Nopales, otherwise known as nopalito, cactus paddles or cactus pads are the spiky succulent leaf like parts found on the cactus tree, home also to prickly pears.
Austrian chef Hans Neuner cooks with them in the Algarve, they have featured on the menu at New Yorks's Cosme and Mexican chef Jorge Vallejo,from restaurant Quintonil has had a moment with them as well as most recently starring under the spotlights at The Final Table as the during Mexican cooking week.
What are Nopales?
Nopales are the flat fleshy paddles of oputina (prickly pear) cactus, native to the Americas.
They are commonly used in Mexican cuisine and treated like a vegetable in popular dishes like huevos con nopales (eggs with nopal), or tacos de nopales as well as now being found in New Mexican cuisine.
They taste a little like green beans, or green peppers and asparagus.
How to Prepare Nopales?
Very Important - The small spines must be carefully removed before being able to cook with this juicy greens.
How to cook Nopales
Nopales can be eaten raw in salads or cooked with fish, pork or vegetable stews, but also boiled or fried, just as you would do with eggplants, or grilled, preserved in brine or vinegar.
They are also used to make jams and candied fruit. And the most refined soups: such as Sopa de nopales by Angel Vázquez of the Intro restaurant in Puebla (Mexico), who adds chilli pepper, avocado, poached quail’s eggs and cojita cheese to diced cladodes.
Nopales con huevo recipe is great for Mexican scrambled eggs for breakfast or brunch They are a great addition to grilled meat dishes, or tasty just on their own. They are also often sliced/diced and served with eggs or in salads.
A popular and traditional Mexican dish is "nopalitos en salsa verde", where the nopales are cut in strips and boiled in water (see above), and then re-cooked in the traditional sauce made of tomatillos (which are sometimes mistaken for green tomatoes, but are actually a completely different fruit that grow in a papery husk), onion, garlic, cilantro and jalapeño chiles (puree the sauce ingredients in a blender and then bring to a boil and simmer). This is usually eaten in a soft tortilla as a taco or with chips.