Cowboy caviar takes off on social media: Here's how to make it

The cold vegetable and bean salad can be a dip or side.

July 7, 2022, 12:52 PM

A no-cook bean, corn and vegetable salad recipe -- or dip, depending who you ask -- has taken over food TikTok.

Whether you recently discovered it as cowboy caviar or recall the nostalgic, no-frills dish as Texas caviar, there's a reason the recipe has made a resurgance.

Some of the simplest dishes have soared to internet fame thanks to TikTok and its elusive algorithm. (Cough, cough, Emily Mariko and the leftover salmon and rice bowl.) This easy-to-make, customizable cowboy caviar recipe is the latest to serve up millions of searches and views -- and thousands of home cooks trying their hand at it.

PHOTO: The cowboy caviar recipe trend has taken over the internet.
The cowboy caviar recipe trend has taken over the internet.
ABC News

To better understand the food trend, let's go back to where this kicked off. On May 17, Bria Lemirande of Madison, Wisconsin, unpacked her latest Trader Joe's "haul" on TikTok and explained that she would be making cowboy caviar. Her subsequent video chopping, dicing, draining and assembling the dip like her mom used to make, and subsequently eating it with tortilla chips, wrangled 1.7 million views.

The hashtag #cowboycaviar had more than 38.5 million views on TikTok, at the time of publication. According to Google Trends data, the term started climbing on the search engine the week of May 22, with a significant spike on June 26 that's still trending upwards.

Despite the name of the dish, the sturgeon delicacy is no-where to be found. According to Thrillist, its humble beginnings instead date back decades to when Helen Corbitt moved from New York to Austin in 1940 and invented the dish, coming up with a menu that utilized Texan products.

"I think it's the color, freshness and crunch of all the ingredients mixed together in an unexpected way -- [it's] somewhere between a salad and a salsa," FeelGoodFoodie blogger Yumna Jawad, who also jumped on the trend, said of what makes this recipe so appealing.

Lemirande jazzed up the original recipe, trying several new versions with the addition of things like fresh cubed mango, peaches or avocado. Every version has continually received more views and likes with upwards of 16 million collectively as of early June.

"The most asked question I get about cowboy caviar is how do I eat it all?" Lemirande said in one of her videos making the dish. "I go grab it, eat it with some chips and it just gets eaten. Also I give a lot of it to family and friends too."

"I’ve known about the recipe for years and have made it in the past, but honestly forgot about it," Jawad said. Adding that after seeing Lemirande share it on TikTok "each time with a new twist and with more eyeballs on the recipe -- I finally decided to give it my own spin."

Other food bloggers across the internet have hopped on the now-viral trend, from chef and culinary expert Jake Cohen, who shared his Middle Eastern take on the dish below, to other popular creators like Rosalynn Daniels, Eva Amurri and more.

The dish had been previously popularized by celebrity cooks like the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, whose recipe first appeared on Food Network in 2017.

"It’s amazing how recipes that have been around for many years, like this cowboy caviar or even chia pudding, get revived on social media these days through the power of short form video," Jawad added. "I’m here for it and love ... trying the latest viral recipes and kicking some off myself."

She also shared her top tip for anyone looking to try out the trend in their own kitchen: "Chop everything finely. The best way to enjoy a bite of cowboy caviar is by getting all the ingredients on a chip together. So chopping them finely ensures you get a little taste of everything together."

Cowboy Caviar Variations

With an array of versatile, cheap and easy to access ingredients like canned beans and corn, this dish -- as many food bloggers note -- can be customized to your taste preferences. Not a fan of heat? Omit the jalapeño. Want something with a fruity note? Add in a bit of mango. Looking for a more filling version? Toss in some cooked, chilled pasta.

Here, cookbook author and recipe developer Jake Cohen shares his Middle Eastern-style spin on the viral recipe and Rosalynn Daniels offers her pasta salad rendition.

Middle Eastern Cowboy Caviar Ingredients2 (15-ounce cans) chickpeas, drained3 bell peppers, cored and diced3 ears corn, shucked and kernels cut off1/4 cup olive oil1 tablespoon za’atarKosher salt1 red onion, minced1 jalapeño, minced1 garlic clove, finely grated2 lemons, juiced1 tablespoon date syrup 1 teaspoon ground sumac4 Persian cucumbers, diced2 beefsteak tomatoes, diced2 scallions, thinly slicedMinced cilantro or parsley

Directions

Preheat the broiler. On a sheet pan, toss together the chickpeas, peppers, corn, olive oil, za’atar, and a heavy pinch of salt to combine and spread in an even layer. Broil, rotating the pan as needed, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool.

In a large bowl, toss the red onion, jalapeño, and garlic with the lemon juice, date syrup, sumac, and a heavy pinch of salt. Let sit for 5 minutes, then toss with the cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, herbs, and the cooled corn mixture to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, then serve.

Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad Ingredients 1 pound or 1 box of Ditalini Pasta (uncooked)4 bags frozen corn1/2 Red onion, diced2 green onions, sliced1 cup chopped cilantro1 finely diced jalapeño pepper8 strips smoked bacon, chopped (optional)2 cups Queso Fresco Cheese2 large avocado diced2 cans of black beans, drained & rinsed1 cucumber diced2 cups Cherry Tomatoes (halved) (optional)

Dressing1 cup Mayonnaise3 limes, freshly squeezed1 lime zest1/2 teaspoon ground cumin4 teaspoon smoked paprika3 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Finely prep all vegetables and dice in uniform sizes. Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl.

Mix in your sauce and make sure everything is fully combined.

Refrigerate for an hour, then serve.

Recipe reprinted courtesy of Rosalynn Daniels.

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