Nopalitos | Warm Cactus Salad

Nopalitos | Warm Cactus Salad

Warm Cactus Salad Photo Credit: Lola's Cocina

Dishes with cactus paddles, or nopales, can be found on restaurant menus throughout Mexico and are growing in popularity here in the U.S. Cactus paddles are believed to aid in digestion, help regulate blood glucose and insulin levels, and have anti-inflammatory properties, among other health-related benefits. My mother’s recipe below is versatile and can be enjoyed as a salad, spread onto a tostada (crispy corn tortilla) with Mexican cream, stuffed into a quesadilla, served alongside scrambled eggs, or used to top your favorite taco. Enjoy!

Peeled Cactus Paddles (Nopales) Photo Credit: Lola's Cocina

3 cups fresh nopales (cactus paddle) diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion diced
2 cloves garlic chopped finely
1/2 tomato
3/4 cup water
3/4 tablespoon powdered chicken bullion or salt (or to taste)


  1. Rinse nopales well and strain.
  2. Prepare pan with olive oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add nopales. They will begin to release a gelatinous (slimy) liquid. Continue to cook and move frequently until liquid has been absorbed.
  3. When no longer slimy, add onion. Saute until soft, then add garlic and mix well.
  4. Add chicken bullion and water, then mix well once again. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in tomato, cover, and cook an additional 5 minutes.
  6. Serve warm.

Note: Fresh cactus can typically be found in the produce section of most Mexican supermarkets.

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