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Cactus salad

Known in English as the "prickly pear" cactus, nopales is one of the healthiest, most versatile foods to grace the Mexican table. The pads are high in vitamin C and dietary fiber, as well as B complex vitamins and iron.

Cactus salad is a good accompaniment to grilled meat, chicken or fish. It can be scrambled with eggs or used as a taco filling. Your friends will never believe they’re eating cactus!

  3 cups diced nopales, cooked until tender and rinsed under cold water
  1 cup snack tomatoes, cut in halves
  1/2 cup chopped onion
  1-2 serrano or jalapeno chilies, finely chopped
  2 sliced avocados
  Handful of chopped cilantro
  2 teaspoons of olive oil
  Juice of 1 fresh lime
  Salt and pepper to taste


You can find the cactus pads with the spines already removed in small Mexican mercados or US supermarkets. In many cases, the pads have also been cut up into small squares or strips called nopalitos.

To boil nopales, wash them and cut them into small squares or strips, if they have not been purchased this way. Place them in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Place the cactus, tomatoes, onions, chilies, and cilantro in a large salad bowl. Drizzle in olive oil and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss to blend well. Put avocado slices on top as a garnish.

Fun Variations

Substitute some yellow snack tomatoes to give the salad some extra color and flavor.

Grilled, nopales have a delicious, distinctive flavor of their own, especially good with grilled meat. To grill nopales, cut them from the wide, rounded outer edges toward the narrow base, but not all the way to the end, fanning out the cuts so that the paddles look fringed. Brush them with olive or vegetable oil and grill until soft and slightly charred.

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