Fresh Cactus Leaf Salad

Photography by Kate Cauffiel | Food styling by Christina Zerkis | Prop styling by Lindsey Parker

Fresh nopales, or cactus leaves, offer texture and flavor similar to green beans and a sap similar to okra. Little labor is required to transform the prickly pads into a delicious dish.

SERVING SIZE: ½ cup (160 grams)
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
COOKING TIME: 10 minutes


  • 2 cactus pads
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ¾ cup white button mushrooms, stem removed, sliced ⅛-inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) lime juice
  • 1 cup diced and seeded Roma tomatoes
  • ¾ cup diced yellow onion
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced chipotle pepper, canned in adobo (adobo reserved)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) Adobo sauce from canned chipotle
  • 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) olive oil


  1. Using a small paring knife, scrape thorns or spines from both sides of cactus pads. Trim off edges and any blemished or discolored areas.
  2. Wash well with cold water.
  3. Cut the pads lengthwise into half-inch strips, then cut crosswise into 1- to 1½-inch pieces.
  4. In a 4-quart pot over medium heat, combine garlic, 2 tablespoons salt and 3 quarts water. Bring to a boil.
  5. Meanwhile, combine mushrooms and lime juice in a small bowl and allow to marinate at room temperature during completion of recipe.
  6. Add cactus to boiling water and continue boiling, skimming any foam that floats on top, for 10 minutes until color has deepened to dark green.
  7. Remove from heat, place in wire mesh strainer and rinse well under very cold water to remove gelatinous sap.
  8. In a bowl, combine cooked cactus, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, oregano, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce and marinated mushrooms.
  9. Add olive oil and remaining 1 teaspoon salt.
  10. Toss to combine and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend before serving.

Cooking note: Many grocery stores (especially those in predominantly Latino areas), Latin markets and grocery delivery websites often carry fresh cactus. Fresh is better for this recipe, as there are significant texture changes with frozen cactus pads when thawed, leaving the final product lacking flavor and crunch.

NUTRITION PER SERVING: 73 calories, 5g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 622mg sodium, 7g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 3g sugar, 2g protein, N/A potassium, N/A phosphorus

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Zachari Breeding
Zach Breeding, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, is a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian nutritionist, professional chef and Clinical Nutrition Manager for The Sage: Nutritious Solutions. He is the author of The Slice Plan: An Integrative Approach to a Healthy Lifestyle and a Better You. Connect with Zach on his website, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.