Nopalitos, nopales and nopal! I am referring to those bright green cactus paddles that lend themselves to countless Mexican dishes. Especially now during lent when it is custom to eat meatless dishes on Friday. My earliest memories of nopalitos is holding the fresh cactus paddles in a plastic produce bag carefully so I would not get any thorns in my fingers.
Growing up in Los Angeles, nopales were readily available. Most times my Mom would purchase them already cleaned and sliced. But on occasion she would have to clean them herself. Where I live, for many years, cactus was only available in a jar. It was not until recent years that fresh nopales became available thanks to one small Mexican market.
This recipe for nopalitos was inspired by the cookbook La Cocina Familiar En El Estado De Nuevo Léon. Although I have prepared this recipe many times in the past years, I simply knew it as ensalada de nopalitos. In the cookbook it has the title of nopalitos el regio. Regio referring to the people of the northern states of Mexico, Nuevo Léon, in particular.
- 4 cups nopales previously cooked and diced
- 2-4 Chile serrano minced
- 1 cup Onion diced
- 3 roma Tomato diced
- 2-3 tbs Cilantro chopped
- Juice of 1 Lime
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- 3 tbs olive or grapeseed Oil
- 1/2 cup Queso Fresco crumbled
In a bowl combine all of the ingredients, minus the cheese. Stir well to combine and taste for salt. Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with crumbled queso fresco. Serve right away.
This recipe can be prepared ahead of time. I would not add the cheese until right before you serve. It can be enjoyed as a salad, meatless taco filling, tostada topping or as a salsa garnish for your favorite tacos!
How Do I Cook Cactus?
Every time I share a cactus recipe on Instagram, I get the same two questions. “How do you cook the cactus?” “How do I avoid it from being slimy?” Good questions! I have recently learned a new cooking method for nopales. And as far as the baba(slime) that naturally is produced by the cactus, I don’t think we can get rid of it completely no matter what we do. Click the link to see how I cook my nopales these days and to see another tasty recipe prepared with cactus!
Must Try This Nopalitos Recipe!
I never knew that I was going to grow up and love nopales so much! And as much as I avoid the whole cleaning process, it’s so worth it in the end.! This recipe for Chile Con Queso y Nopalitos is one of those comfort food dishes for me. And it’s meatless! Who knew? This is a recent photo, but if you click the link you can see the original post and photos.http://pinaenlacocina.com/2016/08/01/queso-con-chile-y-nopalitosmexican-cheese-and-cactus-in-a-warm-salsa/
This easy recipe above is one of my favorite ways to enjoy nopales. I take a clean fresh cactus paddle and drizzle it with oil and season it with salt and pepper. I cook it on a preheated stove top grill pan for about 4-5 minutes per side or until I have nice grill marks and the nopal turns from bright green to opaque green, When I can grill outside, this is the cooking method I use.While the nopal is still hot in the pan, I top it with some Oaxaca cheese and place a lid on top to help the cheese melt faster. Transfer to a plate and garnish with tomato slices, onion, serrano, cilantro and avocado. I like a sunny side egg on the side and some warm corn tortillas!