Looking for a delicious and easy Mexican recipe? Look no further than nopales con carne molida. This dish is made with cooked nopales (cactus) and ground beef cooked in a tomato sauce seasoned with hot piquin peppers. It's pretty easy to make and very tasty. Give it a try!
Nopales are a cactus that is common in Mexican cuisine. As a vegetable, they are usually cooked and used as an ingredient in dishes like this one. However, they can also be eaten by themselves just grilled.
Nopales con carne molida is a dish that you will find in Mexican homes but is hardly offered at Mexican restaurants in the US and Mexico. It's pretty easy to make, and this is one of many of my favorite ways to prepare and eat nopales!
The cactus is cooked in a tomato sauce with ground beef and seasoned with hot piquin peppers. It's a really easy dish to make, and it's so delicious.
You have your protein, vegetables, and grains in just one plate!
And, even though they have small piquin peppers, this is a mild stew. But, of course, if you like to make it spicier, just add more peppers.
You can eat this dish as your main meal, or sometimes, you can serve it as an appetizer or use it as a filling for tacos using corn tortillas.
🌎 History Behind Mexican Nopales
Nopales are native to Mexico and have been eaten for thousands of years by the natives.
It's a type of cactus that grows in Mexico and the United States. They grow wild, but they are also cultivated on farms as they are very popular in Mexican cuisine.
The nopal cactus has been around for centuries and is mentioned in some of the earliest writings about Mexico. The Aztecs ate nopales and used them for many purposes like food, medicine, and building materials.
It's also sometimes combined with soups or dishes with chicken, pork, and seafood.
Another popular way to cook nopales is by grilling them over a charcoal grill or stovetop on a griddle.
They are low in calories and carbohydrates, which is great if you're looking for a healthy dish to eat!
Before I share my recipe, here are a few questions I've been asked about homemade ground beef and cactus stew.
Do I need to use ground beef?
No, if you are not a fan of beef, you can always swap it out for ground pork, chicken or turkey instead.
What does nopales taste like?
Nopales have a tart and slightly bitter taste that is unique. Some people say they taste a little like green beans or okra.
How do I prep the nopales for this dish?
Check out my guide on how to properly prep and cook nopales (cactus paddles) before making this recipe!
There are also several ways to eliminate the viscosity formed in the cooking water when prepping the nopales.
Some people add the skins of tomatillos; others add a pinch of baking soda and even lime juice! These techniques do work up to a certain point.
Plus, it also helps to keep the color of the nopales slightly greener.
What can I use if I can't find piquin peppers?
If you can't find Piquin peppers, you can use any other type of pepper that you like. Arbol peppers, Jalapeno, or serrano peppers would work well in this dish.
This Mexican stew is very delicious and can be made with some simple ingredients.
Here is the list of what you will need:
- Ground beef
- Garlic cloves
- Piquin peppers
- White onion
- Mexican oregano
- Salt and pepper
- Vegetable oil
Please note: For exact measurements of the ingredients listed above, scroll down to the recipe card located at the bottom of this post!
To make things easier for you, I am going to break down the directions to make carne con nopales into sections.
Cook The Tomatoes
- Place the tomatoes and peeled garlic cloves in a saucepan, and cover with water.
- Cook over medium-high heat until tomatoes are soft, about 8 minutes.
Roast Piquin Peppers
- While the tomatoes are cooking, take the time to roast the piquin peppers over medium heat. It will take about 30 seconds to roast them.
- Set the peppers aside to cool down.
Tip: Use a griddle or frying pan for this purpose, making sure you do not burn the peppers. If you are not used to roasting peppers, turn the vent fan on.
Cook Ground Beef
- In a large frying pan, heat the oil.
- Once it is hot, add the ground beef to cook and stir occasionally to have cook the beef evenly.
- After 5 minutes, add in the chopped onion and keep cooking.
Make The Tomato Sauce
- Place the cooked tomatoes, garlic cloves, roasted piquin peppers, and 1 cup of the cooking water in your blender.
- Process until you have a smooth sauce.
Mix Everything Together!
- Pour the sauce over the meat, and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add in the nopales and stir.
- Using your fingers, crush the dried Mexican oregano and add to the ish along with the cilantro.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Keep simmering for another 5 minutes to allow the flavors to blend, and the sauce has reduced a little.
Serve and enjoy!
🍽 Side Dishes
You can also serve it with some warm bolillos (crusty bread rolls) to scoop up any leftover sauce!
📚 More Authentic Mexican Recipes
If you enjoyed this recipe for nopales con carne molida, take a look at some of these other authentic Mexican recipes:
- Raw Nopales Salad
- Chile Colorado with Pork and Nopales
- Nopales A La Mexicana
- Grilled Cactus
- Nopales with Mexican Chorizo
I hope you make this ground beef and cactus stew! If this recipe was of any help to you, come back to let me know your experience. Please leave us a comment done below and tell us all about it!
Mexican Nopales Con Carne Molida
- 1 Lb tomato
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 Tablespoons piquin pepper*
- 2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 Lb. ground beef
- ½ cup white onion diced
- 2 cups Nopales chopped and cooked. (About 1 ½ lb. raw)
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- ¼ cup cilantro chopped
- Sal and pepper to taste
- Place tomatoes and peeled garlic cloves in a saucepan, and cover with water. Cook over medium-high heat until tomatoes are soft, about 8 minutes.
- While the tomatoes are cooking, roast piquin peppers over a medium heat. Use a griddle or frying pan for this purpose, making sure you do not burn the peppers. It will take about 30 seconds to roast them. If you are not used to roasting peppers, turn the exhaust fan on. Set the peppers aside to cool.
- In a large frying pan, heat the oil, once it is hot, add the ground beef to cook. Stir occasionally to have an even cooking. After 5 minutes, stir in the chopped onion. Keep cooking.
- While the meat is cooking, place cooked tomatoes, garlic cloves, roasted piquin peppers, and 1 cup of the cooking water in your blender. Process until you have a smooth sauce.
- Pour sauce over the meat, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the nopales, and with your finger crush the dried oregano and stir in as well as the cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Keep simmering for another 5 minutes to allow the flavors to blend, and the sauce has reduced a little.