Ensalada de Nopalitos Recipe

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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?!

Below you’ll find a basic Nopales salad recipe filled with flavors to whet your appetite.  



Recipe for Ensalada de Nopalitos

Serves 6

The Salad

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

To Serve

Lettuce leaves

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 saucepan, bring water and salt to boil and add the nopales. Cook for 20 minutes.


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  1. I was in our local Mexican store picking up some fresh hot corn tortillas for dinner. But this bag of prepared nopal pieces kinda leapt into my hand basket.
    When I got home, I realized I’ve never cooked with them before.
    Off to do a google search for something light and tasty to make for dinner.
    And your perfect recipe came up!
    This is the salad I was searching for to accompany our big pot of pintos, those fresh tortillas and a bunch of ripe avocados.
    Thanks so much for the guidance and the perfect recipe.

    • Stephen Chavez

      Hi Jean — That’s awesome and glad you enjoyed the nopalito salad, one of my favorites (Stephen)!! I love them in eggs as well. And, this summer, guess what, I started adding the nopalitos to my pintos beans with a little red chile. Added flavor and delicious nutrients! ENJOY!!

  2. Great looking presentation in the avocado bowls.
    I’m fromthe Carribean and we only used to cut up the Nopals which we call (Tuna) add water, let it steep and drink it for pain, especially back pain.
    Now that I’m living in South Florida i am now aware of how much Nopals are part of the daily Mexican diet.
    I have a huge tree in my backyard so I will start adding it to my vegan diet. I see the nopal strips in jars at my local Latin markets and I’m eager to start using nopals as food moving forward.

    • We call the fruit “tuna,” or prickly pear. You are very lucky to have a whole tree to yourself. We have to battle squirrels, neighbors and our gardener!

      Tell us more about this nopal tea for back pain.

  3. During the quarantine your recipes have helped add spice and love to the table. Never had the time to make nopalitos before. Time and and openness try something new. There are such an abundance here in my own yard. Thank you!

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