Grilled Nopal Recipes

Nopales are the paddles of the oputina (prickly pear) cactus, which is frequently found in Mexico. They are a common vegetable in Mexico, and they taste somewhat like green beans, but slightly more acidic. They are a great addition to grilled meat dishes, or tasty just on their own.

Grilling Nopales (Cactus)

Cactus Salad with Grilled Nopales 🔗

This cactus salad has fresh vegetables, grilled nopales, and tangy chili lime dressing. Make this recipe for a delicious Mexican side dish.

Prep: 20min

Total: 28min

Serving Size: 1 serving

Nutrition Facts: calories 178 kcal, Carbohydrate 15 g, Protein 4 g, Fat 13 g, Saturated Fat 3 g, Cholesterol 8 mg, Sodium 406 mg, Fiber 6 g, Sugar 5 g, servingSize 1 serving


  • 6 cactus paddles (nopales) (trimmed)
  • 2 limes (juiced)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt (divided)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (divided)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 small serrano chiles (minced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 4 Roma tomatoes (cut into chunks)
  • 1 cup red onion (thinly sliced (1/2 medium onion))
  • 1 avocado (pitted and cubed)
  • 1/3 cup cilantro (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup cotija cheese (crumbled)


  1. Typically cactus paddles are sold with the thorns removed. If not, use a small paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove and discard thorns and any blemishes on cactus. Wash and use paper towels to pat the cactus paddles dry. Rub both sides with vegetable oil and sprinkle 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper over all. Set aside on platter while grill is heated to 400°F.
  2. In a salad bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, remaining salt and pepper and cumin. Add the minced chiles and garlic. Allow to rest while grilling the cactus.
  3. Transfer cactus paddles to the hot grill. Cook each side for 4 minutes or until grill marks are visible. Remove from heat and allow to cool while you assemble the remaining salad ingredients.
  4. Add the tomatoes, red onion, avocado and cilantro to the marinated chile dressing. Toss to coat.
  5. Slice each cactus in half lengthwise. Stack both pieces and slice into 1/2 inch strips. Repeat with remaining paddles. Add to the salad and toss to mix. Serve immediately or chill for an hour.
  6. Sprinkle the cotija cheese on top before plating. Serve as a starter salad, with tortilla chips as an appetizer or with grilled grilled meats.


How long should nopales be cooked?

You want to boil out the gelatinous substance that will ooze out of the nopales, so put a pot of water on the stove, bring to a boil, add a good pinch of salt and a few crushed cloves of garlic, if you like, and add the prepared nopales.

What does grilled nopal taste like?

You can prepare the nopales for your ensalada de nopales in the following ways: chop or slice the nopales as you would like to eat them in a salad; place them in a bowl and toss with the salt; transfer to a colander for 10 to 20 minutes to drain; rinse under cold water; and vigorously rub the nopales to remove all the slime.

Do people eat grilled cactus?

When it comes to flavor, nopales have a mild flavor that is slightly grassy and that some people compare to asparagus. They pair well with mild Mexican-style cheeses and are especially tasty with fresh salsa and/or your favorite hot sauce.

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