Nopales, the young segments of the prickly pear cactus, are a major component of Mexican cuisine. A popular vegetable in Mexican dishes, they are used in various preparations such as tacos, tostadas, scrambled eggs and this vibrant, nutrient-packed nopales salad.
With sharp nobs and spines, the fleshy paddles can be a little tricky to handle. But please, please, please, don’t let this deter you. Not only is this edible cactus economical ($1 for a one pound bag!), it’s packed with healthful vitamins and rich in dietary fiber.
I prefer to prepare the pads myself but nopales are also available bottled, canned or already cut-up in bags at most Latino markets and major grocery stores for convenience. So pick yourself a batch and give this nopales salad a try. Spoonfuls wrapped in warm corn tortillas with a generous sprinkling of queso fresco? Delicious!
- 2 Nopales pads
- 2 cloves garlic , peeled
- 2 Roma Tomatoes , seeded and diced
- 1 small onion , peeled and diced
- 1 jalapeno , minced
- 1 cup cilantro , chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- juice from 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Using a small paring knife, clean the cactus paddles by scraping thorns or spines from both sides. Trim off the edges and any blemished or discolored areas. Wash well with cold water. Cut the paddle lengthwise into half-inch thick strips and then cut crosswise into 1 to 1 1/2-inch lengths.
In a pot, combine garlic, about 1 teaspoon of salt and enough water to cover nopales and bring to a boil. Add nopales and cook for about 20 to 25 minutes or until nopales have changed color and are tender yet crisp. Remove from heat, rinse well under very cold water and drain well. Rinse again as needed to rid of its gelatinous sap.
In a bowl, combine cooked nopales, tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cilantro and oregano. Add lime juice and olive oil. Season with salt to taste. Serve topped with queso fresco and sliced avocados, if desired.