Cactus Paddles or Nopales: Cleaning and Cooking

Cleaning and cooking nopales can seem challenging if you are not familiar with the ingredient. Truth is, cleaning them, can be a bit daunting at first. That’s why I CANNOT wait for cleaned and diced fresh nopales to be readily available in grocery stores here in the US, just like they are in Mexico. But while that happens, let me give you some tricks.

First, to choose them, you want paddles that are bright green and although soft, not limp. The smaller the paddle the more tender it will be, but large ones are delicious too.

How to Clean Cactus Paddles 1

To clean them, if it’s your first time, you may want to use plastic gloves. Rinse under cold water being careful with the thorns. Nopales are persnickety, their thorns are almost invisible, but a good clue is that wherever there is a bump there may be a thorn. Then, using a vegetable peeler or small sharp knife, pretty much as if they were asparagus, peel away the bumps and thorns, you may want to lean the nopales against a chopping board, and then rinse again. No need to peel off all of the outer dark green skin, in fact, try to keep as much as you can.

How to Clean Cactus Paddles  2

Lay the paddle flat on a chopping board and trim about ¼ inch off the edges and about ½ inch of the thick base. Then slice in any shape or size, or keep it whole if it will be grilled or asada or used as a mounting base. I usually cut them into little squares and rectangles as I mostly use them for salads and soups.

As for how to cook them, there are many ways. A main concern for newcomers is how to get rid of that gelatinous liquid they exude as they cook. Variations go from cooking them in salted water to adding elements that supposedly help, like tomatillo husks, scallion tops, baking soda and even a copper coin. Whichever way you boil them, once cooked you have to drain and rinse them many times.

My favorite way to cook them, aside from grilling them, is to sear them in a skillet with a bit of oil for a few minutes and then let them cook covered until all of that liquid comes out, then uncover until all that liquid cooks off. Pretty much like cooking mushrooms. Not only does it work, but it also adds a nice seared flavor with merely any oil and you don’t have to drain and rinse many times. See below for precise directions, and give it a go!

Basic Cooking for Cactus Paddles

Recipe Yield

Cooking time

32 minutes

Rate this recipe

4 from 8 votes


  • 2 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
  • 3 pounds nopales rinsed, cleaned and diced
  • Kosher or sea salt to taste

To Prepare

  • Rinse the fresh cactus paddles under cold water, being careful not to prick your fingers with the small thorns on its surface. Using a vegetable peeler or small sharp knife, peel away the darker bumps where thorns grow, as well as the thorns, trying not to peel off all the outer dark green skin.
  • Lay the paddles flat on a chopping board, then trim around approximately 1/4 inch of the edges and 1/2 inch of the thick base. Once cleaned, rinse and dice into 1/2 to 1 inch-sized squares, to your liking.
  • Heat the oil in a thick, large-sized skillet (one that has a lid, since we will need it later on) over medium-high heat. Add the diced cactus, stir in the salt and stir for a minute or two. Place the lid on the skillet.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and let the cactus cook and sweat for about 20 minutes, until it has exuded a gelatinous liquid that will begin to dry out. Take the lid off the skillet, stir and make sure most of that gelatinous substance has dried up. If it hasn’t, let the cactus cook for a few more minutes until it does. Let the cactus cool and they are ready to go in a thousand directions including inside of a tortilla.


204comments inCactus Paddles or Nopales: Cleaning and Cooking

  1. Anonymous

    Apr 18

    Thanks. But do I eat it by itself…?

    1. Pati Jinich

      Apr 24

      You could but better if you make some salad or a tostada or make them in salsa! Check out these recipes for some inspo:

  2. Daniel Cham

    Apr 13

    I just cleaned the nopales and sliced them. I then boiled them in a stock made of onions ,celery and garlic for 15 minutes. The stock is saved to use for soup ,later on.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Apr 15

      Great job!

  3. Mulugeta

    Dec 18

    Dear Pati,
    I tried the cactus paddles for the first time , I never had cactus paddle food before … I like it how ever, I feel a jelly taste like ochra which I dot like . So how can I get rid of that taste ?
    I like your cooking and to learn more !
    Thanks !

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 20

      Clean your nopales perfectly, wash and rinse and then boil them until they are cooked and tender 😉

  4. Lin

    Oct 21

    If you’re using fresh cactus pads and get the tiny spines in your fingers, you can press duct tape on your skin and then pull it off and it will pull out the spines!
    Thanks for this recipe. Can’t wait to try it.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Nov 02

      Wow, such a great tip Lin, thanks for sharing!

  5. Kathleen Long

    Jun 10

    The only Nopales I could ever find in a store was the pickled kind, but I cannot do vinegar. Today I found them pre-chopped in a bag in ALDI! I decided I really needed to find out how to cook them.

    Your recipe is so simple, I knew it would work for me. I am preparing some right now ahead of a feast tomorrow (all ingredients from – guess where – ALDI!

    Edit: So YUMMMMY!!!!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Nov 25

      So glad you found them Kathleen, nopales are yummy and here in the website I have some recipes for you 😉

  6. Kerry Lara

    Mar 11

    My mother n law always had nopales, would watch her cooking them when I first married her son, now I cook and grow them.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Mar 13

      Yay, I love Nopales!

