Recipe courtesy of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger

Cactus Salad

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 3 hr 10 min
  • Prep: 3 hr
  • Cook: 10 min
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1 1/2 pounds fresh or prepared cactus paddles or nopales, needles removed

3/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 Italian Roma tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 to 2 medium serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded and finely diced

2 bunches cilantro, leaves only, chopped

1/2 cup finely grated Cotija or Anejo cheese

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 to 6 lettuce leaves

1 avocado, peeled, seeded and sliced for garnish

1/4 cup cracked black pepper garnish, recipe follows


2 tablespoons cracked black pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat grill or broiler. Place cactus paddles in a bowl and toss with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Grill or broil the paddles until grill marks appear on each side, or they turn dark green with black patches, about 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Cover and chill 2 to 4 hours or overnight. Cut cactus into 1/2-inch pieces. In a large bowl, combine the cactus, tomatoes, onions, chiles, cilantro and cheese with the remaining 1/2 cup oil, the vinegar, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Toss well. Serve on plates lined with lettuce leaves, and garnish with avocado slices sprinkled with cracked pepper garnish.


  1. In a small bowl, stir all the ingredients together. Spoon over vegetables or drizzle lightly over dressed salads as a garnish.