Salsa de Nopal y Habañero

This is a new creation I made that came from a suggestion by my Tia Lupita to use nopales and habañeros together in a salsa. The two ingredients seem like an interesting combination, but actually compliment each other very well with the heat from habaneros and the freshness of the nopales. The heat may seem a bit much when you first try it, but you have to let it SIT for at least a few hours to really let the heat tame and blend into the salsa. I like to add extra nopalitos into the salsa to give it more a chunkier blend, but feel free to leave them out for more of a smoother mixture.

If you are not entirely familiar with nopales, they’re the green pedal (and prickly) portion of the prickly pear cactus. You can find precut nopalitos without spines at some grocery stores, as well as the all-natural pedals with spines. I have a special admiration for nopales as they always remind me of my grandfather. I vividly remember him preparing the nopales at the kitchen sink of his home in Douglas, Arizona cleaning the cactus pads and taking out the spines. Every once in awhile you could hear him yell if he got a spine in his hand.

Eating cactus pedals may seem strange, but they’re actually a very healthy source of food. They’re full of antioxidants, can reduce cholesterol, and help regulate blood sugar levels. Check out this article from Healthline for more of the health benefits that nopales can provide: Nopal Cactus: Benefits and Uses

For those who are curious about the cutting board with the prickly pear cactus in the pictures, it was made by my super-talented friend Becca Zook. I own several cutting boards, but this one is by far my favorite with all the engraved cacti and the perfect one to use when making nopalitos.

2 cups chopped nopales
6 grilled tomatillos
1/2 an onion, sliced
3 orange habaneros, remove stems and seeds
¼ c.  Epazote
3 cloves garlic
¼ t. pepper
¼ t. salt

Parboil the chopped nopales for 8 minutes. Use a sieve to drain the nopales.  Cool. In the blender combine 1 cup nopales, tomatillos, onion, habaneros, garlic and epazote.  Puree for 30 seconds. Add pepper and salt.  Puree for 30 seconds.

Remove from blender. Add the other cup of nopalitos to make it chunky. Make sure you let it meld its flavors (in the refrigerator) for a few hours before serving.

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