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Corn, black beans, tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions, and chipotle in adobo sauce; is there a better salsa combination?  Trader Joe’s Copycat Cowboy Caviar is easy and delicious, and now you can stock your pantry with it and eat to your heart’s content!

A few months back, me and my two favourite ladies, Margaret and Lesli, jumped into Margaret’s Ford Flex and made a beeline for the border.  No, we were not practicing our Thelma and Louise-style getaway; we were heading to Buffalo to get our shop on.  As much as we love our native Canada, the three of us love to shop until we drop at our favourite US retailers.

One such retailer is Trader Joe’s.  The first time I went there, I felt like I had found the answer to most of life’s problems.  Well, at least the problems that usually find me at dinnertime.  As I have mentioned a million times before, both John.e and McKenna are vegetarians.  Prepared vegetarian proteins are hard to find, but at Trader Joe’s, I had found the mecca of vegetarian ‘meats.’

In addition to soy-based sausage and chorizo, every flavour of tempeh under the sun, and the best vegan and vegetarian burgers and hotdogs known to man, there’s also a wonderful selection of sugar free, low sodium, organic, etc., sauces and condiments.

Nobody loves a sauce or a condiment as much as I do, so when I laid eyes on those very reasonably priced jars of Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa, Corn and Chili Salsa, and of course, the Cowboy Caviar, I had to have all of them.

I bought one jar of the Cowboy Caviar and had finished it up within a week.  I loved it so much that Margaret, Lesli and I found ourselves back at Trader Joe’s two months later.  That was in addition to Margaret making a trip in between with another friend of hers and bringing me back two or three more jars.  Of course, the last time we went, I stocked up on the Cowboy Caviar.

As much as I love it as a normal dip for any type of corn chip, I also love to top a plain baked chicken breast with it.  And, in addition, I have been known to smear a bit of it on a sandwich, or even add a spoonful or two to a side dish to give it just a bit of extra flavour.

Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar in the store-bought variety is spicy.  I do love a little bit of spice, but not a lot.  When I decided that taking trips to the United States to buy salsa was too much of an expense, I decided to make my own version and it would have to be just a little bit less spicy.  If you love spicy food and can handle the heat, please, by all means increase the amount of jalapenos to suit your tastes.

Now that I’ve made my own version (and with the exception of less heat, it’s as close to the real stuff as you can possibly get) trips across the border have become less frequent.  Um… that’s not really true!  I still have not found a suitable substitute for Trader Joe’s marshmallows, tomato paste, or sun dried tomatoes.

You’ve got to try this copycat version of Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar, Dear Reader.  It’s really, really, really good!  (How’s that for descriptive?  I’m so glad I spent so much money studying Journalism in college!)  And, lastly, if you’re reading this Mr. Joe, please open a location in Toronto.  I promise, I’ll spend all of my money there!

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3.5 from 14 votes

Trader Joe’s Copycat Cowboy Caviar

Corn, black beans, tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions, and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce; is there a better salsa combination?  Trader Joe’s Copycat Cowboy Caviar is easy and delicious, and now you can stock your pantry with it and eat to your heart’s content!
Course Condiment, Preserves
Cuisine American
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 32 servings
Calories 33kcal
Author Lord Byron’s Kitchen


  • 1 tablepoon olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups corn, frozen or canned (drained)
  • 2 cups black beans, canned, rinsed and drained
  • 2 whole chipotles in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 whole lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