  7. Andrea Bisbee-Akin

    May 20

    My husband and I moved to Tombstone AZ a few.months ago and have access to prickly pear cactus. How do I harvest a few pads without hurting the beautiful cactus? Can’t wait to grill some nopales, mix with other veggies and put over polenta! Love your show!

    1. Pati Jinich

      May 25

      Here a bit more information about Cactus Andrea, I hope it is useful!

  8. Liza Mahn

    May 03

    Thank you for sharing the how to clean and cook the nopales information. I used to watch my grandma clean and cook the cactus that came from her yard. After cleaning, cubing, and cooking them in oil, she then added well beaten eggs. I’ve never made them but hope to try sometime. Thank you, Pati!

    1. Pati Jinich

      May 17

      So happy you found this information useful Liza!

  9. Benjamin David Medina

    Sep 16

    People have asked me, why nopales? “Si semper vivo” I respond .

    1. Pati Jinich

      Oct 03

      Aw! I love Nopales as well Benjamin, un abrazo!

  10. Leticia Pescador

    Sep 05

    I’ve learned that if you cook the nopales in the open flame they taste more delicious, and most of all the technique gets rid of the slime.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Sep 27

      Great tip Leticia, thanks for sharing!

  11. Old Texan

    Jul 12

    Here in Texas there are thornless nopales. Developed in the 1930s as cattle feed. They are planted as decorative plants and people don’t know they are edible.
    There may be a few small stickers, but just pass them over a flame for a few seconds and they are ready to trim,wash and use.
    There are two kinds, one for the nopales and one for the tunas, or pears. The nopales kind makes pretty yellow flowers, but the tunas usually shrivel up and drop off.
    There is not much gelalataneous juice, no worse than boiled okra. Sometimes I just boil the nopales and butter them a bit.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 25

      Oh wow, thanks for sharing about these Nopales!

  12. Gail L

    Jul 10

    Just wanna say thanks for the recipe it is easy and I am playing the cactus

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 21

      Awesome Gail, thanks for letting me know, have fun!

  13. Rachael Fleet, Reno, NV

    Jun 14

    Seeing fresh diced nopales in a local grocery, I brought them home hoping to find a recipe on Patti’s website as I
    knew it would be the best I could find. I am about to go for it! Looking forward to getting past the mucous-y liquid.
    Wish I had the guajillo Chile’s on hand, but here goes w just no liquid, fresh corn & MAYBE fresh mushrooms, + carmelized onion….over Sourdough toast, a sort of Mexican Mufelleta..

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 15

      That is a great idea Rachael, I hope you enjoy this and many other ways to cook with nopales 🙂

  14. Guille

    May 09

    I love nopales!

    1. Pati Jinich

      May 10

      So do I Guille, enjoy!

  15. Holalaaa Treasure

    Mar 09

    Exceptional people create Exceptional experience

    1. Pati Jinich

      Mar 20


  16. angie

    Dec 23

    you cooked a recipe of potato cheese soup Sonora style, where can I find your recipe? thank you

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 24

  17. Monica James

    Dec 06

    I fell in love with nopales at a restaurant near my church named Los Gallitas. Since I don’t eat meat and I can only eat beans sparingly, I started ordering my gorditas with nopales. Then I wanted to try cactus in (or with) everything from tacos, to eggs, to enchiladas, etc. So I decided to learn how to cook them. You made it easy and tasty. I like anything grilled so I did the whole paddles then chopped them. I use spices from all over the world. The possibilities are endless!
    Thank you Pati❣

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 09

      Si Monica, nopales are incredibly versatile and delicious, enjoy!

  18. Mary

    Sep 30

    We have like this in our area (cactus paddles).. and I never knew this could be eaten! I will try this soon.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Oct 04

      You are going to love them Mary, believe me 😉

  19. Lonnie Snodgrass

    Jul 04

    OK, We are trying nopales by ourselves for the first time. We gave a friend that is a great cook that prepared it for us. But, we found the prickly pear growing on our land and harvested some this morning and are cooking it tonight July 4th. We have a hobby farm and are learning to grow lot of what we eat. Love your show.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 05

      Love to hear this Lonnie! Once you get the hang with Nopales, you are going to want to have them everyday 😉 So, how did you cook them for last night?

  20. Rose Geck

    Jul 02

    Thank you for this step by step how to!! I’m giving it a go.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 04

      Yay! Thanks so much Rose, enjoy!

  21. Judy Wahlers

    Jun 25

    Hi Pati,
    So glad Phoenix area has been showing your programs. I LOVE the episodes in Mexico so we can see how
    fabulous the food is there. Sprouts happened to have nopales the other day, so I got a small one to try.
    Thank you for all the helpful information you had about prepping them and using them. I find your website
    the easiest to use and easiest to print recipes from of the several I chose from.
    You bring such joy watching you on Saturdays, that it makes me happy and excited to try the wonderful
    dishes you present. It’s precious to see your sons enjoying the fabulous food you fix.
    Keep showing us the wonderful creativity in the various areas of Mexico. It helps dispel the myths.
    Some one gave me a heart shaped pad a few months ago and it now has two more. Can’t wait to use my own
    nopales. Many Blessing, Judy

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 27

      Judy! I am so glad to read you are enjoying nopales, it is truly a delicious and healthy super food. There are many recipes for them here on the website, hopefully you will try some when your own nopales are ready, enjoy!

