Nopalitos with Tomatoes and Onions


Nopalitos are the edible young paddles of the prickly pear cactus, grown throughout their native Mexico, the southwestern United States, and the Mediterranean (brought back by the conquistadores).

The paddles are widely available in Mexican markets in the US, either whole (with spines) or prepared (cleaned, spines removed, chopped).

They are tasty cooked, and are used in many traditional Mexican dishes. Here is a quick, easy, and delisioso nopalitos recipe prepared for me by my Mexican friend and caterer Arturo Vargas.


Do you have a favorite nopalitos recipe? Please let us know about it in the comments.

Nopalitos with Tomatoes and Onions Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3 to 4


  • 1 lb nopalitos, nopales prickly pear cactus paddles that have been stripped of spines, cleaned, and chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, stem and seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper


1 Sauté onions, garlic, jalapeño: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan) in a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add red onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Cook for a minute, stirring occasionally.

nopalitos-tomatoes-onions-method-2 nopalitos-tomatoes-onions-method-3

2 Add the nopalitos, then the tomatoes: Add the nopalitos. Cook for several more minutes. Then add the chopped tomato.

Continue to cook until all vegetables are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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Cactus and Corn Salsa here on Simply Recipes

How to Cut and Prepare Prickly Pears from Garrett

Hominy and Cactus Soup from the Perfect Pantry

Nopalitos with Tomatoes and Onions

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Showing 4 of 21 Comments

  • nico salazar

    I had nopalitos as a kid & it was good. My dad had this recipe from his mom in sonora. There is health benefits as well. He added chopped pork & red chili sauce. Yummy …I just got some paddles from my neighbor & I’m getting my menu ready for my Cinco De Mayo party..I’m sure this recipe will b a hit. Thank you.

  • Lettie

    As a child I remember going to the “mercado” in Cd. Juarez, Mexico with my Mom at least once a month to buy veggies, herbs, freshly made tortillas and nopalitos. There was an olderly woman who had a booth there and she made fresh tortillas and nopalitos, we always stood in line for at least 30 minutes all the while visiting with everyone else in line, some familiar faces and some new ones telling stories of how far they had come just for the “doña Maria’s nopalitos”. Funny thing as child I did not appreciate the “flavor” and now as an adult I love the smell, texture, flavor but especially the moments shared with all those other people. Amazing how food not only fills your stomach but your heart with happiness.

  • David

    Are all nopales eatable?…I live in Thailand and theres nopales here are they the same, they look the same

    Great question. I would ask a local nursery. ~Elise

  • Barbara Nevarez

    I make my nopales with pork meat, onions, and red chili. My mom use to make them with eggs, and onions. She is waiting to try mine which I will be making tonight.

  • Yoko

    I just purchased a “cactus pear” at a local produce market..I’m assuming it’s a nopales.

    I’d really like to taste it before cooking it since it’s the first time buying it. Is it possible to eat it raw?

    Yes. Here is how to cut and prepare prickly pears. ~Elise

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