Edible Cactus is also known as Nopales (no-PAHles), Nopalitos or Cactus Pads. This vegetable is popular in Mexico and other Central American countries, parts of Europe, the Middle East, India, North Africa and Australia. Its popularity is increasing in the United States where it can be found at Mexican grocery stores, specialty produce markets and farmer’s markets.
Edible cactus is characterized by its fleshy oval leaves (typically called pads or paddles) of the nopal (prickly pear) cactus. With a soft but crunchy texture that also becomes a bit sticky (not unlike okra) when cooked, edible cactus tastes similar to a slightly tart green bean, asparagus, or green pepper.
Cactus pads contain beta carotene, iron, B vitamins, and are good sources of both vitamin C and calcium. Cactus can be added to scrambled eggs and omelets. They can also be substituted for any cooked green in most dishes Cactus can be served as a side dish or used in salads. They taste especially good with Mexican recipes that include tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, and fresh corn.
John’s Cactus Salsa
- two pounds of cactus prepared and diced
- a couple cans of diced tomatoes
- three or four pickled jalapeno peppers (or to taste)
- three cloves or more (to taste) of garlic
- one-half medium onion
- a can each of red kidney, black bean, and pinto beans
- pinch of basil
- a bunch of cilantro
- a quarter cup of olive oil
- A couple dashes of salt and some ground black pepper will add flavor
- A handful of sunflower seeds, shelled pumpkin seeds, or pine nuts, or any mix of them
For a real crowd pleaser at a picnic or party, make this cactus salsa ahead of time, allow to blend its flavors in the refrigerator for a few hours. Just mix all the ingredients above that you can obtain. Some hot peppers are always in favor here in the Southwest, but other folks may need it tamed down on the hot peppers some. One can use this as a dip for tortilla chips, or a relish and garnish on burritos, meat dishes or a general spicy condiment for all kind of food.
- 1 cactus (nopales) can
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- ½ red onion, thin sliced
- ½ green onion, sliced
- 1 diced tomato can
- 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper
- 1 lime or (lemmon)
- ground black pepper
- Mexican fresh cheese
Rinse the cactus on cold water for a minute, let it dry for five minutes, then put it into a big salad bowl; add thin slices of red onion and/or green onions, diced tomato, a diced jalapeño pepper (or two, or three if you want), cilantro as much as you like, then add salt and pepper to your taste, squeeze the whole lime (taking care seeds don’t fall inside), toss well, put crumbled fresh cheese all over, and serve.
- 3 cups cooked nopales (cactus / nopalitos)
- 3 tablespoons chopped white onion
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- ½ teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice or vinegar
- 3 tomatoes, sliced
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 cup crumbled queso fresco or añejo or Monterey jack cheese
- 1/3 cup purple onion rings
- 3 canned chiles jalapeños en escabeche, cut into quarters lengthwise
- 1 avocado, peeled and sliced (optional)
- Romaine lettuce for the side of the serving platter
Mix the nopalitos with the next four ingredients and set aside to season for 30 minutes. Stir well and adjust seasoning.
Spread the nopalitos over the platter about 1 1/2 inches deep. Decorate with the tomatoes slices and top with cilantro, cheese, onion rings, chile strips, and slices of avocado (if used).
Overlap the romaine leaves around the edges of the platter and serve at room temperature.
Spanish Tortilla (Omelette), With Nopales & Purple Potatoes
- 1 cup peanut oil
- 3 large Peruvian purple potatoes
- 1 onion
- 2 medium Rancho Gordo cactus paddles, trimmed and cooked*
- 1 dozen eggs
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Place the peanut oil in the frying pan and turn the flame on to medium. Wash and peel the potatoes. Dice them into 1-inch chunks. Put them into the hot oil carefully and cook until tender. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes. Do not leave the potatoes unattended. Move them around with a wooden spoon to make sure they cook evenly. Peel and dice the onion. Drain the majority of the oil from the pan, leaving only enough to coat everything. Drop in the diced onions and cook another 3-5 minutes. In the meantime, drain the jar of nopales out into a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Drain well. Add the nopales to the frying pan. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk in the salt. Pour the eggs into the pan. Turn the burner down to low and cook until the Tortilla begins to set around the edges. Place into the oven for about 10 minutes or until the eggs are completely cooked. Remove from oven and invert onto a platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.