  22. Alisa

    Jun 03

    Hello Pati,
    Im curious. I have nice fresh cleaned cactus paddles from my yard. If I want to freeze them, should I boil them first?

    Thank YOU!!!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 08

      Hi Alisa, I am so jealous you get nopales from your yard! I don’t know how good they handle freezing, but if you want to preserve them for a longer time, you can definitely pickle them and then use them for salads like this one or for some tostadas Have fun!

    2. Elle

      Aug 11

      Boil for one minute then submerge in ice cold water then they are fit for freezing

  23. Lynell BERRY

    May 28

    This is texas I can get lots of cactus everywhere I look

    1. Pati Jinich

      May 28

      Lucky you Lynell 🙂

  24. Kay

    May 17

    I can’t get any fresh cactus paddles, nor grow any tomatillos right now.
    Can you recommend a good canned brand for some of these?

    1. Pati Jinich

      May 20

      Hi Kay, look for La Costena and you won’t regret it. They have Nopalitos Tender Cactus, which come in a jar and are really good. They also sell green tomatillos in cans. Enjoy!

  25. Donnalu

    May 07

    While looking at a prickly pear on the property and desperate for a fresh vegetable during quarantine, I remembered watching you do a show with Nopales. I am going to attempt it and was hoping and so happy to see that you had a web page on how to prepare it! Thank you! Will go on to look for recipes. Thanks

    1. Pati Jinich

      May 11

      Yay Donnalu, so glad you found that blog post on nopales, you are going to love them! Check here on the site the recipes for Nopalitos Salad, Cactus Paddle Tostada and more!

  26. Marie C

    Apr 28

    I was given some prepared fresh nopales paddles that were boiled…I’ve used some that I cut into strips & I sautéd w/onions and cooked in with scrambled eggs & into tacos…I have a few left….how long will they keep in fridge and also can I freeze for later use?

    1. Pati Jinich

      May 13

      Oooh Nopales and eggs is a great combination Marie, good job! Of course you can freeze the nopales, try to use them within a month 😉

  27. Isabel

    Oct 18

    Why is the slime not desired ? Is it bad for you? My mom’s from Mexico City and the way she learned to cook it was to leave it slimy and use little or no water. I’ve made it that way too, but all online say drain the slime. To me it seems it will be all dry and less natural flavor.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Oct 19

      Oh some people just don’t like the texture…but if you do, go for it, Isabel!

  28. danny r ohaver

    Oct 15

    Thank you for the information on napilatos. Love your show. If you do a show on crab enchiladas I would like to know. Sometimes it’s hard to get the perfect taste with crab and try to keep it authentic.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Oct 16

      Oh I have a recipe in my book, Mexican Today, and here’s a video, Danny:

  29. Lillian Garcia

    Feb 04

    I love Patti Mexican Table cooking show.
    Lillian Garcia
    Mesquite, TX

    1. Pati

      Feb 05

      Oh thank you so much Lillian!

  30. Gayle

    Dec 03

    I stopped at the little tienda in my neighborhood. They had cactus paddles, but all the skin was peeled off. Should I buy them? Had to come home a search info about the cactus. Seems like they peeled them too much.

    1. Pati

      Dec 17

      It sounds like they cleaned them for you, that is good!

  31. nadine m lara

    Nov 16

    Hello Chef! have you ever blanched them? Chill and toss with vinegar and herbs?

    1. Pati

      Nov 24

      I have! I think you’ll like Nopalitos Salad, Nadine: my

  32. Rosa F.

    Oct 26

    This is the best ever method of cooking Nopales! Thank you!

    1. Pati

      Oct 29

      Yay! Thank you Rosa.

  33. Tony

    Oct 16

    How do you take the sourness away? I was making cactus fries with cactus leafs or nopales,or paddle cactus. Wanted to take the sourness away or at least most .anybody know?

    1. Pati

      Oct 29

      Did you use fresh nopales or canned or bottled ones, Tony? The ones that are preserved are lightly pickled. Fresh ones do have a bit of a tart taste, but I love it! To find the paddles that will be the least tart, make sure that the nopales are fresh and don’t have any dark spots on the surface.

  34. Greg V.

    Sep 05

    I’m fortunate that here in California cleaned and diced fresh nopales are readily available and many grocery stores during the summer and can be found at Mexican markets like Fiesta and Vallarta almost year round.
    I like to cook mine like you do but add garlic, chile powder and diced Spanish onion. Yum.

    1. Pati

      Sep 10

      Sounds super yum, Greg!

  35. Kelly

    May 29

    Can I dice and freeze them, and then use them whenever I want? I want to use it for smoothie, but I need a way to store it if I can’t use it all.

    1. Pati

      Jun 01

      Absolutely! And then when you make your smoothie you can throw them in directly from the freezer.

  36. Beverly F

    May 06

    I want to make a Yugo Verde power drink using nopales. I’ve never worked with them at all. Would I clean them, chop, and put into the juicer or blender – or do I have to cook or soak them first?

    1. Pati

      May 15

      If you are using them for a smoothie, you can puree the cactus raw. I like to make a cactus smoothie with orange juice, parsley, and celery…enjoy your Yugo Verde, Beverly!

