Cactus Salad (Ensalata de Nopales)

>> Friday, August 2, 2013

Cactus Salad (Ensalata de Nopales)

If you're looking to try something new and different this salad is definitely an interesting one to try! Nopales are the paddle-shaped leaves of the prickly pear cactus. They are often eaten in Mexico and Central America; prickly pears are sometimes called tunas and are also eaten and made into jellies.

You can buy nopales in a can, or buy fresh paddles at Hispanic stores. At our local store, there's a talented guy who cuts out the mean little spikes ahead of time, which is a big time saver and is ouch-free for the buyer. If you are preparing the cactus yourself, cut out the stickers and eyes, and slice off the tough outer edge around each paddle. If you use canned nopales, make sure you drain and rinse them first.

Nopales (prickly pear cactus leaves)

Nopales are eaten after they are cooked, and I think they taste like asparagus. This salad is definitely an interesting and tasty way to try new vegetables. I bet you'll be glad you did.


2 tbsp oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 large nopales paddles, cleaned and diced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
6 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup Cotija cheese
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 tsp oregano, minced
Salt and pepper to taste


In a medium skillet, saute the garlic and cactus in oil until the vegetables are tender and the nopales are no longer sticky, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Toss together the sauteed vegetables, jalapeno, onion, romaine, tomatoes, cilantro, and cheese. Whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, pepper, and oregano, and drizzle over the salad. Toss well before serving.

Serves 4-6.


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