Cactus salad (ensalada de nopales) is a gluten free Mexican salad that makes a fantastic filling for tortillas or a side with grilled meat.  Just toss together canned nopales, fresh veggies, and an easy dressing.  Make it vegan by leaving out the cheese.

Prep Time: 35 minutes
spoonful of cactus salad
Salad, Vegetarian Main Course

Low Carb Cactus Salad (Ensalada de Nopales)

Have you ever tried cactus?  If you’re not from the Southwest part of the United States, you might not have.

dipping a tortilla chip into cactus salad

What does cactus taste like?

Prickly pear cactus is actually a vegetable that tastes similar to cooked green beans, but has a different texture.  Like okra, it produces a slimy substance when boiled.  If you use the pickled cactus for this salad like I did, it will probably be pickled with a serrano pepper and onions.  This will make the cactus more spicy.

spoonful of cactus salad

What are the health benefits of cactus?

  • High in fiber, antioxidants, and carotenoids
  • High in vitamin A and C
  • Rich in potassium

What are common uses for cooked cactus?

  • salads
  • appetizer with tortilla chips
  • quesadillas, soft tacos
  • side to grilled meat
  • mixed with scrambled eggs

bowl of cactus salad with tortilla chips

How to Make Cactus Salad

Gather all the ingredients.  Chop the tomatoes, onions, fresh jalapeño, cilantro, and pickled cactus.  Crumble the cheese and squeeze the limes.

ingredients for cactus salad

In a large bowl, place the onion, tomato, pickled cactus, and fresh jalapeño.

veggies for cactus salad in a bowl

With a large spoon, stir until it is well mixed.

mixing together veggies for cactus salad in a bowl

Pour the freshly squeezed lime juice into the salad and stir.

pouring lime juice on the veggies for cactus salad

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the vinegar, spices, and olive oil.

whisking the dressing for cactus salad

Add the homemade salad dressing.  Mix until it evenly coats the vegetables.

pouring the dressing on cactus salad

Sprinkle on the freshly chopped cilantro and stir.  Cover and chill for a minimum of one hour.

sprinkling cilantro on cactus salad

Just before serving, add half the crumbled cheese to the mixing bowl and stir.  Place the salad in a serving dish and garnish with the remaining cheese.  To have the best flavor, serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

holding a bowl of cactus salad

Pro Tips

  1. To save time, use pickled cactus instead of fresh.
  2. Rinse the cactus under cold water to remove any slime.
  3. Change up this salad by adding chickpeas, avocado, or pickled carrots.
  4. Make this salad vegan by omitting the cheese.
  5. Serve on top of tortillas, with tortilla chips, or as a side with grilled meat.

If you’ve never tried cactus or nopal, I encourage you to have your first taste of cactus with this salad recipe.  If you like pico de gallo with a bit of a kick to it, you won’t be disappointed with this cactus salad.

Craving Tex-Mex food?  These other great recipes will be popular with your family and friends.

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Share your thoughts on this cactus salad in the comments section below.  We’d love to know how you liked it!

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spoonful of cactus salad

Low Carb Cactus Salad


  • Author: Brooke
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1/2 cups
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Chopped
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Description

Cactus salad (ensalada de nopales) is a gluten free Mexican salad that makes a fantastic filling for tortillas or a side with grilled meat.  Just toss together canned nopales, fresh veggies, and an easy dressing.  Make it vegan by leaving out the cheese.


Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (about 1 large pepper)
  • 3/4 cup Roma tomatoes, diced (about 1 1/2 large tomatoes)
  • 15 ounce jar pickled cactus, chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced (about 1/2 an onion)
  • 1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice (from two limes)
  • 1/2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Mix together the chopped onion, tomato, pickled cactus, and fresh jalapeño in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together the white balsamic vinegar, spices and olive oil in a smaller bowl.
  3. Pour the freshly squeezed lime juice over the vegetables and stir.
  4. Add the salad dressing, then mix well to coat all the vegetables.
  5. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and stir until well blended.
  6. Cover and chill for at least an hour, then mix in half of the crumbled cheese just before serving.  Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and garnish with the remaining crumbled cheese.  For best flavor, serve slightly cold or at room temperature.

Notes

  • To make the salad less spicy, don’t use the pickled onion and serrano pepper from the jar of pickled cactus.
  • If you don’t have any queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese) on hand, feel free to substitute with feta cheese.
  • This salad will keep well in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Keywords: prickly pear cactus, mexican, nopalitos

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