Nopalitos and Roasted Red Pepper Salad

Nopalitos and Roasted Red Pepper Salad is a fresh-tasting, colorful, and healthy salad that is perfect served as an appetizer, side dish or a light lunch.

Nopalitos and Roasted Red Pepper Salad #nopalitos #nopales #nopalitossalad

Nopalitos and Roasted Red Pepper Salad

I grew up eating nopalitos and always loved them, but until recently I had never prepared them myself. That all changed last week when my dad came over and showed me step by step how to properly prepare them. With the nopalitos, we made my dad’s amazing Nopalitos and Roasted Red Pepper Salad that is so fresh-tasting, colorful, and a little spicy. It is the perfect salad to accompany a carne asada, to serve as an appetizer, or to eat on top of a tostada for lunch.

I also love this salad because it is loaded with so many bright, fresh ingredients making it so healthy and Whole30 compatible.

What are Nopalitos?

If you aren’t familiar with nopales, they are the flat pads of a prickly pear cactus. They are a beautiful bright green color and look like paddles with prickly thorns all over their flesh. When diced and cooked nopales are referred to as nopalitos, literally meaning little cactuses. The flavor is a little citrusy and almost like a mix between green beans and okra.

In Mexico, there are many dishes made using this type of cactus. Nopales can be eaten raw or cooked and are used in anything from salads, to stews, to juices and teas.

They are also well known for their nutritional value as they are high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Click here to learn more about their health benefits.  

How to Choose Nopales

You can find nopales in the produce section of Mexican and Latin American supermarkets.  Chose nopales that are a bright green color, the brighter the color the fresher they are. They should also be soft but not limp or wilted and flat and it is better if they are flat.

In many stores you can find fresh nopales in bags that have already been cleaned and cut and are ready to cook. Additionally, many Latin American supermarkets carry cooked nopalitos that have been canned or jarred, making it even easier to cook with. However, as canned or jarred products tend to do, these may contain additives or preservatives, so be sure to check the labels if you go this route, especially if you are on Whole30.

My preference is preparing them myself, and I am breaking down the steps I learned from my dad below so you too can do this at home.

Nopales peeled and ready to cook #nopales

How to Clean Nopales

Before cooking the nopales, they first must be cleaned. It is important that you handle nopales with care as the thorns can be hard to see. You will notice the outside of the cactus paddles are covered in small brown bumps. These bumps are where the thorns grow from, so be careful to not touch those areas, or better yet, use gloves.

First, carefully rinse the nopales. To clean the paddles of the thorns and spines, lay one flat on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, scrape off each of the brown bumps, but avoid taking too much of the green skin off. Cut about 1/4 of an inch around the edges of the cactus and the tough end. Then follow the same process for each of the remaining cactus paddles.

Nopales diced and ready to cook #nopales

How to Cook Nopales

Once all of the nopales are cleaned, diced them into small 1/2 inch squares.

Like okra, nopales release a slimy liquid but there are a couple of different methods to minimize this. Choose one of the methods below to cook the nopalitos:

  1. One method is to boil a pot of water with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Add the nopalitos to the boiling water and simmer for 5-8 minutes until they just begin to change color and are slightly tender. Add them to a large bowl of ice water to shock them and stop the cooking process. Rinse them thoroughly under cold water before using.
  2. Another method is to add 2 tablespoons of oil to a medium pot at medium heat. Add the diced nopalitos and stir in a teaspoon of kosher salt. Cover for 20 minutes, to allow to the same liquid the cactuses release to cook them. Stir every 5 minutes and take off the heat once the majority of the liquid has evaporated. Add them to a large bowl of ice water to shock them and stop the cooking process.

How to Make Nopalitos and Red Pepper Salad

Clean, dice and boil 5 cactus paddles as detailed above.

Once the nopalitos are cooked and cooled, place them in a medium mixing bowl. Add the following:

  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1/4 cup of white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon of diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoon of diced cilantro
  • 2-3 diced pickled jalapeños (based on your heat preference and be sure to check ingredients for Whole30)
  • Pickled jalapeño juice (check ingredients for Whole30)
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

Then, roast a red bell pepper. To roast, place the pepper on a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil. Put the cookie sheet under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until the skin is charred. Once the skin is charred, take the pepper out and flip it. Place the cookie sheet back in the oven so the other side of the pepper can get blistered and charred. Place in a plastic bag for about 5-10 minutes, then use a paper towel to peel off the skin.

Dice the red bell pepper and add to the bowl with the other ingredients. Mix everything together. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.

Serve as a side dish with grilled meats or on top of a tostada for a light lunch or appetizer.

Store leftovers in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.

I hope you enjoy!

Please leave me a comment below if you make this or tag me on Instagram @everydaylatina.
Nopalitos and Roasted Red Pepper Salad #nopalitos #nopales #nopalitossalad

Nopalitos and Roasted Red Pepper Salad

Nopalitos and Roasted Red Pepper Salad is a fresh, colorful, and healthy salad, perfect as an appetizer, side dish, or a light lunch.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Mexican
Author Gemma from Everyday Latina

Ingredients

  • 5 nopales
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp diced red onion
  • 2 tbsp  diced cilantro
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2-3 diced pickled jalapeños (based on your heat preference, check ingredients for Whole30)
  • 2-4 tbsp pickled jalapeño juice (check ingredients for Whole30)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Instructions

How to Cook the Nopales

  • Clean and dice the nopales as explained in the blog post.
  • Boil a pot of water with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Add the diced nopales to the boiling water and simmer for 5-8 minutes until they just begin to change color and are slightly tender.
  • Drain and add the nopalitos to a large bowl of ice water to shock them and stop the cooking process. Rinse them thoroughly under cold water before using.

Roasting the Bell Pepper

  • Place the pepper on a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil. Put the cookie sheet under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until the skin is charred.
  • Once the skin is charred, take the pepper out and flip it. Place the cookie sheet back in the oven so the other side of the pepper can get blistered and charred. Place in a plastic bag for 5-10 minutes.
  • Using a paper towel, peel the blistered skin off of the pepper. Dice the pepper into small, bite-sized pieces.

Assembling the Salad

  • Add all of the ingredients to a medium bowl.
  • Mix everything together. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
  • Serve as a side dish with grilled meats or on top of a tostada for a light lunch or appetizer.
  • Store leftovers in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.

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