This Cowboy Caviar is a dehydrated backpacking meal that can be rehydrated on trail without the need for a stove! Full of plant-based protein and flavored with a zippy dressing and spices, this is a perfect no-fuss lunch.
Cowboy Caviar (also known as Texas Caviar) is a bean salad that’s often served as an appetizer with chips. However, we think a big serving makes for a perfect backpacking lunch! In this recipe, we dehydrated all the traditional ingredients at home, and then cold soak it as we hike for a few miles before lunch.
“Cold soaking” is a term generally used to describe a no-cook method of backpacking food preparation, where dehydrated food is placed in a leak-proof container and covered with water, then allowed to rehydrate slowly without any heat.
It’s super simple and great for lunches or for those who want to backpack without a stove.
There are a number of vessels that can be used for cold-soaking. Really the only qualifier is that it needs to be completely leak proof if you’re going to carry it in your pack while your food is soaking. It’s helpful for the container to have a wide mouth to make eating from it easier.
Why you’ll love this cold soaked salad:
- Cold-soaked method means you don’t have to break out the stove in the middle of the day
- Ingredients are dehydrated at home, so it’s just as light as any other dehydrated meal
- Full of healthy ingredients like beans and veggies
Dehydrator: Any dehydrator that has an adjustable temperature setting will work. We own both the Nesco Snackmaster 75 (budget-friendly) and a Cosori (more features and dries faster) and would recommend either.
Reusable bags: In our bid to reduce our disposable ziplock bag consumption, we’ve started packing our dehydrated meals for the trail in reusable baggies. ReZip is a great option, balancing durability with weight. Most of their bags weigh between ½ – 1 oz.
Step by step
Keep scrolling for a printable recipe & exact measurements!
Start with clean, sanitized equipment, hands, and work area. This is super important for food safety when dehydrating, so wash up with soap and hot water!
Spread the black eyed peas, black beans, chopped tomatoes, corn, diced bell peppers, and cilantro onto dehydrator trays and dehydrate at 125F until completely dry. The tomatoes might take longer to dehydrate than the rest of the ingredients, so you may want to keep them on a separate tray.
When properly dried, the beans will be dry and crumbly, and the corn, bell peppers, and tomatoes will be hard.
Once all the ingredients are dry, let them cool completely. Store in an airtight container with the cumin, chili powder, and sea salt for up to six months in a cool dark place.
If you’re new to dehydrating, read our complete guide to dehydrating food for backpacking to learn all the ins and outs!
To pack for the trail
On the trail
On trail, transfer the salad to your cold soak container and add about 200mL (a scant cup) of water. Let it soak for at least one hour, shaking occasionally.
Once the ingredients have rehydrated, find a spot with a view to set down your pack, add the olive oil and True Lime to taste, and enjoy.
The length of time that dehydrated meals can be stored for can vary depending on the storage method and conditions. Here are some tips for best results:
- Store your dehydrated food in a cool, dry, and dark place. Moisture can ruin your food and make it unsafe to eat, while heat and light will cause the nutrients and flavors to degrade over time.
- Dehydrated food should be stored in airtight containers, especially if you’re going to store them for more than a week or two. If we’re packing a meal for this weekend’s trip, we might just put it in a reZip and then straight into our food bag. But if you’re prepping for a trip that is further out, package your food in a sealed mason jar, a Mylar bag with an oxygen absorber, or vacuum seal it into individual servings.
- Since this meal is dairy and meat-free as written, you don’t need to store this in the fridge if everything is dehydrated and packaged properly.
- For best results, we recommend consuming this meal within six months, but it can store for longer if vacuum sealed.
- Of course, some report that their dehydrated food lasts much longer, and some foods may not last as long due to dehydrating and storage conditions. When in doubt, discard any questionable food!
Trail weight & nutrition
This recipe makes one 125g serving (dry weight), clocking in at 86 cal/oz once you add the olive oil (assuming 1 olive oil packet per serving). Each serving provides:
- 383 calories
- 15g fat
- 50g carbohydrates
- 10g protein
(Disclaimer: Nutrition was calculated based on the ingredients we used, so yours may vary slightly.)
Cold Soak Cowboy Caviar
- ½ cup cooked black beans
- ½ cup cooked black eyed peas
- ¼ cup chopped cherry tomatoes
- ¼ cup frozen corn
- ¼ cup diced bell pepper, any color
- ½ bunch cilantro, large stems removed
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder, or sub cayenne for a spicy kick
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 packet True Lime powder
- 1 olive oil packet, or 1 tablespoon
- To dehydrate, spread the black eyed peas, black beans, chopped tomatoes, corn, diced bell peppers, and cilantro onto dehydrator trays. Dehydrate at 125F until completely dry. The tomatoes may take longer to dehydrate than the rest of the ingredients, so keep them on a separate tray.
- Once all the ingredients are dry, let them cool completely and store in an airtight container with the cumin, chili powder, and sea salt for up to six months in a cool dark place.
- To pack for the trail, bring a leak-proof container for cold soaking, along with the dehydrated ingredients and times, and one packet each of True Lime and olive oil. You can also bring the olive oil in its own container.
- On trail, transfer the salad to your cold soak container and add about 200mL (a scant cup) of water. Let it soak for at least one hour, shaking occasionally. Once the ingredients have rehydrated, find a spot with a view to set down your pack, add the olive oil and True Lime to taste, and enjoy.