I’ve been looking around on the internet for a while, and it seems the definition of “Cowboy Caviar” is pretty loose. There’s a “real” version called Texas Caviar, which was supposedly created in the 1940’s by a transplanted New Yorker working at the Neiman Marcus in Dallas Texas. That original incarnation, which seems to be adjacent to Hoppin’ John, was a simple salad of black-eyed peas lightly pickled in a vinaigrette. You can find the story, and an approximation of the ‘classic’ recipe here at the Texas Monthly, but it looks less than appetizing, at least to me.
Modern online recipes for Cowboy Caviar vary wildly. I posted one years ago, along with a rant about the cowboy archetype, which – frankly – I stand by, although the recipe itself now reads to me as overly complicated. Many of the versions that I found, including a handful labeled “classic cowboy caviar” use – not joking – bottled Italian dressing. One random recipe I came across used no dressing at all. Yum! Dry beans!
What most recipes seem to agree on is that Cowboy Caviar has evolved into a type of salsa or pico that features beans as the main ingredient, avocado, corn, oil, lime juice and some simple spices. So for this recipe, I use that basic ingredient list, and whipped together a simple and straightforward “caviar” to eat with chips or layer upon tacos. Like this:
- 1 black beans – drained and rinsed
- 3/4 cup sweet corn kernels
- 1 avocado – peeled, pitted and diced
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro – diced
- 1/4 cup fresh shallot or red onion – diced
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp chili powder
- Juice of 1 lime
- salt and pepper
- Prepare the ingredients as listed above
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the ingredients
- Mix them together. Add salt and pepper, and possibly extra lime juice, to taste.
- Serve with tacos as a topping, or with chips as a dip.