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Ensalada de Nopales (or Cactus Salad). This is the stuff that’s good for you.
Just like hitting the gym instead of eating an entire bag of chips. Not arguing with your spouse when you know you’re right. Protein smoothies for breakfast.
As a side dish or a light lunch, there’s nothing better than this Mexican vegetarian recipe. You’re going to LOVE how easy it comes together.
Table of Contents
How to Make It
- Using a sharp knife and a glove, remove the thorns from both sides of the cactus paddle.
- Cut off the edges.
- Cut off the tough end.
Cactus is the prickly, Mexican superfood. They are still relatively unknown outside of Mexico. Yes, the thorns are sharp!
The thorns tend to fly everywhere when you are removing them. Try doing this in the sink. It will make for easy clean up.
Word to to the Wise: Buy cactus that is already diced. That way you can avoid this step altogether.
What does cactus taste like?
The cactus (or nopales) are soft but crunchy in texture like green beans or green pepper. They can be sticky (similar to okra) when cooked and can be somewhat tart.
- Slice the nopales.
- Dice the nopales.
- Wash the nopales.
Note: If you buy nopalitos already diced, use them up right away. They produce more baba (or slime) when they are cut.
You might also hear cactus referred to as nopalitos. They grow outside and subject to wind and dust. Be sure to rinse them well.
Benefits of Cactus:
South of the border, cactus is known to help lose weight, regulate your blood sugar, give people glowing skin and complexion. All good reasons to include nopales in our daily diet.
How to Cook Cactus:
- Place in a stock pot and cover with water. About 4 cups.
- Add salt and baking soda (optional).
- Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse well.
If you do not live in an area where there are Latinos, you can buy nopales online and ready to be used.
Can you eat cactus raw?
Most of the time, you’ll see recipes that call for cactus that is cooked. However, there are smoothies that use raw cactus. The cactus fruit (or prickly pears) are very sweet, and they can be eaten raw.
- In a large bowl, mix everything together.
- Let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
You want to let the flavors combine. The longer it sits, the better it will taste.
The lime juice will “pickle” the onion. So, there will not be a raw onion flavor.
How long does it last?
In the fridge, Ensalada de Nopales will last up to 5 days. You can easily make it days before a party. It also travels well to a potluck.
For Party Hosts: I make a big salad of this stuff for parties because you always want to have a vegetarian dish when you’re feeding a crowd.
What to serve with it?
Tostadas de Pollo
Chuletas en Salsa Verde
Ensalada de Nopales is an easy Mexican recipe that’s boosting with flavor. Try adding queso fresco or queso panela. Serve on a tostada or saltine crackers. Hope you enjoy!
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Ensalada de Nopales
To Cook the Cactus:
- 2 paddles cactus
- 4 cups water
- 1 tspn salt
To Cook the Cactus:
- Using a sharp knife and a glove, remove the thorns from both sides of the cactus pad.
- Cut off the side edges and tough bottom end.
- Slice and dice the nopales.
- Rinse the nopales.
- Place the diced cactus in a stock pot and cover with water. About 4 cups.
- Add salt to the stock pot.
- Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
- Drain and rinse well. Let cool before assembling.
To Assemble the Salad:
- Mix the tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and cactus in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, mix olive oil, lime, oregano, and salt.
- Add the dressing to the cactus mixture.
- Mix well.
- Let sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Mix in queso fresco (if using) right before serving.
- Serve and enjoy!
Maggie Unzueta is the writer/blogger, photographer, recipe developer, videographer, and creator of In Mama Maggie's Kitchen. She has been developing easy and authentic Mexican food, Mexican-inspired recipes, and traveling tips since 2010. From family recipes to her extensive travels throughout Mexico, she brings traditional Mexican flavors from South of the Border and into your kitchen. Maggie has been featured in notable culinary websites and other media outlets. For more details, check out her About page.