How to cook nopales (cactus)

How to cook nopales (cactus): a perfect meaty veggie for vegan dishes. Awesome in Mexican-inspired meals or tossed with a little chimichurri!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Author Cheryl Malik


  • Nopales paddles
  • Oil optional
  • Salt to taste
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic smashed, optional


  1. Pick nopales paddles that are flexible but not soft. They should give a little but not TOO much. Smaller paddles are more tender.
  2. Remove knobs and spines with a knife or peeler. See post for greater detail. Trim the edges about 1/4" and the base about 1/2". Wash and then cut into strips or squares, as you desire.
  3. Two options for cooking. First: bring a pot of salted water with a couple smashed cloves of garlic to boil. Add prepared nopales and let boil about 15-20 minutes, or until tender and gelatinous substance has seeped out. Drain and use as desired.
  4. Second option: Place a medium skillet over medium-high heat on the stove and add a bit of oil. Add cactus and a pinch of salt and cook for a couple minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Let sweat and cook 20 minutes, or until clear substance has evaporated. Use as desired.

Recipe Notes

See post for more detail on choosing, preparing, and cooking nopales.