Ensalada de Nopales is a Mexican salad made with boiled cactus paddles and mixed with chopped tomato, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno.
If you've never tried cactus it does have a unique texture, but when prepared properly taste delicious.
My mother in law makes ensalada de nopales often as a side dish or as a vegetarian main dish to eat with tostadas, rice, and beans.
Eating cactus can have some good health benefits like regulating blood sugar and it's high in antioxidants.
What are Nopales?
Nopales are cactus paddles and can be found at most Mexican Grocery stores. Buying the paddles whole requires additional preparation of removing the thorns.
I prefer to buy my nopales pre-cut (nopalitos). I have been able to find fresh cut cactus at non-Hispanic grocery stores. But definitely a Hispanic store will have both types of nopales (whole and pre-cut).
How to Cook Nopales?
For the pre-cut cactus (nopalitos), start by rinsing the cactus under cold water. You'll see that there is some slime in the cactus. This happens once a cactus paddle has been cut and the liquid from the inside releases.
Then place in a pot of water along with salt, onion powder, and cilantro stems for flavor.
Boil for about 15 minutes or until the nopales are somewhat soft, but still have some crunch to them.
The color of the cactus will be a muted green color after boiling them. Rinse them again under cold water then place in bowl to make the cactus salad.
How to Make Ensalada de Nopales?
While the cactus is boiling, chop up 2 roma tomatoes, half of a white onion, some cilantro, and jalapeno if you want it spicy.
Sometimes my Mother in law also adds some crumbled cheese like cotija.
Then mix everything with the boiled and rinsed nopales. I also like to add fresh lime for some acidity and salt to taste. Taste the salad and see if more salt or lime is needed.
How long does the cactus salad last?
This salad is great to make the day before since it can keep in the refrigerator. So perfect for meal prep or parties.
I personally wouldn't go past 2-3 days of storing it, since the cactus will continue to release the moisture inside and can cause the ensalada de nopales to get slimy.
I just love the beautiful colors of this cactus salad, hope you try it!
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Ensalada de Nopales goes great with these Recipes:
Ensalada de Nopales- Mexican Cactus Salad Recipe
Ensalada de Nopales (Cactus Salad)
- 2 Roma Tomatoes Chopped
- ½ White or Red Onion Chopped
- ¼ cup Cilantro Chopped
- Jalapenos 1-2 depending on how spicy you want it, or omit for no spice.
- 1 Lime
- Salt To Taste
Preparing the Nopales (Cactus)
- For the pre-cut cactus (nopalitos), start by rinsing the cactus under cold water. You'll see that there is some slime in the cactus. This happens once a cactus paddle has been cut and the liquid from the inside releases. If using Fresh Cactus paddles, carefully remove the thorns but still keeping most of the dark green skin in tact. Then dice the cactus paddles and rinse with cold water.After rinsing, place the cactus in a large pot of water along with Salt, Onion Powder, and some cilantro stems for flavor.
- Boil for about 15 minutes or until the nopales are somewhat soft, but still have some crunch to them. Drain and rinse the cooked cactus again under cold water, then place in bowl to make the cactus salad.
Ensalada de Nopales (Cactus Salad)
- Dice and chop tomatoes, half of a white or red onion, some cilantro, and jalapeno if you want it spicy.
- In a medium bowl, mix everything with the boiled and rinsed nopales (cactus). I also like to add squeezed lime for some acidity and add salt to taste. Taste the salad and see if more salt or lime is needed. Store the cactus salad in the refrigerator until ready to serve or keep for up to 3 days refrigerated.
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