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Sauteed Nopales

Paddles from the nopal cactus, called nopales, make a delicious taco filling.

  • Yield: Makes about 3 1/2 cups

Source: Martha Stewart Living, August/September 1992


  • 2 1/4 pounds cactus paddles
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 serrano chiles, chopped
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped


  1. If cactus paddles still have thorns, grasp with a gloved hand or pair of tongs and shave with a sharp knife (be sure to peel just the thorns). Rinse under cold water.

  2. To cut nopales, hold paddle in your hand and shave off 2-inch-long slivers with a knife, turning paddle every few cuts so that pieces remain uniform.

  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add nopales and half of the chopped onions. Boil briskly for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse in 2 changes of cold water.

  4. In a large saute pan over medium heat, cook remaining onion with the garlic in the oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add nopales, tomatoes, and chiles, season with salt, and cook for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle in cilantro and remove from heat. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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