I decided recently to challenge myself and make a dish I have been intimidated in the past to make. However, I really didn’t know what to do or where to start. It wasn’t until recently, when I started cleaning out the food pantry that I found an old recipe book that I received many, many years ago. This recipe book was hand written and contained recipes from my grandmother, godmother, mother and mother-in-law. I decided this would be the perfect cookbook to choose from! So I chose my first intimidating dish to make and after a couple of times making it, I decided to share the recipe with you! So here we go, read along and watch the video if you want to learn how to make cactus (nopales). 🌵🌵🌵

Nopales was always something I saw on the menu when I would go to Mexican restaurants, but I was always intimidated to order it. I would always think to myself, “wow, I’ve seen this growing in the middle of nowhere, that can’t taste good. Who on earth would eat that?” I would always picture the old western movies with a cowboy so thirsty that he cuts open a cactus to drink the water inside. Never, ever did I see anyone ever in any movie prep and cook cactus leaves!

After one day of finally deciding just to be adventurous and give it a try, I ordered it. When it came out and it was time for me to try it…..it was actually really good!! It was a side dish and it was sautéed beautifully! It was at that point that I became interested, and realized that I had spent so much time being afraid of nothing.  So here you go, this is how I make nopales at home. 🌵☺️🌵


You can find cactus (nopales) leaves at many Mexican grocery stores. I actually found mine at our local Wal Mart in the produce section.

Cactus (Nopales) Recipe

PrepTime: 20 minutes. CookTime: 27-30 minutes

This cactus (nopales) recipe is a keeper! Easy way to prepare and sauté  cactus leaves. Can be served with diced sautéed onions and minced garlic. 4 leaves were used in this recipe and made enough for dinner and leftovers.

Author: Life of a Cherry Wife

Cost of Side Dish: Under $5

Skill Level: Medium

Serving: Serves 4-6


1. Set up your prep station. You will need a knife, preferably a paper plate (for easy clean up) and a disposable plastic bag.

2. Place cactus leaf on a paper plate and place the paper plate within the plastic bag. This is to catch all the cactus thorns as you scape them off as well as the cactus leaf edges and base you will cut (about a half inch).

3. Using your knife, begin to scrape the cactus leaf thorns twoards the inside of the plastic bag. Take off the brown spots as well, trim the edge of the cactus leaf and the base of the cactus about a half inch. (You may refer to video if you like).

4. Rinse cactus leaf in running water. Make sure to feel and inspect the leaf all over or misse spots or thorns. Leaf should be smooth to the touch. It may appear slightly slimy, this is normal.  You may also toss your paper plate and plastic bag after completing this step.

5. Slice leaf into strips, then slice strips into bite sized pieces. (The texture of a cactus leaf is slimy, this is normal.)

6. (Optional step) In a skillet, sauté diced onion and minced garlic in extra virgin olive oil.

7. In a med/large pot, fill water to about 2/3 full. Add sliced cactus (nopal). There should be enough water to see the pieces floating. Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to water. This helps tenderize cactus. You may also add a chunk of onion, garlic or even cilantro for added flavor.

8.  Boil for 20 minutes on a medium/medium high heat. Cactus will change color from a bright green to a dark green.

9. Drain cactus in strainer and rinse with cold water.

10. Add cactus to skillet with onion and garlic (if you did Step 6) and add salt, pepper and a pinch of paprika to taste.


* Cactus (nopales) are  great compliment side dish along with refried beans or Mexican rice.