version of this expensive ingredient. (Sometimes it’s even called Georgia Caviar or Southern Caviar).

Since then, we’ve made endless varieties of this popular dip.

How Long Will It Keep?

Cowboy salad tastes best after it sits in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, but it will keep 4-5 days after that. Just think about the ingredients in cowboy salad. Would you want to eat sliced tomatoes after 6 days? Probably not. That’s a good rule of thumb for cowboy salad.

cowboy caviar with chips

Tips for This Recipe!

– Make this black bean corn avocado recipe several hours in advance or the day before to get the best flavor.

– However, if you’re using avocado, don’t add that until just before serving.

– Use whatever kinds of beans you have – try all black-eyed peas, northern beans, or a combination. Even pinto works! (psssst! Make beans the easy way here.)

– If you don’t like cilantro, use sliced green onions instead.

– Use frozen or fresh corn if you can, but canned corn works too.

If you are corn-free, use shredded carrots instead so you still get that sweetness!

– Serve cowboy caviar as a dip with tortilla chips, alongside rice and grilled chicken or steak, on tacos, over these simple nachos, with taco dip, or over a bed of lettuce.

Cowboy Caviar Variations

There are endless variations of cowboy caviar. Try some of these!

  • Beans: Try this recipe with black beans, black-eyed peas, great northern beans, navy beans, or pinto.
  • Onion: Use any kind of onion if you need to, including a handful of green onions.
  • Garlic: If you don’t have fresh garlic, add 1/4 tsp garlic powder to the dressing.
  • Veggies: Use different amounts of whatever veggies you have on hand – corn, tomatoes, shredded carrot, shredded red or green cabbage, sweet peppers, lettuce, avocados, cucumbers.
  • Avocados: You can totally make cowboy caviar without avocado.
  • Meat: Add 1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken or leftover steak, and make a salad, or serve as a topping with ground beef tacos.
  • Bacon: Everything is better with bacon. Stir in 1/3 cup cooked and crumbled bacon.
  • Eggs: Spoon leftovers into an omelet and top it with sour cream and cheese.
  • Fish: Serve with canned tuna, small shrimp, or baked fish.
  • Spicy: Leave some of the seeds and ribs in the jalapeno, (or some of the juice if you’re using pickled) or add a dash of hot sauce to the dressing.
  • Dairy: Add 1/3 cup of crumbled feta or cotija cheese or a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.
  • Rice: Mix leftovers with rice to make a rice salad.
  • Vinegar: For the dressing, use whatever vinegar you have. Lime juice is also great.
  • Dressing: If you have a favorite vinaigrette, try using that. Anything with Tex-Mex flavors would be perfect, but some people like it with a simple Italian dressing as well.
cowboy caviar with chips

Can I Freeze Cowboy Caviar?

This is a pretty common question for cowboy caviar, but the answer is – mostly – no. If you added avocado, this won’t freeze and thaw very well (although you can freeze and thaw avocado in other ways!). However, if I had to, I would freeze avocado-less cowboy caviar and try adding it to taco soup in the future. It won’t thaw well after the freezer, but it could be a tasty addition to taco soup!

Is Cowboy Caviar Good for You?

Made with fresh ingredients, and loaded with vegetables, I consider cowboy caviar a clean, real food recipe.

Cowboy caviar is:

  • Vegan
  • Gluten-Free
  • Healthy
  • Dairy-free
  • Plant-based
  • Corn-free (my version is!)
  • Easy
  • Make-ahead
  • Delicious
  • Tangy
  • Clean
  • Real Food
cowboy caviar

What Goes with Cowboy Caviar?

What can I serve with cowboy caviar? If you’re bringing cowboy caviar to a party, serve it with tortilla chips. However, there are endless variations of this zesty, flavorful dip.

Make it a Meal! Serve with tacos, rice and chicken, or quesadillas.

Meat: Add 1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken or leftover steak, and make a salad, or serve as a topping with ground beef tacos.

Bacon: Everything is better with bacon. Stir in 1/3 cup cooked and crumbled bacon.

Eggs: Spoon leftovers into an omelet and top it with sour cream and cheese.

Fish: Serve with canned tuna, small shrimp, or baked fish.

Dairy: Add 1/3 cup of crumbled feta or cotija cheese or a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.

Rice: Mix leftovers with rice to make a rice salad.

Cowboy Caviar Recipe on a Budget

I believe good food can fit any budget. Here are some ways to make this cowboy caviar recipe even more budget-friendly:

  1. Use what you have! Seriously, any kind of bean, a vinaigrette, some veggies.
  2. In the winter, I use canned tomatoes and pickled jalapeños instead of paying top dollar for out-of-season produce.
  3. Make your beans from scratch. It takes 5 minutes of work!
  4. This is a great way to use garden veggies
  5. Use the leftovers! There are tons of ideas in this post.
  6. If you need to freeze it, remove any avocados, and toss it into a taco soup.

