A quick and easy bean dip appetizer made with black eyed peas, canned tomatoes, bell pepper and a delicious vinaigrette. Cowboy caviar is also called Texas caviar, since black eyed peas are commonly grown in Texas. My version features fresh oregano, Tabasco, and a tangy-spicy dressing with Worcestershire sauce to bring it all together.
You can absolutely trust my recipe for Texas caviar, since I am, in fact, a Texan. In fact, I didn't even know this was called cowboy caviar until I saw a recipe in a magazine with the title above it. Prior to this, I just knew this as a vegetable-packed bean dip that was always on the table in the summer months.
In my family, the adults scoop it up with salty chips, but I love it cold in a bowl with a spoon so I can enjoy the remaining vinaigrette at the bottom of the bowl.
Once you taste the flavor combination of fresh oregano, tangy Tabasco, Worcestershire, lime juice and fresh garlic, you will also want to drink the dressing.
My recipe is also special because it uses canned Ro-tel tomatoes, which are soft tomatoes with green chiles. Be wary of cowboy caviar recipes that contain corn, fresh tomatoes and zero herbs except cilantro. The other recipes are more of a black bean and corn salsa. The recipe below is authentic Texas Caviar, or Cowboy Caviar, whatever you would like to call it.
- Black Eyed Peas. You need 2 15-ounce cans of black eyed peas, drained and rinsed, or you can use 4 cups of frozen black eyed peas that you have defrosted.
- Scallions/ Green Onions. Six scallions (also known as green onions) are critical for the flavor here. Their onion flavor is mild enough to bring something special to the dish, but not overpowering like a regular white or yellow onion.
- Cilantro. Fresh cilantro brings so much bright flavor to this dish. If you abhor cilantro, well, I guess you can use fresh parsley, but reduce the amount by half.
- Jalapeño. This is optional, but I do feel like cowboy caviar needs a certain amount of heat and spice.
- Ro-Tel Tomatoes. If you can't find the 10-ounce can of Ro-tel tomatoes with green chiles, you can use the same amount of canned tomatoes (weigh out 10 ounces, though!), plus a 4-ounce can of green chiles. You can choose mild or spicy Ro-Tel, depending on your spice level preference.
- Bell Pepper. I always reach for a yellow bell pepper because I think it's so pretty in a color dish. I use the same thing in my Black Bean Quinoa Salad.
- Fresh Oregano. Using fresh oregano is so incredible here. However, if you can't find it or grow it (it's so hearty, even for areas that experience frost), you can use 1 teaspoon of dried oregano.
- Tabasco. This is a vinegar-based hot sauce made with red chiles, and it's delicious! You commonly see it served with eggs, but I love it here and with my Black Bean Salad recipe.
- Worcestershire Sauce. This is a umami-rich sauce in a bottle that brings so much flavor to anything you use it in! Do not omit, but if you're vegan or vegetarian, be sure to find a vegan Worcestershire sauce substitute.
- Black Pepper. An important part of the flavor foundation, please freshly grind your black peppercorns.
- Lime Juice. Fresh lime juice is always better than one in a bottle, but please use what you have.
- Garlic. While most recipes for Texas Caviar rely on powdered garlic, we're using 3 cloves of fresh garlic. It makes such a difference, because fresh garlic brings a mild heat and spiciness while dry powder does not.
- Olive Oil. Since this will be served raw, I recommend extra virgin olive oil. We need ¾ cup of olive oil for making the dressing.
How to Make Cowboy Caviar
This recipe requires chopping and a serving dish, however, that's all you need! No food processor or any fancy tools required.
First, drain and rinse the black eyed peas, and place them in a large serving bowl. Add the chopped scallions, cilantro, jalapeño, Ro-tel tomatoes and bell pepper to the same bowl.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together the fresh oregano, Tabasco hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, lime juice and minced garlic.
While whisking the vinaigrette, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. This makes an emulsified dressing that becomes slightly silky and coats all of the ingredients in the bowl.
Finally, drizzle the vinaigrette on top of the peas and vegetables in the bowl. Toss everything together very well, and chill for 4 hours before serving with tortilla chips.
Best Tips for Perfect Cowboy Caviar:
- Always taste the dip with a tortilla chip before serving, because the tortilla chips contain plenty of salt. If you salt the dip before tasting with a chip, you might make it too salty!
- Please do not skip the 4 hour chill time, because it ensures the flavors mix and bloom at a bit. This also gives time for the dressing to soak into the beans and make them super flavorful.
- This dip has quite a bit of spice, from the Ro-tel tomatoes with green chiles, jalapeño, Tabasco and raw garlic. If you want this to have less spice, try omitting the jalapeños and buy the mild version of Ro-Tel tomatoes.
- To make a meal of this, serve a big scoop over hot white rice. This is one of my all-time favorite lunches!
If you're serving this for a crowd, be sure to not leave it out at room temperature for more than 4 hours. Beyond 4 hours, all food is susceptible to harmful bacterial growth. The length of time shortens if the temperature is hot; please note that at 90-degrees F, you can only leave this at room temperature for an hour, maximum! That said, this cowboy caviar is safe to store in the fridge and snack on for up to 5 days, as long as it's not left at room temperature too long.
Frequently Asked Questions:
I'm so happy to answer this question, because Texas caviar originated from my hometown of Dallas, Texas. Its origin has been traced to a former culinary director from Neiman Marcus, which is a department store that originated in Dallas, Texas also.
This particular version of cowboy caviar isn't vegan because it contains Worcestershire sauce. However, you can buy a vegan version of that and make this dip totally vegan.
I'm afraid to say that cowboy caviar cannot be frozen. The vegetables will form ice crystals in the freezer, and as they thaw, it will make the dip too watery. It's best to store this dip in the fridge in an air-tight container and consume within 5 days.
Other Bean Appetizer Recipes:
More Favorites from Bean Recipes
- 2 15-ounce cans of black-eyed peas*
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
- 1 10-ounce can of Ro-Tel tomatoes with green chiles
- 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
- 1 tablespoon red Tabasco
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Drain and rinse black eyed peas, and place them in a large serving bowl.
- Add the scallions, cilantro, jalapeño, canned tomatoes with green chiles, and chopped bell pepper to the bowl with the black eyed peas.
- In a separate bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the fresh oregano, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, lime juice and garlic.
- Stream in the olive oil while whisking.
- Pour the dressing over everything in the bowl. Toss to combine. Chill for 4 hours before serving with tortilla chips. Taste with a tortilla chip to see if it needs salt before serving.
*Two 15-ounce cans of drained and rinsed black eyed peas is equal to about 4 cups of cooked beans. You can also find frozen black eyed peas and defrost them for this recipe.
Scallions are also called green onions.
Storage: This keeps in the fridge and snack on for up to 5 days. If you serve it at a party, ensure that it doens't sit out at room temperature for more than 4 hours.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 327Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 78mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 8gSugar: 5gProtein: 9g