Submitted by Ana González Quaid
This nopalitos and jalapeños salad is one of Ana González Quaid’s favorite ways to add flavor and color to her Chicago-based family’s favorite Mexican dishes. She’ll makes a big batch to top carne asada tacos or serve as a side, especially with arrachera steak. It’s great with basically, everthing.
“It’s so easy to make,” Ana says. “This salad adds zing to any kind of taco or dish. It’s just such a traditional taste and so good. My mom Gollita and oldest son always love when I make it.”
Eaten both raw and cooked, the spiky nopal is a Mexican cactus also called prickly pear. It is recognizable by its large, green oval paddles, which are covered with spines. When removed from the nopal cactus, both the paddles and resulting slices are called nopalitos. Be sure to scrape them off before cooking and definitely before eating.
The cactus’ name comes from the Aztec Nahuatl word nohpall. When it flowers, its fruit—called tuna—is often used in jams with resultados deliciosos. Warning: Both fresh and canned nopalitos are a bit slimy, says Ana. Like okra. Be sure to rinse and drain the cactus slivers before using them. What she loves best about this dish? “It’s so easy to make,” Ana says. “This salad adds zing to any kind of taco or Mexican dish. It’s just such a traditional taste—and so good. My mom and oldest son always love it when I make it.”
If using fresh nopales (recommended: so delicious), first scrape your knife against the prickly spines and cut them off. Then slice the nopal paddles, chop them into bite-size pieces, and start making your salad!