Quinoa with Nopales (or Cactus Paddles)

Quinoa is not a traditional Mexican ingredient but it pairs perfectly with authentic Mexican ingredients. Give this quick and easy vegan quinoa with nopales dish a try.

Vegan recipe for making quinoa with nopales.

Quinoa with Nopales or Cactus Paddles

This dish came together one day when I had little bits and pieces of the ingredients you’ll see in the recipe. It’s super easy to prepare and it’s a one pan dish so there’s little cleanup involved.

Quinoa, as you may know, isn’t a traditional ingredient in Mexican cooking. But just like rice it’s easy to incorporate into just about any type of cuisine.

Nopales of course couldn’t get more Mexican if they tried! They are super nutritious and it’s a vegetable I almost always have in my refrigerator. It ended up pairing wonderfully with the quinoa.

The other ingredients in this dish are very typical of Mexican cuisine. They are tomatoes, onion, chile and garlic.

I also added some mushrooms to give the dish more texture and of course more plant-based protein.

I really hope you give this recipe a try because I think it’ll quickly become one of your favorites.

Health Benefits of Quinoa

Quinoa is a plant that comes from the South American regions of Bolivia and Peru. Of course nowadays it’s become extremely popular and easily found all over the world.

Here are some reasons why quinoa is a must for plant-based diets.

  • Quinoa is a good plant source of protein
  • Aids in weight management
  • Is great for heart health
  • Naturally gluten-free
  • Helps control blood sugar levels
  • Good for bone health
  • Aids digestion (so great for colon health)
  • Natural antioxidant
  • Lowers cholesterol levels
  • Great for healthy hair, teeth and skin
A small bowl of raw white quinoa

Health Benefits of Nopales

In Mexico, Nopales or cactus paddles, have long been appreciated for it’s health benefits. Below are just a few amazing reasons to eat nopales.

  • Aids in a healthy digestive system
  • Is believed to prevent certain cancers
  • Control blood sugar levels, specially in Type 2 diabetes patients
  • Believed to build strong bones
  • Helps aid the body with anxiety and stress relief
  • High in antioxidants
  • High in amino acids
  • anti-inflammatory
  • helps to strengthen the immune system
  • Good for your heart, teeth, hair, bones and skin
Vegan recipe for quinoa with nopales

Quinoa with Nopales (or Cactus Paddles)

Nancy Lopez & MexicanMadeMeatless.com
Quinoa is not a traditional Mexican ingredient but it pairs perfectly with authentic Mexican ingredients. Give this quick and easy vegan dish a try.
5 from 3 votes
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Prep Time 8 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Course lunch, Main Course
Cuisine fusion, Mexican, vegan
Servings 2 people
Calories 277 kcal


  • 1 cup cubed nopales heaping cup
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 Tablespoon oil of your choice (more if needed)
  • 1/2 small white onion roughly chopped
  • 1.5 cups button mushrooms sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup white quinoa
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 medium roma tomatoes roughly chopped


  • Heat the oil in a large saute pan (you need one with a lid), once warm add the nopales and sprinkle the salt over them. Saute until they have begun to softened and released a lot of their viscous liquid. This should take about 8 minutes.
  • Next add the onion, mushrooms and garlic and saute until they too have softened. Next add the quinoa to the pan and give it a good stir., then add the chopped tomatoes and again stir until well combined. Carefully pour in the vegetable broth, turn heat up and simmer until it begins to boil. Lower heat to low, cover the pan and simmer until the quinoa is cooked through and nearly all of the liquid has been absorbed. If needed you may add a little bit more vegetable broth to help cook further.
  • Allow to cool slightly and serve as a main dish for 2 people or 4 side servings. Enjoy!


*If you’d like you can give this dish a touch of heat by adding a small serrano pepper or half of a jalapeno. You would add it when the onion is added to the pan. 
**If you need to learn how to clean the nopales and remove their spines, read this guide: How to Clean and Cook.


Calories: 277kcalCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 10gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 39mgPotassium: 784mgFiber: 6gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 720IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 113mgIron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Leave me a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review and tag me on social media @MexicanMadeMeatless or tag #mexicanmademeatless!
Quinoa con nopales is a super easy dish that can be served as a main meal or as a side dish.

See just how easy it was to make this dish?

As I mentioned earlier I made this one day because I had to use up leftover little bits and pieces. But since that first time, I’ve now cooked quinoa with nopales about a dozen times. It’s seriously that good!

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Vegan recipe for quinoa with nopales

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