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How to Prepare and Cook Cactus ‘Nopales’

Guess what one of my favorite foods to eat in Mexico is? Cactus aka as nopales. Every morning, depending on what region I am visiting, I will either have machaca or nopales (cactus) in my eggs.

Cooking Cactus Nopales

This summer, I went to Puerto Peñasco and found myself in line at the grill to have eggs made with nopales three times. My daughter looked at my stack of plates at the end of breakfast and told me it was time to learn how to make nopales at home.

Cactus - Nopales from Melissa's Produce

I ordered some fresh cactus paddles from Melissa’s Produce, and the minute that I opened the box, I was slightly intimidated. My daughter grabbed one out of the box and let out a giant “ouch.” And then, she said, “It’s real cactus.” Everyone laughed.

A box of Melissa's Produce

Thanks to our friends at Melissa’s Produce, they were able to advise us on how to prepare and cook the cactus. While I was intimidated at first, I was so happy to realize how simple and easy it is to prepare and cook cactus.

How to Prepare Cactus (Nopales)

How to Prepare Cactus (Nopales)

1. First, I recommend wearing gloves.

How to cook Cactus - Nopales

2. Hold the stem of the cactus. Take a sharp knife and scrape the spikes off the leaf. You’ll want to be careful that you are not near the floor, so the spikes don’t end up in a kiddos foot. Plus, I don’t recommend putting the food scraps into the sink.

Preparing Cactus - Nopales

3. Once you’ve gotten the spikes off the cactus leaf, you’ll need to cut around the edge of the paddle to remove any spikes on the side.

How to eat cactus

4. Rinse and clean the cactus, and you’re ready to cook it.

How to prepare cactus - nopales

How to Cook Cactus (Nopales)

How to Cook Cactus (Nopales)

I prepared the nopales in three different ways.

Traditional Preparation

The most traditional way to prepare nopales is by boiling it. I, however, don’t like it boiled. I don’t like any of my vegetables soggy, so I prefer to grill it. To prepare it like they mostly do in Mexico, you’ll want to make thin slices or small squares. Then boil it for about 8-10 minutes. Then use it in your favorite recipe.


Grilling Cactus - Nopales

One of my favorite ways to cook nopales is on the grill. It will just take about 5 minutes on the grill, and the nopales still holds all its juices (my favorite part). You’ll want to stand over them on the grill and cook until they become a dark green color.

Pan Fried

Pan fried cactus - nopales

Again, when having nopales in my eggs, I prefer it to be a little firmer. I put a little olive oil in the pan, cook the nopales until they are a dark green color. Then, I add all my favorite vegetables along with eggs in the one pan. For families with little kids who don’t have a lot of time in the kitchen, this is the fastest and easiest way to cook nopales.

Cactus - Nopales Recipes

Have fun experimenting with cactus (nopales) in your kitchen this summer.

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One Comment

  1. Everyone talks about a gel like liquid. Will this cook out in your skillet before adding eggs?

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