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A&E >  Food

Dorothy Dean presents: Simple, robust cowboy caviar is easily lassoed

UPDATED: Mon., April 5, 2021

By Audrey Alfaro For The Spokesman-Review

Spring is here and calls for recipes that are light, fresh and vibrant. Well, let’s add simple to that with cowboy caviar, a robust and colorful dip that is as versatile as it is tasty.

It’s also known as Texas caviar, named after the state in which it was created in around 1940 by Helen Corbitt, a native New Yorker. She was the head chef at Neiman Marcus and first served her popular black-eyed pea salsa on New Year’s Eve at the Houston Country Club.

Serving it sometime later at the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas, it was dubbed “Texas caviar” as a humorous comparison to real caviar, the expensive delicacy consisting of salt-cured fish roe. Her original recipe has evolved into many versions, this being one of them.

Mixing two types of beans, a rainbow of veggies and a zesty homemade dressing, this dip is refreshingly delicious. Some chopping and tossing are all it takes to make this potluck favorite, which yields a batch big enough for a crowd.

Brimming with bright flavors and fresh ingredients like tomatoes, lime, corn, bell peppers, cilantro, jalapeño and avocado, cowboy caviar goes great with crisp tortilla chips and can also be served as a side dish, salad and taco topper and over grilled meats.

You can even add additional ingredients or proteins, such as chopped bacon, cojito cheese or diced chicken, shrimp or steak, to hearty it up into a meal on its own.

The combination of veggies and seasonings can be completely customized to suit your tastes.

Cowboy caviar can be made in advance, making it perfect for picnics and parties. Just omit the avocado and fold it in right before serving so it doesn’t brown.

Cowboy Caviar

Adapted from

4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 (15 ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup sweet corn, canned, fresh or thawed from frozen

½ red onion, finely diced

½ red bell pepper, diced

½ green, orange or yellow bell pepper, diced

1 to 2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped

1 to 2 avocados, diced

1 cup cilantro, chopped, about 1 bunch

For the dressing:

⅓ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2½ teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients; set aside.

In a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

Pour the dressing over the bean mixture and gently toss to coat.

Chill until ready to serve.

Email Audrey Alfaro at

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