This ensalada de nopales (Nopales salad) is my all-time favorite nopales recipe! It is the perfect way to add more nutrients to your meals because there is so much flavor and culture in this recipe. Mexican food can be healthy! This ensalada de nopales proves that we can eat nutritious Mexican food while still enjoying the flavors.
Ensalada de Nopales, It’s Origin, and Health Benefits
Nopales in English are called “prickly pear cactus” because this type of cactus grows a sweet fruit called the prickly pear. It has been scientifically proven to help reduce inflammation, control blood sugar, and lower cholesterol. Nopales are a power food as they contain so many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants!
A lot of Mexican dishes were influenced by the Spanish. However, nopales are native to Mexico and were part of indigenous peoples’ lives before the Spanish arrived. Nopales are a big part of Mexican culture and for a good reason!
This nopal salad is a great way to add more vegetables to your favorite Mexican dishes! You can eat it as a side with enchiladas, frijoles de la Hoya, tacos, or even make some nopales tacos.
Where to find Nopales
You can find nopales at your local Mexican grocery store. If you don’t have one of those nearby, I recommend looking in big grocery stores such as FoodMaxx, Lucky, or Safeway.
You can find nopales sold in 3 ways:
- Fresh nopal leaves. This one is sold with thorns and all. This is my favorite way to buy them because they are the freshest and most authentic type.
- Cut and cleaned, possible diced. This is my next choice. A lot of people like buying them this way to avoid cutting off the thorns. (I find that therapeutic to do lol).
- In a jar/can. Canned nopales are available year-round and I use them when I know that nopales are not in season. Doña Maria and La Costeña are the brands I would choose.
Tips to Prep Fresh Nopales
- Lay out a big area of newspapers or a large area of baking sheets on the table where you will be cleaning your nopales. This will help collect any flying thorns.
- Clean and slice off all thorns on nopales carefully. Try to cut only the skin of the nopales to avoid waste.
- Cut the nopales around the edges to get rid of any excess thorns that may be growing on the sides/edges.
- When slicing off the thorns make sure to slice away from your face/body.
- Dice nopales into small cubes or whichever size you’d like.