Pickled Nopales (Cactus Pads)

Prickly Pear Cactus Growing Against Sky
Stefano Pelleriti / EyeEm / Getty Images
Prep: 90 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 110 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Yield: 4 half-pint jars
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
14 Calories
0g Fat
2g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 14
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1065mg 46%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 3mg 17%
Calcium 54mg 4%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 95mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Nopales are a mainstay in Mexican food, but if you don't live in the American Southwest or California, they may be unfamiliar to you. You are, however, probably familiar with another part of the same cactus, the prickly pear. At best, perhaps you've had the canned variety, and if so, you may be loath to try these at home. The flesh of the nopal is mucilaginous, and if not handled correctly, they can turn into a slimy, gooey mess. In this preparation, salting leeches out some of the moisture of the pads, firming the flesh and abating the slimy texture. Pickling also helps with texture as well as flavor.

Nopales are often enjoyed with eggs, but they really shine as a taco filling, either alongside strips of meat or as a vegetarian filling on their own. They can be used in salads. The firm bite of these nopales gives them a meaty texture and satisfying chew.


  • 12 ounces cactus pads

  • 4 ounces onion

  • 1 jalapeño

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons salt

  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

Steps to Make It

  1. Trim away any tough edges of the cactus pad. Cut the pad into planks as wide as the height of the fill line on your jar (e.g., for most half-pint jars, that's about 4 1/2 inches). Cut the planks into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Place in a large nonreactive bowl and toss with a liberal amount of kosher or sea salt. Let stand at least an hour. Rinse thoroughly with water and pat dry. Repeat if desired. 

  2. Prepare your water bath canner and wash 4 half-pint jars and lids with warm, soapy water.

  3. Trim the top and root end of the onion, halve, and cut pole-to-pole into 1/4 strips. 

  4. Trim the stem end off the jalapeño, halve, and cut into thin strips. Remove the seeds and membranes to reduce the heat if desired. 

  5. In a nonreactive pot, combine the vinegar, salt, peppercorn and coriander seed. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. 

  6. Pack the cactus strips, onion, and jalapeño into clean jars. Pour the vinegar brine into the jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Apply lids and rings, and process in the water bath canner for 10 minutes.