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Nopales (Cactus leaves)

Photo of cactus leaves
Photo of cactus leaves laying on a shelf
Photo of cooked nopales
Photo credits (left to right): Photo credits (top to bottom): Flickr: emdot; Flickr: katiebordner; Flickr: jlastras

Foods Included

Cactus leaves


Nopales is the term used for edible cactus leaves that come from prickly pear cactus. It is typically an ingredient in Mexican cuisine. Nopales are very nutritious and have a lot of fiber.

Buy It

  • Choose cactus leaves that have thick, even leaves.
  • Look for solid leaves with no soft, cracked, wrinkles or bruised spots.
  • Choose cactus leaves that are medium to dark green.
  • Avoid thin, wilted leaves since this means they are old.

Store It

  • Edible cactus can be refrigerated for more than a week if wrapped tightly in plastic.

Cook It

  • Use kitchen tongs or gloves to hold the cactus leaves. Place them on a cutting board and scrape the spines off using a sharp knife to clean them.
  • Trim the edges and rinse the paddles. Cut the paddles into small strips.
  • Put the strips into a medium sized pot with 4 quarts of water to boil for 15-18 minutes. Watch the pot as it tends to foam and boil over.
  • Once done cooking, drain them and use them in salads, egg scrambles, stews, or anything else you can imagine!

Why It's Great

  • Fiber helps with healthy digestion and keeps us feeling full.  Eating enough fiber has been shown to keep our hearts healthy too.
  • Vitamin A keeps our eyes working, our immune system strong, and our cells growing.
  • Vitamin C keeps our immune system strong and helps our bodies heal quickly.
  • Potassium, a type of electrolyte, helps build muscle and keeps your heart healthy.
  • Magnesium helps with muscle function and energy production.
  • Manganese helps to keep our bones and nervous system healthy.

Try It

Fresh Cactus Leaves
Roasted Corn, Pepper, and Nopales Salsa
30 mins
Cactus Salad
15 mins
Eggs with Nopales
40 mins
Chicken and Vegetables with Mole Sauce
1 hr 5 mins

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