Have you ever eaten cactus?
Have you ever eaten cactus?
In Mexico we eat some pretty strange foods, well strange if you’re not used to them.
Nopales (or cactus paddles) are one of the most “Mexican”, Mexican foods. So if you’ve eaten them, congratulations for venturing into the lesser known and stranger Mexican foods. Us Mexicans grow up eating nopales, so to us they don’t seem strange at all and are almost like comfort food.
Nopales can be eaten raw, boiled, grilled, sautéed, in soups, salads, with eggs, in drinks, blended into tortillas and so many more different ways. They’re crisp and have a slight citrusy taste to them. Plus they’re also packed full of amazing health benefits.
Some benefits of nopales are:
• blood sugar regulation
• help reduce pain and swelling, therefore making them anti-inflammatory
• lower blood pressure and cholesterol
• aid in weight management
• prevent hangovers
• enhance your immunity
• nopales have vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 & vitamin C
• minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron
When growing, the plant not only has these edible green paddles, but it also grows edible sweet fruits called prickly pear fruit which in Mexico are known as tunas or pitayas.
If you live near a Mexican supermarket you won’t have any problems finding the nopales either with their thorns still on or cleaned ones ready to use. Most times I prefer to buy the cleaned paddles but if I won’t be cooking the nopales the same day I buy the ones with their thorns still on them. The reason is that nopales will stay nice and bright green longer if they haven’t been clean. Once cleaned they oxidize kinda quickly.
When cut nopales have a viscous liquid or stickyness very similar to aloe vera or even okra. But don’t worry it’s easy getting rid of it and I’ll show you how in the video below.
Before we begin I want to stress that you should never pick wild nopales unless you know exactly what variety is safe for human consumption. Additionally, always be careful when handling cactus, you really don’t want to have a thorn prick your skin and get stuck. Not pleasant at all.
Okay, let’s get started!
Watch the recipe video right below this paragraph or you can also view it on my YouTube channel in case you can’t see it here.
In the next video I’ll be sharing a super easy and quick method for enjoying these nopales. Stay tuned!
Happy cooking and adios amigos!
Nancy Lopez is a food blogger and author of the cookbook Mexican Tamales Made Meatless. Born in Mexico, raised in the US, and currently living in Southern Mexico, she has followed a meatless diet for almost 10 years. It is her passion and mission to share all she has learned about vegan Mexican cooking and vegetarian Mexican recipes. Mexican Made Meatless is a blog dedicated to preserving the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine just without the meat. It’s a place to celebrate Mexican culture and all it’s delightfully delicious traditional foods. Read more…
Yes, in fact I have eaten cactus and like it very much. Thanks for the tips on cleaning them. I see you use a towel to hold the paddle. Brilliant idea! I always seem to prick myself when I clean cactus…
The napkin really does help, I’ve pricked myself too and not too pleasant. So glad you like cactus, Frank! Thank you