Spicy Pan Fried Nopales (Nopal Masala)

In July of 2018, I posted Spicy Pan Fried Okra (Bhindi Masala). Bhindi Masala is a classic Northern Indian recipe and one of my favorites. While in central Mexico, I could not find okra readily available. However, cactus leaves (nopales) are plentiful. The texture of nopales reminds me of okra so I decided to substitute them for the okra. I was amazed at how well the dish turned out, so I decided to post it. This is my first recipe using Indian techniques with a Mexican ingredient.

Nopales and okra are both slimy vegetables. In the original okra dish I de-slimed the okra by cutting it into slices and then pan frying at high heat to burn off the slime. I used the same technique for the nopales, but I had to take an extra step because the nopales are slimier than okra. Keep reading and you will see the easy trick that I used to dry out the sliminess.

I tasted a piece of nopal raw so I could understand the flavor. I noticed that the nopal has a sour flavor that the okra does not. In the original okra recipe, dried pomegranate seeds and lemon juice are used to add sourness to the okra. With the nopales, I left out the sour ingredients because the nopales are naturally sour.


  • 20 Nopales
  • 1 large plum tomato
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 2 inches of ginger
  • 1 Serrano chili
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of garam masala (this is a hot Indian spice mix. I make my own, but you can buy it at an Indian grocery store, or online.)
  • a high smoke point oil for cooking. Here I used a combination of avocado oil and ghee.
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prepping the Nopales:

Here is the trick I used to dry out some of the slime from the nopales. I put them in a paper bag and placed them in the refrigerator for four days. The paper bag absorbs the moisture from the nopales. The less moisture there is the less slime you will have. When I bought the nopales they had already been cleaned and packed in a plastic bag. Do not wash them before placing them in the paper bag. The added moisture from washing them will cause them to become more slimy.

Slice the Nopales into bite-sized pieces. Make the pieces as equal in size as possible so that they will cook evenly.

Coat a heavy non-stick pan with the avocado oil and ghee. Place on high heat and let the oil get hot. Add the nopales slices in a single layer. Do not overcrowd the pan because then the nopales will steam instead of pan fry. If they steam they will remain slimy. Remember that moisture leads to sliminess. I fried the nopales in 4 batches to prevent over crowding the pan.

Let the nopales cook for 3-5 minutes. Then stir them and continue cooking until the nopales are browned and the slime has burnt off. This should take 5 to 10 minutes. You will know that the slime has burnt off, when you stir the nopales and you don’t see any slime. Transfer the browned nopales into a glass container. Then start with the the next batch of nopales. When all the nopales are browned, set them aside and start making the spicy base.

Prepping the Ingredients for the Spicy Base:

  • Chop the onion into thin slices
  • Mince the ginger and Serrano chili
  • Dice the tomato

Cooking the Spicy Base:

Add the onions, ginger, and chili to a pan coated with some avocado oil. Place on medium heat and sauté until the onions are translucent and slightly brown.

Once the onions are brown, add the garam masala. Stir it in and let it toast for a minute.

Add the tomato and smoked paprika. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Stir and let the tomato cook down for 5 minutes.

Add the browned and de-slimed nopales to the spicy onion and tomato base. Toss together. Turn off the heat. Taste the dish and adjust the salt and pepper as needed.

This is a tasty side dish. It can be served with any protein you like. I am amazed that it tastes very much like the original Spicy Pan Fried Okra (Bhindi Masala). Since I am a pescatarian, I served it topped with a piece of Tandoori Chilean Sea Bass.

Its fun that every time I am in a new area, the availability of local ingredients leads to new recipes.

Not only are nopales delicious, but they also fit into my keto life style. Nopales are low in calories and carbs. They are a rich source of fiber, vitamins A and C. They also contain B-complex and minerals and help lower blood sugar.

This is my first Indian/Mexican fusion recipe. It is also my 100th post!!! Hope you enjoy it.

Adios from Mexico. Hasta Luego. 💕😀

5 thoughts on “Spicy Pan Fried Nopales (Nopal Masala)

  1. Sounds delicious….this gives me another recipe to try with napoles…. I already use them in scrambled eggs….I always love your recipes…keep them coming..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! Will try it out! Miss you! Left Harlingen dentistry as patient and went to Dr Guillen You were an awesome doctor. God bless you on your new adventure

    Liked by 1 person

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