This Texas Caviar recipe is one of my favorite recipes! It’s absolutely bursting with flavor! I made it with black-eyed peas, roasted red and green peppers, scallions and homemade Italian vinaigrette. It’s a fantastic side dish for cookouts during the summer or serve it as an appetizer with chips for good luck on New Years Eve! 

overhead table with bowl of texas caviar with frito scoops

I originally shared this recipe on December 20th, 2011. I have updated the images, video and text today. 

Why We Love This Healthy Version of Texas Caviar

I remember the first time I laid eyes on Texas Caviar, my parents were having a New Year’s eve party, and my mom, who is from Texas, had piled it high into a tall glass bowl. I think my eyes were only table height, but they were glued to that brightly colored salad. I literally was salivating over it.

Since then it has been a favorite of mine for New Year’s Eve and to serve as a dip or salad for summer barbecue parties and backyard picnics.

  • I love traditional Texas Caviar, without corn or black beans, and that’s what I am sharing today. Here I also took a more updated and from-scratch approach by using homemade vinaigrette and dropped the added sugar a bit as well.
  • I soaked the black-eyed peas in advance and boiled them from scratch. This makes a big difference in the final dish. (I’ll explain why in a minute.)
  • I went the extra mile and roasted the peppers, which really makes the texture great and adds a bit of smoky flavor. This is optional, but it adds rich smoky flavor to the recipe which your guests will absolutely love! Trust me, when you serve this you will get many requests for a copy of the recipe!
  • I also added a little chipotle chili pepper to give it spice and even more smoky flavor. That’s my Lone Star State roots coming through I guess!

We serve it as a dip with Frito Scoops, and it goes great with grilled barbecue chicken and other cookout foods like burgers.

What Is Texas Caviar?

First things first. If you’ve never heard of Texas Caviar before, I am so excited to introduce you to it!

What it is:

  • Texas Caviar is a black-eyed pea salad with peppers and garlicky and sweet Italian style dressing. It usually has scallions or finely chopped red onions.
  • It’s popularly called Cowboy Caviar too which is pretty much the same thing. 

Origin of the recipe:

  • It was invented in Texas back in the 1940s by Helen Corbitt. She became the chef at Neiman Marcus in Dallas and reigned there for seventeen years.
  • One story claims she created it as a humorous joke alternative to actual fish roe caviar for a New Years Eve party.
  • Another account according to Texas Monthly, explains that she was tasked with coming up with a menu based on local ingredients. And since she was not a fan of black-eyed peas she decided to pickle them. They became wildly popular and they later even sold jars of them in the store. 
  • Today Texas Caviar is still served at Neiman Marcus stores as a side dish with sandwiches. 

Variations of Texas Caviar or Cowboy Caviar:

  • I consulted my copy of the Neiman Marcus cookbook, and the Neiman Marcus version has celery, parsley and celery seeds, and no corn in it. 
  • Other variations, the kind my mom always made, include a jar of chopped pimentos, a decent amount of sugar and a bottle of Italian Dressing. I think my mom used a packet of Good Seasons to make hers.
  • Some folks add more traditional Tex Mex style ingredients, like avocado and cilantro, to make it more like salsa, but this is not the kind I grew up with and prefer. 
close up of Texas Caviar in a big bowl

Key Ingredients

Full amounts and instructions can be found below in the recipe card. 

Dry black-eyed peas

Black-eyed peas, which are actually not peas but a variety of shelling bean (or sometimes called cowpeas) can be purchased frozen, canned or dried. I prefer to buy them dried and keep them in my pantry. For this recipe I recommend buying dried black-eyed peas. If you’re in a rush, frozen is faster and will yield better results than canned. 

Nutrition Bonus: Black eyed peas are high in protein and fiber and are a good source of Iron and Magnesium.

Red bell pepper and green bell pepper

Look for firm unwrinkled peppers. Any color bell pepper works and I like to use two different colors to make this a prettier dish.

If you prefer spicier food, you can sub a poblano for the green pepper. It will be a little more difficult to peel because it has thinner skin membrane.

If you are in a rush you can skip the roasting step altogether, or even sub in a jar of chopped, drained pimentos for the red pepper.  

