Sharing is Caring!
Grilled Nopales Salad
This delicious Grilled Cactus Salad (also known as Ensalada de Nopales Asados, Nopales a la Mexicana, or Nopalitos) is a traditional Mexican dish you must try!
It’s quick to make, refreshing to eat, vegan, paleo, keto, and tangy, making it an excellent addition to summer garden parties! YUM!
I discovered Grilled Catus Salad while in Oaxaca, which I absolutely fell in love with, so I needed to recreate one at home and share it with you.
This, my friends, is the super tasty salad you need to try!
Grilled nopales salad is a classic Mexican dish made with grilled nopales, also known as prickly pear cactus pads, a rich source of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.
The History of Nopales
Nopales have a long history in Mexico, where they have been cultivated for thousands of years. The ancient Aztecs and Mayans considered nopales sacred plants, using them in traditional medicine and as a food source. Nopales were also used in religious ceremonies and were believed to have healing properties.
Today, nopales are still an essential part of Mexican cuisine. They are used in various dishes, including soups, stews, and salads. They are also used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including diabetes, high cholesterol, and digestive problems.
Mexican cuisine is known for its bold flavors, vibrant colors, and use of fresh, local ingredients. Nopales are a staple in Mexican cooking and are used in various dishes, from traditional stews and soups to more modern salads and salsas.
One of the most popular ways to prepare nopales is to grill them, which brings out their natural sweetness and gives them a slightly smoky flavor. Grilled nopales are often served as a side dish or used as a base for a salad, which can be topped with various ingredients, including fresh vegetables, cheese, and citrus fruits.
What are nopales?
Nopales are prickly pear cactus leaves (also called pads or paddles). Native to the Americas, prickly pear cacti have many variants. Still, the paddles and the fruits they produce are edible as long as you remove the spiky exterior.
While you would never think about using cactus leaves as food, trust me, they are delicious and have a flavor reminiscent of green beans. Because I love Mexican cuisine, I love experimenting with using their native ingredients in my cooking and experimenting with new ingredients.
The flavor of nopales can be slightly tangy and sweet with a somewhat slimy texture. The tanginess comes from the natural acidity of the cactus, while the sweetness comes from its natural sugars. Some people compare the taste of nopales to green beans or okra but with a more distinct flavor. The texture of nopales can be slightly slimy when raw, but when cooked properly, they become tender and slightly firm.
Give this delicious ensalada de nopales a try, and let me know what you think!
Nutritional Benefits of Nopales
Nopales are a nutrient-rich food that provides a variety of health benefits. They are high in fiber, which helps to promote digestive health and can reduce the risk of colon cancer. Nopales are also low in calories and carbohydrates, making them an excellent choice for people trying to lose weight or manage their blood sugar levels.
In addition, nopales are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, B6, iron, and magnesium. They are also rich in antioxidants that protect the body against oxidative stress and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease.
Making Grilled Nopales Salad at Home
This recipe serves 4-6 people and takes about 30 minutes to prepare.
- Medium-sized nopales (prickly pear cactus pads). Most of the time, when you go to Mexican Food Stores, you are going to find Noplales that are already prepared and sliced)
- Roma tomatoes cut into chunks (or cherry tomatoes cut in half; I prefer that)
- Red onion thinly sliced (1/2 medium onion) or green onions
- Avocados pitted and cut into small chunks.
- Cilantro, finely chopped
- Star anise, crushed
- Serrano pepper or jalapeno seeded and diced
- Black pepper
- Lime juice
- Olive oil
- Garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cotija or queso fresco cheese
How to make Grilled Nopales Salad
Cactus paddles are sold with the thorns removed and even presliced. If not, use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove and discard thorns and blemishes on the cactus. Wash and pat the cactus paddles with a paper towel to remove the water. Rub both sides with olive oil and sprinkle 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper. Set aside on a plate while the grill is heated to 400°F. You can salo do it on a grill mat on your stove.
If you already buy precut, stir-fry them in a frying pan.
Whisk the lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin in a bowl. Add the minced jalapenos and garlic. Shake it with a lid on it and set it aside.
Put cactus paddles to the hot grill. Cook each side for 4 minutes or until grill marks are visible. Remove from heat and cool while you assemble the remaining salad ingredients.
