Meet the New Yorker who created Cowboy Caviar in Texas

A protein-rich blend of beans (aka “caviar”) mixed with the best bits of pico de gallo, cowboy caviar, or Texas caviar makes the rounds with California-based Snack Qween Jen Curley serving two versions, user Bria Lemirande (brialem) gets Bragging rights to help blow up the recipe on the video sharing app. But before Wisconsin went viral in early May when she shared the recipe with her 1.7 million followers, it was The Other North who first created the classic recipe while living in Texas.


Culinary expert Helen Corbett.

Daryl Davidson / The Houston Chronicle

Meet Helen Corbett

Dietitian and cookbook author Helen Corbett left her home in New York in 1931, according to multiple sources. But she wasn’t quite keen on leaving her homeland: “Who the hell wants to go to Texas?” She later told a reporter.

University of Texas Connection

Longhorn lovers have a lot in common with the cook. According to Texas Monthly food editor Pat Sharp in a 2011 article, Corbitt was brought on board by UT to teach “big cooking and tea room management.” Listen, it was the ’30s.

Austin to Houston and back

After helping Texans find a love for fresh foods, Corbett heads to Houston, where she catering to the Country Club Social before heading back to Austin, where she promotes cheese soup at the Driskill Hotel. It wasn’t until 1955 when she decided she was going to take on another icon in Texas.

Helen Corbett fixes eggplant with shredded cheese
Helen Corbett fixes eggplant with shredded cheese

Tom Colborne / Houston Chronicle

Meet us in the zodiac room

Eventually, Corbett made her way into Neiman Marcus’ Zodiac room where she received major accolades, including some from the same man with Stanley Marcus who called Corbett “the Balenciaga for food,” according to a 2006 Express-News article. In the end the likes of Princess Margaret (we know she loved a good party). She later left the Zodiac room for consultation, before dying of cancer in 1978, according to The Alcade.

Cowboy Caviar in NIOSA

Where/When did Corbett create the new viral recipe, as the New York Times called it, “mysterious” as well as the ingredients used. The recipe is free for as long as you get it.

Although it started as a mixture of black-eyed peas, pioneer home cooks swap out black beans, pinto beans, heck, I can see garbanzo working here. Then there’s the sweet, savory side added through red wine vinegar, simple vinegar, or nothing at all as evidenced by the 2001 hints of a Heloise recipe that appeared in the Washington Post. The columnist shared the recipe the San Antonio Preservation Society uses for a night in Old San Antonio.

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