Garlic

The garlic is key to the dressing, but a little raw garlic goes a long way. One clove will do ya. 

Kosher salt

This is used to help form a paste with the chopped garlic to imbue the dressing with overall garlic flavor. More is also added into the salad because the peas really soak up the flavors! Read more about subbing coarse kosher salt for table salt here. 

Avocado Oil or Organic Canola Oil

If you like a bolder dressing, you can use all olive oil. I prefer to use a blend of neutral oil and olive oil so the flavor of the olive oil doesn’t overpower the others. 

Extra-virgin olive oil

The traditional Neiman Marcus version of the salad does use all olive oil. And their recipe is swimming in it! (1 cup oil per 5 cup yeild of salad! As opposed to my version which is less than a half cup for 7 cups of salad.) I’ve cut back to a more reasonable amount to keep the calories in check! 

Red wine vinegar

I like to bright acidity of red wine vinegar. You could also use cider vinegar if you prefer. Learn more about vinegar here. 

Lime juice

I love the flavor of the lime with the smoky peppers, chipolte and garlic. It adds a freshness in addition to the acidity it brings. 

Sugar

I only used two teaspoons of sugar in my version. Feel free to use more to taste if you like a sweeter result. I also have a sweeter version of this recipe in my Maple cookbook, that uses maple syrup instead. I can attest it tastes so good! So if you’re avoiding refined sugars, try maple instead. 

Black pepper and ground chipotle chile powder 

For spicy and smoky flavor, I added these spices in. They help to add flavor instead of calories! 

Jalapeño pepper

I adore spicy food, but if you are not a big fan, you can skip it all together. The last time I made this I only used one, removed the seeds, and my kids still thought it was a little spicy. 

Scallions

I use a whole bunch of scallions, which is what my mom’s recipe calls for too. Just clean them, removing any wilted parts or dirt and slice them on a slight bias. If you like to add more color, you can sub in a small finely diced red onion instead. 

Step-By-Step Instructions for Making Texas Caviar

Note: Full printable instructions are in the recipe card below.

simmering peas
.

Prepare the Black-Eyed Peas

  1. Sort: Dried beans are mechanically separated and cleaned before packaging, so sometimes small pebbles are missed and get mixed into the bulk bins. To make sure your black-eyed peas are stone free, spread them out on a baking sheet and brush them across the surface; you’ll be able to scan them easily to see if there are any foreign objects and remove anything that doesn’t belong there. 
  2. Soak: Place the peas in a bowl and cover them generously by several inches of cool water. Let sit out at room temperature or refrigerate overnight. Depending on your peas (usually because of how old they are)
  3. Drain and Add Fresh Water: Drain the black-eyed peas and then rinse away any starch. Add them back to the pot and cover them with fresh water. 
  4. Simmer: Bring them up to a simmer and cook them until they’re tender. This will take about 20 minutes, but some may take a bit longer. As they cook, just make sure to test one, every once in a while, to make sure it is tender but not falling apart. 
  5. Drain But Don’t Rinse: The key to getting the peas to soak up the dressing is to add them while they are still steaming hot.
  6. Subbing Frozen Black Eyed Peas: If you use frozen black-eyed peas, boil them to refresh them and continue on from this point. 
turning the peppers under the broiler

Roast The Peppers

While you are simmering your peas, you’ll want to multi-task and roast the peppers. As I said earlier, this is my little innovation on this recipe and I like the way it adds a smoky flavor and mellows out the crunchy texture a bit. If you are short on time, you can skip this and just dice both peppers and add them raw. 

  1. To roast the peppers you’ll want to broil them until the skin is blistered. I do this on a sheet pan, and turn them with tongs every few minutes. 
  2. Then you’ll want to steam them so they come loose from their skin. I set them in a bowl and cover them with foil or a plate. 
  3. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin. You may have to do so under cool running water if your pepper’s skin is too thin, or if it is still too hot. 
  4. Remove the core and seeds.
  5. Then chop the peppers up into small dices. 
whisking dressing

Make The Dressing

  • I know we talked about this only last month, when I shared my Mexican Pasta Salad and my Mediterranean Quinoa Salad, but taking a moment to make a paste with the garlic and kosher salt make a big difference in the dressing and makes it so that you don’t get a big chunks of raw garlic.
  • It also spreads out the garlic flavor so that a small amount goes a longer way. 
  • Next whisk in the lime, vinegar, both oils, the remaining salt, pepper and chipotle. 
  • Have the dressing ready to go when the black-eyed peas are finished cooking. You’ll want to get them stirred together asap for max flavor absorption
Stir the Texas Caviar together.

