After gazing at a mound of de-spined cactus pads in the Produce
Department or glancing curiously at bags and jars that say
"nopalitos," you may have wondered, How on earth are you
supposed to cook that?
Very carefully; after all, it's cactus! Just
kidding. Actually, nopales, the edible leaves of the
prickly pear cactus, are surprisingly easy to prepare once you know
how to do two things: de-spine them (usually already done for you)
and de-"slime" them. Although the cactus' slime supposedly has
beneficial medicinal properties, it's aesthetically unappealing --
par for the course when it comes to any kind of slime. Ewww,
Don't be deterred! Nopalitos are a traditional part of Mexican
cuisine for a good reason. They're incredibly versatile, as
splendid with scrambled eggs for breakfast as with cotija
or feta cheese in a salad.
Although we offer (de-spined) nopales in their entirety to please
old-school cooks who prefer to slice 'n' prep the cactus pads
themselves, there are more convenient alternatives, too: The
pre-cut/bagged nopalitos in the Produce Department and the jarred
variety in the grocery aisles provide time-saving shortcuts that
take you straight to the prep stage.
The prep work... The most challenging aspect of handling nopalitos
is slime removal. Fortunately, the solutions are simple: First,
rinse them thoroughly with cold water, and then toss them with a
wee bit of an acidic food, i.e., a splash of lemon or vinegar or
chopped tomatoes. (A useful side note: You can take similar steps
to de-slime okra.)
Is the gunk gone? If so, do your happy dance, 'cause you're almost
done! The nopalitos are now ready for use in your favorite
Don't have a favorite nopalitos recipe yet? Travel the pages of our
and learn to do a classic Mexican nopalitos salad, or perhaps
something more contemporary, such as a nopalito quiche.
Have your cactus and eat it, too. Enjoy!