Cactus, or nopales, are one of the most unexpectedly delicious foods we’ve encountered. With a juicy, lemony tart flavor and a nice crunch, young cactus pads are a wonderful addition to any salsa or guacamole or salad.
There is, however, another way to enjoy these gifts of the arid, sandy savannah: FRIED!
Similar to okra in texture, once we’d tried wild nopales, we knew exactly what to do with these xeric delicacies. The ingredients you’ll need to whip up your own batch of cactus fries are as follows:
3 to 4 small or medium sized young cactus pads (Opuntia spp.)
3 cups flour
1 tblspoon garlic
2 tsp. salt and pepper
smallest dash of almond (or other) milk
Under a faucet, scrape/cut off any small hairs or glochids growing on the young cactus pads. Picked young and fresh enough in the Spring, your pads should have little to no hairs on them yet; these are the tastiest ones too! Cut the pads into strips about 1/4 inch wide. In one bowl mix the flour, salt, pepper and garlic. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and whatever milk you prefer.
In a frying pan, heat up about 1/2 to 1 inch of cooking oil on medium high heat. As with frying most things, you may need to add more oil later on. As you’re frying, also watch the temperature; you may need to lower it if the cactus is browning too fast.
Working in small batches dredge your cactus slices in flour, then dip into the egg mixture, and then again in flour mixture. I like to do the process a few at a time, and then set on a jelly roll sheet, or any flat surface until i’m ready to fry one full batch. It’s also best to prep your next batch as you fry your first. Flip over cactus fries once they are browned and crisp on one side. It can take anywhere between 2-5 minutes depending on your stove top, just be patient and remember to keep checking, adjusting heat as needed.
We’ve found that they’re best served with honey mustard. We like to mix honey, with spicy or regular mustard, and the smallest splash of water.