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

When boiled, nopales (cactus) take on a viscous quality that works well in soups, allowing their flavor to meld with other ingredients without becoming mushy. This delicious soup adds sweet corn, hearty black beans, and juicy green peas to the mix so each bite is packed full of filling Southwestern flavors. Mexican oregano enhances the slurpable broth with savory undertones while a squeeze of lemon juice balances out the rich flavors with a pop of citrus. Enjoy as is, or serve with a side of homemade corn tortillas or tortilla chips to sop up any remaining broth. ¡Salud!

For more vegan Mexican recipes, check out these tasty ideas:


  • 3 cups 1-inch pieces cleaned nopales (about 14 oz.) (see tip, below)
  • 3 scallions
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 10 to 12 cloves garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crushed
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained (1½ cups)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 lemon, cut into thin wedges


  1. In a large saucepan combine nopales, two of the scallions, and 3 cups water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 20 minutes or until nopales turn dull olive green. Remove and discard scallions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook onion, garlic, and a pinch black pepper over medium 10 minutes or until onion is translucent, adding water, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, as needed to prevent sticking. Add tomatoes and oregano; cook 5 to 7 minutes more or until tomatoes are tender.
  3. Transfer sautéed vegetables to saucepan with nopales. Stir in beans, corn, peas, and 1 cup water. Season with salt and black pepper. Cook 10 minutes to blend flavors.
  4. Meanwhile, thinly slice remaining scallion. Garnish soup with scallion and, if desired, crushed red pepper. Serve with lemon wedges.

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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.)
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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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