the taste space

Cheater Tlacoyos with Nopales (Cactus)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 15, 2014

Cheater Tlacoyos topped with Nopales (Cactus)

There is long-distance cycling and then there’s long-distance cycling over hills.

We’ve heard the cycling routes around Austin are hilly but not entirely sure how it compares to Ontario. Houston, is fairly flat, so I haven’t been doing many hills, unless it is an overpass over a highway. I stumbled upon Lori’s recap of last year’s Shiner GASP.  She wrote:

This course was going to be challenging because of the sheer number of inclines and hills (Esmeralda said she stopped counting at 23 last year), and the wind that it was famous for.  I had hoped that with the front it would be a tail wind, but at mile 30 the wind shifted and was either a head wind or cross wind. Oh well, it was nice to dream.

With a month away from our own hilly 100-mile adventure, it instilled a fear of hills. So, this weekend, we sought out something to climb.

Earlier this year, we were planning to do the “Bike Through the Forest and Hills” 80-km ride in Coldspring, Texas. We had already registered and picked up our packages (the first ones, at that, bib numbers 1 and 2). It was scheduled right after I sprained both knees, so understandably, we didn’t go. However, with such a descriptive name, we figured it would be a hilly ride. Rob saved the course maps, though. He ended up modifying the route so that we had a 50 km loop. The original ride had you return in the opposite direction, but we just repeated the same loop once we were familiar with the course.

The 100-km ride wasn’t the hard part. It was the hills! After 8 minutes, I wasn’t sure I was up for this many hills. Rob clocked an incline that lasted 3 km. The worst part, though, was the wind. Wind + hills = a definite challenge. A strong wind with a loopy course meant the wind was, sadly, only helping us 25% of the time. In any case, we were positively pooped after our “short” 100-km ride.

We ended up stopping off at our favourite Mexican grocer on the way home: Mi Tienda. It reminds us of our trip to Mexico City, with lots of fun food, loud music and random decor. We treated ourselves to fresh guanabana juice and a mix of celery-pineapple-cactus juices. If you have never tried guanabana, I highly recommend it. We fell in love with it in Colombia. We also had some fresh (and warm- this is KEY) churros. After our bellies were content, I scurried back in for our weekly grocery expedition.

I try am trying to balance emptying my pantry along with trying everything that I can while in Texas/America. This time, I bought some cactus (aka nopales). You can find it fresh as a giant paddle or pre-chopped with the spikes removed. I gather you can also find it brined in jars or cans. In any case, I first tried it while in Mexico City. Cooked simply, it was a vegetable side or topping. One of the dishes I had it with was as tlacoyo from a street vendor: a blue corn masa dough that she stuffed with refried beans and topped with a nopales salsa. was I really liked it: the texture of a bell pepper with the taste of a green bean.

In truth, Rob and I were too zonked to do any cooking when we returned post-ride and post-Mi Tienda. We went out for tacos. The following day, we did another cycling jaunt. Not too long, and all flat, we were still battling the wind and the possibility of rain. However, the shorter ride meant I had enough energy to tend to errands and do some cooking.

I simply ran with the idea of tlacoyo. It is more like a cheese-less quesadilla. We had fresh corn tortillas so I used that instead of the masa dough. I already have a favourite (unfried) refried bean recipe. The problem was the cactus. I wasn’t entirely sure how to cook it, but I eventually decided to boil it first, then saute it with some leftover roasted onions. It may not have been authentic at all, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

Have you ever tried nopales/cactus? What are your favourite recipes?

Cheater Tlacoyos topped with Nopales (Cactus)

I am sharing this with the Spice Trail, My Legume Love Affair (managed by Lisa and previously Susan), Four Seasons Food, and Simple and In Season

Cheater Tlacoyos with Nopales (Cactus)

1 batch refried bean recipe
2 tsp oil of choice
1 large onion (preferably roasted onions)
1 cup chopped and trimmed nopales/cactus
1-2 tbsp fresh lime juice
8 corn tortillas

1. Prepare your refried beans.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Boil cactus for 5-10 minutes, until somewhat softened. Remove from heat and drain.

3. In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, add oil. Once hot add drained cactus and onion. Saute for 10 minutes until the onions have softened. Drizzle with lime juice.

4. To serve, top each tortilla with refried beans and cactus-onion mixture.

Serves 3.

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21 Responses

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  1. Shannon Y-I-V said, on April 15, 2014 at 8:03 AM

    I got to try guanabana when I was in Puerto Rico and it was so good! Still haven’t gotten to try cactus, though. I will have to keep my eye out. This looks really tasty!