  37. Lei

    May 04

    Thank you for sharing how to clean them. Did exactly as you said as far as rinsing many times…made a cactus salsa. Beautiful and delicious.

    1. Pati

      May 04

      Awesome! Thanks for sharing Lei.

  38. Rudy cardona.

    Apr 17

    Im devorced and i love nopales so its all ways good to know how to cook them . U can make cactus salads out of them also so ,good!

    1. Pati

      Apr 18

      Nopales salads are so good…Have you tried my cactus tostadas, Rudy? I think you’ll like them:

  39. cathy

    Apr 13

    This helped a lot. Mom’s 88 and she’s forgotten how she used to make nopales. She helped me cut some paddles off our plant and I cleaned and diced them. Using your cooking instructions I cooked my first batch of nopales. Mom loved them and I even ate some. Thank you.

    1. Pati

      Apr 16

      Oh I’m so glad it was helpful, and I’m so happy your mom loved them.

  40. Mary

    Jan 11

    Hi, I love making your food. I saw you make a grilled corn and cactus leaf salad, I remember most of it. Could you please share it. It looks so yummy. Thank you.

  41. Herman

    Jan 11

    ooh thanks a lot, little did I know about how healthier usefulness this plant could be.

    1. Pati

      Jan 11


  42. Liz

    Jan 10

    Can I add the cleaned and diced fresh nopales to hot water, wait for then to cool then drink the water?

    1. Pati

      Jan 15

      Yes you can drink the water for sure…but I don’t know how much you are going to like it!

  43. Esmeralda Garcia

    Nov 09

    “Cactus Paddles or Nopales” I tried it and I was surprised because I only knew how boiling it. Thank you for your help.

    1. Pati

      Nov 10

      I’m so glad I could be of help, Esmeralda!

  44. Melissa

    Sep 20

    I just cooked some and they turned out flavorfully crispy yummy! I will be adding them to eggs in the morning…yum!!!

    1. Pati

      Sep 20

      That’s a great breakfast!

  45. Melba

    Sep 17

    after cooking the nopales we add beaten eggs to the skillet, cook then serve in tortillas. yum!

    1. Pati

      Sep 19


  46. Merlene

    Aug 16

    Hi Pati,
    Never knew it could be eaten I’m from the island of Jamaica where this thing grow wild,
    We use it for a different reason we used it as conditioner for our hair and also soak in water over night drink it for cleansing our intestines I’m having it now as my drinking water for the day

    1. Pati

      Aug 16

      Oh yes! Cactus is delicious…

  47. JJM

    Jul 02

    You can get a self-lighting blowtorch at Home Depot for around $30 and use it to burn off the tiny, persnickety thorns. You can burn them off before you cut them off the cactus or you can cut them off the cactus and burn the tiny thorns off in the comfort of your kitchen. Flip a cookie sheet or metal baking pan over (so there is an air gap protecting your counter top from getting burned.) Put the nopal on the cookie sheet and hit both sides quickly but thoroughly “against the grain” so the green, fleshy nub doesn’t protect the thorn from the flame.

    Now you can rinse and trim without worry!

    1. Pati

      Jul 06

      I like using a peeler…

  48. Jim in So. Cal

    Jun 11

    Thank you Pati, lightly frying Nopales delivers the best taste. I told my mother from Mexico she was amazed, boiling was her only method. Once finished you have so many options, but Nopales salad with queso fresco, is my first choice, my friends ask if I was angry when I make the salad, because I use so many Serrano’s love your show, it’s the only one I record.

    1. Pati

      Jun 12

      Oh thank you so much for tuning in Jim!

  49. Frank

    Apr 25

    Can you eat it raw?

    1. Pati

      Apr 27

      You can eat it raw, but in Mexico we always puree it if it is raw. We make a smoothie with orange juice, parsley, celery, and cactus…it’s delicious!

  50. Erica Mireles

    Apr 13

    Pati, Right now I am cooking nopales this way…I was so desperately looking for this post (like SOS), since I want to keep all of the properties without rinsing the slimy stuff (baba). Thank you!!

    1. Pati

      Apr 21


  51. Mary Gonzalez

    Mar 14

    I love nopales but am weary of the thorns getting on my fingers since they are hard to pick out. But I eat them anytime I can

    1. Pati

      Mar 16

      Mary those thorns are very persnickety….but they are so delicious!

  52. Carmel Sayre

    Feb 10

    my grandmother was from Mexico City or actually Dolores Hiladgo, she loved nopales and cooked them for us with eggs and with chili for my parents. to this day my mother loves them with eggs and my brother in law mixes them with tamales for breakfast….

    1. Pati

      Feb 13

      Carmel, thank you so much for sharing your story. Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful cook!

  53. lucille

    Dec 22

    Can you freeze cactus leaves

    1. Pati

      Dec 23

      Better to cook and eat them!

    2. Taylor

      Oct 24

      I did that once. They turn into rubber and ooze like crazy when thawed. I would highly recommend cleaning and cooking them fresh.

  54. Craig M

    Nov 29

    Hola Pati ~ I will be in your neck of the woods for Christmas and would like to know where to find nopalitos to substitute them in a green bean casserole. Couldn’t find them last year at the Safeway etc.

