By using tangy pickled cactus (nopalitos), this Cactus Salad (Nopales Salad) with quinoa and feta makes a unique and delicious salad to go with an unlimited number of main dishes.
Quinoa has taken over the food community by storm. The gluten-free crowd loves it because, surprise: it is a seed and thus, gluten-free. The paleo crew loves it because it’s an ancient “grain” and unprocessed.
The low-carb enthusiasts love that this is fiber rich and high in protein. And vegetarians love quinoa because it’s a complete protein source. So, if you haven’t tried any quinoa recipes, do you realize what you have been missing?
I use quinoa in a number of different “salads”. By mixing in quinoa with any combination of vegetables, I find the dish to be heartier and can even be made into a light meal.
I have a quinoa salad with blueberries and a quinoa salad with Persian Shirazi Salad=. Today I am sharing a quinoa salad with pickled cactus (nopalitos).
Why this recipe is so special
If you did not know this already, cactus is edible. And the cactus I am talking about today is the prickly pear cactus. I graduated from the University of Arizona, in Tucson. There’s lots and lots of cactus there!
But all I enjoyed during my stay in Tucson was a prickly pear margarita and some prickly pear jam – both made with bright magenta fruit of the cactus. The cactus salad I am sharing today is made with the actual cactus paddles.
Here in Southern California, markets sell the needless cactus paddles in the grocery store. This salad uses pickled cactus, aka nopalitos. My friend, Hendrika, introduced this salad (without quinoa) to me and it was crazy good.
It was my first time try pickled nopalitos and I quickly became a fan. Once pickled, cactus has a wonderful tangy, sour flavor that pairs perfectly with sweet tomatoes and the salty feta.
If you do not want to add the quinoa, you can mix the salad ingredients and serve it with tortilla chips, too. Sooo delicious!
Ingredients you need
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- Nopalitos: This is the pickled cactus I mentioned above. They are typically cut into pieces. You can find these at small ethnic or hispanic markets or purchase online.
- Tomatoes: Choose tomatoes that are ripe and full of flavor. They can be of any color, heirloom or even small grape tomatoes.
- Cilantro: Fresh cilantro is preferred. If you are not a fan of cilantro, use parsley.
- Red onions: When eating raw onions, I prefer red onions. But you can use any onion you have on hand.
- Jalapeño pepper: Japaleños are pretty mild peppers. If you want more kick to your cactus salad, you can use a spicier pepper like a serrano. You can also omit altogether.
- Quinoa: Precook your quinoa and let it cool to room temperature before adding it to the salad.
- Feta cheese: The salty cheese pairs beautifully with the tangy nopalitos and sweet tomatoes.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic offers tremendous flavor in this salad, but you could also use a bit of garlic powder instead.
- Extra virgin olive oil: You can use a robust or mild flavored olive oil.
- Lemon juice: You can use fresh or bottled lemon juice.
- Salt and pepper
- Hot sauce (optional)
- Worcestershire sauce
1. In a large bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, hot sauce, garlic and Worcestershire.
2. Toss the Nopalitos, tomatoes, cilantro, red onion and jalapeño with the dressing. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours or up to overnight.
3. Cook quinoa per package directions. When done, let quinoa cool to room temperature. Add cooled quinoa to cactus salad. At this point, salad can be served or chilled until ready to serve. Top with feta cheese right before serving.
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp hot sauce (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 32 oz jarred Nopalitos, drained
- 4 chopped medium tomatoes
- ¾ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- ¼ cup chopped red onions
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
- ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
- In a large bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, hot sauce, garlic and Worcestershire.
- Toss the Nopalitos, tomatoes, cilantro, red onion and jalapeño with the dressing. Cover and refrigerate 3 hours or up to overnight.
- Cook quinoa per package directions. When done, let quinoa cool to room temperature.
- Add cooled quinoa to cactus salad.
- At this point, quinoa salad can be served or chilled until ready to serve.
- Divide into serving bowls and top with feta cheese.
Serving Size:1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 188Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 365mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 5gSugar: 4gProtein: 6g
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