Texas Caviar (Bean Salad)

I was born in Texas and have lived here my entire life.  And up until a few months ago, I had never heard of Texas caviar.

Obviously, this dish is not actually caviar.  That leads one to question why its called caviar and why is it a Texan specialty?  I’ll admit it – I was curious so I did a little digging on the subject.  And by digging, I mean googling :).  It’s really a fancy black-eyed pea salad or a dip in a light dressing that can be served room temperature or chilled.  It can be eaten with a fork, scooped up with tortilla chips or stalks of celery.

Legend has it that the food service director for Neiman Marcus in the 1950s discovered that even the wealthiest patrons enjoyed eating black-eyed peas.  So she tossed them with a few other ingredients into a salad, marinated it in a light vinaigrette dressing and served to delighted guests.  And it has since been known as Texas caviar.

Most people think of Texas as a huge producer and consumer of beef so it’s surprising that this popular dish is vegetarian.  I love how easy it is to make and how versatile it can be.  You can make it ahead (and should to give it time to marinate) with just a few ingredients.  Even if you don’t have all the exact ingredients, you can easily substitute other vegetables.  It is a perfect dish for picnics or potlucks, as an appetizer, side, or even as a salad entree.  And the black-eyed peas make it perfect for New Year’s Day – if you believe they bring you prosperity like so many do.  Even if they don’t bring prosperity into your life, you’ll at least get a healthy dose of fiber!

Look at all the beautiful colors in this salad!  I used canned beans and corn and cut up onions, celery, tomatoes, a red bell pepper and cilantro.  Just combine everything in a bowl, stir in the dressing, cover and refrigerate.  I would suggest refrigerating for at least an hour to let the dressing blend with the beans and vegetables.  I left mine in the refrigerator overnight and it was amazing the next day!  It took less than 10 minutes to throw together a BIG batch of caviar.

Since this made such a huge batch, we ate part of it as a dip and packaged the rest up for lunches for a couple of days.  If you don’t like eating to the same dish for several days, you could add chicken strips to it, serve as a side dish or even as a topping for meat.

Texas Caviar

Ingredients

Dip

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (15 ounces) black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch cilantro leaves, finely chopped (optional)

Dressing

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Instructions

Add all the ingredients for the dip together in a large bowl and stir.
In a small bowl, combine red wine vinegar, olive oil and sugar.
Pour dressing over dip and stir.
Cover and refrigerate overnight (or at least an hour) to allow flavors to marinate.
Enjoy with tortilla chips, celery stalks or as a salad.

Have you ever eaten Texas Caviar?  Tell me about your favorite salad or dip in the comments below!

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