    Also you are the BEST host of any cooking show! You are so intelligent, knowledgeable, and such a sweetheart. When they made cooking, and then television, they waited for you to complete the perfect combination!!! Your show is such a delight!

    Many Thanks — Keep up the good work

    Best Wishes and Love ~ Craig

    1. Pati

      Dec 01

      Wow, Craig! Thank you for such a lovely note!! You made my day. To find nopalitos in the DMV, try Panam Grocery on 14th St. NW. =)

  55. Jay D. Bush

    Nov 12

    Thank you for teaching an old dog, a few new tricks! I will check in again for more tasty num-nums, lol.

    1. Pati

      Nov 17

      Too funny!! Thank you for trying it!

  56. Monica

    Nov 02

    I want to eat them for the health benefits, so I don’t want to get rid of the gelatinous substance. But I don’t like eating slimy stuff either. Does anyone know if this method still preserves the health benefits? Even though it’s no longer slimy, maybe the mucilegenous properties are still there…?

    1. Pati

      Nov 08

      Absolutely Monica, it is still in there.

  57. Kjell

    Oct 16

    I’m curious if anyone has tried drying them out in a dehydrator just to see how they turn out.

    1. Pati

      Oct 17

      They turn out phenomenal.

  58. Jean

    Sep 15

    The inside of the paddles will have a thick, gelatinous substance(kinda like okra), but the outside of the paddles should not be slimy.

  59. helen

    Sep 14

    i got some cactus at the store- they were slimey- are they good

  60. Anne

    Aug 23

    Hi Pati,

    FYI My mole de olla was awesome! I was at Fiesta(grocery store in Texas) again today and found bags of beautiful pre cleaned and cut Nopales! They looked so good I had to buy them. I have had nopales before while eating out and they are IMO tastier than green beans! Do you think drying them out after cooking is the best/quickest way to go to eliminate the gel? Would adding some tomatillos be good flavor wise? I would love to have my husband become comfortable cooking different foods but its finding the best way to cook them. Even though he likes okra( talk about making gel!) he won’t try to cook the nopales. I must make them as yummy as possible to overcome his mental block to Nopales. Any additional hints!

    1. Pati

      Aug 31

      Hola Anne, I find cooking them in a saute pan is the best way to eliminate the gel, like I do in this post:

      Here is one of my favorite recipes for them:

  61. Francesca

    Aug 19

    Hello, thank you for this post. I like nopales. I actually give it to my family because of the gelatin. I try to drink it all or jot over cook it. It heals the lining of the gut. Doctors recommend it.

    1. Pati

      Aug 21

      Good to know! Thank you for the information!!

  62. Cristi

    Jul 27

    Why is it sour? I made it like you said and my Mexican boyfriend, who had a crush on you, even said it tasted like there was vinegar added. Is this normal? I’m trying to learn to cook like his mamsita. Please help!

    1. Pati

      Jul 28

      Hi Cristi, Did you use fresh nopales or canned or bottled ones? The ones that are preserved are lightly pickled. Fresh ones do have a bit of a tart taste, but I love it! You have to make sure that the nopales are fresh and don’t have any dark spots on the surface.

  63. Consuelo

    Jun 06

    Pati I loved you on PBS. I am from Montana and my husband is from Mexico. We decided to retire to northern Chiuahuah and I am loving it here. I am Mexican too but I was limited at the stores. Now, I am in heaven and learning all sort of things. I just learned about the nopal and was showen many of the methods to get rid of the gelatin stuff. Needless to say I do not cook it often but I do drink it. In my blender I mix 1/2 cup of store bought,diced nopal with an apple. I add enough liquid, ie water, or juice of my choice, blend

    to desired thickness. It is delicious . We drink this every morning before breakfast

    1. Pati

      Jun 08

      Hola Consuelo, Thank you for your note! My mother loves nopales in smoothies, too! Sounds delicious.

  64. Missy

    Apr 12

    Hola Pati,
    Soy una gringa, but I saw the cactus leaf at my local store and really wanted to find out what to with it. especially ’cause it was only 25 cents. It was worth trying. I made it this morning via your easy recipe and we had it in a soft taco (corn) with cheese and Del Taco sauce, our favorite. It was delicious. Thank you, or, gracias!

    1. Pati

      Apr 12

      So great to hear you gave it a try!

  65. Pat Buxton

    Feb 28

    What are other ways to eat the cactus? My husband ate it several years in Mexico he sad it was on the tables as salsa. I found it in a Mexican store bought it found your Webb sight and fixed it, the girl at the store told me to but it on eggs.

    1. Pati

      Mar 03

      Hola Pat, Maybe you’ll want to try these cactus paddle tostadas?

  66. Jean

    Feb 22

    I cook them like okra. It also has a gelatinous ‘slime’ that when you
    add flour to absorb it, is not a problem. I dice them, salt them, add enough flour to coat them,then a little corn meal to add some crunch. Fry them in a skillet just like you would okra.

    1. Pati

      Feb 23

      Thanks for sharing, Jean! Sounds tasty!!

  67. Crystal

    Jan 25

    How do u know when they are done cooking i am boiling them.

    1. Pati

      Feb 02

      Hi Crystal, Simmer them for about 10 minutes!

  68. fred

    Dec 11

    From our garden we obtain these right off our beachfront in the Philippines!

