Why Is Everyone Saddling Up To Cowboy Caviar This Summer?

Caviar — isn't that the thing that's actually really expensive fish eggs? So now it's gotten popular on TikTok? Now it makes sense! Only that doesn't quite explain it — what's the cowboy got to do with caviar? Actually, Cowboy Caviar isn't caviar at all. It's just a nickname for a corn and bean salad-salsa that's been popular in the South for many years.

According to Thrillist, it first got started in 1940s Texas with a woman named Helen Corbitt — a transplant to Austin from upstate New York — and was originally known as Texas caviar (per The Houstonian). Corbitt's original recipe was made using only Texas ingredients and featured "black-eyed peas, onions, and garlic packed in oil and vinegar and served cold." Over the years, recipes evolved to add black beans and corn. The caviar name seems to come from the resemblance of black-eyed peas to fish eggs (per the NY Post) or, according to the Houstonian, "as a tongue-in-cheek comparison to the pop of the expensive fish egg appetizer." Either way, even back in Corbitt's day it proved immensely popular — so popular Neiman Marcus started selling the stuff.

What's with the hype? Look to TikTok

Fast forward to 2022: what is making Cowboy Caviar so popular today? It's certainly not the first time a recipe has gone viral on TikTok — but, like the pandemic's Tomato and Feta Pasta – there is some heft behind the hype. Bria Lemirande's Cowboy Caviar TikTok video is pretty compelling for a reason (and has sparked nowhere near the controversy of her enthusiasm for aloe vera juice).

First of all, Cowboy Caviar is a dual-purpose food: it works as both a salad and an appetizer, making it a great addition to summer barbecues and picnics. Second, it makes use of peak summer produce; many versions feature tomatoes and corn (both at their best in high summer), as well as different kinds of peppers. Third, it's extremely adaptable: you can add in or swap out ingredients as you like, customizing it to your tastes. It's also surprisingly refreshing in the summer swelter — the vinaigrette essential to the dish keeps the flavors crisp and adds a little bite. Last, but certainly not least, it's just as good as Bria Lemirande says it is: @brialem won't be the first or last person to finish off a bowl of the stuff all on her lonesome.