Homemade Salsa: Cowboy Caviar edition

I discovered Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar earlier this year. I’ll eat just about any salsa, but I’m a firm believer in “the chunkier it is, the more delicious it is.” Since this stuff is predominantly made of chunky things, with not very much saucy stuff, I immediately fell in love with it. (Also, I find the name hilarious which gives it approximately +14 bonus points.) If you’ve never tried it, then stop reading right now and go get some. I’ll wait.

Cowboy Caviar: narrowly edging Newman’s Own Mango Salsa out of the #1 salsa spot since early 2013.

Unfortunately, on my last Trader Joe’s excursion, all that remained on the Cowboy Caviar shelf was the cute little sign for it. My favorite tortilla chips were already in my basket and it would have been much too far of a walk to put them back, so instead of being sad about the lack of good salsa to go with my delicious chips, I realized it was time to learn how to make my own. A quick Google search turned up a bunch of Cowboy Caviar recipes, but none of them seemed quite right. So I looked at the ingredients on the label (also found thanks to Google), and decided to wing it.

As you probably know by now, I’m not much of a cook. But if a dish only requires throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot and making sure it’s well-mixed, I’ve got that shit on lock…and luckily, that’s pretty much all this particular endeavor required. So if you’ve just come back from trying to buy some and they still haven’t restocked the shelf, go ahead and try making some! (I promise it’s a fairly painless process!)

Here are most of the things you'll need. Also, sorry for not being a better food photographer.
Here are most of the things you’ll need (and one thing you don’t really need). Also, sorry for not being a better food photographer.

What you need:

  • 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 can black beans, drained/rinsed
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 cup chopped onion and peppers (The real thing uses red peppers, but green ones seemed to work just fine.)
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles (Totally optional…my dad and his girlfriend had recently unloaded a bunch of cans on me, and I thought they might be tasty in this salsa. I was correct.)

What you do:

  • Dump the can of chipotle peppers into a pot and shred the peppers as much as you can/want to with two forks. Like I said, I prefer my salsa chunky so I didn’t go too crazy here. I suppose if you want smaller bits and a little less kick, you could actually chop up the peppers and remove the seeds. (You know, like a normal person probably would.)
  • Dump everything else in the pot, stir it up, and let it cook over medium heat for a few minutes. When your kitchen smells delicious and you get an overwhelming craving for tacos/burritos/enchiladas, you can turn the stove off.
This is what it will look like. Your stove is probably cleaner than mine. Things I don't care about: your stove being cleaner than mine.
This is what it will look like.
  • Taste test! After my first taste, I realized that it was waaayyy too spicy and that if I left it as is, I would only be able to eat a tiny bit at a time…no bueno. So I started adding some brown sugar, one tablespoon at a time. After 3 tbs, it was perfect! If you like a lot of heat and don’t love a tiny hint of sweetness, skip the brown sugar. Conversely, add more if you want more sweetness and less heat.
Brown sugar to the rescue!
Brown sugar to the rescue!

Now that you’ve finished making your own Cowboy Caviar, throw it in the fridge for a little while (unless you prefer warm salsa) and then enjoy it with your favorite tortilla chips. I also have a sneaking suspicion that it would be a great vegetarian quesadilla filling, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Disclaimer:  I’m not very picky and will eat (almost) anything, so I’m sorry if you make this and think it’s terrible. I almost didn’t share because I wasn’t sure if it was actually good or not, but then one of my coworkers tried it and asked me for the recipe. Maybe she was just being nice. Maybe she really did like it. Either way, if you don’t like it, you can blame her.

4 thoughts on “Homemade Salsa: Cowboy Caviar edition

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  1. Thank you for this. I love Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar and we go through so fast it is nice to have a recipe. I made this as Christmas time and it was a big hit! I did take the seeds out of the chipotle peppers and I still had to add the 3T of brown sugar as it was too hot otherwise. Nevertheless I like it on the sweet side anyway. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, Nicole asked the same thing! Mostly because I didn’t know if it was going to be any good or not, and this was the easier/lazier way to find out. Now that I know it is, the next batch will definitely have fresh stuff (and consequently be even more delicious, obviously). 🙂


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