Nopalitos – Cactus, or Nopal, is a typical sight in the Mexican landscape. It is not strange that it should find its way into the local cuisine. The use of Nopalitos has its origins in the Roman Catholic observance of serving meatless dishes during Lent; now they are a part of everyday cooking.
The paddle, or tender pads, of the plant (called prickly pear in the U.S.) are eaten as a green vegetable in Mexico. The best young shoots are packed fresh, pickled or preserved.
Sliced for convenience, their use lends itself to a variety of dishes, such as traditional nopalitos salad or soup. Combined with seafood, omelets, quiches, and casseroles, nopalitos adds a delicious and authentic flair.