Nopal. Nopales. Nopalitos. Say what? Having lived all but 5 years of my 57 years in border states (California, New Mexico, and Texas), nopalitos have always been familiar to me. As a child, my Dad made nopalitos burritos for us after church on Sunday evenings when we needed something quick, healthy, and delicious (and cheap). After I married, I kind of forgot about them, until we lived in New Mexico. They aren’t part of the New Mexico “chile culture,” but they are definitely available. When we moved to McAllen in 2015, and fresh, already prepped and cubed nopales became available year-round at all the markets, I decided it was time to start “playing” with them. (You are aware that I love to play with food?)

So, let me explain the names: Nopal is the pad of the opuntia cacti (aka prickly pear cactus). Nopales is the name given to the nopal after the spines are removed and they are sliced or cubed. They are sold beautifully fresh in our local markets in small bags. Nopales are also available both pickled and non-pickled, packed in water and canned or bottled. Less commonly, you may find them dried. Nopalitos is the name given to a dish that features nopales.

  • 1 cup new potatoes thinly sliced
  • 1 cup nopales cubed or sliced
  • 1 cup black beans rinsed and drained
  • 12 ounces extra firm tofu (see notes)
  • garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 avocado cubed
  • fresh cilantro leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup NM red chile sauce or your favorite salsa
  • 4 burrito sized tortillos


  1. Get everything prepped ahead of cooking.
  2. Add a tablespoon of coconut oil to 2 saute pans over medium-high heat. Add the thin-sliced potatoes to one, and the nopales to the other. Saute the potatoes until golden brown on the edges and tender.
  3. Saute the nopales until they give up their liquid and it is evaporated. They should be tender and beginning to brown. Scrape the nopales to one side, and add the tofu. Using a potato masher or pastry cutter, break the tofu apart into crumbles. continue cooking until they begin to brown and the texture resembles ground meat.
  4. Add the tender potatoes and the black beans to the tofu and nopales. Season with garlic and cumin, salt and pepper. Cook an additional 4 to 5 minutes to let the flavors combine.
  5. Warm the red chile sauce (or salsa) and tortillas. Wrap the sautéed mixture along with the avocado, warmed red chile sauce (or salsa), and cilantro in a warm tortilla. Enjoy!

I typically use Nasoya Extra Firm Tofu. Using a potato masher, the texture resembles ground meat, and holds together really well.

I love freshly made New Mexico red chile sauce (no tomatoes!). When I make red chile enchiladas, I freeze zip bags to pull out for things like breakfast burritos. I also really like the commercial jarred products from The Roadrunner Chile Company. You can substitute your favorite sauce or salsa.

As I mentioned in the post, this recipe is flexible. You can substitute scrambled eggs for the tofu (not vegan of course), bell pepper or roasted green chile strips for the nopales strips, use pintos or kidney beans instead of black beans, etc. Try adding crumbled cotija, queso fresco, or grated sharp cheddar if you're not looking to keep it vegan.

For The Full Instructions, Please Visit The Full Recipes: beyondmeresustenance.com

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