How to Cook a Prickly Pear Cactus

How to Cook a Prickly Pear Cactus and Give it an Interesting Edge

Have you given a shot at trying out prickly pear cactus recipes? It's not really difficult; it can be cooked in a number of interesting ways.
Tastessence Staff
Last Updated: Jul 21, 2017
Prickly pear cactus, traditionally a Mexican delicacy, has recently started gaining popularity in the United States. It is grown all over Mexico, in some parts of the United States and also the Mediterranean area. There are two edible parts of the cactus: the pad of the cactus (Nopalitos), which is treated as the vegetable and the prickly pear (tuna), or the fruit of the cactus.

Select small tender cactus pads as they are glossier and more succulent. Remove the spines carefully using a peeler or a knife, make sure you wear hand gloves, while your doing this. Peel off any discolorations, also remove the edges of the pad. Once all the spines have been removed, wash it well with cold water. You can wrap it and store it in a refrigerator for about one to two weeks, they can now be used in many different ways. The most common way of eating it is, by simply grilling the pads and adding it to dishes to give it an interesting edge. It can also be boiled in salt water or sauteed in butter and added to dishes. Below are some easy recipes to cook prickly pear cactus.

Scrambled Nopales

Ingredients
  • 1 to 2 pads of cactus
  • 6 eggs
  • butter
  • ¼ lb cheese
  • salt and pepper
Preparation
Slice the pads into small pieces and saute it in butter for about 5 minutes. Take a bowl, beat eggs and put cheese and the sauteed slices. Put this mixture in a pan and scramble it, add salt and pepper for taste. Similarly, an omelet can also be made. So, try both ways!

Pork Stew with Nopales

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds lean pork
  • 1 to 2 nopales pads
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 pound tomatoes
  • 3 jalapeno peppers
  • salt and pepper
Preparation
Take water in a pot, add salt and simmer pork for about 2 hours until it is tender. Chop nopales pads into small cubes and add to the pot after one and a half hour of simmering pork. Make a puree, by blending garlic, peppers and some water. Chop the tomatoes and put it in the pot, along with the puree. Add chicken stock and simmer for about 1 hour until tender, add salt and pepper for taste and serve hot.

Nopales Salad

Ingredients
  • 1 to 2 cactus pads
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 4 green chillies
Preparation
Chop the cactus pads into small pieces and boil it in water with salt and a halved onion until tender. Drain the pads from water and add chopped tomatoes, onions, chillies and salt. Let it cool in the refrigerator for a few hours, serve cold.

Grilled Nopales

Ingredients
  • 2 to 3 cactus pads
  • olive oil
  • lime juice
Preparation
Grill the pads over hot coal for about 10-15 minutes on each side until it is slightly brown. Slice the pad into small strips and add some lime juice and olive oil. You can also add grilled mushrooms to the mixture.

Prickly Pear Syrup

Ingredients
  • 5 pounds prickly pears
  • juice of 2 lemons/1 tablespoon citric acid
  • 3 cups of sugar
Preparation
Make a puree of the pears by blending it in a mixer. Drain the puree first through a fine sieve and then through a cheesecloth. Put this puree in a pot and add sugar. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Take it off heat and let it cool for about 15 minutes. Add lemon juice or citric acid slowly and keep tasting. Pour it in a jar and store in the refrigerator.

Prickly Pear Grilled Chicken Breasts

Ingredients
  • ¼ cup prickly pear syrup
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup crushed pineapple with the juice
Preparation
Combine all the ingredients, except the chicken, in a saucepan and bring it to boil on medium heat, while stirring continuously. Remove from heat and let the sauce cool. Take ½ cup of the sauce and add to the raw chicken breast, let it marinate for 2 hours. Grill the breast until cooked and add the remaining sauce, serve with rice.

Tortillas with Cactus and Cheese

Ingredients
  • 10 flour tortillas
  • 16 oz nopales
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 8 oz shredded cheese
  • adobo seasoning
Preparation
Season the nopales with adobo seasoning, according to your taste. Put cilantro, cheese and the seasoned nopales inside the tortillas. Cook tortillas on medium heat, until the cheese melts and serve hot.

Prickly Pear Smoothie

Ingredients
  • 1 cup apple/orange juice
  • ½ cup prickly pear juice
  • 1 cup frozen berries/banana
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
Preparation
Soak chia seeds in a mixture of orange juice and prickly pear juice for half an hour. Blend soaked chia seeds with all the other ingredients along with some ice cubes; this makes 2 large glasses.

Nopales Salsa

Ingredients
  • 1 lb cactus pads
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • ½ lb tomatillos
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • ½ tablespoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro
Preparation
Grill the cactus pads, on each side for about 7 minutes and slice it. In a baking dish, take tomatillos, garlic and cubed onions and cook in an oven for about 20-25 minutes at 450ºF. Roast the poblano peppers on a grill, peel and remove the seed. Put all ingredients with a little water in a blender and mix it. Serve chilled with tacos, nachos, burritos and other Mexican dishes.

In addition to the above mentioned recipes, you can simply boil the pads, season it with butter and eat it. They can also be added to soups and salads, they make an unusual and tasty side dish. As we saw, for someone new to cactus, it is extremely easy to prepare. Try some of these recipes or add them to your favorite food and create your own dishes.
Prickly Pear Drink Recipe
Grilled Nopales
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