For this Cinco de Mayo, we’re skipping the carne asada and enchiladas and swapping them for a more traditional ingredient: cactus.
The nopal cactus, also known as “prickly pear,” is a plant native to the mountains of Mexico. It has been used as both a food and for its medicinal benefits by the native peoples of that region since ancient times. It has been widely valued for its nutrition and vitamin content, which includes riboflavin, vitamin B6, copper, iron, fiber, vitamin-A, C, K, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. It’s high content of dietary fiber makes it widely used to aid in digestion.
If your grocery store or farmers market doesn’t sell cactus, you can find it at most Latin grocery stores in the produce aisle, either whole or already prepped and chopped. (My local Whole Foods is selling bags of already chopped cactus for Cino de Mayo).
These simple-to-make tacos from Wild Greens and Sardines combine some of my favorite flavors – chiles. cilantro, garlic, and avocado. Topped with pumpkin seeds for texture and your guests will be talking about cactus tacos until next Cinco de Mayo! (Omit the cheese and these will be vegan.)
Ensalada de Nopales
This cactus salad uses cooked cactus mixed with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. We would eat this alone or add as a salsa to scrambled eggs, shrimp tacos, a bowl of quinoa, or over fajitas. La Cocina de Leslie also provides some useful tips for cooking your cactus.
Cactus and Corn Salsa
This may be the only time we say “grab a bag of chips!” because you’re going to want some for this salsa. Paired with roasted corn and green tomatoes, this salsa from Simply Recipes combines southwestern flavors with the traditional nopales cactus.
Cactus Fries with Avocado Dipping Sauce
As Munchin With a Munchkin says, these would make a “fun and unexpected appetizer for a Cinco de Mayo party” … or any gathering really. If you’re making these – invite me!
This licuado de nopal (cactus smoothie) from Muy Bueno Cookbook is full of antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and B, cleanses the liver and colon and provides an rich source of fiber and hydration. You could also add pineapple, grapefruit, lime, and a bit of parsley for a twist.