Salsa de Nopal — the cactus in my kitchen

Salsa de Nopal is one more reason why I love living in Mexico. I know it sounds crazy, with all the awful news about the violence in Mexico, to say that I love living here, but I do. Our part of Mexico remains safe, thank goodness, and I keep discovering new salsa recipes that add spice and color to our tropical life.

This recipe comes from Marie of Cooking for Community. Marie is the head chef for Bosque Village, a rustic retreat in rural Mexico near Patzcuaro in the state of Michoacan. She included this recipe in an article she wrote for Another Day in Paradise, an article that was a eye opener for me, as I did not know that the infamous sap of nopal cactus pads, known in Spanish as baba, is used as an ingredient in traditional paints and roof sealants.

Now don’t let that factoid put you off from trying nopales. They really are good for you. Nopales, the tender pad segments of prickly pear cactus, come loaded with amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and studies show that if eaten regularly, they lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduce blood glucose. So listen to your madre y come tus verduras.

Salsa de Nopal

  • 2-3 nopal pads, small dice
  • 1 tomato, small dice
  • 1/2 red onion, small dice
  • 1/2 to 2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • large pinch of salt
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
  • kernels from 1 tender ear of corn, quickly blanched, optional
  • 1/2 cup of cooked black beans, optional
  • 1 avocado, cubed, optional
  1. Blend diced nopal, tomato, red onion, jalapeño, garlic, olive oil and salt in a small bowl.
  2. Add optional corn and beans, if using.
  3. Let salsa rest for 1-2 hours for flavors to blend.
  4. Add cilantro and optional avocado, if using.
  5. Adjust salt and serve with tostadas or tortilla chips.

Russ remembered we had left-over beans from the other day when I made Enfrijoladas. He suggested tostadas with beans, grated cheese and Salsa de Nopal for lunch and was that ever a great combination. He also told me that although he isn’t crazy about nopales, he would eat this salsa anytime, commenting on how its acidity was balanced by the other ingredients. I think he was scraping the bowl empty as he said this.

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