Often called as 'green steaks', these Grilled Cactus Paddles (Nopales Asados) are perfect for a meatless meal. They can be eaten on their own or as a side dish. These Nopales Asados are great when you are looking for something filling, savoury, high in fibre and low in calories.
Bonus is that you can cut the grilled cactus paddles and eat them in tacos!
What are cactus paddles?
They are commonly known as prickly pear cactus in the US. Nopales are a very popular vegetable in Mexico, economical, highly nutritious, high in fibre, and low in calories. They are the perfect healthy combo!
Nopales or cactus paddles were considered a sacred plant for several Mesoamerican cultures. So much that the image of a Nopal is part of the Mexican National flag.
What can you prepare with cactus paddles?
Cactus paddles can be used in savoury as well as in sweet preparations. They can be used for salads, soups, moles, quesadillas, tacos, eaten with eggs, with meat, tamales, marmalades, ice cream, tortillas, breads, etc.
What does Grilled Cactus taste like?
They have a grassy taste to them, a bit tart. Some people compare their taste to green beans or asparagus. If you eat them with a mild taste cheese such as feta cheese or with a melting cheese like Monterrey cheese, it balances out the flavours.
Why you'll love this recipe?
- Few ingredients are needed.
- Savoury healthy option. Nopales are economical, highly nutritious, full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Versatile. Nopales can be eaten on their own or as in this recipe, you can easily prepare tacos with these grilled nopales.
These are the ingredients you'll need for this amazing recipe:
- Nopales. They can be bought fresh at most Latin American grocery stores. Unless you are in Mexico, they are mostly sold with thorns on them. Check out this post to learn how to remove the thorns.
How to make Grilled Cactus Paddles (Nopales Asados) Step by Step.
Remember that the full recipe instructions are in the recipe card.
Step 1: Warm up a griddle or cast iron grill pan over medium heat.
Step 2: While the griddle or cast iron grill pan is warming up, coat each side of the cactus paddles with oil and sprinkle with salt.
Step 3: Place the oiled cactus paddles on the warm griddle or cast iron grill pan. Cook for 5 minutes on each side or until the paddles soften up and turn to a darker green color.
Step 4: Once cooked, place the cactus paddles in a plate and cover with aluminum foil. If eating in a taco, cut the cactus paddle into ½ IN stripes lengthwise and crosswise in the middle if the cactus paddle stripes are longer than your tortilla.
Step 5: For cooking the onions, to a skillet at medium heat, add in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
Step 6: Once the oil shimmers, add in the sliced onions. Cook for approximately 7 minutes to allow some light browning. Set them aside.
Step 7: To serve, remove some of the slimy liquid or 'baba' from the cactus paddles that could have accumulated. Place the cactus paddles on a plate, sprinkle some dried oregano, top with some cooked onions, feta cheese and your favourite salsa.
Step 8: If eating in a taco, warm up your tortillas in a griddle. A well warmed up tortilla should soften up and have light brown spots on them.
Step 10: Place some of the sliced cooked nopales in the middle of the tortilla, sprinkle them with some dried oregano and top with cooked onions, feta cheese and your favourite salsa.
- When cooking the cactus paddles on the griddle or cast iron pan, make sure to keep the area well ventilated.
- Remember to check out my post on how to clean nopales in case you are buying the nopales with thorns on them.
- Use the grilled nopales as a filling for tacos as explained above, or chop them into bite-sized pieces and toss them into a salad for a unique and healthy dish.
- Serve the grilled cactus paddles with a fresh salsa such as this simple salsa verde for a touch of freshness and acidity to balance the dish.
Storage and Reheating
Storage: Allow the grilled cactus paddles to cool to room temperature before storing. Place them in an airtight container or wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
Grilled nopales can typically be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
Freezing: I do not recommend to freeze cooked nopales as they become too soft when thawed out. However, you can freeze uncooked, clean nopales. They last for 2 months approximately.
Microwave: Place the grilled cactus paddles on a microwave-safe plate and heat in 30-second intervals, checking for doneness after each interval.
Stovetop: Reheat the nopales in a griddle or in a cast iron grill pan over medium heat with a bit of oil. Flip occasionally to ensure even heating.
Additions and Substitutions
- Sprinkle a bit of chili powder or smoked paprika for extra flavor when adding in the dried oregano.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime, or even a drizzle of balsamic glaze for an extra layer of flavor.
- Use either corn or flour tortillas if eating in tacos.
- Substitute feta cheese with queso cotija or queso fresco.
Frequently Asked Questions
To clean cactus paddles, use a sharp knife to scrape off thorns or spines. Rinse the nopales thoroughly to remove any remaining debris. Check out my post on How to Clean Nopales for a more detailed description.
It's not necessary, you can grill them directly if you clean them well.
Proper cleaning and medium heat grilling can help reduce sliminess. Also, after covering the grilled cactus paddles with aluminum foil, some of the slimy liquid or 'baba' will come off so be sure to shake it off before serving.
Grilled bell peppers, red onions, and zucchini make excellent companions.
I don't recommend using canned nopales as they don't have the same texture as fresh ones. Canned nopales can also have added ingredients that will impact the final taste.
I hope you will enjoy preparing this Grilled Cactus Paddles. If you do, please leave a comment and let me know how you liked it. Thanks!
Grilled Cactus Paddles (Nopales Asados)
- 2 cactus paddles, clean and thorns removed
- 3 tablespoon vegetable oil (1 tablespoon for coating the cactus paddles and 2 tablespoon for cooking the onions) chose an oil with a high smoking point, such as canola, avocado, grapeseed or sunflower oil
- Salt to taste
- ½ medium sized onion cut into ¼ IN slices
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- Feta cheese
- Tortillas Optional, if eating the cactus paddles in tacos. Use corn or flour tortillas.
- Salsa use your favourite one
- Warm up a griddle or cast iron grill pan over medium heat.
- While the griddle or grill pan is heating up, coat each side of the cactus paddles with oil. Use in total 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil for both paddles, approximately. Sprinkle salt to your preference.
- Place the oiled cactus paddles on the warm griddle or cast iron grill pan. Cook for 5 minutes on each side or until the paddles soften up and turn to a darker green colour. If using a grill pan, aim for grill marks on the cactus paddles.
- Once cooked, place the cactus paddles in a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. If eating in a taco, cut your grilled cactus paddles into 1 inch stripes lengthwise and crosswise in the middle if the cactus paddle stripes are longer than your tortillas . Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
- For cooking the onions, to a skillet at medium heat, add in 2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
- Once the oil shimmers, incorporate the sliced onions to the skillet. Cook for approximately 7 minutes, allowing them to brown slightly without stirring too often. We are not caramelizing the onions, just browning them slightly. Set them aside once cooked.
- To serve, shake off some of the slimy liquid that might have accumulated while keeping the nopales wrapped up with aluminum foil. Place the grilled cactus paddles on a plate, sprinkle with some dried oregano and top with some cooked onions, feta cheese and your favourite salsa.
- If eating in a taco, warm up your tortillas. Place some of the grilled nopales cut into stripes in the middle of the tortilla and top with some cooked onions, feta cheese and your favourite salsa.
Nutritional information is just an estimate provided by NutriFox.