Nopalitos with Chicken in a Red California Chile Sauce

Source: Mexican Food Memories​​

This recipe was originally published on October 8, 2015 and has been modified and updated for our new website.

This is a very special dish for me, first because it is El Inglés’ (my husband’s) favorite dish and second because my dad used to be the one who cooked it for him.

Nowadays the person in my family that cooks it to perfection is my sister, Cynthia. Like my dad, she is is a brilliant cook. So she gave me the recipe and told me how to do it.

My dad used to make this dish for my husband every time we used to go to Mexico.

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He used to say “te hice tus nopalitos” (I cooked you your nopalitos). 

Now every time we are in Mexico, this is the dish my husband loves to eat the most!Nopales or cactus in English, is a vegetable eaten very widely in Mexico. 

Most of the cactus plants are edible, but there is one in particular that is used in most of the Mexican cactus dishes called Opuntia cacti.

They are very nutritious and delicious and we even eat the fruit that grows on it called “tuna”. 

We use nopales to make stews, jams, salads, salsas, smoothies, etc., and they can be eaten raw or cooked. 

Unfortunately in England, they are not available fresh, so the only option is to buy them in a jar. 

They are already cooked and ready to be used in stews or salads, but I don’t recommend this type of cactus for smoothies, as the flavor is different. 

If you have the opportunity to travel to Mexico, I encourage you to give cactus a try.

They are a bit slimey, but they have very good flavor.

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Nopalitos with Chicken in a Red California Chile Sauce

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yields: 4 chicken breasts


  • 3 x 460 grams La Costeña Cactus Jars (about 3lbs) 
  • 4 chicken breasts cut in chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Chile Colorado (Red Anaheim Chile sauce)

  • 2 tomatoes

  • 1/2 onion

  • 5 Anaheim dry chilies, washed, de-veined and deseeded.

Preparing the Anaheim Chiles

  1. Put the dry Anaheim chiles, tomatoes and onion in a sauce pan with 16.9oz water.
  2. Let it simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Blend everything and pass the sauce through a sieve to get rid of any skins.

Preparing the chicken

  1. In a frying pan, put the oil to heat and start frying the chicken.

  2. After 5 minutes, add the salt, pepper and garlic powder.

  3. Meanwhile, drain the water that comes in the jars with the nopales and get rid of any onions.

  4. Wash the nopales with clean water to remove some of the salt.

  5. After 15 minutes, cook the chicken.

  6. Pour the sauce in the pan and cook the chicken in the sauce for 3 minutes.

  7. Add the cactus and cook for 5 more minutes.

  8. Serve it with red rice and some fresh cheese.


You can buy La Costeña Nopalitos on Amazon. Don't forget to wash them through.

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For more delicious recipes from Karla, please visit: Mexican Food Memories.

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About the Author

Karla Zazueta

Author of Mexican Food Memories, a Mexican-food blog that focuses on recipes from her childhood. Karla learned how to cook traditional meals from her father growing up in Mexico.

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