Cactus and black beans are the surprising stars of my easy low-fat tacos. If you are new to cooking with cactus, then this is the recipe to start with. The cactus is juicy and flavorful, and it pairs well with the earthy flavor of the black beans, so you are sure to get delicious flavors in every bite.
What Are Nopales and Are They Healthy?
Nopales are the tender young cactus paddles from the prickly pear plant. When prepared correctly they are slightly crunchy, mildly tart, and a great choice for a nutritious vegetable.
I’ve read that the cactus are high in vitamins and minerals, and have been said to help lower blood sugar,, but I’ve not tested this theory and since I’m not a doctor or nutritionist I let you do your own research into that.
When it comes to eating cactus, the consumable parts are the paddles, or leaves if you will, and the fruit or prickly pear.
Today we’ll only be using the paddle part in this taco recipe. If you’ve ever seen them, or any cactus you’ll know that they have lots of spines, or thorns on the paddles.
So, if using fresh Napoles, all those spines would need to be stripped of all the prickly spines which can be tricky if you do it yourself.
We’ve actually found some growing here on our property but I’ve yet to be brave enough to harvest them and use them in this recipe.
Chances are if you are making nopales tacos, you’ll start with pre-cleaned cactus, like I do.
Thankfully it is an ingredient that is found more and more commonly here in the United States.
You’ll find them fresh in some stores, but for the most part, they will most commonly be found in jars, cut up into nice-size strips. Those strips work perfectly in these easy Cactus and Black Bean Tacos.
To shop for your delicious Napoles for this recipe check out the Hispanic or ethnic aisle at your local grocery store and get in that kitchen.
What You’ll Need to Make Cactus & Black Bean Tacos
These tacos are super simple and only four basic ingredients but remember you can always spice your cactus tacos up by adding more of your favorite spices and ingredients if desired.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the ingredients I use in these yummy vegan tacos.
- Cactus (Nopalitos) – You may think this is an ingredient that would be hard to find, but you’ll be surprised and hopefully as happy as I was to know that tender cactus leaves can be found in a jar at Walmart on the ethnic aisle or in any Mexican specialty stores. I purchased the Dona Maria brand at my local Walmart, and it is very inexpensive. This recipe uses one whole, 30-ounce, jar and that runs about $2.68 in my area.
- Black Beans – black beans are the great plant-based protein star in this recipe and they are also a great cheap way to bulk up the meal without a lot of added expense. I always buy my beans in dry form and in bulk. Then I usually have home-canned black beans in my pantry to use in quick meals like these Cactus and Black Bean tacos. You can pick up two cans of black beans at your local store or cook your beans ahead from dry form if you prefer. You’ll need two cans or about three cups of cooked beans that have been drained and rinsed well for this recipe.
- Taco Seasoning – I use my homemade seasoning, which you can find the recipe for in one of my latest YouTube Videos where I prepared taco seasoning, a BBQ dry rub, and a great ranch recipe. I like to make my own taco seasoning because I can control how much salt and unnecessary fillers are in my spice mixes. But, if you’re not up to mixing up your own, no worries, just grab your favorite taco seasoning at the grocery store.
- Tortillas or Lettuce Wraps– I often serve these on our favorite corn tortillas because they fit well on the diet plan, Trim Healthy Mama, that I try to follow for weight loss. These are a great option if you are avoiding gluten or maybe you just prefer the flavor of the corn over flour tortillas like we do. However, sometimes when I want to enjoy these tacos but skip out on the extra carbs from the tortillas (since the beans are already a carb source) I eat the cactus and black bean filling on lettuce cups. It is just as delicious but definitely a lighter option.
How To Cook Dry Black Beans in The Instant Pot
I’m not a fan of the canned black beans you can purchase at the grocery store, so I prefer to make my beans at home.
I typically start with dry beans and soak them then pressure can them, so I have shelf stable fully cooked black beans on the shelf, but in the case, I run out and need them fast I use the Instant Pot.
It is best to soak beans for several hours up to overnight for the best results. Soaking the black beans makes them easier to digest which in turn makes them much easier on your tummy, and those around you, lol.
When you are ready to cook your black beans, drain off the soaking water and rinse them again.
Then add beans and water (or broth) to your Instant Pot. I like to season mine up with salt, pepper, onion, and garlic powder.
Put your lid on, then press Pressure Cook (make sure it is on high pressure) and set the timer to 20 to 25 minutes.
When the Instant Pot timer goes off, set a separate timer for 20 minutes and allow the steam to release naturally so the beans finish cooking.
Carefully remove the lid and your beans are ready to be drained and added to your Cactus and Black Bean Tacos!
Can This Cactus and Black Bean Taco Filling Be Made Ahead?
Variations and Tips for This Recipe
There are lots of ways to change up these tacos like adding in some other veggies you enjoy, possibly changing up the beans to your favorites, or whatever you have on hand
If you aren’t looking for a vegan or meatless option you can always add in your meat of choice. If you are trying to keep it low fat though be sure to use an extra lean ground beef or turkey then rinse it after you cook it to remove any excess fat.
You can also make this spicey by tossing in some sliced jalapenos with the onions when you are sauteing them or drizzling on your hot sauce before serving the tacos.
We love using corn tortillas as serving vessels of choice but if you to keep your carb to just the black beans or if you avoid grains like corn and wheat you can serve these on lettuce leaves or over a salad.
There really isn’t a wrong way to make or serve these Cactus and Black Bean Tacos so take a chance if cactus is a new food to you and trust me, you will not be sorry you did!
A super quick vegan taco filling. This unique taco filling features cactus leaves found on the Internation food aisle of most grocery stores, black beans, and red onions. These are great served on corn tortillas.
- 30 ounces of Dona Maria Nopalitos, Tender Cactus
- 30 ounces of black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 large onions, peeled and sliced
- 1 tablespoon of avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon of your favorite taco seasoning
- Add the avocado oil to a large skillet and preheat it over medium high.
- Add the onions to the skillet and cook until just tender, but not mushy.
- Add in the drained cactus from the jar and cook for 4 to 5 minutes then add in the rinsed black beans.
- Sprinkle in the taco seasoning and mix well.
- The mixture just needs to heat through so the beans and cactus are warm it is ready to serve on vessel of choice. See the blog post above for ideas and tips for serving these tacos.
The nutritional vaule of this recipe is just for the filling. You'll need to calculate the total carbs and nutrition based on what you serve your tacos on.
Serving Size1 cup
Amount Per ServingCalories 256Total Fat 3.2gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 3gCholesterol 3mgSodium 387mgCarbohydrates 43gNet Carbohydrates 27gFiber 16gSugar 3gProtein 16g
I am not a nutritionist. If you have strict dietary needs I always recommend using an online nutrition calculator to calculate your totals using your exact brands you're using in this recipe as values may vary per brand.
I am a southern girl through and through that loves to laugh, cook, read and spend time with family. My passions outside of home schooling my son are ministering to those in need and creating art in the kitchen! Every day is an adventure in our little house and I wouldn’t trade it or the chance to share here with you for anything!