Charred Tomato-Nopal Salsa

Salsa Asada de Jitomate y Nopal
From Season 8, Mexico—One Plate at a Time
Servings: 2cups


  • 4medium (about 8 ounces total)nopales (fresh cactus paddles)
  • 5 knob onions (about 7 ounces)
  • 1tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/4pounds (6 to 8 plum or 12 large round)red-ripe tomatoes
  • 5(12 ounces total) torito chiles or hot banana/Hungarian wax/guero chiles
  • 1/2teaspoonMexican oregano
  • Salt


Holding a paddle with a pair of tongs, trim off the edge that outlines the paddle, including the blunt end where the paddle was severed from the plant. Slice or scrape off the spiny nodes from both sides of the paddle.

Heat a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with white ash. Lay the nopales and onions on the grill and drizzle with oil. Add the tomatoes and chiles to the grill and cook, turning everything at least once, until the vegetables are charred on all sides and very soft, about 10 minutes for the nopales and 15 minutes for the onions, tomatoes and chiles. Cool, then peel the chiles and tomatoes, if you wish. Stem and seed the chiles, then cut them into 1/2-inch pieces and scoop into a bowl. Chop the tomatoes and nopales the same size and add to the bowl. Using only the white part of the onion, slice them 1/4-inch thick and add to the bowl. Sprinkle in the oregano and mix well. Taste and season with salt, usually a generous teaspoon and your salsa is ready to serve.


  1. What a nice surprise! I was waiting for being asked or should I said “forced” to buy a book or something just to navigate your site or get a recipe.

    I really enjoy your PBS programs. You really found the way to showcase the culture and food from Mexico and your books in an easy and enjoyable manner.

    I was telling my vacationing sister from Mexico just a few minutes ago how it could be possible than a “Guero” is showing us Mexicans how to enjoy our own food?

    Keep up the excellent job you are doing!

    I’ll buy a book from you. The only problem is which one is going to be!

  2. I have enjoyed watching your daughter grow up to be the fine young lady she is today.
    Just as important is your food and recipes. I’m 72 years old, and have never made tamales, so this year my son and I will make our first couple dozen. I plan on using hatch chilies to flavor the meat.
    We have watched your video over and over and hopefully we will get it right. I’m mainly concerned about getting the masa right. Thanks for your demos and recipes and your love of Mexico and its people.

  3. Hi Chef Bayless! I just made this recipe with my own tweaks, and it came out so scrumptious. I put it with BBQ Tofu, and it was heavenly. Thank you for having such an easy recipe to follow (to be fair, I am a chef and have worked with nopales before, but not in my own home).
    I’ll be in Chicago in late July for the Vegetarian Festival, unfortunately I won’t be able to come eat at La Frontera. I heard you do accomodate vegans! But we are tight on cash, and it’s not a luxury I can afford. Maybe on the next go around!
    Keep cooking fabulous food!

  4. I do not have a gas stove or access to a grill. Could the cactus be put under a hot broiler? Nopales are a new ingredient for me to cook, and I’m excited to try them.

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