Crispy Grilled & Baked Cactus (Nopalitos) Tacos with Corn & Black Bean Salsa & Avocado Cream

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

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OK – so – I bought these cactus paddle things because I see them everywhere & I decided I needed to get to the bottom of it.  If you do not live in a part of the country with a large Hispanic population and you cannot find fresh cactus, you can used jarred cactus – or nopales/nopalitos. The ones I bought were already prepared – meaning – the thorns had been trimmed as had the rim.  If you find fresh ones & need to prepare them – there are lots of tutorials HERE.  It is not difficult so do not be intimidated.



I wasn’t sure what the heck to do with these guys so I both grilled AND breaded & baked them.  You might want to use them having only been grilled or only breaded and baked.  Your call.  There is so much going on in these tacos – I don’t think it matters much. I used crushed corn flakes & taco seasoning to bread them simply because that was what I had around.  Panko or other bread crumbs would work, too, and if you don’t have a packet of taco seasoning (I have NO IDEA where the one in my pantry came from) – spice up your crumb mix with a little onion & garlic powders & maybe some chipotle or other chili powder. I made a little avocado cream sauce for these, primarily because my avocados were not as ripe as is ideal.  You can just cut up fresh avocado on yours or make a traditional guacamole.


Crispy Grilled & Baked Cactus (Nopalitos) Tacos with Corn & Black Bean Salsa & Avocado Cream

This makes a lotta tacos.  🙂

The Spicy Grilled Corn & Black Bean Salsa is HERE.


For the Avocado Cream

1 avocado

4 TBS Mexican crema (or sour cream)

1 TBS mayonnaise

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tsp fresh dill (optional) – or cilantro

1/4 tsp each: onion & garlic powders

S&P to taste

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For the Crispy Grilled & Baked Cactus (Nopalitos) Tacos

Several cactus paddles or some jarred cactus strips

2 (or more) eggs

1/8 – 1/4 cup hot sauce

2 TBS taco seasoning (or a blend of onion powder, garlic powder & chili powder)

1 cup (or more) bread crumbs or panko (I used crushed corn flakes)

Cooking spray

Queso fresco

Corn tortillas

Extra cilantro & limes for garnish



For the avocado cream

Puree all the ingredients in a food processor.



Crispy Grilled & Baked Cactus (Nopalitos) Tacos

Prepare the cactus paddles if they are not already cleaned.  There are lots of tutorials HERE.

Spray them with cooking spray & grill on both sides until they begin to char a bit & soften up.  Cut into strips. Image


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the eggs & hot sauce together in a bowl.  Blend the taco seasoning & the bread crumbs you are using in another bowl. Image

Drag the cactus through the eggs & then the breadcrumb mix & place on a cooking sheet treated with cooking spray. Cook at 375 for about ten minutes, flip them & bake another ten minutes.  It might take a little more or a little less time for you to get them crispy – depending on the size of the strips & how densely they are breaded.  Watch them carefully. Image

Now you just assemble your tacos.  Warm your tortillas (I do this directly on the stove burners – being careful not to burn them).  Top them with cactus, salsa, avocado cream, queso & cilantro.  Squeeze a little lime on there & shove’m down your gullet washed down with a cold cerveza.





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