Ensalada de Nopalitos Recipe from Mexico

Ensalada de Nopalitos

Ensalada de Nopalitos Recipe from Mexico
Region / culture: Mexico | Preparation time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 0 minutes | Servings: 4


Ensalada de Nopalitos
Ensalada de Nopalitos

Ensalada de Nopalitos, or Cactus Salad, is a traditional Mexican dish that is both delicious and nutritious. This refreshing salad is made with tender cactus paddles, also known as nopalitos, combined with fresh tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, all tossed in a tangy dressing.


Nopalitos have been a staple in Mexican cuisine for centuries, dating back to the time of the Aztecs. The prickly pear cactus, from which nopalitos are harvested, is not only a versatile ingredient but also a highly nutritious one. Ensalada de Nopalitos is a popular way to enjoy this unique ingredient in a simple and flavorful dish.


How to prepare

  1. Place the cactus, tomatoes, onion, and cilantro in a glass or plastic bowl.
  2. Shake the remaining ingredients in a tightly covered jar.
  3. Pour the mixture over the vegetables and toss them together.
  4. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours.
  5. Serve the dish on lettuce leaves if desired.


  • For a spicy kick, add chopped jalapenos or serrano peppers to the salad. You can also add avocado slices or black beans for extra flavor and protein.

Cooking Tips & Tricks

When preparing nopalitos, it is important to remove the thorns and tough outer skin before cooking. To do this, use a sharp knife to carefully trim the edges and peel away the outer layer. Be sure to cook the nopalitos until they are tender but still slightly firm, as overcooking can make them mushy.

Serving Suggestions

Ensalada de Nopalitos can be served as a side dish or as a light and refreshing main course. It pairs well with grilled meats, seafood, or as a topping for tacos or tostadas.

Cooking Techniques

When cooking the nopalitos, be sure to blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes before adding them to the salad. This will help remove any bitterness and make them more tender.

Ingredient Substitutions

If you can't find fresh nopalitos, you can use canned or jarred nopalitos instead. Just be sure to rinse them well before using to remove any excess salt or brine.

Make Ahead Tips

Ensalada de Nopalitos can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Just be sure to toss the salad again before serving to redistribute the dressing.

Presentation Ideas

Serve Ensalada de Nopalitos on a bed of lettuce leaves for a beautiful presentation. Garnish with extra cilantro or a sprinkle of queso fresco for added color and flavor.

Pairing Recommendations

This salad pairs well with a crisp white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc or a dry Riesling. For a non-alcoholic option, try serving it with a hibiscus agua fresca or a refreshing cucumber limeade.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Leftover Ensalada de Nopalitos can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. To reheat, simply let the salad come to room temperature before serving.

Nutrition Information

Calories per serving

Each serving of Ensalada de Nopalitos contains approximately 150 calories.


Each serving of Ensalada de Nopalitos contains approximately 10 grams of carbohydrates.


Each serving of Ensalada de Nopalitos contains approximately 9 grams of fats.


Each serving of Ensalada de Nopalitos contains approximately 2 grams of proteins.

Vitamins and minerals

Nopalitos are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.


This recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free. However, if you have a sensitivity to cactus or any of the other ingredients, please proceed with caution.


Ensalada de Nopalitos is a low-calorie, nutrient-dense dish that is packed with vitamins and minerals. It is a healthy and delicious addition to any meal.


Ensalada de Nopalitos is a delicious and nutritious dish that celebrates the flavors of Mexico. With its vibrant colors and fresh ingredients, this salad is sure to be a hit at your next meal. Enjoy!

How did I get this recipe?

I remember the thrill of stumbling upon this recipe for Ensalada de Nopalitos. It was many years ago when I was a young girl, still learning the ins and outs of cooking from my own grandmother. We lived in a small village in Mexico, where fresh ingredients were plentiful and cooking was a way of life.

One day, my grandmother took me out to the fields to gather nopalitos, the tender young pads of the prickly pear cactus. She showed me how to carefully harvest them, being careful not to get pricked by the tiny spines that covered the pads. We brought our bounty back to the kitchen, where my grandmother taught me how to clean and prepare the nopalitos for cooking.

As we worked, she told me stories of how she had learned to make this dish from her own mother, who had learned it from her mother before her. The recipe had been passed down through the generations, each woman adding her own touch to make it unique. My grandmother told me that the key to a good Ensalada de Nopalitos was to balance the tangy flavor of the cactus with the sweetness of the tomatoes and the heat of the chilies.

I watched as my grandmother chopped and diced, adding each ingredient with a practiced hand. She seasoned the salad with a generous squeeze of lime juice, a sprinkle of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. Finally, she tossed it all together and presented me with a bowl of the finished dish. The vibrant colors and fresh flavors were a feast for the senses, and I eagerly dug in.

From that day on, Ensalada de Nopalitos became a staple in our household. My grandmother made it for special occasions, family gatherings, and even just for a simple weekday lunch. She taught me the recipe, passing on the tradition that had been handed down to her.

Over the years, I have made this dish countless times, each time feeling a connection to my grandmother and the generations of women who came before us. I have added my own twists and variations, experimenting with different ingredients and flavors to make it my own.

But no matter how I change the recipe, the essence of Ensalada de Nopalitos remains the same. It is a dish that is deeply rooted in tradition, a reminder of the strong bonds that connect us to our past and our heritage.

As I sit here now, preparing this dish for my own family, I am grateful for the lessons my grandmother taught me and the recipes she shared. The aroma of the nopalitos cooking on the stove fills the air, and I am transported back to that day in the fields with my grandmother, learning the secrets of a dish that has become a cherished part of my culinary repertoire.

I smile as I take a bite of the finished Ensalada de Nopalitos, savoring the flavors and the memories it evokes. And as I pass on the recipe to the next generation, I know that I am continuing a tradition that will endure for years to come.


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