Cowboy caviar is my favorite summer appetizer, and it was just too tempting to put my own spin on it. In this sweet and spicy take on the original, I ditch the usual sugar in favor of sweet summer fruit and hot honey, and add a trio of herbs that take the flavor to a whole new level. I named it cowgirl caviar because it's got a kick that would make even the sweetest cowgirl proud!
The first time I had cowboy caviar was at the beach house we visit every Fourth of July. I was totally blown away by the fresh flavors and mix of textures that make it the perfect BBQ appetizer. I've been making it ever since! And while the original is fairly healthy, I finally decided to do something about the sugary dressing that's part of a lot of cowboy caviar recipes, and cowgirl caviar is the result.
There isn't a lot of emphasis on sweetness in the Mediterranean diet, but when it does show up, fruit and honey are the usual sources. That made this recipe a fairly easy adaptation, but even I was surprised at how awesome the result was. There's some chopping and whisking involved, but it all goes pretty quickly. If you're feeding a crowd, consider doubling the recipe because it'll be gone in a flash!
Ways to use Cowgirl Caviar
One of the great things about cowboy caviar is that it can be used in so many different ways. Serving it with corn chips as a BBQ appetizer is traditional, but cowgirl caviar can also be used as:
- Salsa for grilled fish tacos
- Tossed with baby spinach and served as a side salad
- A topping on sear-roasted halibut
- In lettuce wraps with ground turkey taco meat and avocado
You can use cowgirl caviar pretty much any place you would use a sweet salsa. Have you had cowboy caviar served in an interesting way that you really enjoyed? Let me know in the comments.
- Mango: Choose a mango that gives slightly when pressed without feeling mushy. It's hard to tell if they've gone bad before you cut into them, so I always buy a couple just in case.
- Corn: Frozen or canned corn can be used in place of fresh corn on the cob, though fresh corn will give you the best crunch.
- Beans: Any canned white beans will work, including white navy beans, white kidney beans, cannellini beans, or black eye peas. I typically buy a low sodium variety, rinse them and let them drain well before adding.
- Heat: For a mild cowgirl caviar, remove all of the seeds and membranes from the jalapeno, or substitute green bell pepper. Use regular honey instead of hot honey.
Frequently Asked Questions
Wash and dry your mango and cut down lengthwise along the broad side of the pit. You should have about half. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh away from the skin in one piece. Turn the flat side down on the cutting board, and dice.
Tortilla chips are by nature not really a "healthy" food, but there are some products that boast more whole grains, fewer unnecessary ingredients, and lower fat and sodium content. I like Garden of Eatin's Blue Corn Tortilla Chips, which have only four ingredients and no artificial flavors, colors, or GMOs. When I'm at Costco, I choose Food Should Taste Good's Multigrain Tortilla chips, which are a little higher in sodium but also contain whole grains and a useful amount of fiber.
Tips for making the best cowgirl caviar
- Use fresh lime! I know it's tempting to use bottled lime juice sometimes but this is one recipe where it will make a difference. You need all the tartness from a fresh lime to balance the sweetness in the fruit and the dressing.
- Use a chopper to speed up your prep and keep the diced elements as uniform as possible. I like the Vidalia Chop Wizard Pro Max.
- Let it sit for a bit. Assemble your caviar at least an hour ahead of serving to allow the ingredients to marinate and the flavors to meld. Give it a good stir before serving.
- Looking for a creamier version? Add diced avocado to boost the healthy fats and add a richer, creamier element to cowgirl caviar. For best results, add just before serving.
Prep ahead and storage information
You can mix the dressing and dice/prep everything but the strawberries and the herbs up to two days ahead. Store the dressing separately. Dice the strawberries and mince the herbs just before tossing it all together the morning you plan to serve.
Cowgirl caviar is best the day it is assembled, but also good the next day too. After that the strawberries get a little mushy, but it's edible for up to 3 days after mixing. Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU!
Drop me a question, a comment, or a rating and let me know what you think of this cowgirl caviar. You’ll make my day! And don’t forget to save this recipe by pinning on Pinterest or saving to Yummly, Whisk, or Flipboard.
- 1 large mango diced
- 10 strawberries diced
- ½ cucumber peeled, seeded, and diced
- ½ red bell pepper diced
- 2 ears of corn kernels removed
- ¼ cup shallot minced (about 2 medium)
- ½ jalapeno minced (or to taste)
- 1 14 ounce can white navy beans drained and rinsed
- ½ cup cilantro minced
- ¼ cup mint minced
- ¼ cup basil minced
- tortilla chips
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons lime juice or pineapple juice
- 1 tablespoon+1 teaspoon hot honey or regular honey for a mild version
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil or expeller-pressed canola oil
- Combine the fruits, veggies, beans and herbs in a bowl.
- Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients except the oil. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking vigorously until it’s incorporated. Taste and adjust the flavor to your liking…add salt if needed, lime juice for more tartness, or honey for more sweetness. There’s already plenty of sweetness from the mango and strawberry, so don’t overdo it!
- Add about ⅔ of the dressing to the remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Taste and make sure there’s enough dressing, add more a couple of tablespoons at a time. Everything should be lightly coated, not dripping with dressing.
- If you can give it at least an hour to marinate, it’ll be even better! Serve with tortilla chips. It’s best the first day, but will be good for 2-3 days.