Nopales con Pollo en Chile Colorado (Cactus with Chicken in a Red Sauce)o

I woke up in the morning thinking what to do for el inglés today on Valentines Day, you see, he is not the kind of man that I would call the romantic type, he just doesn’t like the typical “romantic” things that other men would do, instead, he shows his love in a different way and that is what make him so especial for me and made me fall in love with him!

So what a better way to show him that I love him so much than to cook for him his favourite Mexican dish, Cactus in Chile Colorado with Beans and Mexican Rice. As we say in Mexico, “al hombre se le conquista por el estomago”, in other words, if you want a man to fall in love with you, cook his favourite food and let the nice flavours do the trick!

Luckily for me, el inglés is not into desserts, breads or cookies, they are not my thing, he loves savoury food. He tried cactus for the first time in Mexico in a salad and since then he loves them, cactus have a wonderful flavour and they are very healthy, if you are able to buy fresh ones, use those instead, fresh always taste better, but in this occasion I am using cactus from a jar, “la Costeña” is a well known Mexican brand and they have cactus in brine, they need to be rinse several times in order to get rid off the vinegar flavour, they are a very good option.

This dish is a very loved recipe in my family, my dad used to love this dish and my mum is the expert in cooking it, the secret is in the sauce, if you make a good sauce, you can serve it with chicken (like me) or pork or maybe even fish! Then you make some delicious refried beans and a yummy Mexican rice and you will have a proper Mexican combo for a very especial occasion or why not only for a quick Friday night dinner!

Anyway, enough of the talking and let’s get on with the cooking!

Serves 4


For the Cactus & Chicken in Chile Colorado

  • 4 Chicken breasts
  • 4 dried guajillo chillies
  • A jar 440gr cactus in brine or 4 small fresh cactus leaves, peeled and cooked
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

For the refried beans

  • 500 gr black turtle beans
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 epazote fresh leaves or dried
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil

For the Mexican rice

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 3 tbsp tomato pure
  • 1/4 chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

To garnish

  • Feta cheese
  • Fresh coriander


  • Warm corn tortillas


To cook the beans

  1. Soak the beans for a few hours before cooking.
  2. When ready to cook, get rid off the water they were soaked in.
  3. Then put them in a large casserole (dutch oven) and add the onion, epazote and garlic, covered them with water and bring the water to a boil.
  4. Check them after 40 min and if they are soft add salt.
  5. Once properly cooked, heat some oil in a casserole dish, chop some onion and garlic, fry them and add some beans with a bit of the water from the beans. Mash them and add a bit of more salt if necessary. Set aside.

To make the Mexican rice

  1. Heat the oil in a sauce pan. Add the chopped onion and garlic and after 3 min add the rice, fry the rice for 5 min and stir.
  2. Have 4 cups of hot boiling water ready.
  3. Add the tomato pure to the rice and continue mixing. Once all grains are cover with the pure add the boiling water and salt. Stir just once and put the lid on the saucepan and low the heat all the way down.
  4. Do not mix or stir. Just let the steam cook the rice. Leave to simmer until the water is gone and the rice is cooked. Set aside.

To make the Cactus & Chicken

  1. Take the stem off from the guajillos and remove the seeds then put them in hot boiling water for 10 min.
  2. Cut the tomatoes, peel onion and garlic.
  3. Put all the ingredients in a blender adding some of the water that was used to soak the chillies.
  4. Blend everything and then pass the salsa through a sift. Set aside.
  5. Take the cactus out of the jar and rinse them very well. Soak them in clean water for a while to get rid of the taste of vinegar. Then chop them in small cubes.
  6. Cut the chicken in thinly slices, heat the oil on a frying pan and fry the chicken, adding salt to taste.
  7. Once the chicken is half cooked, add the sauce and cook for 15 min at medium/low heat. Then add the cactus and cook for 5 min. Once everything is cooked is ready to serve.

Serve some of the cactus & chicken with some beans and rice on the side. Garnish the beans with fresh cheese or feta and the rice with fresh coriander. Enjoy the meal with warm corn tortillas and some nice spicy salsa if you love to add some heat!




Published by

Karla Zazueta

Mexican living in London

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