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Pollo con Nopales Recipe (Chicken and Cactus)

Updated on June 28, 2012

Pollo con Nopales Recipe (Chicken and Cactus)

Cooking with Cactus

The nopal cactus is a pear-shaped fruit whose flavor varies from sweet to sour. The pads, or "paddles" of the cactus have spines that the cook must remove before eating. The nopal cactus paddles are high in vitamins and iron and, in raw form, provide a great deal of soluble dietary fiber. Not to mention, they're downright delicious.

Growers and foragers harvest the pads of nopales when very young. After the removal of the spines and a good cleaning, the nopales may be grilled, boiled, juiced, or even eaten raw.

While it's difficult to source nopal cactus in raw form in the US, it's quite easy to find canned nopalitos in grocery and specialty stores.

The Nopal Cactus in southern Mexico.
The Nopal Cactus in southern Mexico. | Source

Pollo con Nopales Recipe

Ingredients: Pollo con Nopales

  • 3 Chicken Breasts - boneless, skinless, diced
  • 8 Tomatillos
  • 1/2 White Onion - sliced
  • 3 Jalapenos - halved and seeded
  • 1 Chicken Bouillon Cube
  • 2 TBSP Vegetable Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp Oregano
  • 1 15oz jar Nopales - drained, rinsed
  • 1 TBS Corn Starch
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. Add diced chicken to a pot and cover with water. Add salt and pepper. Boil until chicken is cooked and tender, about 15 minutes. Set aside one cup of the water from the pot. Drain the chicken and set the meat aside. Return the cup of water to the now empty pot.
  2. Add tomatillos, onion, jalapeno, bouillon, and garlic to the pot and return it to heat. Boil until tomatillos are golden and brown.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat. Once heated, add oil and fry chicken until golden. Set aside.
  4. Once the tomatillos have browned, blend the veggie and spice mixture until smooth. Return to the pot and add the chicken. Add cumin, cayenne, and oregano. Bring to a boil.
  5. Mix cornstarch with two TBS warm water. Stirring slowly, add cornstarch to the pot. If mixture already has desired consistency, please skip this step.
  6. Add drained and rinsed nopales to the pot. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Enjoy! Serve with rice or tostados.

Online Source for Canned Nopal Cactus

How to Clean a Nopal Cactus "Paddle"

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    • suziecat7 profile image


      6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Interesting. I like trying new things so may give this a whirl. Thanks.

    • theseattlegirl profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      @ jwhitman: I think it depends on your location. In regions nearer to the Mexican border, you might have luck finding it raw. In areas removed from the border but with a lively Latino culture, it's probably relatively easy to find canned.

      As always, online is probably your best bet.

    • jwhitman profile image


      6 years ago from Albany, New York

      I was wondering about recipes with cactus after I saw it used last night on The Next Food Network Star. I wonder how hard it would be to find or if it would be easier to order online?


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