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Ensalada de Nopales (Mexican Cactus Salad)

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Ensalada de Nopales is a Mexican salad made with boiled cactus paddles and mixed with chopped tomato, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno.

Nopales in a yellow bowl with a gold spoon. Cilantro and jalapeno in the background.

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.

Ingredients on a cutting board, Nopalitos, roma tomatoes, white onion, cilantro, and jalapeno.

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.

Glass bowl of cooked diced cactus.

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

While the cactus is boiling, chop up 2 roma tomatoes, half of a white onion, some cilantro, and jalapeno if you want it spicy.

Cutting board with chopped tomato, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno.

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.

Overhead view of cactus salad in a yellow bowl with a white napkin underneath it.

Frequently Ask Questions

How long does the cactus salad last?

This salad is great to make the day before since it can keep in the refrigerator. 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 it to get slimy.

Can fresh cactus paddles be used?

Yes! You will need to carefully remove the thorns with a pairing knife then slice the cactus into small pieces. I recommend wearing gloves when handling the fresh cactus paddles. Then continue with the recipe of boiling the sliced cactus.

Up close view of cactus salad with chopped tomatoes, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno in a yellow bowl.

I just love the beautiful colors of this cactus salad, hope you try it!

Ensalada de Nopales goes great with these Recipes:

Carne Asada

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Barbacoa

Up close view of cactus salad in a yellow bowl.

Ensalada de Nopales Recipe

Renee
Ensalada de Nopales is a Mexican salad made with boiled cactus paddles and mixed with chopped tomato, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

Nopales (Cactus)

  • 1 lb Prepared Diced Cactus or Fresh Cactus Paddles with thorns removed and diced.
  • ½ tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • Cilantro stems Small handful for flavor while boiling the cactus.

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

Instructions
 

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.

Video

Notes

Ensalada de Nopales can be stored in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Just keep in mind, the cactus will release moisture as it is stored.
Enjoy this salad with these recipes:
Carne Asada
Cilantro Lime Chicken
Mexican Rice

Nutrition

Calories: 24kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 406mgPotassium: 273mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 568IUVitamin C: 14mgCalcium: 133mgIron: 1mg

Nutritional information is provided as an estimate only and depends on ingredients and amounts used. Thai Caliente makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.

Keyword Ensalada de Nopales, Mexican Cactus Salad, Nopales, Nopalitos
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5 from 2 votes (1 rating without comment)

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