Our Grandma’s Recipe Book: Mexican Nopalitos Salad

ORANGE continues its “Grandma’s Recipe Book” series, which follows University of Texas at Austin students, their heritage, and how food highlights their culture. Using nopales, Bianca Vazquez reflects on familial tradition with her favorite dish.

Story by Julia O’Hanlon

Illustration by Emily Ward

Usually when one thinks of Mexican food, they picture a meat and cheese dish. However, one of the most quintessential Mexican dishes is lesser known: nopales. Nopales are made from the leaves of the prickly pear cactus, and mixed with tomatoes, onions, and various spices.

For third-year psychology major, Bianca Vazquez, this dish has a large impact on how they view their culture. “This dish was taught to me by my maternal grandmother, Blanca Flores, who is from the Rio Ramos in Nuevo León, México.” Vazquez says. “I live with her in Houston, and she makes it every time I go home when I have a break from school. She taught it to me to help with homesickness so I can have a taste of home while I am away studying.”

This dish is culturally important to Vazquez because it connects them to their cultural roots, their grandmother, and allows them to preserve their culture for future generations. Read below to see Vazquez make this dish they learned from their abuelita!

Nopalitos Salad

This spicy and vegan-friendly Mexican dish with a smooth, silky texture is perfect served as a side, in a taco, or in any other creative way imaginable.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tomato

  • 1 white onion

  • 1 minced garlic clove

  • 2 cups of chopped, cooked nopales (in the International Foods aisle)

  • ¼ cup of chipotle peppers with sauce (can add or reduce amount to fit your preferred level of spice)

  • 2 Tbsp. of olive oil

  • ½ tsp. of salt

  • Optional: queso fresco, avocado, rice, and beans

Instructions

  1. Chop the tomato and onion into small pieces.

  2. Place ¾ of the tomato, onion, nopales, and garlic in a large pan with olive oil. Cook the mixture over medium heat for 5 minutes.

  3. Place the remaining ¼ of the tomato, chipotle peppers and sauce, and ¼ cup of water in blender and pulse until the mixture is liquefied.

  4. Remove the nopales from the heat, but keep them sizzling. Add the blender contents to the pan.

  5. Place the pan on low heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add a ¼ cup water when necessary to keep the nopales from burning.

  6. Enjoy the nopales hot with a rice, beans, tortillas, or any side of your choice.