Nopal Soup (Nopales Navegantes)

Nopal soup Nopales navegantes

Nopales are a favorite ingredient during Lent season, since they are so versatile that you can add them to almost any dish. Like in this soup, for example, which is called “Nopalitos Navegantes”, which roughly translates to “sailing cactus soup”. Some people make a dry version of this dish and add Pasilla pepper to the sauce; both the soup and the dry version are quite appetizing. The addition of the eggs (whole or scrambled) creates a robust meal, as you have your veggies and your protein all in one bowl!

Nopales are an important (and delicious!) ingredient of the Mexican gastronomy. There is one called “Nopal Cambray”, a small type of Nopal, with a thin paddle and with a size ranging from 8-10 centimeters. People prefer them for their tenderness, and because they render less of that viscous liquid common in Nopales. Here in the States, you can find Nopales being sold at Latin stores, and some even sell them already cleaned or even chopped in small plastic bags, just the way they are sold in some places in Mexico.

Other recipes using Nopales are Nopalitos Salad,  Grilled Nopales with melted cheese, Nopales with ground beef in a piquin sauce,  Nopales and eggs,  Nopales a la Mexicana, and Nopales Smoothie, just to mention a few of the recipes here in the blog.

This is another traditional recipe for Lent season in Mexico, but one that you can enjoy the whole year. Enjoy!


  • 4 Large plum tomatoes
  • 1 Garlic clove (large)
  • 1/3 of a medium size white onion 
  • 1 Serrano pepper, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 Cups of chicken broth*
  • 3 Large Nopales, cooked and diced (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Sprig of cilantro
  • Salt & Pepper to taste


  • If you don’t have chicken broth, mix 3 cups of water with chicken bullion.
  • For this recipe, you are going to use the tomatoes without the skins (the process is described below), but some people use the whole tomato, seeds and skins included. This is up to personal preference.
  • Instead of poaching them, some people like to beat the eggs in a bowl and gently pour them into the soup, forming some egg ribbons in the soup (again, that will be your personal choice).

Nopal soup Nopales navegantes

1.  Fill a medium size saucepan with water and place on high heat. Remove the tomatoes’ stems and cores and cut an X at the bottom of the tomatoes.

2. Once the water is boiling, place the tomatoes in the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove immediately and refresh under cold running water, or place in a bowl full of water and ice cubes.
Nopal soup Nopales navegantes
The whole serrano pepper on the bottom pictures is something I like to do for myself. 

3. Once cooled, peel the skin off and remove the tomato seeds. Place into the blender with the garlic clove and the piece of onion. Process until you have a smooth sauce.

4. Heat oil in a medium-size saucepan, then pour the sauce in and fry for about 7-8 minutes over medium heat.

5. Add the chicken broth, and keep cooking for 6 more minutes. After that, add the Nopales and the cilantro, and keep cooking for 4-5 more minutes at low heat.

6. This last step is a quick one, and occurs right before you serve the soup: Once the soup starts boiling, crack an egg in a small bowl, and then gently add it to the soup. Repeat with the rest of the eggs adding them one by one, since you are only going to poach the eggs.

Nopal soup Nopales navegantes

Serve the soup immediately and enjoy!

Buen Provecho!
Mely Martinez

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  1. Can I make this recipe the day before I plan to eat it? Does it go bad? I usually cook my lunch the night before. Thanks!

  2. Hello Heidi,

    You can make it the day before. Enjoy!


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