Nopales cactus salad is eaten throughout Mexico. It is typically served as a side dish or eaten in tacos as a light meal. The cactus is also known as the prickly pear cactus. I admit the first time I cooked Cactus salad I had to overcome the fear factor. Whoever came up with the idea to eat cactus must have been really really hungry or the only other explanation I have is that somebody lost a bid. Just the name cactus does not sound very exciting or awesome to eat.
Don’t Be Spineless, Eat Cactus:
I needed to get a few Pasillas Chilies from my local Carniceria & Taqueria to cook the tacos and did notice Nopale cactus in the produce section, they looked so good and go very well with tacos. So the adventurous decision was made to cook cactus. Agreed the cactus is intimidating looking, perhaps, but quite easy to prepare and cook.
Do Not Fear:
Most fresh cactus pads in the store will have the thorns removed. If they don’t, however, here is how to prepare them. Using tongs wash the cactus pad. Holding the pad at the thick end with the tongs, cut off the thorns using a sharp knife at an angle, pushing the knife in a scraping motion. Make sure to remove each “eye” of each thorn. You may need to cut these out. Go over them to double check all spines are removed. There are also small, hard to see spines. Rinse the pad again to wash away any debris. Trim off the outer quarter-inch edge of the pad and the thick base, and discard. Peel or cut off any discolorations or bruises. Another method of preparing the pads is to burn off the spines and glochids with a blow-torch or over a flame using the tongs. The pads are now ready to cook
Nopales Cactus Facts:
The Nopal cactus or more commonly known as “Prickly Pear” has been a staple part of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine for centuries. Cactus is a very low-calorie vegetable, 3 ounces carry just 16 calories, and is extremely high in fiber and vitamins especially vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K and minerals. You can say that Nopales are trending with the raw and natural food community and may be considered a superfood due to their cholesterol-lowering capabilities.
Benefits of Nopales Cactus:
Nopales cactus traditionally has been used as a cure for gastric ulcers, recent studies have verified these effects. Apparently, the mucilage and fibrous material in nopales make it inhibit the development of gastric ulcers so overall the Nopal cactus is a powerful plant that you may want to add to your diet. I love to use pickled red onions with salads or sandwiches and adding a few to the cactus is adding another twist of color, sweet-& sour, and that crunch.
Nopales Cactus Salad
- 1 large red onion
- 3 tbsp white vinegar
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 lb Nopales
- 1 sprig cilantro, fresh
- 1/4 medium onion
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp cilantro chopped
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp salt
Pickle the onions
- For the pickled onions, put on water to boil. Peel and cut onions into thin slices. Pour boiling water over the onions and shake to drain.1 large red onion, 3 tbsp white vinegar, 2 tsp honey, 1 tsp salt
- In a bowl combine the vinegar, honey, and salt and whisk until combined, add the onion to the vinegar dressing and mix to coat. Cover and refrigerate.
- To clean the cactus, you may want to use gloves or at least a napkin2 lb Nopales
- Rinse under cold water being careful with the thorns and make sure that all the thorns are removed Nopales, their thorns are almost invisible, however, a good clue is that wherever there is a bump there may be a thorn. Then, using a sharp knife peel away the bumps and thorns, then rinse again. No need to peel off all of the outer dark green skin, in fact, try to keep as much as you can.
Slice the cactus
- Slice the cactus paddle and boil in water seasoned with the cilantro sprig, garlic, and 1/4 a medium onion until soft. Then drain, rinse several times, and let sit for about 15 minutes to allow all the liquid from the cactus to drain completely. Nopales are basically like Okra, they have the same gelatinous liquid that you don’t want, so rinse and drain well, really well1 sprig cilantro, fresh, 1/4 medium onion, 1 clove garlic
And now for the salad
- Slice cactus in julienne or a dice, gently mix in a bowl with lemon juice, olive oil, and cilantro, season lightly with salt, and serve.1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp cilantro, 1 tsp salt
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate