Nopalitos with Tomatoes and Onions


Nopalitos, chopped prickly pear cactus paddles sautéed with onions, garlic, jalapeno, and tomatoes.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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).

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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 pound nopalitos, nopales prickly pear cactus paddles that have been stripped of spines, cleaned, and chopped
  • Extra virgin 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.

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

Cactus and Corn Salsa from Amber here on Simply Recipes

Nopalitos with Tomatoes and Onions

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

31 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Mona V.

    Hi Elise, your recipe brought back memories of 3 generations ago and each one did boil the nopalitos after the rinse to get rid of the slime. After they boil get a strainer and rinse the slime off… now you can begin to prepare your dish from that point. If you want an extra spicy kick you can also use Serrano pepper(s).


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  2. Inge

    Hi Elise…In Antigua..British West Indies we call Nopalitos “Cassi” ( local word for Cactus) and it is served sauteed with onions, garlic, tomatoes. It is a part of a popular and traditional dish of Fungee(cooked cornmeal and okra and similar to Polenta) and dried Salted fish ( bacalao) that has been boiled and stewed. I will be trying them in other recipes. Thank you.

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  3. Trish

    I made a guiso with cut up pieces of Milanesa meat then I boiled the cactus with a half onion then I drained the cactus threw out the onion rinsed it and put it in the guiso and served it with a side or refined beans with queso ranchero on corn tortillas , it was a big hit even with picky kids , note boiling the cactus with onion then draining it and rinsing it got rid of a lot of slime

  4. Roxanne L. Salazar

    I made it! I rinsed the pound of nopalitos it before I sautéed it because I’m not a fan of all that slime. I sautéed the garlic and onions as directed, added the nopalitos and let them cook for 5 minutes and added the tomatoes after and cooked them for another 5 minutes. I browned ground beef separately and seasoned it to my liking and finally warmed up corn tortillas to make tacos-beef went first, topped with the nopalitos and garnished it with queso fresco- it was soooo .


  5. Roz

    Are they supposed to be slimy and the end result watery? Help!

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