  • In a large sauce pan, add the olive oil and onions.  Cook the onions over medium heat until translucent – about 4-5 minutes.
  • Add the red bell pepper and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
  • Add all of the other ingredients and stir well to combine.  Lower the heat to simmer, place a lid on the sauce pan and allow to cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • In the meantime, prepare 8 250 ml jars by washing them thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Be sure to rinse the jars until the soap residue is gone. Set the jars aside. Next, boil a kettle full of water. Place the seals and jar rings into a large bowl. Pour the boiled water over top and let them sit.
  • Prepare your canning pot for the water bath method. I use a large stock pot with a round metal cooling rack at the bottom so that the jars do not touch the bottom of the pot. Fill the pot half full with water and bring to full boil.
  • Using a ladle, spoon the caviar into the prepared jars. I like to use a metal funnel to avoid any of the caviar coming into contact with the rim of the jar. This will help to create a better and safer seal. Fill the jar so that only 1/2 inch of head space remains. Remove the funnel and place a hot, sterilized seal on the jar. Screw on the lid until just snug. Be careful! The jar will be hot! Use a kitchen towel to hold the jar in place as you screw on the lid.
  • Using a jar lifter, place the filled jars into the large pot of boiling water. Bring the pot back to a boil and allow the jarred caviar to remain in the boiling water for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the jars and place on a kitchen towel where they will not be disturbed. As the jars cool, you’ll hear a popping sound. This is the hot liquid and air in the jar cooling down and contracting. This will create an air-tight seal and will allow you to store your relish for future consumption.
  • For best results, I recommend allowing the jars to sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours. With a damp cloth, wipe down the jars, re-tighten the lids, and store in a dark, cool place. The caviar will last for 12-18 months. Lastly, if you notice that a jar has not properly sealed, simply refrigerate that particular jar, and consume within the next 5-7 days. To test whether or not the jars are sealed, lightly press down on the seal. If the seal pops downward, the sealing process did not work. 


One serving is equal to 4 tablespoons.


Calories: 33kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 1g | Sodium: 133mg | Potassium: 116mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 285IU | Vitamin C: 8.2mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 0.5mg

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This Post Has 15 Comments

    1. Thank you, Susan. I've been eating it up so fast, I think I'll have to make another batch before long. :)
  1. I don't know how to give this recipe the kudos it deserves in only a few words so sit back and relax... grab a coffee or tea for this next part lol :-) Byron, you had me at "It's really, really, really good!" and the truth be told... it IS REALLY good!!! Okay, this is how it went down at my place..... I made a double batch of your Trader Joe's Copycat Cowboy Caviar and after only two bites my husband asked if I could PLEASE make more. Soooooo .. I made a second double batch just to make sure we don't run out, LOL. I was very happy that this recipe was an instant hit with him but I was in for an even bigger surprise. I have a daughter who gives new meaning to the term "picky eater" She has never been one that has has liked ANY condiments in her life pretty much. I sent a jar up North with my daughter for a weekend cottage getaway. You can imagine my surprise when the very next day I received this text... "OMG mom. I tried a bite of the salsa and I don't even like/eat salsa and I LOVE it!!!" "You have to make some of this for us!!!" Okay... at this point I am not only pleasantly surprised but grinning ear to ear :-) . Apparently she is hooked because today I received a phone call from my daughter asking me to come over and make some Cowboy Caviar with her, one night this next week. Thank you so much again Byron for another great recipe.... I will be enjoying and sharing this for years to come. ......... Next on my list to try.. your Bread and Butter Zucchini Pickles. :-)
    1. My Dear Annette, you have no idea how much you have just made my day - my week even! This has to be, by far, one of the best comments I've ever received. Thank you so much! So glad to hear that you and your family loved the recipe. I told you it was good! LOL I have a few more preserve-type recipes to post this coming week, and I can't wait to hear your thoughts on those, and the Bread and Butter Zucchini Pickles, of course! Cheers!!
  2. Can I make this without canning/jarring? If so, would I just let it cook for 50 minutes or does it come off the stove after the initial 30? I am looking forward to trying it. BTW- loved your post, you have a great sense of style with your writing and are very witty!
    1. Yes, you certainly can! Just be sure to use it all up before it spoils. :) If you prepare the recipe without canning, just stop at instruction number 3. The rest of the instructions will not apply to you. :)
  3. Hi, I haven't made this yet, but am about to! One question: How much jalapeno do you think I should I add, if I (like you) find the Trader Joe's to be really too hot, but would like to add some anyway. Have you made this with just a little fresh jalapeno? Wondering how it was---well, thank you in advance!
  4. Very good and approaching a perfect imitation of the Trader Joe's version. One thing theirs has that isn't in this one is cane sugar, and there's a noticeable lack in sweetness for this version. The next time I make this I'm going to add sugar little by little (maybe up to a third of a cup?) to hit that right level. Otherwise thank you for putting this together!
  5. I don't think I have ever written a review for a recipe before. I can't get to TJ's because of the pandemic. This is literally the perfect substitute. Fantastic recipe!!

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