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag a photo #cheapskatecook and @cheapskatecook on Instagram.

cowboy caviar

Cowboy Caviar

Yield: 6 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Cowboy caviar, also called cowboy salad, is a hearty, zesty bean dip loaded with veggies and dressed in a vinaigrette. Here’s our favorite, easy, real food recipe.

Ingredients

  • For the Caviar:
  • ⅓ cup red onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar (optional)
  • 2 cups home-cooked or 1 15 oz black beans, rinsed and drained (although honestly, I use all black beans or all black-eyed peas half the time)
  • 2 cups home-cooked or 1 15 oz black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes (fresh is best, but I use canned in cold months)
  • 1 ½ cups frozen sweet corn (or 1 ½ large carrots, shredded)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, diced into very small pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Tortilla chips for serving
  • Optional:
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (optional)
  • 2 ripe avocados, diced (optional)
  • ⅓ cup Cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
  • For the Dressing:
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice juice, fresh preferred, but like, whatever.
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin

Instructions

  1. Optional first step: place the diced onion in a small bowl and cover them with the 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar. This is call macerating the onions, which is totally optional but WORTH IT because it makes them more flavorful and less gross like raw onions. This is what the restaurants do to dishes like this, and it is WORKS. Let them sit while you do everything else. If you skip this step, just add them to step 2.
  2. In a large bowl, place the beans, tomatoes, carrot/corn, pepper, garlic, and any optional ingredients.
  3. Combine the dressing in a small blender, like a Nutribullet, or a jar with a lid. Blend or shake the jar to combine ingredients.
  4. Add the dressing and macerated onions (and their vinegar) to the bowl, then combine everything.
  5. Let the cowboy caviar sit in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors build, then taste and add salt or vinegar/lime juice as needed.
  6. Serve with tortilla chips.

Notes

Tips for Cowboy Caviar

  • Make this black bean corn avocado recipe several hours in advance or the day before to get the best flavor.
  • However, if you're using avocado, don't add that until just before serving.
  • Use whatever kinds of beans you have - try all black-eyed peas, northern beans, or a combination. Even pinto works! (psssst! Make beans the easy way here.)
  • If you don't like cilantro, use sliced green onions instead.
  • Use frozen or fresh corn if you can, but canned corn works too.
  • If you are corn-free, use shredded carrots instead so you still get that sweetness!
  • Serve cowboy caviar as a dip with tortilla chips, alongside rice and grilled chicken or steak, on tacos, over these simple nachos, with taco dip, or over a bed of lettuce.


Serving Suggestions:

  • Make it a Meal! Serve with tacos, rice and chicken, or quesadillas.
  • Meat: Add 1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken or leftover steak, and make a salad, or serve as a topping with ground beef tacos.
  • Bacon: Everything is better with bacon. Stir in 1/3 cup cooked and crumbled bacon.
  • Eggs: Spoon leftovers into an omelet and top it with sour cream and cheese.
  • Fish: Serve with canned tuna, small shrimp, or baked fish.
  • Dairy: Add 1/3 cup of crumbled feta or cotija cheese or a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.
  • Rice: Mix leftovers with rice to make a rice salad.


Variations:

There are endless variations of cowboy caviar. Try some of these!

  • Beans: Try this recipe with black beans, black-eyed peas, great northern beans, navy beans, or pinto.
  • Onion: Use any kind of onion if you need to, including a handful of green onions.
  • Garlic: If you don’t have fresh garlic, add 1/4 tsp garlic powder to the dressing.
  • Veggies: Use different amounts of whatever veggies you have on hand – corn, tomatoes, shredded carrot, shredded red or green cabbage, sweet peppers, lettuce, avocados, cucumbers.
  • Avocados: You can totally make cowboy caviar without avocado.
  • Meat: Add 1 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken or leftover steak, and make a salad, or serve as a topping with ground beef tacos.
  • Bacon: Everything is better with bacon. Stir in 1/3 cup cooked and crumbled bacon.
  • Eggs: Spoon leftovers into an omelet and top it with sour cream and cheese.
  • Fish: Serve with canned tuna, small shrimp, or baked fish.
  • Spicy: Leave some of the seeds and ribs in the jalapeno, (or some of the juice if you’re using pickled) or add a dash of hot sauce to the dressing.
  • Dairy: Add 1/3 cup of crumbled feta or cotija cheese or a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.
  • Rice: Mix leftovers with rice to make a rice salad.
  • Vinegar: For the dressing, use whatever vinegar you have. Lime juice is also great.
  • Dressing: If you have a favorite vinaigrette, try using that. Anything with Tex-Mex flavors would be perfect, but some people like it with a simple Italian dressing as well.

Recommended Products

Some of these links are affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 480Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 306mgCarbohydrates: 58gFiber: 18gSugar: 13gProtein: 16g

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What You Can Do Now:

Add this to your bean recipes! Try it this weekend for an easy, crowd-pleasing snack or meal.

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