We’ve been traveling through Mexico for several months now and have seen and tried many unfamiliar food items at the markets but for some reason we had yet to try Nopal. So we decided to try our hand at a recipe for cactus salad. In Mexico you will see the flat, green, tear shaped ‘pads’ of the cactus for sale everywhere and it is also listed in the ingredients of many of the nutritional supplements and health foods on the shelves.
The Nopal or Prickly Pear Cactus is native to Mexico and other parts of the Americas and is used extensively in the Mexican diet. As well as being tasty and versatile it is also very good for you. Studies have shown that is can boost anti-oxidant levels, act as an anti-inflammatory, have anticancer benefits and help to control blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes.
It is seen as a Superfood here which is normally a real draw for us so we figured it’s about time we tried it ourselves. Our chance came to not only taste it but to also purchase it and cook it with the help of our host Beth who we are currently house and pet sitting for.
Recipe for Cactus Salad (Ensalada de Nopalitos)
There are many ways to prepare and eat Nopal but Beth showed us her favorite which is Ensalada De Nopalitos. The recipe is pictured above however it uses raw nopal and in our recipe we cooked the cactus pads first. Directions for cooking are below.
Slice and dice the cactus pads into bite sized pieces if purchased whole.
Place in a large frying pan and cook over medium heat. There is no need to add water as the cactus releases it’s own juices to cook in. The juices ‘babas’ are a bit slimy 9similar to aloe vera) so I prefer to cook it until the liquid is all absorbed.
While the cactus is cooking dice up the tomato, onion and cilantro and place in a bowl.
Measure out remaining ingredients for the dressing into a small bowl or cup and whisk well.
Combine the raw or cooked cactus with all the other ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.
This salad is great on it’s own, as a side dish or served over lettuce.
We served it as a side dish for dinner with quesadillas and then used the leftovers the next day as a salsa for chips. We definitely Discovered a new healthy Mexican fave!
Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.