Every so often I crave a fresh salad with a mixture of flavors and textures. Nothing can beat a homemade Ensalada de Nopalitos. In our journey this year to eat healthier, this dish is one of our favorites. You can’t go wrong with all the health benefits of eating nopales. The nopal is full of essential nutrients. It contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and C, in addition to the minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. Also present are 18 amino acids in the form of easily digestible protein. As a fibrous plant, Nopal is a rich source of insoluble and soluble fiber. Its high-fiber content is thought to be largely responsible for so many of its healthful benefits. What I bet you didn’t know is that construction workers add nopales to harden plaster. Who would have thought?!
Throughout the year we will be looking for recipes to post, such as empanadas stuffed with nopales, cocidos de nopal, and even flan de nopal. We’re genuinely excited with all the ways we can prepare the delicious and healthy cactus, and admittedly inspired when we did our restaurant review of Chef Juan Mondragon’s healthy menu at Juan’s Restaurante. Maybe we can convince Chef Juan to share a recipe with us.
Below you’ll find a basic Nopales salad recipe filled with flavors to whet your appetite.
Recipe for Ensalada de Nopalitos
2 Cups Nopal Cactus pieces, cooked*
2 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
½ Teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
3 Tablespoons finely chopped white onion
Salt to taste
¼ Cup roughly chopped cilantro
Strips of jalapeño chiles en escabeche
4 ounces Queso Fresco, crumbled (about 2/3 cup)
1 small purple onion, sliced thinly
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
Mix all the salad ingredients well and set aside to season for about 1 hour. Line the dish with the lettuce leaves, put the salad on top, and top with the rest of the ingredients.
*Nopales are now readily available in large supermarket chains and in Latino specialty stores. To prepare fresh nopales, first scrape off the tiny thorns – taking care not to get them into your fingers – then cut them into either narrow strips or small squares. In a large sauce pan, bring water and salt to boil and add the nopales. Cook for 20 minutes.