Test Kitchen tips: Cleaning cactus paddles


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Fresh cactus paddles -- maybe you’ve seen them in the produce aisle. While still not common in many supermarkets, the paddles are easily found in Latin markets, where they’re known as nopales. The paddles may be prepared in a variety of ways (grilled, pickled, sauteed, etc.) and are added to a host of dishes from soups and stews, to salads -- even tacos.

And while the paddles are often cleaned of needles before they’re sold, it’s not unusual to find a batch of prickly paddles at the market, with only a pair of tongs provided to protect your hands as you pick and choose what to take home.


Removing the needles and cleaning cactus takes care, but it’s not that difficult. Follow the jump for a quick step-by-step on cleaning and preparing the paddles to use in the kitchen.

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Photo credits: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

1. Hold the paddle on a slant and scrape downward with a sharp knife toward the tip of the paddle to remove needles. If any remain, cut them out one at a time.
2. Cut around the entire cactus pad to remove the outer edge and base.

3. Slice or dice the cactus as needed for recipes, or keep it whole to grill or saute.