Rivenrock Gardens Cactus Recipe Page

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  This page is devoted to passing on information on the preparation and culinary enjoyment of cactus of the genus Opuntia,
more commonly known as nopales or prickly pear.

cactus lizard disc

  To find out about ordering freshly harvested organic cactus leaves from Rivenrock Gardens go to FRESHLY HARVESTED EDIBLE CACTUS LEAVES of Rivenrock Gardens.

   Many people of Europe, Japan and the USA have heard that people in the Latin world eat cactus, in fact it is estimated that the average Mexican citizen eats as much cactus as the average American eats cauliflower. Many people however have difficulty understanding the preparation of this spiny plant. The real key is in the particular variety of plant. Rivenrock Gardens sells as it's premier variety the cactus called Nopalea Grande. This is a nearly spineless cactus that is easy to prepare, and has a delightful taste both raw and cooked.


Nopalea Grande, perfect size for eating

Grade 'A' Nopalea grande

how to clean a nopal (pad)

Cleaning a Nopalea grande leaf


Diced Nopalea grande


Diced Nopalea grande in a salad

Our video showing how easy it is to clean and prepare
our Nopalea grande cactus.

Our video showing an efficient way to peel the fruit.

   One should harvest the nopal cactus when the individual leaf is young and fresh.  The leaves will generally be hand sized, they should have a glossy green sheen and be of minimum thickness, about 3/8" to 1/2" thick.  When the leaf has grown too thick and has lost it's sheen it will be pithy inside.

   The harvested nopal leaf must now be rid of glochids (the hair-like tiny spines that still get in the skin) and the green nubs that grow on the aeroles (the mole-like protuberances).  These green nubs and glochids will remove easily with a green scrubbing pad.
  Once the leaf is prepared it is generally sliced french-fry style, or diced into 3/8" dimensions for use in the various recipes.

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John's Cactus Salsa

two pounds of cactus prepared and diced
a couple cans of diced tomatoes
three or four pickled jalapeno peppers (or to taste)
three cloves or more (to taste) of garlic
one-half medium onion
a can each of red kidney, black bean, and pinto beans
pinch of basil
a bunch of cilantro
quarter cup of olive oil
couple dashes of salt and some ground black pepper will add flavor
A handful of sunflower seeds, shelled pumpkin seeds, or pine nuts, or any mix of them

For a real crowd pleaser at a picnic or party make this cactus salsa ahead of time and allow to blend its flavors in the refrigerator for a few hours or more. Just mix all the ingredients above that you can obtain. Some hot peppers are always in favor here in the SouthWest, but other folks may need it tamed down on the hot peppers some. One can use this as a dip for tortilla chips, or a relish and garnish on burritos (see breakfast burritos to the right), meat dishes or a general spicy condiment.

Victoria's cactus breakfast burrito

This is one of my favorite recipes, the cactus mixes very well with these ingredients and tastes very good.

Take the prepared and diced cactus and add to some potatoes that are already pretty well cooked with your favorite spices including garlic and onions.  After a minute or so add a couple of fresh eggs to the mix and scramble all together well.  Heat some tortilla shells and spoon the mixture into the shells, add salsa roll up and enjoy.

Victoria's French-fried Cactus

   In this recipe the freshly cut and cleaned cactus pads are cut into french fry style strips 3/8" wide and rolled in a batter of milk and eggs then rolled through flour, cornmeal or a combination of both.  Frying in a skillet or deep fryer will give a deep gold/green color.   They are really great fresh out of the oil.

Fava Bean and Nopales soup

1/2 lb Fava beans, washed well and drained
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/2 Onion cut into large pieces
1 and 1/2 quarts of water
2 cloves of garlic
4 to 5 cactus pads

1/2 diced onion

   Combine the Favas, oil, onion and two cloves garlic. Cook in a covered pot bringing to a slow boil and continue to cook until the Favas are soft and the liquid is thick. Do not salt. This takes about 2 and 1/2 hours. Stir frequently. Meanwhile clean the cactus pads and cut them into 1/4 inch cubves. Boil them with salt garlic and onion for about 15 minutes. Before serving add the cactus to the soup and stir well. Makes approximately 6 servings. Baby Lima or Haba beans can be substituted for the Fava beans. 

Cactus and Bean Salad

1 16 oz. can of drained kidney, wax, garbanzo and green beans
1 cup of chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 lb of fresh cleaned and diced cactus

   Mix all ingredients and salt and pepper to taste, marinate overnight in refridgerator to blend flavors. Makes about 8 servings. 

Cactus tuna Salad

1 Can Tuna Fish
1 head lettuce, chopped, (may substitute two heads leaf lettuce)
1 cup chopped diced nopales
1/2 onion, minced

Mix all ingredients, chill and serve. 

Raw Cactus


  Yeah, I know that this sounds kinda odd, it did to me also, eating the raw pads of the plants. But there are some varieties (like Nopalea Grande) that are actually really tasty when harvested young tender and succulent. They have an interesting snap and crunch to them, much more than one would expect. Sliced into one inch strips they are an intriguing item on the dinner plate. These must be freshly harvested leaves for this, not canned. 


2 lbs cleaned Nopales
1 Onion -- sliced 1/8" thick
1/8 cup Corn Oil or Olive Oil
2 jalapeno chilis
2 Chili Serrano
1/2 bulb garlic
1 Cup Cilantro
Salt to taste

   Clean and dice nopales. Chop onion into similar sized pieces and place in a large oiled skillet and begin to fry. Add garlic and chilis and salt. Cover and simmer until tender. Serve over diced and toasted tortillas or bed of rice.


   1 lb cleaned and diced Nopalitos, cooked and drained (changing the cooking water a couple of times will reduce the slime)
Mix with chopped onion, tomatoes, serrano peppers ( or subsitute jalapenos) and cilantro.
Add a few drops of lime juice. Serve as a side dish or with corn tortillas to make tacos.

sent to us by Victor M. Martinez, Jr. 


Cactus Stew

1 lb beef or pork... browned and simmered for one hour covered
Add in one onion, diced carrots, corn and what else ya got
garlic, peppers and salt to taste... cook for one more hour
add Cilantro, cumin and peppers and black pepper to taste...
Add in a half pound of prepared diced cactus

Cook for another half hour.... serve over rice

This web page will be updated occasionally. 
 You can E-Mail us with recipes. 
 John and Vickie Dicus     Nipomo Ca. USA 

cactus feather.gif - 1.9 K

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