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+ servings
A large bowl of Nopales Salad with fresh nopales and tortilla bread on the side
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5 from 2 votes

How to Cook Nopales: Perfectly Boiled Cactus Pads with a Hint of Citrus

This quick and straightforward method helps soften the nopales while reducing their natural sliminess. Follow these steps and cooking tips to create perfectly cooked nopales every time.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time14 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Diet: Vegetarian
Servings: 2
Calories: 3kcal
Author: Elle John


  • 3 cactus pads
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar optional
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder optional


Step 1: Clean the Nopales

  • Carefully remove any spines or thorns from the nopales using a knife or vegetable peeler. Rinse them under cold water to remove dirt and debris.

Step 2: Cut the Nopales

  • Slice the nopales into small pieces or thin strips according to your preference.

Step 3: Boil the Nopales

  • Place the sliced nopales in a pot and add salt, lime juice and enough water to submerge them fully. Bring the water to a rolling boil.

Step 4: Cook the Nopales

  • Boil the nopales for 10-15 minutes until they become tender and vibrant green. Avoid overcooking to prevent mushiness and rubbery texture.

Step 5: Drain and Cool the Nopales

  • Use a colander or sieve to drain the cooked nopales. Rinse them under cold water to cool them down and stop the cooking process. This also helps remove any remaining slime.


Cooking Time and Water Ratio:
  • Cooking time can vary, but generally, it takes 10-15 minutes.
  • Monitor tenderness as you go.
  • Use enough water to fully cover the nopales while boiling to ensure even cooking and reduce mucilage or slime.
Tips for Avoiding Slime:
  • Add a splash of vinegar, which contains acetic acid, to the boiling water in order to neutralize any slime.
  • For a baking soda trick, boil nopales in salted water for 10 minutes, then add a pinch of baking soda for the last 3 to 5 minutes. Be sure to stir the mixture continuously to prevent any frothing or spilling.
  • Avoid overcooking to prevent a rubbery texture. Test for tenderness throughout the cooking process.
Try making these quick recipes
Nopales Salad:
  • Combine the cooked and cooled nopales with diced tomatoes, sliced red onions, chopped cilantro, and crumbled queso fresco.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lime juice.
  • Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of chili powder for a kick.
  • Toss everything together and serve as a refreshing salad.
Nopales Tacos:
  • Heat corn tortillas on a griddle or skillet until warm and pliable.
  • Fill each tortilla with a generous portion of the cooked nopales.
  • Top with your favorite taco toppings such as avocado slices, chopped onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.
  • Finish with a drizzle of salsa or hot sauce for an extra burst of flavor.
  • Enjoy these flavorful and vegetarian-friendly tacos.
  • Leftover nopales can last in the refrigerator for up to one week when properly stored.
  • To store, transfer cooked nopales to a container with an airtight lid and refrigerate.
  • Ensure to remove any excess liquid or moisture that could cause the nopales to spoil quickly.


Calories: 3kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 3595mg | Potassium: 14mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 11IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 0.2mg