This is an authentic Mexican cactus leaves salad or ensalada de nopales, as it is called in Spanish. Nopales are a staple in the Mexican cuisine and wildly used in salsas, salads or dishes (for the ones who never saw cactus leaves before and do not know how to eat them, here you have some more information about Nopal). The cactus leaves contain a lot of water and are also very rich in vitamins and minerals. They are usually cooked and then used in the recipes and taste almost like green beans after cooking them. In United States you can find fresh nopales in the Mexican grocery stores, but also canned ones.
The nopales have a mucilaginous texture inside and many recipes require boiling them in order to remove that texture. However, the leaves can also be grilled or fried. Personally, I like to sear them in a skillet with a little bit of oil and then cook them until the liquid evaporates.
How to make the Mexican Cactus Leaves Salad:
I bought the nopales at the Mexican grocery store and the leaves did not have any spines. They should look like this:
I sliced them thin and put them in a skillet with a little bit of vegetable oil.
I cooked them on medium heat on the stove mixing from time to time.
While the nopales were cooking , I prepared the rest of the ingredients. I chopped the green onions and the garlic and added them to the nopales. Red onion can be used as well.
While the cactus leaves and the onions were cooking together, I chopped the cilantro. This time, I used some frozen cilantro, from the Farmer’s Market, but fresh is better.
I placed the cilantro over the nopales and mixed them together.
Note: Keep mixing. You will notice the nopales will release that mucilaginous liquid at the beginning of the process, but the liquid will evaporate while you cook them. When tender, but not mushy, remove the skillet from the stove and let the nopales cool down.
I diced the tomatoes and placed them into a salad bowl.
I added the cooled cactus leaves to the tomatoes, squeezed lime juice over them and seasoned the salad with salt and pepper.
Enjoy! This salad goes really well with grilled meats, in a taco or by itself.
- 3-4 medium cactus leaves cleaned of spines
- 2-3 fresh medium tomatoes diced
- 2-3 green onions chopped
- 1 bunch of cilantro chopped
- 2-3 garlic cloves diced
- juice from 1 lime
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- Slice the cactus leaves thin and put them in a skillet with a little bit of oil.
- Saute them on medium high heat.
- Chop the green onions and the garlic and add them to the nopales and mix.
- Chop the cilantro and add it to the nopales, onions and garlic.
- Keep sautéing the vegetables until the nopales become tender but not mushy.
- Remove the skillet from the stove and let the vegetables cool down.
- Dice the tomatoes and place them in a bowl.
- Add the nopales to the tomatoes and mix well.
- Squeeze the juice of the lime over the salad.
- Taste for salt and pepper and serve cold.
- It goes very well with grilled meat.