This ensalada de nopales recipe is made with pickled Mexican cactus and features a tarty flavor and a chunky texture. It is perfect to serve as a side for grilled meats or as a garnish for tacos, sopes, and quesadillas!

Ensalada de nopales is a refreshing and light Mexican salad with a bright, slightly tangy, and fresh taste.

Nopales, sometimes also called nopalitos, are Mexican cactus widely used in Mexican gastronomy. They have a tart flavor with citrusy hints and feature a crunchy, moist, and slightly slimy texture, a bit similar to okra.

I love this salad because is so versatile and can be served as a side for carne asada, as a topping for tacos, or even on its own with crispy tortilla chips!

Close up of ensalada de nopales, also known as nopales salad.


  • Nopales cactus. I like to use pickled cactus nopalitos because they’re easy to find in many supermarkets or online on Amazon.
  • Tomatoes. Any type of fresh tomato works fine in this recipe.
  • Onions. White, yellow, or red onions are ok.
  • Chilies. You can use jalapeno, chile serrano, or any type of fresh chili peppers available to you.
  • Cilantro. A bunch of fresh cilantro, nicely chopped. This adds a delicious and fresh flavor!
  • Limes. Lime or lemon juice, as much as you want.
  • Salt. Make sure you add just a pinch and then adjust later, especially if you using jarred cactus as those have salt already.
Ingredients for nopales salad labeled and displayed on a cutting board.

How To Make Ensalada de Nopales

Chop the onions, dice the tomatoes, and chop jalapeño or serrano peppers and cilantro. Place everything in a mixing bowl.

Chopped onions, chilies, cilantro, and diced tomatoes in a mixing bowl to make nopales salad.

Add the nopalitos to the bowl and add also the juice of half a lime. Season everything with salt.

Note: If you want to make this salad with fresh nopales, you’ll need first to clean them, cut them, and boil them until tender.

Added nopales to the bowl and a hand squeezing half a lime over.

Toss everything for a couple of minutes, taste, and add more lime juice and salt if you want.

Pro Tip: If you want to use freshly cooked nopales just make sure they’re cooled down before tossing with the other ingredients.

Mixing ensalada de nopales in a bowl.

You can now serve your ensalada de nopales immediately or chill it in the fridge and serve it later.

Recipe Notes & Tips

  • You can discard the seeds and core of tomatoes, but if you want your nopalitos salad to be more on the juicy side, just chop them and add them with everything.
  • If you’re going to remove the seeds and veins from chilies, don’t forget to use gloves or wash your hands immediately after handling them, so you won’t end with some spiciness on your hands, or even worst, on your face.
  • Add a splash of vinegar to the salad, not only gives a nice sour taste but it helps to preserve it longer and make it perfect to bring to potlucks!
  • I am using here a 15 oz jar of Doña Maria brand nopalitos, I love making my salad with those because they’re already cooked and cut, making them the perfect shortcut for this recipe.
  • Add a spin to ensalada de nopales with a pinch of oregano or minced garlic.

How do you cook raw nopales?

If you want to make ensalada de nopales using fresh cactus paddles you will need to cook them first, here’s how:

  • Place cleaned and diced nopales in a large pot and cover with about 2 inches of water.
  • Add salt, 1 small onion cut into half, and 1 bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the cactus are tender.
  • Drain well, discard the onion and the bay leaf and use the nopalitos as instructed in the recipe.

How To Serve

If you want to know how to serve this Mexican cactus salad, here are my recommendations:

A taco made with corn tortilla, ensalada de nopales, beans, queso fresco and salsa.

How To Store

This refreshing ensalada de nopales can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Freezing the fresh salad is not recommended as tomatoes and onions will lose their fresh texture and flavor.

If you want this cactus salad to preserve its flavor best, use a glass container with a tight lid when you store it.

You can also chop all ingredients (besides cilantro) and store them in separate containers for a couple of days, then when ready to eat, just toss everything in a mixing bowl with salt, chopped cilantro, and lime juice.


What are nopales?

The nopal cactus is known in English as prickly pear cactus and besides being so delicious and versatile, they are also a superfood high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Can nopales be eaten raw?

Yes. In Mexico, they are normally blended in smoothies as they are a high source of fiber.

If you want to use raw nopales for salads, make sure they are light and bright green in color as those are tender and perfect to eat in salads.

Can nopales be frozen?

Yes. Raw or cooked, nopales can be frozen for up to 3 months. If they are cooked, drain them and place them in an airtight container. If you want to freeze raw nopales, tightly wrap them with cling film then place them in a freezing bag before storing them.

More Nopales Recipes

As I mentioned before, nopales are used in many other Mexican recipes, so here are other dishes you might want to try:

Did you enjoy my Ensalada de Nopales recipe? Please, don’t forget to rate it and leave a comment below. Also, remember that you can share and follow this blog on PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, and YOUTUBE.

Ensalada de nopales recipe.

Ensalada de Nopales

4 servings
A delicious and versatile salad made with Mexican cactus, tomatoes, onions, and spicy peppers. Serve as an appetizer with corn chips or as a side dish for grilled meats.
prep 10 minutes
total 10 minutes


  • 1-15 oz jar nopalitos (read notes)
  • 3 medium tomatoes (diced)
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 2 jalapeño peppers (chopped)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (chopped)
  • 1 lime (juice)
  • salt (to taste)


  • Dice the tomatoes and chop the onions, jalapeño peppers, and cilantro.
  • Place everything in a medium mixing bowl.
  • Drain nopales from the jar, chop them roughly and then add to the bowl.
  • Add lime juice and season everything with salt.
  • Mix for one minute, then taste and adjust with salt and lime juice if needed.
  • Serve as a side or enjoy as an appetizer with tortilla chips.


If you want to use fresh nopales:
  • Place 2 ½ cups of fresh, cleaned, and diced nopales in a large pot and cover about 2 inches with water.
  • Add salt, 1 small onion cut into half, and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes or until nopales are tender.
  • Drain well, discard the onion and the bay leaf and leave the nopalitos to cool down before using in the recipe.
Nutrition Information
Serving: 1 serving | Calories: 52kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 29mg | Potassium: 566mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1339IU | Vitamin C: 38mg | Calcium: 196mg | Iron: 1mg
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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This salad is so interesting. I have never had pickled cactus. Must source these ingredients soon to try this out. Thanks so much.

  2. 5 stars
    I have never heard of nopal before. This looks like a wonderful salad with full of goodness and flavour.

  3. 5 stars
    This was my first time trying Mexican Nopales Salad, but it was so good that it certainly will not be my last! I served it on top of tacos and it tasted amazing! Thanks for the recipe.