    1. Pati

      Dec 11


  69. Maryanne

    Oct 31

    hello…am a student in kenya doing a study on the nopal pads….in our country they grow in the dry areas and they are actually taken as i cant wait to go pick them and make a meal plus a lovely successful project

    1. Pati

      Nov 04

      I hope you enjoy them, Maryanne! Good luck with the project. Very interesting!!

  70. Therese Fish

    Aug 24

    Dear Pati,
    When my husband saw your email he insisted that I tell you we watch your show always and he loves your accent. We live in Central Texas so we can use all your recipes and tips. Love you and your family trips.

  71. Therese Fish

    Aug 23

    I use your method except I fry bacon,add the nopales and continue as you describe. Yummmm

    1. Pati

      Aug 24

      That sounds delicious!

  72. Caridad Colon

    Jul 26

    Please advise where I can buy nopal pads. I live in Miami florida
    Caridad co,on

    1. Pati

      Jul 26

      Please ask in your nearest Latino or international store, which sells fresh produce…

  73. Irene

    Jul 10

    Well, our neighbors’ cactus grew over the fence and was competing for space with our humongous tomatoes. The cactus reached out and stung my husband who doesn’t have pleasant feelings about cactus in the first place!! Anyway, he chopped off the offending ‘paddles’, with their fruits (which are still green and prickly) and now we have a huge garbage bag full off nopales. My question is: you describe them as ‘bright green’ and ours don’t seem as bright as the ones in your picture. Can we still use them? (my husband has diabetes – maybe, just maybe I could convince him to try some!!)

    1. Pati

      Jul 11

      Hi Irene, The kind we usually eat is called a “prickly pear” cactus. Maybe ask your neighbor what kind his is before eating?

  74. Sandra Rowe

    Apr 26

    Hello. I live in Andalucia, Southern Spain and this plants grows wild everywhere. Never knew you could cook the big what I call ‘leaves’ but I do know that the fruit if despiked, washed and then put in the fridge makes a wonderful thirst quenching ‘drink’. I know that the green leaves can be picked up from the roadside, and left in the sun to dry out when the flesh can be taken out and you are left with beautiful skelton lacy object to be used in your crafts.

    1. Pati

      Apr 26


  75. Nancy

    Apr 14

    Thank you for your recipes. Recently I decided to change my diet and serve nopales at least twice a week. I love to cook and cooked nopales per your recipe and added shrimp (season per your taste) with juice of two small limes. Let it cool. I filled wonton skins, fried them and served with salsa. Que Rico!!

    1. Pati

      Apr 16

      Thank you, Nancy! Sounds sooo delicious!!

  76. David

    Apr 08

    I renounced meat for Lent so I have been trying tons of new (to me) vegetables lately. Never tried nopales before but these guys did remind me a lot of okra, in more than just the goo, but also the slight sourness to them.

    So I searched for this a little late: after I just cooked up a bunch of pre-chopped nopales from HEB (Texas Grocer).

    This is what I did:

    Rinsed really well in a colander.

    Seared over medium high (just below smoke point) with EVOO.
    Reduced heat to medium low and added chopped red bell peppers.
    Covered, turned off heat and let sit for half and hour or so.

    Added raw green onions
    Added lime
    Added salt
    Added either chili powder or ground red or cheyenne pepper (not too sure which)

    Turned out pretty good!

    I think that the digestion part is true because I’m typing this from the toilet.

    1. Pati

      Apr 09


  77. The Gilded Sprout

    Mar 11

    Great information and you make it look so easy. I am in Mexico and living eating the cactus and so found your post fantastic!

    1. Pati

      Mar 11

      Thank you!!

    2. Pati

      Mar 11


  78. Rusty Park

    Mar 02

    Hi Jan,

    I freeze Nopales after parboiling for one minute, cooling and cutting into strips (or squares). I pat dry them to reduce moisture in the freezer bag or vacuum pak.

    You might find it fun to experiment to see how many different ways you can use Nopales. It can be used raw in many different salads. Cooked and cooled it can be used as substitute in any almost any kind of salad. It can easily be an added or substitute ingredient in cooked main course dishes.


    I have not tried, but expect it could even be made into a desert item with a little added honey or brown sugar.

    Always look for the tender pads from the younger plants. It grows wild in many parts of the US,and is cultivated in AZ and probably more places in the US.

  79. Nica Lee

    Mar 02

    I have always loved nopales, but never cooked it at home. I used your recipe for my first time cooking it. This was the best I’ve ever had!!! Over 30 years of eating it, and now I won’t want it any other way! Thank you so much!!! So easy!

    1. Pati

      Mar 02

      So glad you liked it, now it can be your home staple!

  80. Jan

    Mar 01

    Hey Pati, I go over to Mexico at least once a week while in South Texas for the winter months. I always see them selling cactus cut up in squares like the pic I saw in this article. Was always wondering how to prepare them. Someone said that cooking them as you have described, then adding garlic, raw tomatoes and raw onions makes a great salsa type meal. Does this sound like something I should try? Or do you have a better suggestion along these lines? Also, if I find I really like them, is there a way to preserve them, such as freezing so I can have them during the summer months when I’m back in Michigan? Thanks for any advice you can give! 🙂

    1. Pati

      Mar 01

      Hi Jan,
      You are lucky you find them already cleaned and chopped! Yes, your friend is right. This is one of my favorite ways to cook them:

    2. fernando v

      Sep 11

      I live in Chicago and we grow them here.

