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  • Prep-time: / Ready In:
  • Makes 8 tacos

Ready to switch up your veggie taco game? Move over portobello mushrooms: Grilled nopales make a meaty, satisfying filling in this mouthwatering Mexican-inspired recipe. Also known as prickly pear, nopales cactus paddles get deliciously tender and slightly tart when grilled. Pair them with bell peppers and onions that have been sautéd in smoky taco seasoning, top everything with shredded lettuce and pico de gallo salsa, and these plant-powered tacos will quickly become a staple recipe in your house.

For more creative taco recipes, check out these tasty ideas:

How to Prep and De-Spine Nopales

You can often find de-spined nopales in Mexican grocery stores. But if you need to clean the paddles yourself, here’s how to do it safely.

  1. Lay one nopal flat on a cutting board. Use a clean kitchen towel to protect your hands from the thorny spines as you hold the paddle steady.
  2. Lay a sharp knife flat against the nopal’s surface, and sweep it across the paddle to slice away the spines. (You can also use a vegetable peeler.) Next, run the knife around the perimeter of the nopal to trim away the outer edge of skin.
  3. Wipe the paddles with a paper towel to remove any slime, aka baba. (Wait to rinse until just before using, as water activates the release of baba.)


  • 4 paddles nopales, cleaned
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 10 to 12 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons taco seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 8 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 3 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup purchased pico de gallo


  1. Grill nopales, covered, over medium 5 minutes per side or until dull olive green. Transfer nopales to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, slice nopales into thin 3-inch-long strips.
  2. In a large skillet cook onion, bell pepper, and garlic over medium 10 minutes or until onion is translucent and bell pepper is tender. Stir in nopales strips and taco seasoning. Cook 5 minutes more. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt.
  3. Grill tortillas 30 seconds per side. Top hot tortillas with shredded romaine, nopales mixture, and pico de gallo.

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about the author

Darshana Thacker Wendel

Darshana Thacker Wendel is a whole-food, plant-based chef and former culinary projects manager for Forks Over Knives. A graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute, she is the author of Forks Over Knives: Flavor! She created the recipes for Forks Over Knives Family and was a lead recipe contributor to the New York Times bestseller The Forks Over Knives Plan. Her recipes have been published in The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook, Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook, Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health, and LA Yoga magazine online. Visit and follow her on Instagram for more.

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