What the heck is Cowboy Caviar? I’d never heard of it before stopping for take-out from one of our favourite restaurants, Farmhouse 50 in Minnedosa, Manitoba.
I was picking up their fabulous pizza and wings special when I spied “Cowboy Caviar” in their Grab ‘n Go section. Intrigued, I thought, “Why not? Let’s give it a try!” This innocent looking bean-veggie-salsa-combo was AMAZING and devoured by our family in no time flat.
And then, I couldn’t stop thinking about it! But, with the restaurant an hour and a half away, it wasn’t possible to just pop back for more. So the next day, I started experimenting. Once I came up with a combination of ingredients and a dressing that was a hit with the family, I asked a few friends to recipe test for me. The reviews were great with one suggestion to add the zest from the lime. Genius! Thank you Ellen Pruden!
With a little research I found out Cowboy Caviar, originally named Texas Caviar, was created in the 1940s by Helen Corbitt, an accomplished and formidable Home Economist, teacher, chef and cookbook author. She made the dish, after a request to serve a dinner with Texas-only products, using black-eyed peas, garlic, onion, vinegar and oil. When you search ‘cowboy caviar’ today, there are over 3,000,000 results. Reading about Ms. Corbitt, I’m not sure how she would feel about the evolution and popularity of her creation.
You’ll find no black-eyed peas in this recipe. It uses Canadian-grown pulses — lentils, black beans and chickpeas, and of course, Canadian canola oil.
Feel free to put your own spin on this recipe. Don’t like chickpeas? Replace the amount with more lentils or black beans. Hate cilantro? Use parsley. Not sure about the garlic? Try it without. Don’t have fresh tomatoes? Drain and chop canned tomatoes.
Just so you know this recipe makes 12 cups. Yes, it seems like a lot, but it’s addictive. And versatile. And delicious.
I love it as a salsa with tortilla chips, but it’s also fabulous on its own a side salad, or a snack to avert becoming hangry. Toss it with greens or pasta. Use it in omelettes or quesadillas. Get creative!
And if you really can’t see yourself using 12 cups, share away! Who wouldn’t want a surprise delivery of this tasty, satisfying snack with a bag of tortilla chips delivered to their door?
Canadian Cowboy Caviar
- 1 — 540 ml (19 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 — 540 ml (19 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 — 540 ml (19 oz) can lentils, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups sweet corn, frozen & thawed, or canned
- 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
- 1 – 2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped or ¼ cup finely chopped bell peppers (any colour)
- 1 – 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup cilantro or parsley, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 3 tbsp lime juice (1 — 2 limes)
- zest from lime(s)
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp white sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
*Chop garlic and set aside.
Drain and rinse black beans, chickpeas and lentils. Put in large bowl. Add corn. Chop tomatoes, red onion, peppers and cilantro. Toss all ingredients together, including garlic.
In a small bowl, whisk together dressing. Pour over top of ingredients, and mix.
Makes 12 cups. Serve immediately or store covered in the fridge.
- Appetizer with tortilla chips
- Side Dish
- Salad topping on your choice of greens
- Omelette filling
- Quesadilla filling
- Perfect with pasta, hot or cold
*Pro-tip for garlic from Professional Home Economist Mairlyn Smith – “For its antioxidants to become more bio-available, garlic needs to oxidize before it is added to a recipe. By letting it sit there “breathing” the oxidation can take place.”