Cowboy Caviar Southwestern Bean and Veggie Dip – Loaded with black-eyed peas, beans, jalapenos, sweet peppers and scallions perfectly marinated in a sweet and sour dressing. This delicious, healthy dip has crunch, color and feeds a crowd!
Cowboy caviar – isn’t that the best name ever for a dip? It suits this fun and colorful dish perfectly too. Developed in the Southwest as a simple vinegar dressed black-eyed pea salad, it has morphed to include lots of crunchy veggies and a variety of beans. There is no fish roe in this caviar though. The use of the word caviar is probably a tongue-in-cheek reference to the humble ingredients in the cowboy recipe, as opposed to a fancy, expensive, “city” caviar. Even if you like the fancy stuff, you’re going to want to give this cowboy caviar southwestern bean and veggie dip a try!
Strangely, I first had cowboy caviar years ago, not in the Southwest, but when I still lived in Minneapolis. My friend’s mother-in-law had a winter home in Scottsdale, Arizona and brought this recipe back to Minnesota. When I first tasted it, it was love at first bite! Who knew I would end up living in Scottsdale myself and still be making this amazing dip in it’s natural environment?
Cowboy caviar is the perfect blend of textures and flavors. The beans provide substance, the veggies give a fresh, sweet crunch, the jalapenos give a hint of spice, and the dressing is a perfect sweet and sour. The most amazing thing about this dip? It’s vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free and healthy!
As with guacamole and salsa, there are many different variations and family recipes for cowboy caviar. I choose to think this one is hard to beat, but you can definitely freestyle with this recipe and tailor it to your own tastes and favorite ingredients.
The dressing ingredients are basic, sugar, vegetable oil, rice vinegar and salt and pepper. When combined these simple ingredients become magically sweet and tart!
There is a longish list of ingredients for this cowboy caviar recipe, but many of them are canned or jarred and are ready to use. Black-eyed peas are one of the canned ingredients and are an essential ingredient in a cowboy caviar. Although they are called peas, they are part of the bean family. Peas and beans are both legumes because they have edible shells and pods. Who knew? That being said, most grocery stores keep the black-eyed peas in the canned vegetable section, not the canned bean section. It took me forever to find them the first time I made this dip!
For the corn, try to find the white “shoepeg” type. They are smaller, more tender and sweeter kernels than the common yellow kind.
The fresh veggies really make the dip. You can use any color combination of two sweet bell peppers, red, yellow or orange. They not only add a sweet crunch, but are so colorful, and since you first eat with your eyes, that’s important! I wouldn’t recommend green bell peppers, they have a more aggressive, less sweet flavor that doesn’t work as well here. The dip is also enhanced by some jalapeno, cilantro and scallions.
The first thing you’ll want to do is to make the sweet and sour dressing. You’ll want to give it a chance to cool down before you add it to your dip ingredients. If you add the dressing when it’s hot, the crunchy ingredients would soften from the heat (this would be bad!).
In order to dissolve the sugar and blend the dressing ingredients together we need a little heat. Add the ingredients to a sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Be forewarned – as you heat the dressing, the vinegar is going to smell potent! Simmer for a few minutes until the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat and let cool.
As I said, don’t be fooled by the list of ingredients, a lot of them are canned and jarred, so the prep work is just a matter of opening the containers and rinsing under cold water, which you can do in no time.
Now it’s time to get ready for some chopping! The sweet bell peppers should be diced fairly small to keep the dip ingredients about the same size. Next you’ll slice your green onions, chop the cilantro, and dice the jalapenos. I like to make sure the jalapenos are finely diced to keep the flavors balanced in each bite of delicious dip. Two jalapenos might sound like a lot, but they seem less spicy once they’ve marinated in the dressing, so it’s not overwhelming.
Toss all the ingredients together, add the dressing and you are ready to put the dip in the fridge and let all the flavors marry overnight.
The next day all you have to do is put the cowboy caviar in a dish and serve it with chips!
This Cowboy Caviar Southwestern Bean and Veggie Dip is perfect for the big game, movie night, or any kind of potluck. I like to serve it with the scoop kind of tortilla chips to help keep the beans from rolling off! But of course any kind of chips will work.
And if you like gluten free chips, make a batch of brown rice tortilla chips!
I also wouldn’t say no to a jalapeno lime margarita or a shandy beer cocktail to drink with the cowboy caviar!
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 14 oz can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 14 oz can of black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
- 1 14 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 11 oz can of shoe peg corn, rinsed and drained
- 1 4 oz jar of pimento peppers, drained
- 2 jalapenos, finely diced, about 4 tablespoons (or less, to taste)
- 6 scallions (green onions), white and light green parts sliced thinly
- 2 sweet bell peppers, small diced, red, orange or yellow. Choose two of these colors.
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- Add all of the dressing ingredients to a saucepan. Stir to combine while heating gently over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved, then remove from heat. (The dressing will have a potent smell while hot! This goes away.) Set aside to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
- Open the cans of beans and corn and the jar of pimento peppers. Rinse and drain and put into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the diced bell peppers, jalapenos, sliced scallions and chopped cilantro to the bowl.
- Once cooled to room temperature, add the dressing to the bowl. Stir gently to combine. Pour the dip into a storage container and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors marry.
- The next day, pour the dip into your serving dish and serve with chips!