Nopales with pork (Cerdo con Nopales)

The nopal cactus is a special ingredient that is peculiar to Mexican cuisine; indeed the nopal is a national emblem, featured on the mexican flag with an eagle sitting on it devouring a snake, this cactus planted on a small rocky island. This cactus is found in the Aztec mythology as to them it was considered a plant of life since it seemed immortal; what gave the Aztecs that impression is the fact that even when cut and dried the nopal can still be reborn into a new live plant.

It is the young growths of this cactus that are used in Mexican cuisine to prepare the dish referred to as nopalitos. The fruits from that plant are known as tunas in Mexico and higos chumbos (figs) in Spain, they are sweet and are much appreciated for their good taste. There is another variety of nopal that also exists ( the opuntia imbricata) whose fruit is called xoconostles (pronounced shoconostlay) or bitter tuna, with a more acidic flavor. These are used mainly in mexican cuisine for certain sauce preparations, or as a condiment, an appetizer and are even seen as a medicinal plant sometimes.

Pork with nopalitos

Mexican recipe for nopales with pork:


3 lb. of pork meat
4 nopal pads chopped to small squares
(Spines scraped off, edges trimmed)
6 green tomatos or tomatillos
2 red tomatoes
6 árbol chiles
4 poblano chiles (use serranos for more heat)
2 garlic cloves
4 slices of onion
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 teaspoons of salt
2 tablets of dry consomme


Cook the pork meat, over medium-low heat for about 25 minutes in 2 cups of water. When the pork seems cooked, pour in the oil and simmer for another 10 minutes.

In a skillet cook the tomatoes, green tomatoes, poblanos and árbol Chile for approximately 15 minutes (execute this step while the pork is cooking).

In a pot with water cook over medium-low fire the already prepared nopal strips. People who dislike the slimy liquid from the nopal can change the water halfway through this step. Once the nopales are cooked pull them away from the heat and dry them by putting them in a strainer. Reserve the nopales for later, leaving them in that strainer long enough to dry.

Using a food processor or blender, liquefy or blend the vegetables and chiles we have cooked previously, (tomatillos, red tomatoes, poblano and árbol chiles), plus add in the garlic clove and the onion; pulse with the processor until you get a thick homogenous sauce. After cooking the meat mix in the sauce we have just liquefied.

Add the tablets of consomme with the salt. Now mix in the nopales we had cooked previously. Finish stewing this dish by simmering 5 Minutes more the meat with sauce and nopales.

Serve, with rice and/or black beans.

Enjoy your meal!

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