Add the tomatoes, red onion, avocado, and cilantro to the dressing. Toss to coat.
Slice each cactus in half lengthwise. Stack both pieces and slice them into 1/2-inch strips. Repeat with the rest of the paddles and add them to the salad; toss to mix. Serve immediately or chill for an hour.
Sprinkle the queso cheese or cotija cheese on top before plating. Serve as a starter salad, with tortilla chips as an appetizer or with grilled meats.
Ways of cooking nopales
- Grilled: Grilling nopales is one of the most popular ways to prepare them. Simply brush them with oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill them over high heat until they are tender and slightly charred. Grilled nopales can be served as a side dish or used as a base for a salad.
- Boiled: Boiling nopales is another popular method of cooking them. Simply cut the nopales into bite-sized pieces and boil them in salted water until they are tender. Boiled nopales can be used in soups, stews, and salads.
- Sauteed: Sauteing nopales is a quick and easy way to prepare them. Simply heat up some oil in a skillet, add the nopales, and cook them until tender and slightly browned. Sauteed nopales can be served as a side dish or as a filling for tacos and quesadillas.
- Pickled: Pickling nopales is a traditional method of preserving them. To pickle nopales, cut them into thin strips and marinate them in vinegar, water, salt, and spices. Pickled nopales can be used in salads, sandwiches, and tacos.
- Roasted: Roasting nopales is a great way to bring out their natural sweetness. Simply brush them with oil and roast them in the oven until they are tender and slightly browned. Roasted nopales can be served as a side dish or used as a topping for pizzas and flatbreads.
To prepare a grilled nopales salad, you will need the following equipment:
- Grill: A grill is essential for cooking the nopales to perfection. You can use a gas grill, charcoal grill, or grill pan.
- Tongs: Tongs help flip the nopales on the grill and remove them once they are cooked.
- Knife: A sharp knife is needed to cut the nopales into bite-sized pieces and to chop the other salad ingredients.
- Cutting Board: A cutting board provides a stable surface for cutting and chopping the nopales and other salad ingredients.
- Mixing Bowl: A mixing bowl is needed to mix the salad ingredients.
- Salad Spinner: A salad spinner is optional but can be helpful for washing and drying the salad greens.
- Serving Platter: A large platter is needed to display the salad and make it easy to serve.
More Salad Recipies
Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #thetastesoflifeholisticblog
- 6 Cactus Paddles (nopales) trimmed (1 pound) or you can buy them already precut in Mexican stores.
- 4 Tomatos Roma tomatoes cut into chunks (or cherry tomatoes cut in half- I prefer that)
- 3/4 cup Onion Red onion thinly sliced or diced or green onions
- 2 Avocados Pitted and cut into small chunks
- 1/3 cup Cilantro Fnely chopped
- 2 Star Anise Crushed
- Cojita Cheese
- 1 Limes Fresh, juiced
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Black pepper Ground
- 1/4 tsap Cumin Ground
- 1 Serrano chilie Small, finely minced
- 4 Cloves Garlic Minced
- Cactus paddles are sold with the thorns removed and even presliced. If not, use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove and discard thorns and any blemishes on the cactus.
- Wash and pat the cactus paddles with paper towel to remove the water. Rubboth sides with olive oil and sprinkle 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper.
- Set aside on a plate while the grill is heated to 400°F. You can salo do it on a grill mat on your stove.
- If you already buy precut, stir-fry them in a frying pan.
- Whisk the lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin in a bowl. Add the minced jalapenos and garlic. Shake it with a lid on it and set it aside.
- Put cactus paddles on the hot grill. (If you dont have a gril use frying pan)
- Cook each side for 4 minutes or until grill marks are visible. Remove from heat and cool while you assemble the remaining salad ingredients.
- Add the tomatoes, red onion, avocado, and cilantro to the dressing to the bowl. Toss to coat.
- Slice each cactus in half lengthwise. Stack both pieces and slice them into 1/2-inch strips. Repeat with the rest of the paddles and add them to the salad; toss to mix.
- Serve immediately or chill for an hour.
- Sprinkle the queso cheese or cotija cheese on top before plating. Serve as a starter salad, with tortilla chips as an appetizer, or with grilled meats.