  81. Stanley

    Feb 27

    The Jon’s Market on Magnolia and Laurel Canyon in North Hollywood usually sells fresh cactus leaves.


  82. Es

    Feb 17

    Hi Pati,

    I live in Sherman Oaks, Ca. How do I get my markets (whole foods) to carry this pad.

    Perhaps you know where I can get it fresh nearby already boiled and peeled.

    I do not want to purchase them in a jar or can.

    Thank You,

    1. Pati

      Feb 17

      Best idea is to try Latin stores near you, or you can talk to the produce manager of the stores you frequent and put in a special request. The more requests they get, the more likely they will carry them!

    2. Kristina

      Dec 08

      Es, I also live in Southern California. I just saw nopales at the Alhambra Farmers Market yesterday (Sunday). I can’t guarantee that they’ll be there every week, but I’ve seen them there a few times!

  83. Rudy

    Dec 10

    Hi All,,,,,
    Just wanted to drop in & say that mi jefa (mom),,,, tha best cook ever of course,,, uses banana peels when she boils or cooks them to remove la vava (slime).

  84. Rusty Park

    Nov 21

    I have a friend who swears Nopales has lowered his blood pressure to the point he off medication. I have no idea if it really has helped him or not. I recently started putting it into my daily green drink. I have also tried it in salad. (Good). My favorite was ground with spinach, kale, Swiss chard, Jalapeno pepper and chicken, rolled into meat balls with one egg to help hold it together, and served with my wheat spaghetti.

    Health benefits of Nopales as found on the web.

    Nopales are one of very low calorie vegetable. 100 g of fresh leaves provides just 16 calories. Nonetheless, its modified leaves (paddles) have many vital phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can immensely benefit health.

    The succulent paddles are rich sources of non-carbohydrate polysaccharides like pectin, mucilage and hemicellulose, which help reduce LDL-cholesterol, diabetes, and weight reduction. This rich fiber and mucilaginous content aid in smooth pass through of digested food particles and relieve constipation condition.

    In addition, the juice extracted from these pads has been suggested to have immune-booster, and anti-inflammatory properties.

    Cactus pads feature moderate amounts of vitamin A with 100 g fresh pads provide about 457 IU of vitamin A, and 250 µg of ß-carotene. ß-carotene convert into vitamin-A inside the body. Studies found that vitamin A and flavonoid compounds in vegetables help to protect from skin, lung and oral cavity cancers.

    In addition, nopal pads contain small levels of B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), and pantothenic acid those are essential for optimum cellular enzymatic and metabolic functions.

    Fresh pads contain average levels of vitamin C. 100 g provides 9.3 mg or 15% of this vitamin. Vitamin C is a water-soluble, natural anti-oxidant, which helps the body protect from scurvy and offer resistance against infectious agents (boost immunity), and help scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the body.

    They contain small amounts of minerals, especially calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron.

    1. Pati

      Nov 21

      Great info! Thanks, Rusty!!

  85. tommy

    Nov 03

    Hi Pati-

    I’ve never cooked with cactus before and want to try adding it to my black beans. I would cook them separately of course but should I wait and put them in at the end or can I add them sooner?

    1. Pati

      Nov 08

      Hola Tommy, Add them at the end, since you are cooking separately. Sounds delicious!!

  86. John

    Oct 19

    I have always wanted to try and cook this as well as my father in law. He and a group of misfit family member, Myself included have a cooking show that will be featured on The Rachael Ray show coming soon. I will be trying this recipe on Sunday to give him a going away present. Monday he is flying to Nueva York to be on her show and I would like to give him the something new to expand his inspiration.

    1. Pati

      Oct 22

      Much success!

  87. Teresa

    Oct 17

    Hi, two years ago I started a prickly pear plant because I wanted the pears.
    This week I decided to try eating the “leaves” , partly because thwy were multiplying
    Quickly. Before I read youre website I had boiled them for a few minutes. So I took them
    Out, removed the prickes, then sautéed them in oil with a few chopped onions. They were
    Really tasty, except for the more mature leaves which had tough strings in them. I would
    like to know what their nutritional value is. I’m sure there is some- all edibles have something
    good for you in them. Thank you.

    1. Pati

      Oct 23

      Hi Teresa, Thank you so much for your message! Prickly pear cactus paddles are very nutritious. I always say I think they are going to be the new “super food” trend because they are loaded with Iron, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Here’s some more info:

  88. Mark

    Oct 04

    Hi Pati, can you eat it raw with salads or smoothies?

    1. Pati

      Oct 09

      Hi Mark,
      I have never eaten nopales raw… However, they are pureed raw into smoothies or licuados.

  89. JD

    Aug 30

    I grow my own cactus but they are thorn-less, surprised you haven’t recommended these. If your followers want thorn-less varieties to grow just look for them at just about any ornamental garden, take a pad throw it on any well drained soil and it will grow. All cactus here in Texas have thorns except the ones in our flowerbeds, but be careful they may hybridize. FYI the real treat are the fleshy, 1/2 inch, bright green tubercles that replace the thorns, great raw. Also we make really good purple prickly pear jelly.