Add The Remaining Ingredients

You can stir the remaining ingredients right away, or if you are making this ahead, only add in the roasted peppers and jalapenos. The scallions wilt pretty quickly, so you’ll want to stir them in if you’ll be eating it within a couple of hours. 

Give everything a good stir and taste it. The flavors will meld as the peas marinate in the dressing.

If the taste is not sweet enough for you, add a little bit of sugar for your preference. Just make sure to stir it in well to dissolve the sugar.

the salad before it is stirred together

FAQs and Expert Tips

Can I add corn or black beans?

Many versions of Texas Caviar also include corn and black beans and you can definitely add them to this recipe. Simply cut the black-eyed peas in half and add 1 cup thawed frozen corn or fresh corn kernels plus one drained and rinsed 14-ounce can black beans to the black-eyed peas and dressing.

Do I have to roast the peppers?

Not at all! In fact traditional Texas Caviar is made with raw peppers. Simply dice the peppers and add them to the peas and dressing.

Can I add additional Veggies To This?

Yes! Traditional Texas Caviar has crunchy celery hearts added in as well. And we also love adding in cherry tomatoes when they are in season.

What is the best vinegar to use for Texas Caviar Dressing?

If you search online you will find as many answers to this as there are types of vinegars! While I like to use red wine vinegar and lime juice together for bright acidity, you can use cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or white vinegar. Do not use balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar in the dressing because they will throw the flavors off.

Serving Suggestions

  • It is a great dish to bring to or serve at a party because it can be a festive salad or side dish. As a side dish, one cup is a serving. (Nutrition facts are below.)
  • Or it can be an addictive dip if you serve it with corn chips or tortilla chips for an easy appetizer. Or the way we always eat it is with Frito Scoops. 
  • It’s best when it is room temperature or chilled.
  • I think it is great when it is made ahead because the black-eyed peas marinate in the dressing and become more and more flavorful! 

Menu Ideas For Texas Caviar

Summer Barbecue

New Years Eve Party

Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter where I share weeknight meal plans delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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a closeup of texas caviar in a bowl garnished with lettuce and jalapeno rings

Healthy Texas Caviar

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 8 hours
  • Yield: 7 cups 1x
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: stove Top
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This Healthy Texas Caviar with Roasted Peppers will be the hit of the party on its own as a festive side dish, or you can serve it as an appetizer dip style with chips.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry black-eyed peas, sorted
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder, or to taste
  • 2 jalapenos, minced, seeds included to taste
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Soak black eyed-peas in a large bowl of water at least 7 hours or overnight. Drain and place in a large saucepan. Cover with a generous amount of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, arrange oven rack in upper third of the oven and turn on broiler. Line a heavy baking sheet with aluminum foil and place red and green peppers on it. Broil the peppers, turning every 3 to 5 minutes, until the skin is blackened and blistered on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes total. Transfer the peppers to a heat-proof bowl, cover with foil and let steam until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes. Peel of the blacked skin and remove seeds. Dice the flesh.
  3. Finely chop garlic. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon kosher salt over the garlic and mash with the side of a chef’s knife to form a paste. Transfer the garlic paste to a large bowl. Whisk in the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, canola oil, olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, sugar, black pepper and chipotle chile.
  4. When the peas are tender, drain thoroughly and add to the dressing in the bowl. Stir in jalapenos, scallions and the diced roasted peppers and stir to combine. Refrigerate up to 2 days.

Notes

To Make Ahead: Combine all ingredients except scallions and refrigerate 1 day ahead. Stir in scallions before serving.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 200
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Fat: 14 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.5 g
  • Carbohydrates: 16 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 4 g
close-up of Texas caviar with text overlay