Cowboy caviar is a beautiful and flavorful chunky dip made with juicy tomatoes, crunchy bell peppers, beans, corn, avocado, and cilantro coated in a spicy citrus homemade dressing. It can also be used as a side salad, a condiment, or a topping, but we love it best with tortilla chips to scoop up a little of everything in every bite!
Cowboy caviar, also known as Texas caviar or cowboy salsa, is a colorful, vibrant, and fresh dip that is super flavorful and easy to throw together.
It’s a chunky dip that sort of resembles the lovechild of pico de gallo and a southwest fiesta salad!
It comes together in 15 minutes and then it sits and chills so the flavors have time to marry in that zesty, citrusy, sweet, and spicy dressing.
A perfect summer side dish or party dip that requires no oven and can pair with almost anything.
It’s a staple appetizer and warm-weather salad for all your summer BBQs and potlucks!
Serve it with salty crispy tortillas to scoop up every last bit!
Why you’ll love Easy Cowboy Caviar
Quick and Easy – The entire dip comes together in minutes, but it’s the chill time after that keeps you from digging in right away. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.
Flavors & Textures – The buttery beans, sweet corn, juicy tomatoes, crunchy bell peppers, and creamy avocado come together in the best dressing! No store-bought Italian dressing is to be found in this recipe.
Makes a Big Batch – Feed a crowd at all your summer gatherings, game day parties, or cinco de mayo celebrations!
Pairs well with more than just Tex Mex – It’s great as an appetizer for any Mexican-inspired meals, but it’s also a great side dish for grilled meat and fish.
Equipment you’ll need
What is Cowboy Caviar made of?
Below is a list of the ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe, why you need them, and possible substitutions. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card with measurements.
- Tomatoes: Diced roma tomatoes are a great option as they don’t contain as much juice or as many seeds as other types.
- Beans: I use a mixture of canned black beans and pinto beans, drained and rinsed.
- Corn Kernels: Fresh corn is a bonus, if you have 4 cobs either freshly cooked or leftover, go ahead and shuck those. If not, canned or thawed from frozen can certainly be used.
- Red Onion: Diced onion gives the cowboy caviar a slightly pungent flavor, but is sweeter than other types of onion when raw.
- Bell Peppers: I enjoy the balance of sweet red bell peppers and the more savory green bell pepper.
- Avocado: Adds the perfect creamy element to balance out the rest of the dip.
- Jalapenos: Depending on your preferred spice level, you could leave some of the seeds in or remove them altogether as you dice them up.
- Cilantro: You’ll want about 1 cup packed fresh cilantro.
For the Dressing
- Fresh Lime juice: Freshly squeezed from juicy limes. Avoid the bottled stuff if you can. If you’re out of limes, use white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar instead.
- Olive Oil: The base of the dressing, this neutral tasting oil brings all the dressing flavors together.
- Granulated White Sugar: A little sweetness to balance out the acidity in both the cowboy caviar dip and the dressing.
- Spices: Chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder.
- Salt & Pepper: To taste.
How to make Cowboy Caviar
This section shows you how to make this recipe, with process photos showing the steps to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Step One: Add tomatoes, beans, corn, red onion, bell peppers, avocado, jalapenos, and cilantro to a large mixing bowl and give everything a gentle toss.
- Step Two: Make the dressing by whisking together the lime juice, olive oil, sugar, spices, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Do a little taste test and adjust the seasoning as needed.
- Step Three: Pour the dressing overtop the mixture and gently toss to combine.
- Step Four: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!
What to serve with Cowboy Caviar
It’s first and foremost a dip, so you’re going to want freshly made homemade tortilla chips for dipping and scooping.
Other dips that would be a welcome addition to the appetizer lineup would be creamy salsa dip or slow cooker queso blanco.
If you’re using it as a side dish, I suggest pairing it with something like crockpot salsa chicken, slow cooker honey lime chicken tacos, baked chicken fajitas, or sour cream chicken enchiladas.
We love to even use it as a topping on nachos, tacos, and in burritos!
Tips & Suggestions 🌽🫑
- For a little smokiness in your cowboy caviar, roast the corn beforehand.
- If using canned or frozen corn make sure to drain the liquid before adding in the kernels.
- Switch up the beans to what you prefer. Use all black beans if you’re not a fan of pinto beans. Black eyed peas are also a classic choice for cowboy caviar.
- Kick it up a notch with some spice. Keep the seeds in the jalapeno peppers, and increase the amount of peppers you use if you want.
- If you don’t have any of the dressing ingredients, but you do have Italian dressing, go ahead and use it instead.
- When making this dish ahead of time, you can decide to leave the avocado out until just before serving to prevent it from turning brown. The lime juice will help to avoid that, but for extra measure, leave it until last.
How to store Cowboy Caviar
How to store leftovers
Keep leftovers stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Make sure to stir before serving again as the dressing will have settled to the bottom.
How long will cowboy dip last in the fridge?
Use up leftovers for up to 3 days.
Is cowboy caviar just ceviche?
No. Although they both have a citrus element, ceviche is raw fish that is “cooked” in the acid from the citrus juices. Cowboy caviar contains no raw fish and the purpose of the dressing is just to add flavor, not cook anything.
Why is it called cowboy caviar?
It was created in the 40s in Dallas Texas. Most people agree it was the director of food service at Neiman Marcus who popularized it, however, it’s important to note how similar some of the ingredients and flavors are to Pico de Gallo, so there is definitely some South American cultural influence.
How big of a batch does this cowboy caviar recipe make?
One batch makes enough to serve about 12 people. If you need more, easily double or triple the recipe.
Need more homemade dip recipes? Try these:
Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Dip
Crock Pot Spinach Artichoke Dip
Click here for my entire collection of dip recipes.
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