What is the shelf life of nopals? (nopales)

Nopal cactus (also known as “nopalitos”, “nopales”, “vegetable cactus” or “cactus pads”) is an edible vegetable that is available throughout the year. The fresh fruit can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the shelf life of both fresh and cooked nopales.

Nopales are the edible leaves of a cactus (Opuntia ficus-Indica also known as prickly pear). Nopal means “prickly”, so it’s not surprising that you’ll find these delicious, purple-green and shaped like little green cactus spines.

Nopal can come in many varieties (including multiple colors) but the one most commonly used comes in white with purple-green stripes.

While they take little time to prepare, you need to know that there is a shelf life for these vegetables because it can impact your enjoyment of them by changing their flavor significantly.

How long do nopals last?

The precise answer to this question depends to a large extent on the storage conditions. To maximize the shelf life of nopals, store them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.

Let us look at the shelf life of fresh and cooked nopal cactus pads:

Fresh nopals 

Fresh nopales
  • Refrigerator: 7 to 14 days

What is the shelf life of nopals? 

Nopals can be stored for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Nopal pads should not be frozen because freezing damages the texture of the food.

How long do nopals keep in the refrigerator? 

If stored in the right conditions, nopals will keep for about 7 to 14 days in the refrigerator. 

Can you freeze nopales? 

Nopals do not freeze well and freezing is not recommended for taste quality reasons. 

How do I know if the nopals are expired? 

The best way is to smell and examine the nopals. Throw them out if they smell or look unusual, or if mold appears. 

Cooked nopal

Cooked nopales (cactus paddle)
  • Refrigerator: 3 to 5 days
  • Freezer: 10 to 12 months (best quality) 

Cooked nopales will keep in your refrigerator for up to 3-5 days after cooking. Freezer storage is available for 10 to 12 months (best quality).

Put the nopals in the refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking. Refrigerate them in an airtight container or wrap them tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap. 

Freeze cooked nopals in an airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bag.

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