Mexican Food: Cactus (Nopales)

When I recently wrote about my day trip from Queretaro to Bernal, I got a lot of interest about cactus as food. So here is a post dedicated to nopal! There are over 600 varieties of cactus in Mexico and the prickly pear cactus is commonly known as nopal which is eaten. The Mexican flag even features the prickly pear cactus!

It can be prepared as a side salad, mixed into a meal, sprinkled onto of tacos, turned into jam, juice, tea and even stuffed. During my trip to Mexico, I had it as side salad, on top of tlayuda and even tried chocolate with nopales in it (from Xocola-t Boutique in Guanajuato). I’m sure you will come across nopales at some point on your trip in Mexico.

nopal relleno

We had spotted it being stuffed as above roasting and I also saw the paddles being sold at the markets.

To see how it is prepared from cactus to bowl of food- I have found a lovely video from the channel De Mi Rancho A Tu Cocina below (all in Spanish but still great to watch).

Nopales also boosts some great health benefits which include:
– lowering cholesterol
– regulating blood sugar
– contains antioxidants
– anti inflammatory
– high amount of fibre
– can be used to treat wounds, bites and cuts.

The humble cactus has now transcended to not only being eaten but could perhaps pave the way to a sustainable future. Researchers at the University of Valle de Atemajac in Zapopan, Mexico have used nopal cactus as a raw material to make non-toxic and biodegradable plastic.

A Mexican company called Desserto is turning nopal cactus into vegan leather. Cactus paddles are cut, mashed and dried before non toxic chemicals are added and this vegan leather can be used to make bags, shoes and furniture.

Would you try it? Have you tried and what is your favourite way of eating it? What do you think of the humble cactus now?

Other Mexico related posts you might like:

Like trying new foods on your trips? Click here to read more.

12 thoughts on “Mexican Food: Cactus (Nopales)

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      1. We love to try food of the region wherever we go. We loved grasshoppers but did get a bit fed up with the sloppy black beans. We were luck to be invited to dinner by our neighbours in Puerto Escondido and we given crispy ants and a crushed beetle dip, all beautifully cooked 😋

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