How to Pickle Cactus

How to Pickle Cactus. "Nopales," the edible cactus also called "Prickly Pear," is a popular treat in Mexico and the American Southwest. Its juicy texture and distinctive flavor make great salads, jellies and even candy. Cactus pickles are another delicious preparation and many restaurants serve them as a side dish or accent. When you pickle cactus, you can add your own sweet, sour or spicy twist to basic recipes like the one below.

Things You'll Need

  • Nopales cactus leaves

  • White vinegar

  • Small onion

  • Large tomato

  • Jalapeño pepper

  • Salt

  • Water

  • Cooking pot

  • Covered container

Step 1

Harvest or buy one pound of fresh "Nopales," cactus leaves, which are also called "paddles." Select thin, shiny, unwrinkled green leaves that are 5 to 6 inches long.

Step 2

Clean the cactus leaves with a scrub pad to remove all nubs and the fine spines.

Step 3

Peel the cactus leaves and cut them into sticks. The sticks should be about the size and shape of French fries.

Step 4

Bring a pot of water to boil.

Step 5

Put the cactus pieces into the water and boil them for 6 to 8 minutes or until they are tender. You can test them with a fork as needed.

Step 6

Drain and cool the cactus pieces.

Step 7

Chop jalapeño, onion and tomato.

Step 8

Combine the cactus with the chopped vegetables in the covered container.

Step 9

Mix ¾ cup of white vinegar with ½ cup of sugar in the cooking pot. Stir the mixture as you bring it to a boil.

Step 10

Pour the vinegar and sugar mixture over the vegetables in the covered container.

Step 11

Sprinkle salt liberally over the mix of vegetables.

Step 12

Cover the container and refrigerate the cactus pickles for 3 to 4 hours or until it is completely cool.


Many people compare the flavor of Nopales to string beans, asparagus or green pepper. If you refrigerate the cactus pickles in a sealed container, you can store them for up to a week. You can serve the cactus pickles on bread or crackers as a snack or appetizer. You can experiment with adding carrots and other vegetables, garlic and other spices.