Nopalitos Cactus Salad

Ever eat cactus? Nopalitos are so GOOD! This easy, budget-friendly salad is a classic Mexican cactus salad with chopped prickly pear cactus paddles (nopalitos), tomatoes, onions, and radishes.

Nopalitos Cactus Salad
Elise Bauer

Have you ever eaten cactus? Prickly pear cactus paddles, known as nopalitos, are not only edible, but they are darn right delicious! Sort of like a cross between green beans and okra, and good for you too, high in vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and with plenty of fiber. Perfect for those of us wanting to follow paleo, vegan, gluten-free, or low carb diets.

Like okra, there's a bit of a slime factor when you cook them, but that can be easily rinsed away.

The prickly pear cactus grows all over the southwestern United States and the mediterranean and the young, tender paddles are a staple in Mexican cooking.

Nopalitos Cactus Salad
Elise Bauer

You can either buy the young paddles whole, and then prep them by wearing thick gloves and gently scraping off the sharp spines, or you can do what most of us do which is to buy them already de-prickled and chopped. You can even buy them already canned.

Find fresh chopped nopalitos already prepped and bagged at any Mexican market.

Elise Bauer

Like green beans and okra, nopalitos love being paired with tomatoes and onions. This classic Mexican salad is sort of like a hefty pico de gallo mixed in with nopalitos.

Serve the salad as a side to steak or any Mexican dish, or delight your vegan friends by using this salad as a filling for tacos!

Nopalitos Cactus Salad

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Servings 6 servings

If using canned nopalitos, just drain them and mix them in with the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients. No need to cook them as they are already cooked.


  • 1 pound (450 g) fresh chopped nopalitos

  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered (about 3 cups)

  • 1 cup chopped red radishes

  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion

  • 3 tablespoons lime juice

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro


  1. Blanch and rinse nopalitos:

    Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the nopalitos, return to a rolling boil and cook for 1 minute. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Rinse with water for 1 minute.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  2. Toss with remaining ingredients:

    Place rinsed and drained nopalitos in a bowl with the chopped tomatoes, radishes, and onion. Toss with lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Fold in cilantro.

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer


Health Benefits of Nopales from Organic Facts

Cactus and Corn Salsa here on Simply Recipes

Nopalitos with Tomatoes and Onions here on Simply Recipes

How to Cook Cactus Paddles from Mexico in my Kitchen

Nopalitos Cactus Salad
Elise Bauer
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
67 Calories
3g Fat
11g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 67
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 3%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 557mg 24%
Total Carbohydrate 11g 4%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 22mg 108%
Calcium 146mg 11%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 447mg 10%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.