San Miguel: Nopales (Prickly Pear Cactus)

Somehow, everything I ate in Mexico became “this is my absolute favourite vegetable!!” or “this is my favourite food ever!!!”  And nopales (cactus) has become one of my favourite vegetables.

As cactus are the ubiquitous plant in the area of San Miguel, they became an obvious choice for a Mexican culinary staple.  Cooked Prickly Pear Cactus is a great salad base: served cold it tastes refreshingly crunchy on the outside, and a little bit slimy (in a good way, like okra!) on the inside.  One can buy nopales at the markets, already de-thorned (phew!):

And you find them at every market stand, in amongst the variety of green veggies (hint: it’s the big, flat one on the right hand side):

The best way to prepare them?  Well, it’s a little labour intensive, but well-worth the efforts: first, you boil the leaves in water until they become tender.  Then you slice them into strips, and sauté them with onions, olive oil, green chile, oregano, and salt.  Let cool and toss with cilantro and diced tomato.  Mmm, perfection.

We found nopales on almost every restaurant menu, and at every cart, like on the huaraches:

And in our first night’s salad, with mild goat’s cheese and avocado . . .

. . . which I promptly put into a corn tortilla.

Now to see if I can find myself a good nopales source here in Toronto… wish me luck!

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Categories: Travel, Vegetarian

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13 Comments on “San Miguel: Nopales (Prickly Pear Cactus)”

  1. Kristen
    February 25, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    Wow, this might be the only thing we can get here in Nebraska that you can’t get in Toronto! We have a very large Mexican population, so it’s easy to get authentic Mexican foods (just not anything else). If you can’t find it by June, I’ll make you some when you come to visit!!

  2. Francesca
    February 26, 2010 at 1:09 am #

    I could bring some from Chicago!

  3. February 26, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    😀
    I’m going to hit up Kensington Market this weekend, before we worry about bringing veggies cross-border.

    Kristen — *jealous*, good thing I’m coming to visit!

  4. Paddy O'Dea
    February 26, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    ooo yum! I grew up eating ‘nopales’ – only we called them ‘prickly pears’ – they grown on my parents’ farm in South Africa!

  5. February 26, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    Mmm, how did you eat them, Paddy?

  6. Paddy O'Dea
    February 26, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

    My mam didn’t do anything too exotic – we just gobbled them up, ice cold, with vanilla icecream & sometimes she’d mix them with watermelon balls, lime juice and brown sugar. :-))

  7. February 27, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    Mmm, so you had them as dessert — sounds divine!

    Now I must get some!

  8. Shari
    February 2, 2012 at 1:26 am #

    Hi there!
    I was wondering if you ever found nopales in Toronto? I’d love to know!

    • February 6, 2012 at 8:59 am #

      Yes!! I’ve found them for purchase in several Latin food markets in Kensington Market, and already made to eat in some of the restaurants! Yum!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. San Miguel: Coconut Soy Milk « The Kitchen Operas - February 26, 2010

    […] Recipes ← San Miguel: Nopales (Prickly Pear Cactus) […]

  2. San Miguel at Home: Black Bean Quesadillas « The Kitchen Operas - March 2, 2010

    […] well as nopales.  Yes, I managed to find cactus leaves, dethorned them (ow!), cut them into strips, boiled them, […]

  3. Prickly Pear Sorbet with Lime & Mint | The Kitchen Operas - August 10, 2010

    […] used in my black bean quesadillas.  My friend Paddy mentioned eating the fruits growing up on my San Miguel nopales post, and I couldn’t stop thinking about trying the fruit ever […]

  4. Pupusas | The Kitchen Operas℠ - January 18, 2013

    […] EVERY TIME we go are “refried beans and cheese”.  But this time, they had CACTUS (aka. nopales)!!!  So what’s a girl to do but order one of each?  The cactus and cheese is now my new […]

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