Nopales Tiernos (Tender Cactus)

10 minutes
to prep

15 minutes
to cook

4–6 servings

About this Recipe

Nopales Tiernos can be enjoyed in many different dishes, but one of the most popular is Ensalada Nopales.

The peppers can be roasted (more traditional) or deep fried, making them more spicy. This is more work but it makes the peppers a lot more flavorful.

Recipe by: Luis R. Cabrales
Photos by: María Muñoz Contreras


  • 6 to 8 nopales tiernos
  • 2 to 4 jalapeño peppers (depending how much heat you can take)
Lao-Style Pho

Step-by-Step Instructions

To clean the nopales:
  1. Being careful not to poke your hand with the needles, hold the nopal against the cutting board.
  2. Using the sharp edge of the knife, scrape the needles off the nopal. If any needles still remain, cut them off individually.
  3. Trim the edges and base of the nopal with the same sharp knife. Discard trimmings.
To prepare the nopales:
  1. Dice the nopales.
  2. Dry roast nopales in a flat pan on medium to high heat, stirring infrequently, until lightly brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. In the same pan, dry roast or deep fry the peppers until lightly brown. Remove from pan and set aside. If deep frying, once cooked, drain chiles on a paper towel to remove excess oil.
  4. Combine the roasted nopales and the roasted peppers.
  5. Enjoy! If making Ensalada de Nopales, now follow the steps listed for Ensalada de Nopales.