  2. Laura said, on April 15, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    I’m pretty sure I’ve tried nopales, but never in my own kitchen! This looks so delicious – and glad you’re getting those hills in!

  3. thepeacepatch said, on April 15, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    Mike at WTHDAVEA uses nopales so creatively…
    Corn Soup with Nopales and Pepitos

    http://veganmenu.blogspot.com/2010/08/tomatillo-enchiladas-with-alder-smoked.html

    Stuffed Nopales (catcus paddles stuffed w/ soy cheese, then breaded and shallow fried in oil)

    http://veganmenu.blogspot.com/2004/08/dinner-825-seitan-in-chipotle-sauce.html

    My friend Geninne cooks nopales up with eggs so I imagine a vegan version is possible…?

    http://blogdelanine.blogspot.com/2011/09/salsa-verde.html

    Thanks for the recipe…I’m on a mission to try exotic new foods so nopales might be next! :)

  4. Eileen said, on April 15, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    I’ve never heard of tlacoyos before, but I definitely want to give them a try! But nopales I have had aplenty. The taqueria by our house makes an omelet stuffed with them–totally delicious.

  5. coconutandberries said, on April 15, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    You can eat cactus?! I did not know that! I guess I’d be hard pushed to find any here! Looks like a tasty meal in any case.

    • janet @ the taste space said, on April 18, 2014 at 10:18 AM

      Hehe, I like to spotlight the fun ingredients… and then describe them so people know what to expect. I think you’d really like it, if you can track it down, Emma. :)

  6. Johanna GGG said, on April 15, 2014 at 6:34 PM

    Yet another Janet post to amaze me – never heard of people eating cactii – but why not once the spikes are removed – esp in Texas – and onya for trying all you can while in Texas

  7. anita said, on April 15, 2014 at 9:24 PM

    Paddle Catus is the best. There are so many ways to eat this healthy vegetable(Nopalitos). You can grow it in your yard carefree. In Houston buy it at Fiesta. Best way to eat it is grilled. Scrape the thorns, lightly oil, sprinkle with salt&pepper&garlic and grill outdoors over charcoal 4-6mins per side, add other grilled veggies to the fun. Eat warm with tortillas with lime, guacamole and a tomatillo salsa. Leftovers are great in a cold Catus salad with chopped tomatoes, red onion, serrano chiles, cilantro & lime juice. In Houston, eat the nopalito tacos (with or without eggs) at El Gallo de Jalisco on White Oak. Yum!

  8. Kari @ bite-sized thoughts said, on April 16, 2014 at 5:23 AM

    Wind plus hills sounds like a massive challenge! As for cacti, I have never heard of people eating them either, nor have I heard of this type of dish more generally. I’m intrigued!

  9. Deena Kakaya said, on April 16, 2014 at 7:57 AM

    I recently had cactus tacos and loved them! Like a tangier cucumber or gherkin x

  10. Andrea said, on April 16, 2014 at 9:20 PM

    I’ve never tried cactus — at least I can’t remember trying it — but I’ve seen it in the produce section. It’s something I’ve always meant to try.

    • janet @ the taste space said, on April 18, 2014 at 10:16 AM

      I feel like cactus is one of those veggies that you need to taste properly prepared the first time to really appreciate them. I don’t think I would have ventured to try them otherwise. ;)

  11. Mihl said, on April 19, 2014 at 2:29 AM

    Wow, I also didn’t know that people eat cactus leaves. We have cactus fruits here, imported from Spain. But those probably wouldn’t work in a taco:)

  12. Vanesther said, on April 19, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    This looks so tasty although I’ve never actually eaten cactus before – I must see if I can get hold of it here in the UK. And what a brilliant entry for this month’s #TheSpiceTrail challenge – thank you so much for sharing.

  13. […] Cheater Tlacoyos with Nopales (Cactus) from The Taste Space […]

  14. annelifaiers said, on April 29, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    That sounds very interesting! I have seen a few recipes with cactus in and I am very curious to it’s taste. What is it like? Thanks for entering this into Four Seasons Food!

    • janet @ the taste space said, on May 2, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      Cactus tastes like a cross between green pepper (taste) and green bean (texture). I had it in a drink once but didn’t like it there. :P

  15. […] to cheese-less quesadillas are these Cheater Tlacoyos with Nopales (Cactus) (10) from Janet at The Taste Space. Never having eaten cactus, I am really rather intrigued by […]


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