Nopales are prickly pear cactus pads. They take some care to work with properly, but when you do, they are amazing. They have just a little tang and a nice bright flavor. Fresh nopales can usually be found at a Mexican market. These Cactus Tacos from Vegan Tacos by Jason Wyrick can make these either in a pan or on the grill.
Note: If you are using jarred nopales, make sure you rinse them thoroughly before adding them to the pan and sear away any of the liquid that comes out of them. If you don’t, they’ll taste briny and have a slimy texture.
Tacos de Nopales
Region: Everywhere | Heat Level: 0 or 5 | Makes 12 Tacos
- 2 cactus paddles or 3 cups sliced jarred nopales (see Note)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 12 (5 to 6-inch) corn tortillas
- Pickled jalapeños
- Your favorite vegan cheese
- Salsa verde
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- If you are using fresh nopales, hold the cactus paddle with tongs so you don’t get thorns in your hands. Over the sink, scrape the cactus paddle with the back of a knife until all the spines are removed. If you have any doubt as to whether the tiny spines have been removed, you can cut away the nodes from which the spines protrude. Once all the spines are removed, trim away the outer rim of the cactus paddle, including the spot where the paddle was cut from the plant. Cut the paddle into strips about 1/2-inch wide and 3-inches long.
- Heat the oil in a sauté pan over high heat. Add the cactus strips and sauté these until they are par- tially blackened. Remove them from the heat and immediately sprinkle them with salt.
- Warm the tortillas. Fill the tortillas with nopales and any of the toppings.
Make it on the Grill
You can toss the cactus paddles in oil and salt once you have removed the spines and tough outer rim, then grill the whole cactus paddles until they are blistered on both sides. Once they are grilled, slice them up and serve them in your tacos.
From Vegan Tacos by Jason Wyrick. ©2014 Jason Wyrick. Used by permission from Vegan Heritage Press.