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N is for nopales


I had my first and only taste of nopales when I was in Mexico, on holiday with a fantastic friend of mine, Rachel. We went out to a restaurant in Merida twice because after trying and loving the cactus there, I dragged her back for more cactus the next night. See why I'm friends with her?

Any time we popped into a Mexican supermarket, we saw big paddles of nopales waiting to be taken home and cooked. But when I decided this month that I wanted to cook up some cactus at home, I quickly realised getting my hands on fresh nopales in South London wasn't going to be an easy task!

Luckily, you can get anything on the internet and a bit of furious Googling and online shopping later, I was in possession of the canned variety. 

But what to do with it? That Mexican holiday with Rachel was about 10 years ago and I can't remember anything about how it was cooked apart from it was fearsomely tasty.

Salvation came from Raw Food for Everyone which has a recipe for Nopales Nachos - nut cheese blended up with nopales and other bits and bobs. It was fantastic - just wonderfully creamy and tangy.

We scarfed down the nopales nut cheese with an almost raw meal - guacamole, tomatillo salsa and tomato-sweetcorn-chipotle salsa along with some distinctly not raw tortilla chips. And some vegan frankfurter and potato salad. Alright, not much raw then. Hey, it's the thought that counts.


After our nacho blowout, there was still the best part of the jar of nopales left so I decided to use them to make a vegan equivalent of the tortas I'd seen on the menu at Mexican restaurant Wahaca. (Yeah, I know, maybe they couldn't spell Oaxaca?)

I took the rest of the nopales nut cheese, some spinach, some sunblush tomatoes, chipotle mayonnaise and avocado, added some fried nopales, and stuck it all in a bit old bap. Marvellous.


It wasn't the sort of thing you could eat on a first date - you end up with it all down your front - but it's the sort of food you forgive getting all messy for. 

In honour of my lovely friend, I will be naming this awesome sandwich the Torta Rachel.  What finer tribute can you pay to a person than giving them their own sarnie?!

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8 comments

  1. I have only tried the jarred variety and there's a recipe using them in Viva Vegan! which I really liked. I still have some left so I'm really glad that you talked about two ways of using them - I would never have thought to add them to a sandwich and not cook them but that's so easy!

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  2. I've seen nopales in jars but the thought of eating cactus didn't really appeal to me. Looking at the picture of your sandwich has totally changed my mind, it looks delicious! I'll have to pick up some nopales next time I see them.

    From what Terry says in Viva Vegan, the spines can be tedious to remove from the fresh ones so it probably worked out for the best that you couldn't find any!

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  3. I've never even heard of nopales! I'm going to have to try them now though.

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  4. I am not the biggest fan of nopales, but I must commend you on not doing the more expected Nooch ;)

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  5. I adored nopales when I was in Mexico, but you definitely can't get the fresh ones around here! Maybe I'll have a gander and see if I can't find some jarred. That is a damn fine-looking sammie, totally in the style of something I'd make! Also, nacho nights are pretty much the best thing ever.

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  6. Many of my neighbors grow nopales; I may have to befriend one of them and ask for a piece, but I'm a little intimidated by the spines (on the cactus, not the neighbors).

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  7. I've never tried Nopales. I've seen them but somehow never gotten around to trying them. My father lives in Arizona and I see cactus in the market all the time. I see an eating adventure in my future. The torta looks delicious.

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  8. I have tried nopales salsa and didn't care for it much. I am so envious of all of your traveling!

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