Ensalada de Nopales {Cactus Paddle Salad} & How to Cook Nopales

Ensalada de Nopales is a classic Mexican salad made with cactus paddles, tomato, onion, cilantro, and serrano chiles. This delicious salad can be served as a side dish with your favorite Mexican dishes, or as a garnish for your favorite soups, stews, tortas, and tacos.

Ensalada de Nopales recipe - lacocinadeleslie.com

I have a very special treat for you today, made with a very important staple in the Mexican diet, and a permanent fixture in my cocina...Nopales (cactus paddles). Yes, you read that correctly...cactus paddles. Not only are cactus paddles edible and delicious, but they're also very good for you. They are known to help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

When I was growing up, I wasn't a big fan of nopales. That's probably because the only kind of nopales available back then at the Mexican market were nopales in a jar. Something about the murky liquid they were packed in totally turned me off to even wanting to try nopales. It wasn't until I was in my late teens that we started to see fresh nopales showing up in the produce section of our friendly neighborhood grocery store. But still, even fresh nopales didn't appeal to me, because I couldn't get over the image of the jarred nopales in the murky liquid.

Hubby picking nopales at el rancho.

It wasn't until I moved to Mexico that I finally worked up the nerve to try nopales. My suegra always had ensalada de nopales in her fridge, and I loved how she would snack on a taco de nopales before serving lunch. I don't know what I was expecting the nopales to taste like, but they were so much for flavorful than I had imagine. Refreshing and slightly tangy, it was love at first bite.

Hubby teaching our boys how to clean cactus paddles .

Cooked nopales are traditionally used in Ensalada de Nopales (Cactus Salad), but they can be added to any dish.  Some of my favorites include Mole Ranchero with pork loin and Nopales, Chilito de Chicharron with Nopales and Scrambled Eggs with Nopales.  But cooked nopales are so good, I find myself snacking on them straight from the pan. 

How to make ensalada de nopales - lacocinadeleslie.com

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ensalada de Nopales

prep time: 10 MINScook time: 20 MINStotal time: 30 mins
Ensalada de Nopales is a classic Mexican salad made with cactus paddles, tomato, onion, cilantro, and serrano chiles. This delicious salad can be served as a side dish with your favorite Mexican dishes, or as a garnish for your favorite soups, stews, tortas, and tacos.


  • 1 lb. fresh cactus paddles, roughly chopped
  • 3 to 4 sprigs fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 serrano chile, finely chopped (optional)


  1. Combine the nopales, cilantro sprigs, and salt in a large non-stick skillet. Let cook over low heat until the nopales start to release their own liquid. Cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat; let cool to room temperature.
  2. In a large bowl toss together the cooked nopales, tomato, red onion, cilantro, and serrano chile (if using). Season with salt to taste, if necessary. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Buen provecho!
Created using The Recipes Generator
*You could also add a couple of spoonfuls of Ensalada de Nopales to your scrambled eggs for Huevos con Nopales.


  1. I am not a fan of nopales and their slimy texture but they remind me of my grandparents. They had cactus growing on the side of their house and every once in a while they would cut down a few pieces, and cook them for lunch.

    thanks for the memories.

  2. I live in New Mexico and nopales a sold in almost every store...I love them with eggs...yum!

  3. My 10 year old daughter rejects most vegetables. She will eat nopales, though. She likes them grilled with salt and some lime juice squeezed on top. When they're grilled they're not nearly as slimy, and it's super simple to prepare them that way.

    I love them in a salad, though, so thanks for the recipe!

  4. My husband made "Ensalada de Nopales" for us for the first time last week. Our grocery store didn't carry it, but the guy that worked in the produce department (he was Mexican) brought some in for us special. He picked it fresh for us that morning! We enjoyed the salad and are now looking for some other recipes that include cactus. Do you have any more?

  5. JAM: Yay! I'm so glad that you were able to find Nopales and that you liked them. You should try them grilled. As far as other recipes using Nopales, I should be posting one next week.

  6. Thanks Leslie! We'll be looking forward to seeing it and trying it out.

    Also, do you have any posts on your blog about making tortillas? My husband wants to try making them and he is hoping for some authentic tortilla making secrets.

    btw... We both love your blog!

  7. Yum!!! Nopales are low in calories and I heard they are good for people with diabetes. My mom prepares them in many different ways, but I have to say that I LOVE it when she prepares them with Tortitas de Camaron during Lent. They're great!

  8. i love love nopal! mmm when i tell people we eat them theyre like "whaat?" i love that ur white an cook mexican food! soo well! anywho do you know what "cochas" are? we eat those alot in my rancho we are from matamoros tamps and also san luis :)

  9. Acreditamos que se se acrescentar uma pitada de açucar, durante a coção, a cor verde será mantida.Assim,aqui se faz com vargem ou outros "verde" que se quer preservar a cor.
    Um curioso ,em tudo na vida
    Santa Catarina -Brasil

  10. if you like nopales, you have to try them with chorizo. they are good, good, good......

    1. I just tried nopales con chorizo not too long ago at the ranch and they were absolutely delicious! :)

  11. Leslie,

    Your recipes are awesome. My husband is from Michoacan Mexico and we visit there every Christams for La Posadas. I was born and raised in Indiana but love to cook mexican food. Your recipes are almost as good as my suegra showing me....thanks***By the way I LOVE Mexico...we will retire there>>>

  12. I found this on Pinterest and almost didn't click on it because i have a recipe i grew up with that is similar but adds a capfull of vinegar and cotija cheese. I'm glad i did though i will definitely be trying the dry cooking next time. Thanks for the share.

  13. gracias por este truquito!! Hoy asi es que hago los nopales!!