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A nopales merchant at his stand in the Merced market of Mexico City

Template:TOCleft Nopales are a vegetable made from the young stem segments of prickly pear, carefully peeled to remove the spines. They are particularly common in their native Mexico. Farmed nopales are most often of the species Opuntia ficus-indica, although the pads of almost all Opuntia species are edible.

Nopales are generally sold fresh or canned, less often dried to prepare nopalitos. They have a light, slightly tart flavor, and a crisp, mucilaginous texture.

Nopales are commonly used in Mexican cuisine in dishes such as huevos con nopales (eggs with nopal), or "tacos de nopales". Nopales are also an important ingredient in New Mexican cuisine, but are gaining popularity, especially in the United States.[1]


Health benefits

Nopales are very rich in insoluble and especially soluble dietary fiber. They are also rich in vitamins (especially vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K, but also riboflavin and vitamin B6) and minerals (especially magnesium, potassium, and manganese, but also iron and copper). Nopales have a high calcium content, but the nutrient is not biologically available because it is present as calcium oxalate, which is neither highly soluble nor easily absorbed through the intestinal wall.[2]

Addition of nopales also reduces the glycemic effect of a mixed meal.[3]

Economic value

According to Reuters, some 10,000 farmers cultivate nopal in Mexico, producing around $150 million worth of it each year. Detection of the cactus-eating moth Cactoblastis cactorum in Mexico in 2006 caused anxiety among the country's phytosanitary authorities, as this insect can be potentially devastating for the cactus industry.[4]


  1. Thorny Mexican food staple gains fame as folk cure by Frank Jack Daniel, Reuters (Mon Apr 16, 2007 10:34 AM ET)
  2. Mcconn, Michele; Nakata, Paul (February 2004). "Oxalate Reduces Calcium Availability in the Pads of the Prickly Pear Cactus Through Formation of Calcium Oxalate Crystals". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 52 (5): 1371-1374. Retrieved 2006-08-10. 
  3. M Bacardi-Gascon, D Duenas-Mena and A Jimenez-Cruz (May 2007). "Lowering effect on postprandial glycemic response of nopales added to Mexican breakfasts". Diabetes Care 30 (5): 1264-1265. PMID 17325260. 
  4. Cactus-eating moth threatens favorite Mexican food (Mon Feb 19, 2007)

External sources


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