Nopalitos in Chipotle Tomato Salsa are a sure sign of Springtime in South Texas. Right before Easter, the cactus begin to bloom and new tender cactus pads begin to appear. Carefully, we harvest the pads, remove the thorns and make nopalitos.
A dish of of cooked cactus is called “nopalitos”
A nopal is a prickly pear cactus, and the word nopalito is the diminutive word meaning “little cactus.” We usually refer to the prepared cooked dish of cactus as “nopalitos.” There are thousands of ways of making nopalitos.
I grew up eating nopalitos in scrambled eggs with diced tomatoes, very gentle flavors. My husband’s family would make them in a chile sauce with dried shrimp, very spicy and pungent flavors. Nopalitos are not bland as they taste like green beans. But their mild flavor lends itself to so many dishes.
You don’t have to collect your own fresh cactus pads to make this recipe. Many supermarkets carry prepared fresh nopalitos that have been cleaned and are ready for boiling. I don’t recommend canned or jarred nopalitos as they can sit on the shelf too long and lose their fresh flavor.
Lots of flavors, lots of memories
Nopalitos in Chipotle Tomato Salsa is a recipe that combines the recipes of my husband’s and my families. The spicy smoky flavor of chile chipotle is absolutely perfect with the green flavor of nopal. The cooked tomatoes and garlic in the sauce are the traditional compliments. Today for lunch we had Nopalitos in Chipotle Tomato Salsa as a filler in cheese omelets, which was amazing. This little side dish is also delicious in quesadillas too!
The nostalgia of Springtime and Easter is strong, and so is our connection to those special family recipes. Nopalitos in Chipotle Tomato Salsa will be on our annual Springtime family table for a long time!Print
The most delicious Nopalitos in Chipotle Tomato Salsa
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
2 cups chopped fresh nopalitos (about 1lb/500g)
2 tbsp. olive oil (30ml)
1 large clove garlic
2 dried chile chipotle
½ cup water (120ml)
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the chopped cactus in a 2-quart (2lt) saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the cactus turns from bright green to olive drab color. Remove the pan from the heat and pour through a colander to drain the water. Rinse the cactus under running water for 2-3 minutes until cool.
Add the olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and lightly roast for 1 minute. Add the garlic and roast for 30 seconds. Remove the tomatoes and garlic and place in the container of a blender.
Fill a 1 qt. (1lt) saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the dried chile chipotle and simmer for 5 minutes until the chiles are soft. Add the chiles to the container of the blender. Puree until smooth.
Return the skillet to the heat. Add the chopped onion to the pan and sauté for 1-2 minutes until the onions become translucent. Add the cooked cactus and sauté for another minute. (Add 1-2 tbsp. (15-30ml) more olive oil if the vegetables seem dry.) Add the tomato chile puree and stir to combine well. Simmer for 2 minutes over medium heat until the sauce is reduced. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over roasted meats, vegetables, in quesadillas or over eggs.