Dish of the Week: Cowboy Caviar

Cowboy Caviar isn't caviar at all.
Cowboy Caviar isn't caviar at all.
Photo by Krista

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re sharing a Lone Star State favorite: Cowboy Caviar.

Despite what one may think, Cowboy Caviar – also known as Texas Caviar – is not caviar, or salt-cured fish roe, at all. Instead, it’s a rustic dish consisting of black-eyed peas pickled or lightly dressed in a vinaigrette and served with tortilla chips for scooping it all up (which is much more Texan, if you ask us).

However, according to Texas Monthly, it was actually a native New Yorker who created the dish. Somewhere around 1940, the new-to-Texas transplant Helen Corbit, who later went on to become the food service director for Neiman Marcus in Dallas, was given the task of creating an elegant New Year’s Eve dinner using local ingredients. Not knowing what to do with the unfamiliar black-eyed peas, she jazzed them up with dressing and served them as hors d'oeuvres. Later, the dish was given the name “Texas caviar” as a jokey comparison to the expensive salt-cured fish eggs. 

The dish is perfectly fine on New Year’s Eve, but it’s also a refreshing treat during a hot Texas summer. Typical additions include red onion, chile peppers, bell peppers, tomato, garlic, scallions and fresh herbs, such as cilantro. The possibilities are endless, though, with everything from Sriracha and lime to bacon making the occasional appearance.

This recipe from Saveur is Cowboy Caviar at its most classic (and easiest!). Feel free to play around with flavors as you please.  

Texas Caviar

Ingredients serves six
Two 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Combine first seven ingredients in a bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Refrigerate for four hours or overnight. Serve on top of lettuce leaves.

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