It's the Summer of Cowboy Caviar—So What Exactly Is This Southern Recipe?

This cool, colorful dip is the life of any party. 

Bulldog Caviar
Photo: Jennifer Causey, Prop Stylist: Lindsey Lower, Food Stylist: Torie Cox

As summertime hits, we are looking for any way to cool down, even when it comes to what we eat. Cold salads are the unsung hero of summer hosting, and we're not just talking about lettuce. In the South, "salad" is a loose term, and everything from a mayo-based macaroni to a broccoli-grape to a tomato-cracker fits the menu. Now, a longtime-favorite Southern salad-turned-party dip is trending on TikTok as the recipe of the season, and we're more than happy to share the love.

Before cowboy caviar—a deliciously scoopable dish of various chopped vegetables and legumes marinated together in a zingy vinaigrette—was the hottest food trend of the summer, it was already a Southern classic. Invented in the 1950s by Helen Corbitt, famed 1950s Neiman Marcus food director, it was first served as "pickled black-eyed peas" on New Year's Eve at the Houston Country Club. Soon after, it was dubbed "Texas caviar."

Over the years, it has become known by many different names, including cowboy caviar and even redneck caviar. (Though, we don't endorse the latter!) When TikTok user @brialem introduced her take on the recipe, it came as no surprise to us that so many people fell in love. It's the perfect cool, crunchy, flavorful, fresh salad disguised as a dip and served with something to scoop up the tastiness with, whether that ends up being tortilla chips or Fritos.

A basic recipe for cowboy caviar includes many diced ingredients: bell pepper, tomatoes, red onion, and jalapeño. You throw in canned corn, black-eyed peas, and black beans if desired. From there, you can add in whichever ingredients you prefer, as cowboy caviar is infinitely customizable. Some delicious additions are feta cheese, Rotel, olives, or even mango. It's typically finished off with a homemade citrusy vinaigrette or store-bought Italian dressing, and it's best to let it marinate for an hour or so before serving. Trust us, you'll be leaving the party with an empty bowl.

The only slight edit to the TikTok recipe that we Southerners might suggest is to bring back the black-eyed peas! It's the ingredient that started it all and brings a lot to the table—er, bowl. For those wanting to try it out at home, our Bulldog Caviar covers all the basics, and our Texas Caviar is a twist on the classic with green tomatoes and white hominy. You won't regret making either.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles