Try Cactus Salsa for a Unique Party Appetizer

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Cactus Salsa isn’t one of the most common party appetizers you’ll find, but it’s super delicious, fresh, and easy to make.

bowl of chips and cactus salsa

The holiday season is rich in guilt-inducing foods. That’s a loaded statement, right there. But, no matter what you think about our diet culture today, chances are at some point in time you’ve felt a twinge of guilt over eating too much of something.

Personally, I don’t like that. I’m a volume eater and I like that full tummy feeling.

One of the things that has helped me lose weight and still eat as much as I want has been veggies. Loading up on veggies in addition to all the other yummy things on the plate has given me that full feeling — without worrying about whether or not it was all good for me.

Everyone agrees that veggies are good for you. Am I right?

So, whether it’s roasted vegetables with Christmas dinner or homemade spinach dip at holiday get-togethers, I’ve been making an effort to make sure veggies are represented at our holiday table.

Today, I wanted to share with you an app that you may not have ever considered: Cactus Salsa

Yes, really.

jar of cactus with salsa ingredients

Growing up in Southern California, I was exposed to a wide range of flavors at an early age and cactus happened to be one of them. So weird for a family with roots in Minnesota, but that was the case.

Our family trips to Olvera Street for carnitas soft tacos also included an order of nopales, the naturally flat stems, called pads, of prickly pear cactus, that were chopped and tossed with diced onion and other salsa ingredients.

At home, my mom often made this cactus salsa for us at family get-togethers. It’s delicious and full of vegetables and herbs.

While you can buy cactus fresh in the produce section, I’ve always bought it in a jar, usually labeled Nopalitos. I’ve bought it at Walmart in Olathe, Kansas, so I’m pretty sure you could buy it anywhere Latin American foods are sold, not just Southern California.

salsa ingredients chopped on cutting board

How do you use canned cactus?

The nopalitos is ready to use straight from the jar. Rinse the cactus strips with cool water and chop into bite-sized pieces.

My mom never rinsed hers, but I do. During a recent taste test, she claimed she preferred her way. You’ll have to try it both ways and see which one of us is right.

What do nopales taste like?

Cactus is similar in texture to okra. It has the slight slimy factor (reason to rinse!) with a slightly crunchy texture. Its flavor is mildly tart.

bowl of cactus salsa with chips, salad, and tamales

How do you serve cactus?

You can serve chopped cactus in a salsa, salad, or as a taco filling. 

How do you prepare cactus salsa?

Cactus salsa is super easy to make. 

  1. Lay out all your ingredients. 
  2. Rinse, drain, and chop the nopalitos into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Chop the onion, tomatoes, cilantro, avocado, and jalapeño. Squeeze the lime juice over. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  4. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
  5. Serve with chips or as a topping for other Mexican foods.
  6. Leftovers are good in the fridge for up to four days, though the avocado will brown over time.

cactus salsa piled on chips on dinner plate

How to save money making Cactus salad:

You might not think of a weird appetizer like cactus salsa as a good cheap eats. But it can be! Here are some of the strategies I use to make this recipe more economical:

  • Shop at a Mexican market. Where there is much demand for an item, you’re likely to find low prices. Stores that move a lot of cactus aren’t going to charge a pretty penny.
  • Do a price comparison. I know that ALDI is the best place for me to buy jalapeños, cilantro, and onion when there isn’t a great sale elsewhere. I keep track of prices so that I know who has the best deal where. 
  • Stock up when you see cactus on sale. I buy cactus fairly randomly throughout the year, whenever I see a sale. 

Tools you might need to make this recipe easy:

This is a pretty straight-forward dish. You don’t need any fancy equipment. However, having some good basic kitchen tools can really make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Over time, I’ve honed my collection so that they are perfect for my needs. Here are the tools that I like to use in this recipe.

bowl of cactus with salsa ingredients unmixed

0 from 0 votes
Cactus Salsa
Prep Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 
Cactus Salsa isn't one of the most common party appetizers you'll find, but it's super delicious, fresh, and easy to make.
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: cactus, cactus salad, cactus salsa, nopales, nopalitos
Servings: 10
Calories: 20 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
Ingredients
  • 30 ounces cactus rinsed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 -2 avocado peeled and diced
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 to 1 whole jalapeno finely chopped
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Lay out all your ingredients.
  2. Rinse, drain, and chop the nopalitos into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Chop the onion, tomatoes, cilantro, avocado, and jalapeño. Squeeze the lime juice over. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
  5. Serve with chips or as a topping for other Mexican foods.
Recipe Notes

Note: Leftovers are good in the fridge for up to four days, though the avocado will brown over time.

Nutrition Facts
Cactus Salsa
Amount Per Serving
Calories 20 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 53mg2%
Potassium 270mg8%
Carbohydrates 4g1%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 451IU9%
Vitamin C 11mg13%
Calcium 147mg15%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Have you ever tasted cactus?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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Comments

  1. oooh i’ve totally had the same salsa before, my friends call it ‘texas’ something or other (not salsa), but never with cactus. what does cactus taste like?

    • Jessica says

      @sarah k. @ the pajama chef, I think you’re thinking of “Texas Caviar” which has some of those vegetables with black eyed peas. If you make it with black beans it’s called, “Santa Barbara Caviar.” My mom started making this about 35 years ago, but she just called it, “Nopales.”

      As for taste, I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s a tender texture, but not mushy. You’ll have to try it! 😉

      • @Jessica, oh that’s right! but i just checked, and the recipe i’ve been given for texas caviar is basically the same–just more lime and corn. i’ve never had it with black eyed peas. sounds good though! just goes to show that there are a ton of ways to make the same(ish) thing 🙂

  2. Sarah says

    Thank you for this! My mom used to make cactus salsa and I bought a jar a short while ago wanting to try it. I forgot all about it. Now I don’t have to go searching for a recipe!

  3. AllieZirkle says

    I LOVE nopales tacos! This sounds tasty, right up my alley. Thanks for posting!

    Allie

  4. sarah says

    Interesting. I’ve seen the cactus pads for sale, but i’ve actually never seen them in a jar before. Oddly, I don’t think I’ve ever had nopalitos, either – despite being from southern Arizona.

  5. That sounds really good! I bought a big jar of those and was wondering how I can use them all up. I had Cactus before, it was cooked with shredded meat and served in homemade corn tortillas.

  6. I’ve never had cactus, but this looks delicious!

  7. Jenny says

    Delicious. Had to revisit this post to write the recipe down. Its going with us to our extended family “soup and snack” supper. Thanks!

  8. Lorrie says

    Interesting fact: Napales are an excellent food to eat on a regular bases for diabetics. Check it out!

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