Ensalada de Nopales, Cactus Salad to gringos (me included), is surprisingly easy to make – IF you have cactus leaves with the thorns (spines) removed! Lucky for me, I invited my neighbor, Rosa, to teach me to make her version of this delicious salad! I’ve had it many times at parties in her home and each time I think to myself, “Self, you need to have Rosa teach you to make this!”
So, here’s another recipe in our “Teach Me to Cook” category, my new ongoing series of recipes taught to me by friends and family! If you missed the inaugural post under this new category, you can read it here:
Back to the “lucky for me” part – Rosa brought over the nopales leaves (another name for prickly pear cactus) and the spines were already removed. So, she didn’t teach me that part! So, if you use nopales with spines, be sure to wear gloves (NOT rubber gloves) and strip them with a sharp paring knife. We have lots of cactus growing in our yard and around our yard and in our neighbors’ yards. But, none of them are the right kind of cactus. Lucky for me (again…lucky me!), I can buy them already spine-free in my local grocery store!
This yummy salad is refreshingly light, crunchy and piquant – a slight sour taste that shines through the other vegetables making a delicious accompaniment to any meal. I’ve heard it lowers cholesterol, so another reason to give this salad a try!
Here’s what you do:
- That’s the beautiful Rosa, cutting a cactus leaf into very small even pieces.
- Close-up of her cutting the cactus!
- Place cut cactus in a large pot.
- Continue cutting all leaves and placing in large stockpot.
- Peel and smash garlic with a mortar and pestle.
- Peel and quarter an onion.
- Add onion and garlic to pot of cactus.
- Cook over medium-low heat until tender (do NOT add water; the cactus makes its own liquid!), about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once cooked, drain the cactus in a strainer and allow to cool. Be sure to remove the large pieces of onion and garlic with a spoon.
While the cactus is cooling, prepare the other vegetables for the salad.
- Dice the radishes.
- Dice the onion.
- Finely shred cabbage. Rosa has a technique that she uses for this – she angles the blade of the knife at about an 45 degree angle and shreds the cabbage into little ribbons.
- Shredded cabbage.
- Dice the tomatoes. It’s important to make the radishes, onion and tomatoes about the same size as the cactus.
- Wash and seed a jalapeno.
- Finely dice the jalapeno.
- Chop cilantro.
- Add all veggies to large bowl including the drained and cooled cactus.
- Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
Here are all the ingredients in my super, duper large salad bowl (restaurant size) that I use to mix large recipes!
Here’s the salad transferred to a large serving bowl! You can see that this recipe makes quite a bit of salad (about 12 cups)! We had 6 people for dinner that night and served this as a side salad. There was just enough left over to send some home with guests and keep some to eat the next day.
These photos are dark and moody because it was late afternoon and the light was waning. I kinda like them, don’t you?
Here’s the recipe:
- 12 Nopale cactus leaves, spines removed, chopped into small pieces
- 2 onions (both peeled; one quartered and one chopped)
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled, finely diced and smashed in a mortar and pestle
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 radishes, finely chopped
- 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
- ½ head of cabbage, finely shredded
- ½ bunch of cilantro, chopped
- Add chopped cactus to large stockpot.
- Add quartered onion and garlic and mix well.
- Cook on medium-low for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cactus is fork-tender (do not add water; cactus makes its own juice).
- Remove cactus from heat and drain.
- Remove any large pieces of onion and garlic and allow cactus to cool.
- In the meantime, prepare all of the rest of the vegetables by chopping and shredding. The key is to make the onion and tomato about the size of the cactus.
- Add all ingredients, including cooled cactus, to a large bowl and mix well.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.
Thanks, Rosa, for sharing this delicious recipe! Stay tuned for more of Rosa’s recipes!
(other Mexican-inspired recipes)
- 3 Amazingly Simple and Delicious Ideas for using leftover Mexican Corn Salad
- Charlie’s Layered Mexican Casserole
- Charlie’s Lite Layered Mexican Casserole
- Easy Homemade Salsa
- Lite Cheesy Jalapeno Popper Dip
- Mexican Caesar Salad
- Mexican Caesar Salad Dressing
- Mexican Corn Salad
- Rosa’s Caramel Flan
- Rosa’s Pork Posole
- Shrimp Soft Tacos