    1. Pati

      Aug 30

      Thanks for the info JD!

  90. Lisbeth

    Jul 20

    Hola Pati
    I’m very happy that I have found your shows thru PBS, now I follow you on you wesite,
    I live in Miami and I want to plant an eadible cactus plant in my backyard since
    I can not find fresh Nopales in the groceries stores im here,
    how do I look for one? do you know where they sell them?

    1. Pati

      Jul 21

      Hola Lisbeth!
      Depending on where you live, who may sell or have them… You can start by asking any local plant/flower store?

  91. Alison

    Jun 19

    Hi Pati,

    Just moved to a neighborhood where the local grocery has pre-cleaned nopales. I am so excited to try them as I love trying new foods, especially vegetables. I never met a vegetable I didn’t like! Thank you for your directions. I’m confident now to experiment with them.

    1. Pati

      Jun 19

      I think you are going to love them, Alison!!

  92. Matt

    Jun 04

    WOW, hallelujah and many thanks. Time to test my first cactus 🙂

  93. Matt

    Jun 03

    Googling around I found this page. Maybe the place to find a answer to my question? Living in Cyprus, a small island south of Turkey and Greece, we have plenty of wild cactuses here that looks like cactuses eaten in Mexico.

    But I can’t find out if this paddles are eatable or not. The cactuses here looks the same, but they also give cactus fruits that are popular here. A green, yellow and later red fruit.

    How can I find out if the paddles is the same or eatable?

    Here is a image of the cactus

    1. Pati

      Jun 03

      Yes they are!!! You have found your Nopal treasure 🙂

    2. kevin

      Nov 09

      and the fruit makes a wonderful jelly

    3. Avon

      May 08

      I live on Cyprus too! I hope you have tried eating the cactus already. I have grown and eaten the cactus on Cyprus and it tastes just like at home!

  94. Bruce

    May 22

    Hello Pati,
    I’ve been growing them in my back yard here in Northern California, for myself. This time of year is perfict for the picking. I cut them up in the shape of green beans, sear them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. With my venison chops, brown rice, and a Italian table wine, its a meal “fit for a king.” BB

    1. Pati

      May 22

      Hi Bruce, You are making my mouth water! Thank you for sharing!!

      1. Bruce

        Feb 18

        Pati, I just hold the paddles over my gas stove until the thorns are burned, then remove the nubs. Very easy and NO stickers! I’ve been eating them for years, and only once got a sticker in my mouth when I was just started to use them. BB

  95. Lori g

    Apr 25

    Was looking for the best way to cook the cactus paddles and found your method the best! Thank you! I was shopping at a local produce stand and ran into a Latino man who told me this is the best food to lower blood sugar.. This is my quest! Here we go!

    1. Pati

      Apr 29

      Thank you, Lori! Cactus paddles are SUPER healthy!!

  96. Lana Henman

    Feb 06

    I saw the show with cactus paddle tostadas but didn’t write down the recipe. Where can I find it?

    1. Pati

      Feb 07

  97. Erik

    Jan 29

    Hola Pati,

    My girlfriend and I decided to make these after catching your show, which we love, on Create/PBS. I got the hang of de-prickling the nopales by the second paddle. The prep work was totally worth it… the nopales turned out delicious using your method.

    Thanks for the cactus council!

    1. Pati

      Jan 29

      Erik, I’m glad you went for it with the cactus paddles!! Thank you so much for watching the show.

  98. Jordan

    Jan 24

    Hi Pati! My husband and I are new fans of your show on Create/PBS here in Alaska. Thanks so much for this article! I recently bought a fresh cactus paddle at the supermarket to “play with” and had no idea what to do with it. Now I can’t wait to cook it up- it will be my first time tasting cactus!

    1. Pati

      Jan 24

      Jordan, I’m so happy you found my post, as cactus paddles can be tricky for the uninitiated!! Please let me know what you think once you’ve tried it.

      1. Carmen

        Dec 11

        Thanks Patty I have had a nopales plant in my Garden for the longest time never knew what to do with them now I know in Puerto Rico they’re very expensive to buy

        1. Pati Jinich

          Dec 11

          Yay, enjoy them!

  99. Gilda Lopez

    Dec 23

    Hola Pati, viewer from Los Angeles. Thank you for the episode on cooking nopales. I love nopales but the gelatinous liquid always an issue no matter how many gallons of water I use to rinse and I’m not a fan of the jarred ones sold at the grocery. I’m going to try this method as it sounds like it would work to dry off the liquid in the pan. Enjoying your show…. Feliz Navidad!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 28

      Hi Gilda, Thank you so much for watching the show!! I hope you will find this method helpful.

  100. Carlos

    Jun 14

    Hi Pati, my mother simply boils the nopales. The secret is she adds a piece of bread. She says that the bread absorbs all the sticky stuff. Have you heard of this method.
    We eat it in a salad with tomatoes, onions, and chiles serranos with plenty of lime juice on a tostada topped with avocado

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 15

      Hola Carlos, No, I haven’t heard of that method but it sounds really interesting. I love eating them on tostadas too! I have a recipe for Cactus Paddle Tostadas in the next season 🙂

    2. Rebecca

      Apr 24

      Great tip, Carlos! Have to remember the bread next time!!

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