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Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

4.86 from 7 votes

posted: 07/18/21

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy

My Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad takes everything you love about Cowboy Caviar and turns it into a delicious pasta salad!

side view of a pasta salad recipe

I love recipes that are easy to serve to a crowd, and pasta salads are at the top of that list! If you are looking for great picnic food, this Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad is perfect! Not only is it full of great flavors, it doesn’t have any meat or dairy in it, so it can sit out just a little bit longer than other dishes.

Huge shout out to my friends on Facebook who follow along, are super supportive, and gave me the idea for this amazing pasta salad recipe.

overhead of a bowl of ingredients for cowboy caviar pasta salad

How to Make Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

  1. Cook the noodles. Be sure to see our section below on cooking pasta for pasta salads for all the best tips and tricks.
  2. Make the dressing. We are using the same dressing here we use in cowboy caviar, and it’s got some kick to it. See our tips below on lessening the heat.
  3. Dice the vegetables.
  4. Mix it all together.

How to Cook Pasta for Pasta Salads

Here are a few great tips that you can use for cooking pasta for any recipe, plus one to keep on hand for pasta salads.

  • Let the water come to a roaring boil before you add the dry noodles. You want to see really big bubbles. Not allowing it to bubble will make for gummy pasta.
  • Salt the water. Adding about a teaspoon of kosher salt to the water makes a huge difference.
  • Set a timer. Since you are going to be prepping other ingredients while the noodles cook it’s a great idea to set a timer for the time listed on the box. That way your noodles will turn out perfect.
  • Drain the noodles once they are al dente. You want them to have a little bit of bite left to them and not be overly soft.
  • Immediately rinse the noodles in cold water. Since pasta salads are served cold, we can rinse the noodles which will stop them from cooking more and will keep them in perfect shape for our pasta salad.
dressing being poured over cowboy caviar pasta salad

Making the Dressing Less Spicy

The dressing for this pasta salad is made with just a few ingredients: hot sauce, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper. The hot sauce makes it pretty spicy, which I think is perfect here.

If you want to cool it down a little, replace some of the hot sauce with more olive oil, and remove the black pepper. Before you add it to all of your ingredients, taste it and make sure that it is to your liking. It is very easy to tweak it before you add it to the pasta salad and much harder after.

Picking the Perfect Avocado

For this recipe you want to have an avocado that is not overly ripe. When you are looking for one at the grocery store, pick them up and gently press on them. They should have just a little bit of give left to them.

spoon and fork mixing up a big bowl of pasta salad

Rinsing Beans

You might notice that lots of recipes call for you to rinse canned beans before you use them in recipes. This is such a great tip! Beans are packed in liquid that are loaded with sodium. If you don’t rinse the beans first it will drastically change the flavor of the final dish. Always drain your beans first and then rinse them until the liquid runs clear.

Tips and Tricks

  • Swap out the black eyed peas for black beans. I find that a lot of people aren’t fans of black eyed peas. I love them in this recipe, but if you don’t, black beans are a great substitution.
  • Use frozen corn. Frozen corn is so easy to keep on hand. Thaw a heaping cup of it to replace the canned corn in this recipe.
  • Skip the organic apple cider vinegar. It has a very strong taste and you might not enjoy it as much in this recipe. If that is all you have on hand, start with less, as a little goes a long way.
  • Switch the cilantro for green onions. If you are one of the unfortunate souls who tastes soap when you eat cilantro, take it out of this recipe and add in some green onions instead.


Can this be made ahead of time?

It can, but the pasta will soak up a lot of the dressing, making it just a little drier when served. It is still delicious, but you may decide you want to make a little more dressing to add right before serving.

Can I leave out the cilantro/black eyed peas?

We have some great substitutions listed in the section above under “Tips and Tricks.”

How many people does this serve?

This recipe makes 12 cups. If you are serving it at a potluck with lots of other food, I would suggest that this is enough for 24 people.

overhead of a big bowl of cowboy caviar pasta salad

Other Great Picnic Food

Here are some other great ideas that can sit out a little longer than other dishes.

side view of a pasta salad recipe
4.86 from 7 votes

Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

Serves: 12 servings
(tap # to scale)
Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
My Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad takes everything you love about Cowboy Caviar and turns it into a delicious pasta salad!


  • 16 ounces small shell pasta cooked and drained
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce see my note in the post about making this less spicy
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 avocado ripe but firm and diced
  • 15 ounces can black eyed peas drained and rinsed
  • 11 ounces canned corn drained
  • 1/4 red onion diced small
  • 2 tomatoes diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped


  • Bring a large pot of water to a roaring boil. Season with a teaspoon of kosher salt and add the dry noodles. Cook according to the time on the package. Drain, and rinse with cold water.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the hot sauce, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
  • Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine.
Serving: 1cup Calories: 208kcal (10%) Carbohydrates: 37g (12%) Protein: 6g (12%) Fat: 4g (6%) Saturated Fat: 1g (6%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g Monounsaturated Fat: 2g Sodium: 215mg (9%) Potassium: 293mg (8%) Fiber: 4g (17%) Sugar: 3g (3%)
Author: Lisa Longley
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
side view of a pasta salad recipe

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Cowboy Caviar Pasta Salad

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Hi! I'm Lisa Longley, and I am committed to giving you simple dinner ideas and recipes that are easy to make; recipes that will fill your home with joy. I am the owner and author of SimpleJoy.com and I'm so glad that you are here.

Reader Interactions


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  1. Sara says

    Would this be good? Yeah. But it seems like an excuse to add extra carbs when it’s completely not needed. Let pasta salad be pasta salad and cowboy caviar
    be that. Also I’ve never seen a cowboy caviar with hot sauce. That would completely change the flavor from cowboy caviar.

    • Lisa Longley says

      One of the things I love about cooking is the creativity. I love doing food mash ups, I think it’s fun! But of course everyone’s tastes vary and there are certainly more than one way to make a dish :)

  2. Karen says

    4 stars
    It is a bit spicy and so thanks for the tips to adjust to our own palate.
    Could Basil be sprinkled on top instead of cilatro?

    • Lisa Longley says

      I don’t think I would swap basil in here. Maybe parsley and less of it. Or the greens of green onions.

  3. Bonnie G says

    5 stars
    Made this as directed using a small pasta and it was just what I was looking for. Easy to make, great directions, and wonderful flavor. The hot-sauce in the dressing truly sets it off. Would be perfect for a pot luck and I’ll be sure to use it for the next one I go to. Give it a try, you won’t be sorry

    • Lisa Longley says

      I’m so happy you liked this, Bonnie! Thank you for taking the time to let me know.

  4. Wendy says

    I’m interested in making this for a gathering of 100 people. Could you help me calculate this for a 1/4 cup serving per person. I don’t see the serving size in the recipe to calculate it.

    • Lisa Longley says

      This recipe makes 12 servings and each serving is listed at 1 cup. I hope that helps!

  5. Gayna says

    This was fabulous! I took it to a gathering and everyone wanted the recipe! Thank you!!!

    • Lisa Longley says

      I’m so glad to hear that!

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5 Secrets to Stress Free Dinners