Cheesy Nachos with Cactus Salsa

Nopales are cactus pads found in Mexican cuisine. This cactus recipe comes to us in the form of salsa atop a mound of cheese-coated chips. Preserved nopales, tomato, onion, and cilantro create a salsa that’s bright, fresh, and acidic. A super unique salsa for a party. 

cheesy nachos with cactus salsa recipe
Dear Fellow Funky Foodie, 
After almost a year of working from home (thanks Covid), I was ready to escape. I’ve had it. Done. No more! GET ME OUT OF HERE! I swear my brain was turning to mush. It was seriously time for a change of scenery. 
I bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, California ☀️🌴 to stay with my sister. I still worked from her apartment 5 days a week (meh), but at least I was in good ol’ sunny L.A. Did I mention, it was my first time!? On weekends, she’d take me to her favorite spots from Mochinut to The Last Bookstore. One of my favorites was a small outdoor farmer’s market a couple blocks away. 
It was a beautiful, 70 degree Sunday morning in the middle of January. My sis and I strolled down the street, eyeing all the vendors. We bought sun-dried tomato bread, butternut squash ravioli, and loose leaf tea before we even got to the end of the market. There came a point when we stood between two vendors: Pita Chips & Dips vs Tortilla Chips & Salsas. Which would you choose? 🤔
By the looks of this blog post, you already know which one. I’m sad the vendor didn’t have a sign (or I was just too excited to look for one) cuz I would have loved to share this mystery man’s business with you. Oh well, 🤷🏼‍♀️ guess you’ll have to go to Historic Downtown Farmer’s Market and find him yourself! 
He had a great selection of salsas, but I zeroed in on the one made with cactus 🌵. Living on the East Coast, I don’t come by it often. Luckily, the salsa was made with canned cactus which is pretty easy to order online. I will absolutely buy a jar to experiment more with later on. I’m already thinking: Cactus Pizza, Cactus Fried-Rice, Cactus Omelet, Cactus Quinoa Salad, Cactus Bread…I could go on and on. 
T 🧡
cactus nopales salsa on tortilla chip

Cactus Salsa Taste & Uses 

Making this briny, green salsa starts with a jar of preserved nopales, the flat pads of prickly pear cactus. When I opened the container, I immediately noticed a salty, vinegary aroma. The flavor is fresh, acidic like pico de gallo, yet tart. The texture is chunky and crisp, with bits of onion, tomato, and cilantro. I only had enough for snacking with tortillas chips (and making these nachos), but it would also be a unique addition to your tacos, breakfast burritos, or alongside grilled meats. 
cactus salsa

Make Your Own Cactus Salsa

Where to buy Preserved Cactus:


  • Adriana’s Best Recipes is the closest I could find to what this vendor made. He didn’t use any cumin or jalapeno, but it wouldn’t hurt if you do! 

nachos with cactus salsa ingredients

Recipe Review

What Worked:

  • Briny & acidic. The first words I used to describe this salsa was pickle-y. Not as intense since the sharpness of the onion, tomato, and lime balanced it out. When paired with cheese and meat, it cuts the richness. But used as a shovel for chips or topped on a mound of white rice, this cactus salsa adds wonderful flavor. 

Suggested Tweaks: 

  • More green. If you’re serving this at a party, garnish it with fresh cilantro for a more finished look. The preserved cactus is a dull, olive green color. Adding cilantro, jalapeno, and tomatoes will hide the lame color. I’ve seen some recipes stir in diced avocado. Try to make and eat it the same day for optimal color vibrancy! 
  • Make a meal. Whatever your go-to Mexican dish is, top it with this salsa. Even better, throw out the storebought stuff and use this instead. 

Nachos with Cactus Salsa

SERVES: 4⎪ DIFFICULTY: Easy⎪ FUNK: Moderate 

cheesy nachos with cactus salsa

Mise en Place

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1 tablespoon flour

  • ½ cup whole milk

  • 3 ounces (about ¾ cup) shredded cheddar 

  • Chili powder, to taste

  • Salt, to taste

  • Tortilla Chips
  • Cactus Salsa 

COOKS NOTE if making your own salsa, you can buy fresh or canned cactus at Latin American and Mexican markets. 



Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk frequently, for about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and turn the heat up to medium-high. Whisk until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the shredded cheese. Season with salt and chili powder to taste. If too, thick add some more milk. 



Arrange the nachos on a serving plate. Pour over the cheese sauce and top with cactus salsa (and any other nacho toppings you like). Serve immediately. There will be no leftovers 😉



Prickly Pear Salsa: I’ll make my own recipe at some point, but for now here’s a jar you can buy! 

Vegan Variation: This vegan nachos recipe has an awesome dairy-free cheese sauce. 


Did you make Nachos with Cactus Salsa? Let me know how it turned out and leave a comment below! 

Food for Thought

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