Black Bean and Corn Salad
Sometimes you need a salad with substance, and a salad that holds its presence on the table against whatever else might be there. This bean, corn and vegetable salad known affectionately as Cowboy Caviar just saves the day over and over again. It’s got those great Southwestern/Mexican flavors, so it goes well with any kind of meal in that arena, not to mention pretty much any burger or grilling or barbecue menu.
What is Cowboy Caviar?
Sometimes this bean salad is called Cowboy Caviar, sometimes Texas Caviar, which is a pretty great name. Obviously the names are kind of a joke, since this inexpensive bean salad is pretty much the opposite of real caviar. Completely accessible and not at all snooty!
This salad was invented by a chef named Helen Corbitt, who headed up the culinary world at Neiman Marcus in the 50s. The tongue in cheek name Texas Caviar stuck, obviously a nod to the amusing disconnect of a bean salad being a popular item on a fancy department store restaurant menu.
How Long Will Cowboy Caviar Last?
This is very easy to make ahead, though, you should make sure you add the avocado just before serving. You can refrigerate it without the avocado for up to 2 days. And it’s very portable (if it’s going to have to sit for a long time, bring that avocado along, then cut it up and add it at the last minute).
Here are the other reasons to love Cowboy Caviar.
- Really, really easy.
- Full of fiber.
- Both a side dish and a meal in itself.
- Also an appetizer, served up with tortilla chips.
- Gorgeous (and stable) on a buffet.
- Multipliable – it can easily be doubled or tripled (or halved, but that’s not so much the point of this big batch salad).
Variations on Cowboy Caviar Salad
This is a very flexible salad. I always have black beans and corn as the anchors, but I mess around with pretty much everything else. Some Cowboy Caviar recipes have a combo of black-eyed peas and black beans, but I stuck with onbe bean here. You might also see this called Texas Caviar, made with a similar vinaigrette-type dressing, often served with tortilla chips. (Also you can use other beans other than black beans if you like….pinto would be great).
Use lime or lemon juice in the dressing, use whatever bell peppers you have on hand or that look gorgeous at the market, add radishes, or sprinkle it with some crumbled queso or feta. Sub in scallions for the onions (or add them in addition – I am a more-the-merrier kind of person when it comes to onions). Add diced zucchini or summer squash and/or halved cherry tomatoes. If you can’t get fresh corn because it’s not in season, you can use frozen.
You could leave out the ancho chili powder if you want a more neutral dressing and salad, or you could amp up the amount for a spicier salad. If you have regular chili powder and not ancho, you are welcome to use that instead.
Cooking Fresh Corn for Salads
You can cook fresh corn for this salad a couple of ways. Either shucked and on the cob on a grill, over medium heat, turning the corn so that all sides become lightly brown, about 6 to 8 minutes total. Let cool, and cut the kernels off.
Or, steam shucked ears for 5 minutes in a small amount of simmering water, then drain cool, and slice off the kernels.
Another option is to cut the kernels off the cob, and saute them in a couple of teaspoons of butter melted in a pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes. For frozen, follow package directions.
What to Serve with Cowboy Caviar:
Great served with tacos or Easy Ground Beef Enchiladas or burritos, either on the side or as a topping or filling. Deviled Burgers, Roasted Chicken Thighs, truly anything you think think of, and it’s great to add a pop of color to a plate. This bean and vegetable salad is very summery, but not at all unwelcome in cooler weather.
I could keep going, but I’m a little out of breath. And I’m hoping that I’ve convinced you. This black bean corn salad is a staple for a reason.
Other Bean Salads:
White Bean and Hearts of Palm Salad
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For the Dressing
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher or coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder
For the Salad
- 2 15.5-ounce cans black beans drained and rinsed
- 2 cups lightly cooked and cooled corn kernels fresh or frozen- see Note
- 1 cup chopped red or yellow onions
- 3 bell peppers diced (red, yellow, orange, or a combination)
- 2 Haas avocados diced
- Make the dressing: In a small container, combine the lemon or lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, and chili pepper.
- Make the salad: In a large bowl, combine the beans, corn, onions, and peppers. Shake up the dressing, pour it over the salad and toss to combine.
- If you want to serve it right away, gently mix in the avocado. If you have time, this salad is better if you make it a day ahead, refrigerate it, and then just add the avocado right before serving.
The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.
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This is a salad one night with grilled protein and added to pasta for lunch the next day. That is, unless my children devoured it with chips the night before